Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thomas Aquinas on Turning the Other Cheek

"Holy Scripture must be understood in the light of what Christ and the saints have actually practiced.  Christ did not offer His other cheek, nor Paul either.  Thus to interpret the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount literally is to misunderstand it.  This injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse, without bitterness against the attacker.  This readiness our Lord showed, when He gave up His body to be crucified.  That response of the Lord was useful, therefore, for our instruction." (In John 18, lect. 4, 2)

Joseph Pieper comments: "The readiness to meet the supreme test by dying in patient endurance so that the good may be realized does not exclude the willingness to fight and to attack.  Indeed, it is from this readiness that the springs of action in the Christian receive that detachment and freedom which, in the last analysis, are denied to every sort of tense and strained activism." —The Four Cardinal Virtues (Notre Dame Press, 1966), 133.


Unknown said...

Aquinas' account of self-defense from the Summa Theologiae is also a nice complement to this statement in the Commentary on John. There he talks about the legality of even killing a man in self-defense for the purpose of one's own preservation. However, the passage has a long history of misinterpretation and so the nuances in the article must be weighed and balanced by other teachings of Aquinas and his worthy commentators.

The Passage in question is: ST II-II, q. 64, a. 7.


John Bergsma said...

Thank you, Unknown!

Unknown said...


I found another complimentary passage in the ST to the one above. It is ST II-II, q. 72, a. 3: "Whether One Ought to Suffer Oneself to Be Reviled?" Thomas quotes the passage you quote from John on turning the other cheek and gives a more in depth response in regard to reviling.