There are a lot of the benefits to reading Scripture in the original languages. There are also a lot of benefits to studying and understanding the social and cultural contexts that surround the texts in question. Not everyone has the ability to read Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, but most everyone can find resources that will help them understand better the text because they have a better understanding of the cultural context that the text arose within.
I’m not trying to downplay the life-giving nature of Scripture even when it is read at a surface level. What I am implying is that going deeper into Scripture in the hopes of understanding it’s intended meaning requires that we… go deeper! My advocacy for a deeper reading of Scripture comes from the mere fact that I have been sooooo blessed by it. There have been far too many times where I’ve been extremely blessed when I spent a little more time in the text and a little more time consulting good resources in order to have a better grasp on the meaning and purpose of a passage.
I fear that a lot of people read too quickly, and often miss the actual point of certain texts. Thus, the blessing or conviction or challenge often overlooked and we’re left with a less than satisfying understanding of Scripture. Of course, we don’t know it’s less than satisfying, but it is.
Enter Jesus’ proverbial “pimp slap.”
There are many times where the words that Jesus said offended and effectively shut the mouths of his opponents. The Sermon on the Mount, when properly understood, is full of statements that would have challenged those listening far more than we give credit. The Gospels are full of examples of Jesus doing this, especially when speaking to the Jewish religious leaders (i.e., Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Priests, etc.).
In consulting the scholarly and well-respected Urban Dictionary, we read that the phrase “pimp slap” has a number of definitions, and I quote:
- Back hand slap walking away from target;
- What a pimp does to his ho when she gets out of line;
- Slappin’ yo b$#@ up;
- It’s the kind of slap to give when someone you know well says something so stupid or rude or mean you have the sudden urge to reach out and slap them to reality. Sometimes it involves mulitple slaps for the real sublime statements;
- The art of placing baby powder in your hand in order to slap someone;
- What you do to someone who is being dumb.
I’m thinking of definitions number one, four, and six, but numbers two and three can also be metaphorically helpful, especially for those who have a background in hip hop culture. Now I know this might be offensive to some. But that’s precisely the point! When we read of Jesus’ proverbial “pimp slap,” we need to realize that in the same way that certain words and phrases offend us, many of those listening to Jesus we often offended too!
Matthew 21:12-16. In the second Temple cleansing, Jesus “pimp slaps” the chief priests and scribes when he asks them if they have ever read Psalm 8:2 (Matt. 21:12-16). Of course the chief priests and scribes had read one of the most popular psalms written by David! Remember all of those sermons you’ve heard where a pastor chided your lack of biblical knowledge by reminding you that the Jews in Jesus’ day had the Torah memorized? While that’s a bit of an overstatement, there’s no doubt that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, especially the chief priests and scribes. Of course, this question of Jesus is a response to their questioning of his hearing. But Jesus response to the chief priests and scribes is to proverbial “pimp slap” them into silence. This seems the only appropriate way for Jesus to respond to a bunch of spiritual leaders who were willing to overlook the money-changers’ defilement of the Temple but unwilling to overlook the praise of children. Proverbial “pimp slap” delivered.
Mark 11:27-33. When the chief priests and scribes questioned Jesus’ authority, he asked them a question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” This was excellent question to ask the Jewish leaders because if they said “heaven,” then Jesus would ask them why they didn’t believe John’s message! If they said “man,” they were afraid the large crowds following Jesus would be upset because most of the common people of Israel regarded John as a problem. But this is not the “pimp slap.” It’s simply the set up. The “pimp slap” comes after the priests and scribes answered that they didn’t know the answer to the question. Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” This was Jesus way of saying that those who assumed authority over the Jewish people and who assumed Jesus was subject to essentially had no authority over Jesus. The Son of God will not have his authority questioned by mere men. Proverbial “pimp slap” delivered.
John 8:48-59. On another occasion, Jesus was being questioned (insulted!) by the Jewish leaders about whether he was a Samaritan or had a demon. Imagine that the Son of God was asked such blasphemous questions. And those learned Jewish leaders thought they could outsmart the eternal and divine Logos. Of course, such an attempt is painfully foolish to consider this side of the Resurrection! So how does Jesus deal with the sarcastic questions of whether he’s a Samaritan, or controlled by a demon, or greater than Abraham and the problems? How does he deal with the insults? He delivers a verbal “pimp slap” that cuts to the heart of the matter. “Oh, you want to question who I am and how great I am and whether I’m controlled by a demon or part of an ethnic group that you despise? Sure, I’d love to answer that question. Guess what? I’m God!” After all, that’s the gist of what Jesus gets at when he says, “Before Abraham was, I am.” That’s why the Jewish leaders picked up rocks to stone him. In their eyes, he had blasphemed God! Yet they overlooked that Jesus was/is God! Proverbial “pimp slap” delivered.
Honorary Example: John 8:7. I give this an honorary place because I agree with the vast majority of NT scholars who do not believe that John 7:53-8:11 is original to the Gospel of John. And yet while I do not believe that John wrote it, I see no reason to believe that the story didn’t actually happen (cf. D. A. Carson’s The Gospel According to John, pp. 333-34). At any rate, after the Jewish leaders bring a woman who was caught in adultery to Jesus, they essentially want him to either condemn her to be stoned or to minimize the sexual offense. Either way, they believe that they have Jesus in-between a rock and a hard place. Of course, Jesus has no problem with defusing this situation with a simple statement: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus put the Jewish leaders in between a rock and a hard place because if they stone her, they commit blasphemy and yet if they don’t stone her they undermine their own authority. Hmm. Proverbial “pimp slap” delivered.
I realize that the phrase “pimp slap” doesn’t sit well with our refined and religious ears. I also realize that some may read into that phrase something I am not intending to suggest. Jesus was not a pimp. To suggest that he was would be the ultimate form of blasphemy! But Jesus did deal out his fair share of proverbial “pimp slaps” that left his listeners with burning ears. These are just a few examples… there are many, many, many more!
If we’re not careful, our refined reading may actually neuter the nature of Scripture at challenging us and driving us towards repentance and trust in Christ! So take the “pimp slaps” as they come. They are there for a reason…