Re: Matthew 5:39

I haven't been following this thread closely, so perhaps this has
already been mentioned, but if we theorize about these texts without an
eye to the extensive secondary literature we are in danger of becoming
an example of the blind leading the blind right into a pit.

See, for example Pinchas Lapide, _And I Say To You_ (Orbis), especially
the chapters on "The Other Cheek" and "Reparation and Resistance." 
I'm not saying that Lapide is above criticism, but I think he brings an
interesting perspective to these texts.

> Matt 5:39 - if someone struck someone else on the cheek, it is probably 
> meant as an offense, so turning the other cheek to be hit would imply no 
> offense was taken, so it would anger and annoy the offender.

Matthew specifies the *right* cheek.  To hit someone on the right cheek,
you need to use either a) the back of your right hand, which is
recognized as an insult in the Talmud and demands extra compensation (so
Lapide), or b) your left hand, which was "unclean."  In either case, the
slap is a political gesture, not just a physical attack, and Matthew's
text might encourage your attacker to treat you in a less insulting,
demeaning way.

> Matt 5:40 - if someone sued and took the chiton as pledge, what would 
> they want with the himation? (it's not mentioned that they needed it - in 
> fact, it is implied that they don't)

Recall that people typically only wore two garments at that time.  If
you give up both the chiton and the himation, you are naked.  If one can
presume that many financial transactions took place in the agora, think
of the propoganda value if the onlookers saw a (presumably rich)
moneylender stripping naked a poor debtor.

> Matt 5:41 - if someone forced you to go a mile with them, it is probably 
> because they only had a mile to go.  Offering to go a second mile - one 
> that they didn't plan on travelling - would be absurd/surreal/comical.

If a Roman soldier forced you to carry his pack more than one mile, he
could be liable for severe punishment.  Imagine the conversation between
the soldier and the Christian when the Christian started walking that
second mile.  "Hey, wait a minute!  Do you want to get me in trouble? 
Why are you doing that?"  And then comes the explanation of why he's
doing that.

I have no trouble thinking that Jesus (if we can indeed trace these back
to him) understood this as practical advice, a form of non-violent
resistance against the powers that opposed the Kingdom of God.

Others may disagree.

Sterling G. Bjorndahl, bjorndahl@Augustana.AB.CA 
Augustana University College, Camrose, Alberta, Canada (403) 679-1516
  When dealing with computers, a little paranoia is usually appropriate.