Matthew 5:38-40 – Turning the other cheek
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
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38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
These verses for the so-called “Sermon on the Mount” [which was actually a series of lessons pertaining to Talmud readings for each Shabbat], tell a lesson that does not deal with a system of justice for the Jews. According to the Wikipedia article for “An eye for an eye,” the following is stated:
In the Hebrew Law, the “eye for eye” was to restrict compensation to the value of the loss. Thus, it might be better read ‘only one eye for one eye’. The idiomatic biblical phrase “an eye for an eye” in Exodus and Leviticus (עין תחת עין, ayin tachat ayin) literally means ‘an eye under/(in place of) an eye’ while a slightly different phrase (עַיִן בְּעַיִן שֵׁן בְּשֵׁן, literally “eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth”) is used in another passage (Deuteronomy) in the context of possible reciprocal court sentences for failed false witnesses. The passage in Leviticus states, “And a man who injures his countryman – as he has done, so it shall be done to him [namely,] fracture under/for fracture, eye under/for eye, tooth under/for tooth. Just as another person has received injury from him, so it will be given to him.” (Lev. 24:19–21). For an example of תחת being used in its regular sense of under, see Lev. 22:27 “A bull, sheep or goat, when it is born shall remain under its mother, and from the eighth day…”
This gives one insight into what the reading was on that Sabbath; and, it might be possible to retrace the history of when those verses were read aloud in synagogues [they had a schedule, just like the Roman Catholics]. After reading things aloud, the attendees would discuss the meaning of that written, which was akin to the blind [an eye] leading the blind [for an eye]. Because Jesus had been banished from synagogues for telling all the leaders they had unclean spirits in them, keeping them from having a clue about what holy texts meant [the same condition that exists today in Christianity], Jesus took to the hillside where the acoustics were fabulous. There he taught his disciples, with Jews collected below to also hear what he had to say. That is the truth of all readings from Matthew 5, 6, and 7.
In the word written by Matthew, the word “Ophthalmon,” meaning the element of “Eye,” is capitalized. The second not being written that way then elevates that one to a divine level of meaning, as the “Eye” of Yahweh. This means the saying everyone was familiar with, which was a root of Jewish and Roman law [where they lived], is then elevated in meaning by Jesus telling the listeners, “What you are familiar with should be read as telling you to receive the Eye of Yahweh as the way your human eyes perceive fairness and justice in the world.” That is actually the point of being children of Yahweh.
This lesson, in itself, says to stop seeing the world in human terms and begin seeing it in divine terms. Because Jesus was only talking to Jews, who had read their holy scriptures without understanding what the true reason those words were written was, Jesus had explained to them, “When you are led by Yahweh as His true priests, you live by ways that have you KNOW: “I sure would not like to lose a tooth fighting over something this other Jew has bitten down so tightly on that I might knock his tooth out trying to get it.” By seeing life through the Eye of God, one then sees nothing in the world is worth losing a soul over. Let it go, rather than getting into the legal mess that argument and fighting brings.
Next, following a period mark that ends verse 38 and leads to verse 39, Jesus used the word “egō,” which gives the impression that he was saying what Jesus thinks is best. While there is truth to that, because Jesus indeed saw through eyes that knew what Yahweh wanted him to see, the practical meaning of “I” relates to one’s own “ego,” such that his use of “I” is now relative to one having heard the lesson say, “See as God wants His priests to see and [a “kai“] be the teeth of the Lord in the world.” Therefore, Jesus was telling all who do as the lesson said [taught by rabbi Jesus], they each say to themselves, “I now say” based on what God has me see, “to you.” That means one’s own “I” [ego] has been surrendered unto Yahweh, in a marriage of one’s soul to His Holy Spirit [as was Jesus].
By seeing how “I” has become the student following the teacher’s recommendation [a disciple becoming an Apostle], then the next segment of words must be heard differently than the translation makes them seem to say: “do not resist an evil person.” Instead, the statement first places strong focus on the negative “not.” This says, if one has heard the importance of the “Eye” of Yahweh and begun to serve Him, then one will “not” be part of the reason Moses [and others] wrote laws that said what “not” to do. When one is “not” like normal human beings, then one is able “to resist the evil” of the world. The intuiting of “person” is not written in the word “ponērō,” but as Forrest Gump’s momma used to say, “Evil is as evil does,” which means it takes people to do evil things. Still, Jesus just said, IF you become the “I” of Yahweh, then “you” will “not” be one of those people who simply cannot “resist evil.”
This is where the striking the cheek has to be seen as relative to one relapsing and doing evil, as all mere mortals tend to do [quite frequently]. What Jesus then said [written as “hostis se“] means “whenever you” forget to be the “Eye” of Yahweh in the flesh and “you” do something bad [evil] and someone points that out by slapping your cheek, then “Wake up!” That is Yahweh telling you that you just sinned and you must stop. Therefore, you need to “See” that God is telling you to stop and listen to what your actions have caused upon another [or others]. A strike on the cheek says to “you,” ask for another strike, which might only be a scolding or someone speaking to you about what good servants of Yahweh do. The second strike becomes a lesson you sorely deserve to hear.
In that, the return only says “the other,” where cheek seems to be implied. The Greek word “allēn” means the one who struck “you,” as “the other.” The meaning then says “the other” is the one who struck your cheek because you did evil, where another true servant of the Lord is acting as His correctional officer, sent by Yahweh to correct any evils you do. It is better to be punished now, in this world, than wait until death and have Yahweh judge you for having snuck through life unpunished.
Is that the cloaked crusader?
In verse 40 is a lot that is misunderstood, based on normal people not grasping the meaning I have just stated. A lot of the misunderstanding comes from everyone knowing Jews love to become lawyers and sue the heck out of everyone, making a ton of profits from the woes of an evil world. The word translated as “to sue” is “krithēnai.” That word can mean “to judge,” so Jesus is now talking about the one who would strike one’s cheek, to set one straight. That is the “other” who had “judged” one for not being a good Jew, according to the Laws of Moses. That one must be seen as sent by Yahweh to help, not as someone who just loves slapping faces. When that is realized, that person is not trying to take one’s cloak, but trying to get “you” to put back on the robes of righteousness, which you let slip off your body when you sinned.
Think about how all the Jews who were going to slam a stone against Stephen’s head taking off their cloaks and handing them to the fellow Saul to hold. Taking off one’s cloak of a rabbi means doing evil. It was evil those Jews took their cloaks off to do, which is why Stephen asked Yahweh to forgive them; he made that prayer because they had never been told the truth of this lesson. Thus, when the “other” has judged you for having removed your “cloak,” it then becomes time for “you” to listen to him [or “strepson autō” – “yield to him”] and [from “kai“] put back on your own “cloak.” There is nothing that says, “If someone tries to take your coat give him two.”