Thursday, 9 July 2009

Sit at my Right Hand

Throughout the Bible, the right hand is favored. If you want to honor someone, then you put them on your right hand. It is often argued that this is merely a cultural expression. Jewish and Middle Eastern culture favors the right hand. Indeed, this idea is supported by the numerous references to the "right" in the Qur'an, and specifically with the benefits of being on the right hand. Certainly, Muslims today take the concept much further than the West, with the right hand used for communication and the left for the...unmentionables. And of course, these cultural practices are probably based in the reality that the majority, 90% of us, are right-handed, and thus this is the preferred arm of use.

But now, we see a further biological justification. New studies indicate that we are more likely to grant a request if it is asked into the right ear. It seems that this idea of favoring someone at your right is not merely cultural, but is deeply ingrained biologically, and likely the authors of the Bible were unknowingly basing their descriptions of God on this. (Alternatively, God is communicating through our cultures, and what he knows of the cultures he designed.) Interestingly, women in the studies were more likely to grant the right ear than men, indicating perhaps a greater predisposition to grant requests.

Now, this may be simply a cultural expression in our right-handed cultures, and further study is warranted, looking at those who are left-handed to see if there is a different response, and performing controls with cultures that have a greater percentage of the left-handed. In the meantime, it appears that our understanding of God is based in part on God's understanding of us. Though we in the West may no longer be so tied to chirality, we still operate with an innate understanding of it's import. God speaks through culture, through his prophets, but regardless of our hope for free-will, we also operate under some basic instincts. We listen and grant a request if it is on our right. Though God of course has no body, and therefore no right or left, he also, figuratively, is more likely to grant the request to those on his right hand.

We should therefore strive for this, to sit at the right hand of God. We should not demand it, but rather ask. But as the pericope of the Sons of Zebedee indicates, the way one asks for this honor, to gain the place where God is more likely to hear your requests, is to become a servant of all, taking the last and lowest place. This brings honor, and God's ready ear, to grant our requests. And, I suspect, that the more we take this place of the lowest, the more likely we are to ask for that which God is more likely to grant, just as we grant the requests to those on our own right.


psalm139.girl said...

Where did you get this information? I am trying to find articles about the significance of "the right hand" in history, and I have not been able to as of yet. Could you site a few references?

@bdul muHib said...

I have degrees both in biology and theology. Other than that, I can only point you to the embedded references in the hyperlinks in this article :)

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