Here is a blazing example of what happens when Christians pay little attention to context in the Bible. I have seen several forum discussions in the last months where Christians said, ‘…but Jesus told his disciples to buy swords.”
On the Way to the Mt. Of Olives
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough” [ESV].
First, we might note the hyperbole of selling an essential garment in order to buy a sword. What is being emphasized is the critical situation that is developing.
The context of this setting is immediately before they go to the Mount of Olives where Jesus will be arrested and where Peter will use one of those swords (John 18). “Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26).
But back to the immediate context of the “swords”—there are clear clues in this hard saying for us to follow. We are told that the disciples possess “two.” Jesus reply, “It is enough,” can only mean either 1) that two swords are sufficient to fill the prescription [that the Scripture about being “numbered with the transgressors” must be fulfilled](Marshall thinks this not “probable”) or 2) that “enough” is a rebuke to the disciples for not understanding him.
“The words, ‘It is enough’, may imply that that is enough of that kind of talk”–The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
Norval Geldenhuys, Luke (NICNT) thinks that, rather than a rebuke, this “ends the discussion sorrowfully.”
I. Howard Marshall, in Luke (NIGTC), says, “It is most probable that this simply means ‘That’s enough (sc. of this conversation) and is meant as a rebuke….This is the final conversation-piece in the extended dialogue…It brings to a climax the misunderstanding and earthly-mindedness of the disciples [how contemporary for us disciples today!] which has already figured three times in the dialogue…the disciples fail to understand; taking Jesus literally, they produce two swords, and Jesus has to rebuke them for their lack of comprehension…” **
[It is incredible that many Americans who claim the name “Christian” use this saying to justify their own beliefs about war. On this side of the Resurrection, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Canon, we are without excuse for such nonsense.]
**[A note on “enough” from another scholar: ‘Jesus words, “It is enough” are interesting. This is an idiom, and as an idiom is difficult to trace throughout the Bible, but a few references are illuminating. In Deuteronomy 3:26 the NIV (among other translations) render God’s rebuke to Moses as, “That is enough.” In other words, “Be quiet – the discussion is over.” In 1 Samuel 15:16, Samuel cuts King Saul’s excuse off with a brisk, “Stop!” In 2 Samuel 24:16, God stays the hand of the destroying angel with an emphatic, “Enough!” Interjections such as these have both a disjunctive and a corrective sense. They are used to stop the present flow of words or actions, and they indicate a different path of action or discourse will follow. Viewed in this manner, Jesus is simply telling his disciples to shut up; they have utterly misunderstood him yet again,. . .’]
[Link on Romans ’13’]
I’ve now read through two of your blog posts and have been encouraged by your stance and the points you raise. Keep up the great work. Your site seems a valuable resource for those of us striving to follow Jesus.
I recently started a site dedicated to helping Christians understand and apply Jesus’ approach to peacemaking. I’m not sure if you’re interested in checking it out, but since we seem to write on many of the same issues, here’s the link: http://enemylove.com
Together for Christ & His beloved poor,
Thank you, Jason. And your note is a big encouragement to me.
Thank you for this. I’m glad somebody overcomes the pious bias of prooftexts for Christian armament and actually performs exegesis.
Two Points of clarification: Re: “First, …the hyperbole…”–at the start this rules out nonsensical interpretations. (Though only two sentences in the article, do not miss this key point.)
And regarding the “…either 1)…or 2)….” Under ‘1’ brevity may have lent itself to confusion here. That ‘Marshall thinks this not “probable”‘ is IN REFERENCE TO “enough” equaling “sufficient.” Rather, he sees “enough” as a rebuke. (That the Scripture is fulfilled is not in question.)
This passage suddenly became a lot more humorous, now that I envision the confused disciples literally counting up how many swords they had between them while Jesus facepalms over their literal-mindedness!
Reblogged this on TextsInContext and commented:
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Plus you have to take in to account that Jesus said,be harmless and doves,and turn the other cheek,and do not fear what they can do to the body,but can do no more,and do not take vengeance upon yourself,and God said vengeance is mine,I will repay,and Paul suffered many things but he did not fight back,and all that are godly will suffer persecution,not dish it out,among other scriptures.
People have to realize that nothing can happen unless God allows it,and it God allows it we cannot fight against it,which is why God said do not fight against the government,for they can only rule because God allows it.
They could not touch Jesus until the time was right,and nothing can happen unless God allows it.
My apologies, Matt, I overlooked this comment’s waiting for approval.
I What did I miss? I don’t see any explanation of why Jesus commanded the disciples to carry swords. Yes, he rebuked Peter for using his sword. But why were they carrying the swords?
‘Why’ two disciples were carrying swords and ‘why Jesus commanded the disciples to carry swords’ are two separate questions. First, Jesus did not command them to ‘carry’ but to ‘buy.’ For this ‘why’ read the whole piece with care, beginning with the hyperbole. The explanation is there.
As to ‘why’ two disciples had swords, you might remember that one of the disciples was Simon, the Zealot. The fact that two revealed these swords to Jesus does not equate to Jesus’ endorsement of that fact.
Thank you Michael for the explanation. It seems this is a main scripture, of only a few, that people use to make their fallacious arguments for justifiable violence. I appreciate your writing.
I especially noticed (and liked) how you developed the idea that Jesus was basically emphasizing the intensity of the situation: that what is going on/about to happen really matters and requires everything, with no thought for anything else, “sell your coat to buy a sword” is not opposed against, “do not take anything extra with you on the journey,” but a way of saying a similar thing. It really fits. Glory be to God!
[…] Christ himself said, If a man does not own a sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36. I follow Micheal Snow’s blog. Michael has written and excellent response to this argument. See Two Swords: Enough […]
Reblogged this on NONVIOLENT CHRISTIANS and commented:
Michael Snow’s excellent blog post addresses Reason 17 of Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate. 17. Christ himself said, If a man does not own a sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36.