Turning the Other Cheek

Scourging of Jesus by Bouguereau

Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1880, Public Domain)

Written in response to “Turn, Turn, Turn,” by Leonard J. Greenspoon, Biblical Archaeology Review:

http://www.bib-arch.org/bar/article.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=36&Issue=5&ArticleID=14

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Biblical-Archaeology-Review-published-by-the-Biblical-Archaeology-Society/89828885438

“Turning the other cheek” is likely a reference to Lamentations 3:30, “He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him:  he is filled full with reproach,” and/or to Isaiah 50:6, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair:  I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

Both are references to intercessory prayer before God through such self-abasement that one undertakes no self-defense against abuse and abasement by others.  It is echoed in the words of Paul that love “does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:5, 7, NASB).

Thus Jesus’ saying is in contrast to personal retaliation, which is natural and human, pointing instead toward spiritual goals.  The context of the verse does not, however, lend itself as a prooftext for Pacifism, to which it is often applied.

© 2010 Paul A. Hughes

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