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Part 1 reply to iasius

Reader comment on item: Bush Declares War on Radical Islam
in response to reader comment: Comments on Iasius statements

Submitted by Allonehhob (Canada), Nov 5, 2005 at 19:25

When you say "that it is ONLY the bible that says Christ came with a message of peace," and yet you quote from the same bible to claim that Christ came with a militant agenda. Aren't you contradicting yourself?

Obviously, you haven't read the contents of what was linked in my previous reply answering Muslims claim about linking Christ to violence http://answering-islam.org.uk/Authors/Arlandson/sword2.htm, Please read carefully before you jump into a different verse in the bible.

But, maybe because there is too much information for you to understand, so I have summarized and shortened the explanation. Also, to make my replies simple for you, I will send you part 2 to answer your many arguments.

The context needs to be quoted in full (Luke 22:35-38), you have obviously picked part of it in your previous statement, I guess you thought that this will make your argument more convincing.

Luke 22:36
35 [Jesus] asked them [the eleven apostles], "When I sent you out without a purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"
They said, "No, not a thing."
36 He said to them, "But now the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless'; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled."
38 They [the disciples] said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."
"It is enough," he replied.

Lets examine the historical context of Luke 22:36. For three years Jesus avoided making a public, triumphal entry of his visits to Jerusalem because he understood that when he set foot in the holy city in this way, he would fulfill his mission to die, in a death that looked like one of a common criminal, just as Isaiah the prophet had predicted hundreds of years before (Isaiah 53:12). He needed to complete his work outside of Jerusalem. Now, however, Jesus finally enters it a few days before his arrest, trial and crucifixion, all of which he predicted. Religious leaders were spying on him (Luke 20:20) and asked him trick questions, so they could incriminate him. These insincere questions, though they were also asked before he entered the city, increased in frequency during these compacted tense days. But he answered impressively, avoiding their traps. Despite the tension, each day Jesus taught in the temple, and crowds gathered around him, so the authorities could not arrest him, for fear of the people. Judas volunteered to betray him, saying that he would report back to the authorities when no crowd was present (Luke 22:1-6).
As Passover drew near, Jesus asked some of his disciples to prepare the Last Supper. During the meal, Judas slipped out to search for the authorities because he knew that it was the custom of Jesus to go to the Mount of Olives to pray (Luke 21:37), and that night would be no different.
He is eating the supper on the night he was betrayed. This literary context reveals four truths.
First, at this time only eleven apostles were present since Judas slipped away to betray Jesus.
Second, Jesus contrasts his ministry before his arrival in Jerusalem with the tense few days in Jerusalem when spies and the authorities themselves were seeking to trap him. But does the tension play a part in understanding why he told his disciples to go out and buy swords? This is answered, below.

Third, he says that he would be arrested and tried as a criminal, as the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12 predicted. Does this have anything to do with swords? Do criminals carry them around? This too is explained, below.

Finally, the words "it is enough" can either be a statement (as it is translated here), or it can be a command: "That's enough!" That is, "Put away your swords! You're taking my words too literally!" But regardless of the translation, Jesus clearly has a deeper meaning in mind than the physical swords. What is it?

