Bo Sanders has a great post on the (seemingly) conflicting sword passages in the New Testament over at Homebrewed Christianity, which, by the way, is the world’s best theology podcast. For instance, check out any of these selected episodes:
- Paul Capetz on Existentialism
- Merold Westphal
- Church historian, and the only baptist who could actually make me consider going back, Bill Leonard on Faith and Politics Through Church History and The History and Transformation of American Christianity
- Monica A. Coleman on Religious Pluralism, Christology & Process Theology
- Get this, Tony Jones interviewing Bart Ehrman
- Jeffery C. Pugh on Bonhoeffer’s Religionless Christianity
- Craig Atwood with The Luther Story
- John Dominic Crossan on God & Empire
- They even got Phillip Cary
Back to Bo’s post. Most interesting is the third part in which he explores that curious passage in Luke 22 in which Jesus actually commands his disciples to buy swords.
35He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”
They said, “No, not a thing.”
36He 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.37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”
38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”
Bo offers two interesting and instructive readings of this passage. The first one is his:
It takes strength to turn the other cheek. If you don’t have the ability to retaliate … it is just being a doormat or victim? That is how I have always thought about it.
In that perspective, I have read Jesus’ odd command with Peter in mind. I see that fateful night where Jesus tells him to ‘put away your sword’ and later tells the authorities ‘if my kingdom was of this world my followers would fight.’ The implication is that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world and so his followers don’t fight.
The sword for the disciple, then, is…a powerful option to be resisted in favor of a preferable option that is less obvious because it is less forceful.
The second is from Ben Witherington:
What is the meaning of this little story, taking into account the larger context of Jesus’ teaching? Vs. 37 is the key where Jesus quotes Is. 53.12—“he was numbered with the transgressors”. Jesus is saying to the disciples—you must fulfill your role as transgressors of what I have taught you!!! They must play the part of those who do exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught them in the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples become transgressors by seeking out weapons and then seeking to use them. This much is perfectly clear from the context for the disciples then go on to say “look Lord here is two swords”. They already have such weapons and Jesus responds in disgust to the fact that they are already transgressing his principles of non-violence by responding “that’s enough” (of this nonsense).
You can read the entire post here.