Turn the other cheek. Truth or Fiction?


What does “turn the other cheek mean to Christians?” And what did it mean to Jesus. Obviously the Church didn’t get to where it is today by simply turning the other cheek. Can someone put this theology into context for me?


This is what I was told it means.

When people judge you, you “turn the other cheek”, you allow them to keep judging, “for they know not what they do”.

However, when they attack the Church, we don’t turn the other cheek, we stand up and speak.


thank you. WOuld you say then, that Jesus submitting to the crucifixion was not an example of turn the other cheek? In other words, one does not need to endanger one’s safety in order to fullfill this belief? But you need only not rebuke people for judging you? Is that another way of saying don’t judge others?


As I remember, during my Theology class, my teacher told me that “turning the other cheek” shows that you let the person slap you. and could make him the lowest level of class living during those ancient times. They say that slapping is done by a high class using his right hand, at the back of the palm. So normally, the person would be slap in his right cheek. And to offer the other cheek, he will now be using his right palm to slap the left cheek. And duting those times to slap a person using your palm is an act of a very low class individual of the society.

Thinking underneath, by offering the other cheek you are trying to let the person be the lowest class of individual in the society.

I still wonder, since I was not able to validate fully. But somehow I find it relevant. Well, of course, to think that you’re being too knid and martyr still fits though…


Jesus submitting to the crucifixion is turning the other cheek, for He said Himself during this “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”

When He overturned the tables at the temple would be an example of Him not turning the other cheek but speaking up for His teachings


No, it isn’t obvious. Would you mind clarifying this?


The church did not rise, attain and retain the power it has by turning the other cheek, if by turnin the other cheek you mean not to offer resistence to your enemies.


Sorry, you are still speaking in generalities and are still not clear. So as to not summarily and unfairly accuse you of making unfounded and vague accusations or innuendo, would you like to give a few specific examples? Thanks.


Do you really need examples of the Church not turning the other cheek when threatned or when it felt threatened? Crusades, Inquisition, burning Talmuds in France (1200s), etc. Onward Christian soldiers? I’m not sure what you think I’m trying to dance around here?


Methinks you protesteth too much. I haven’t made any accusations; I only asked for clarity. Is there a problem with that? :slight_smile:

Anyway, thanks for the examples, as generalized as they may be. Let’s take the Crusades. How much do you really know about them besides the stereotypes presented on TV, the movies, fiction, and in school? Specifically: how are the Crusades an example of Catholics “not turning the other cheek”?


well, that would go back to my original post, which asked exactly what “turning the other cheek entailed.” If it entails not opposing with physical force those that attack you, then the crusades would be an example of not turning the other cheek. If it entails, as someone here has suggested, to simply let those who judge you continue to do so, then it becomes more iffy.

I’m sure my perspective of the crusades may differ from yours.


Jesus was talking about how to react to being personally insulted, and that’s all. This particular verse has been used to promote pacifism and a general misunderstanding of what the Church ought to do when it’s existance is threatened. Jesus never ruled out going to war for a just cause.


thanks. that was one of the things I was asking about. I assume it also doesn’t prohibit defending yourself if personally attacked.


Correct. :slight_smile:


I was wondering if you could tell me in what passage Jesus says he only meant spiritually


Fair enough. I have no interest in further derailing this thread.

I’m sure my perspective of the crusades may differ from yours.

No doubt.

You may be interested in the attached:


Hello Fidelis,

I would like to say that actually not only Valke who doesnt understand how the ‘’ turn the other cheek’’ concept is applied .

I am a muslim. However i would like to know how this concept is applied and to what limits. When do you turn the other cheek and when dont you . and what is the wisdom of turning the other cheek.

I mean we non christians cant grasp exactly how this concept is applied.

Is there examples for individuals and states to follow regarding this concept or it is just explicit to Jesus only.

I mean in america if you steal you go to jail . If you kill you have a death penalty. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawai they were Nuked!!

Is there a church teaching that explains this or its just for every individual to understand it on its own ?

All well intentioned referenced asnwers are welcome

Thanks in advance,



Does this help?

Matthew 5:39 “But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other…” (Emphasis mine)

Explained by New Testament scholar Walter Wink:
"In his books “Engaging the Powers” and “The Powers That Be,” Wink argues that Jesus rejected two common ways of responding to injustice: violent resistance and passive acceptance. Instead, Jesus advocated a “third way,” an assertive but non-violent form of protest.

The key to understanding Wink’s argument is rigorous attention to the social customs of the Jewish homeland in the first century and what these sayings would have meant in that context.

To illustrate with the saying about turning the other cheek: it specifies that the person has been struck on the right cheek. How can you be struck on the right cheek? As Wink emphasizes, you have to act this out in order to get the point: you can be struck on the right cheek only by an overhand blow with the left hand, or with a backhand blow from the right hand. (Try it).

But in that world, people did not use the left hand to strike people. It was reserved for “unseemly” uses. Thus, being struck on the right cheek meant that one had been backhanded with the right hand. Given the social customs of the day, a backhand blow was the way a superior hit an inferior, whereas one fought social equals with fists".

From Nonviolence in Christian Belief, we have the same explanation:
"“Turn the other cheek”: Try this with a friend (or better still an enemy). Ask your friend to strike you on the face. Which cheek did they hit? Which hand did they use? As most people are right handed the odds are your friend would hit you on the left cheek with his/her right hand. The palm of their right hand would also probably have been a clenched fist as they struck you. But Matthew’s text says “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek.” What sort of strike was being talked about here? OK you say, it’s talking about a strike with the left hand. Again this is ruled out because in the whole Judeo/Greco/Roman world 2,000 years ago, to strike someone with the left hand was totally forbidden as the left hand was considered unclean.

What in fact Jesus was referring to was the right handed back handed (i.e. with the back of the hand) strike imposed as a means of subservience by a Roman master to a slave, of a Roman soldier to a Jewish man, of a Jewish man to a Jewish woman, of a woman to a child, i.e. the oppressor to the oppressed, the superior to the inferior. In Jesus’ audience there would have been Jewish men, women and children, and slaves, who knew exactly what Jesus was referring to.

***So what of Jesus’ command to “Turn the other cheek”? ***Try it with your friend now. You present your friend with your left cheek inviting him/her to strike you again. 2,000 years ago you would have created a dilemma for your adversary. Because firstly the culture prohibits use of the left hand to impose a similar left handed back handed strike to impose subservience: the only alternative is for the person to strike with a clenched fist of the right hand. And herein lies the ‘sting’ - for in the Roman/Greco/Jewish world you could only strike a peer with a fist, i.e. you could only have a fist fight with one your own rank or status. So to hit the person with a fist is to admit they are the same as you in status, rights etc. So by a simple turn of the cheek you have asserted your humanity and attacked the conscience of your oppressor, non-violently".

God Bless!


Two more sources that agree with the text in my previous post can be found at:
](“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn_the_other_cheek”)[/LIST] [**[LIST]

God Bless!


Heh. Probably one of the most mis-understood teachings of Jesus, I’d say. Often used against the Church, albeit incorrectly.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.