The interpretation of the verse can either follow a literal direction (Jesus intended to fight with swords) or a nonliteral direction (Jesus is using physicals sword to convey a deeper meaning). The surest and clearest direction is the nonliteral one, but first we analyze why the literal one will not fit into Luke 22:34-38 and in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested (Luke 22:39-53).
The first direction, the literal one, is inadequate for four reasons, based on v. 38, which says that two swords are enough.
First, the obvious question is: two swords are enough for what? In Luke 22:35-36, in Jerusalem and at the last meal, Jesus tells his disciples that they should get their purses and bags and bring them with them. Did he tell them to buy a sword to defend their possessions? This is the "self-defense" or the "defense of one's property" explanation of the swords. At first glance, this explanation has some plausibility, if we were to take only vv. 35-36 out of context. In reply, though, how much money do these eleven apostles have at this time? We do not know, but it was probably not large. But even if it were, Jesus and his new movement (as sociologists of the New Testament call it) received the goodwill offering of some followers, and Luke even names some women supporters (8:4). But Jesus saw no need to protect the money with swords at this time. But did not the last few days in Jerusalem have more tension than his three years outside of Jerusalem? The tension was indeed compacted into a few days, but Jesus frequently had to answer the antagonistic questions of his opponents before his entry into Jerusalem, so his three years was certainly not peaceful all of the time; yet he did not protect the money with swords. And this brings us back to the number of swords that Peter shows Jesus during the last meal. Would two swords be enough to protect the contents of the purses and bags that Jesus now says the disciples should bring with them? No, so clearly the two weapons serve a nonliteral purpose, for the "self-defense" explanation does not fit into the entire context.

Second, if self-defense does not work with the disciples' property, does it work during the arrest of Jesus that night in the Garden of Gethsemane? Are two swords enough for a physical fight to resist arrest? This is hardly the case because during Jesus' arrest a disciple (Peter according to John 18:10) took out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (Malchus according to John 18:10). Jesus sternly tells Peter to put away his sword, "No more of this!" and then he heals the servant, restoring his ear (Luke 22:49-51). Resisting arrest cannot be the purpose of the two swords.

Third, were the two swords enough for an armed rebellion to resist the authorities and impose the new Jesus movement in a political and military way? Jesus denounces this purpose in Luke 22:52, as the authorities were in the process of arresting him: "Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs?" (New International Version). The answer is no, as he is seized and led away (22:54). Since this literal interpretation will not work, Jesus intended to teach a deeper meaning than a physical fight with only two physical swords.

Fourth and finally, within two or three decades after the Resurrection (and more), we have no record of the disciples wielding swords. For example, Paul sent Titus, his fellow-worker, with a large offering to Corinth, with the goal of collecting even more money from the Corinthian Christians (2 Cor. 8-9). After that, he and some "brothers" were to transport the money to the church in Jerusalem, which had fallen on hard times. In all of the long distances that the money traveled, there is simply no indication that Titus and the "brothers" protected it with swords. And this is true for other Christian offerings that circulated around the Mediterranean world. In addition, throughout the Book of Acts, which was written by Luke and which depicts Paul and his companions getting beaten and stoned and arrested by the local authorities and some religious opposition, he never defends himself or retaliates with a sword. He is following the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Violence plays no part in the life of the early church. Swords were never envisioned to be swung by the disciples as if the true God would call them to go forth as a military army to kill pagans or force Jews to convert, die, or pay a special tax if they do not convert (Sura 9:1-5; 29).

So the literal interpretation of the two swords will not work in the larger context of Luke 22:36. In contrast to the literal interpretation, the three following nonliteral interpretations work smoothly in context so that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

First, as noted, Jesus reminds the disciples of his mission for them before he arrived in Jerusalem (Luke 9:3; 10:1-17). Did they need a purse, a bag, or extra sandals? No, because people were friendlier, and his opposition was spread out over three years.

Now, however, he is in Jerusalem, and he has undergone the compacted antagonism of religious leaders seeking to trap him with self-incriminating words. In addition, when the authorities are not present, they send their spies. The atmosphere is therefore tense, and the two swords—no more than that—symbolize the tension. Jesus' mission has shifted to a clear danger, and the disciples must take note. However, he certainly did not intend for his disciples to use the swords, as we just saw in the literal interpretation, above, for he is about to tell Peter to put away his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the swords symbolizing tension fits perfectly into the context of Luke 22:36.

Second, by far the clearest purpose of the symbolism of two swords is found in 22:36-37, when Jesus refers to Isaiah's prophecy (53:12) about being numbered with the lawless in the context of swords. He was destined to be falsely arrested like a criminal, falsely put on trial like a criminal, and even falsely crucified like a criminal. After all, he was hung on the cross between two thieves, which is a further fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (Luke 23:32; 39-43). What are criminals known for carrying with them? Weapons, and to be numbered with them Jesus must also have weapons. That is why he said that only two swords would be enough—to fulfill this prophecy in a symbolic way.

A little knowledge of the basics of first-century Greek, the original language of the New Testament, clarifies this interpretation. The Greek word gar (the first word in v. 37, above) means for, whose function and meaning is to explain the preceding clause. Here is an example in English: "I am bringing an umbrella, for it is raining." So the word for explains why I am bringing an umbrella: it is raining. This often works in New Testament Greek, as well. In v. 36 Jesus tells the disciples to buy a sword: "And the one who has no sword must go out and buy one." Why? Jesus explains in the next clause: "For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me" (v. 37). The use of swords outside of official and legal authority represents criminal behavior. Thus, Jesus wants to identify with common criminals as predicted by Isaiah, and two swords alone would suffice. However, Jesus would not let them be used when the time came for his arrest, for he was really not a criminal, but to use them would mean that he would become one; plus, he was destined to die as he himself predicted (Luke 18:31-33). So he immediately stops Peter's misuse of his sword: "No more of this!" (Luke 22:51). Peter or any follower of Jesus must not use swords to maim or kill sinners, unbelievers, or anyone else.

The third and final symbolic interpretation presents itself in addition to Isaiah's prophecy and the tense atmosphere in Jerusalem. Jesus frequently used physical objects (seeds, lamps, vineyards, coins, lost sheep and so on) to teach nonphysical, universal truths, and the same is true with the two swords in this passage. Though Luke 22:36 is not a parable, Jesus is about to instruct the disciples, using two physical swords, on how not to behave when they go out into the highways preaching the gospel after his Resurrection. They will not need swords when Jesus is arrested, and they will not need them even if they suffer persecution later on. Hence, the physical swords teach this nonphysical and universal truth based on Jesus telling Peter to put away his sword in the Garden during Jesus' arrest: no violence should be used to spread the word of the true God. Later tradition supports this interpretation, saying that all of the original apostles but John were martyred as a direct result of persecution (John died from natural causes of old age, but he was imprisoned for his faith on the Island of Patmos), but none of them fought or even tried to fight his way out of his fiery trials with swords. Evidently, the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane made an impression on them. To repeat, that is the message of Jesus when he tells Peter in the Garden, "No more of this!" That is, "Never use a sword again!"
As noted, the early history of the church supports this symbolic meaning of swords in Luke 22:36 in its larger context. In the Book of Acts, which records some of the history of the church after the Resurrection, the disciples never swing a sword. Bloody warfare is excluded as they spread the message of the kingdom of God, throughout the larger Mediterranean world by peaceful proclamation alone.

To sum up, the three symbolic interpretations fit together in both the historical and literary contexts of Luke 22:36. Jesus says that two swords are enough, but clearly they are not sufficient for a physical fight in the Garden of Gethsemane or anywhere else. They are enough, however, to do three symbolic things. First, they embody the tension of Jesus' last days in Jerusalem. Second, they complement Jesus' fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that he would be numbered among criminals. A mere two swords would nicely fill out the picture of this prophecy, since criminals carried weapons with them. Third, they are enough for Jesus to rebuke Peter when he swings one of them and cuts off Malchus' ear. Therefore, Jesus uses them as object lessons that the disciples should follow his example and not use swords—they must never swing them to bring about the kingdom of God by a holy war, even in the direst moment of Jesus' life, his arrest in the Garden.

Peter interpreted Jesus' words literally, but he was wrong, so Jesus rebuked him. Therefore, we should avoid the same mistaken literal interpretation of "sword" in Luke 22:36, so that we may not receive the same rebuke.

In the Gospel of Matthew's account of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked Peter, after Peter struck the ear off the servant of the high priest:
26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (NIV)
These two verses agree with Luke's account and add some details. Jesus denounces violence to accomplish the will of God.

Peace be with you
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