FACT CHECK on "Weapons"

A Brief Explanation of the Sword in Matthew 10:34

James M. Arlandson

I read constantly that Christians should not be proud of a verse attributed to Jesus. The verse reads:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.

At first glance it indeed appears that Jesus encourages violence and calls his disciples to practice it, presumably righteous violence. But appearances can be deceiving. A text without a context often becomes a pretext, as the old saying goes. Once this verse is read in its historical and literary contexts, the meaning will change.

It is time to set the record straight about that verse.

The historical context, we should recall, is Jewish culture, as Jesus ministers to his own people. He sends out the twelve disciples to the "lost sheep of Israel," not yet to the gentiles, who will be reached after the Resurrection. It is not surprising, historically speaking, that he would spread his word by proclamation to his own, by Jewish disciples. Second, he predicts that some towns may not receive the disciples and that the authorities may put them on trial and flog them. In that eventuality, they should shake the dust off their feet, pray for them, and flee to another city. Third, it is only natural that first-century Jews may not understand this new sect or "Jesus movement" (as sociologists of the New Testament call it), so they resist it. Does this mean, then, that Jesus calls for a holy war with a physical, military sword against his fellow Jews—say, against his own family who wanted to take custody of him because they thought he was "out of his mind" (Mark 3:21)?

Next, those cultural facts explain the immediate literary context, which shows division among family members. The context must be quoted in full to explain the meaning of "sword" in Matthew 10:34 (bold print):

32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6]
37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
The one key element in this lengthy passage is the word "sword," and its meaning is now clear. It indicates that following Jesus in his original Jewish society may not bring peace to a family, but may "split" it up, the precise function of a metaphorical sword. Are his disciples ready for that? This kind of spiritual sword invisibly severs a man from his father, and daughter from her mother, and so on (Micah 7:6). Given Jesus’ own family resistance early on (they later came around), it is only natural he would say that no matter what the cost, one must follow him to the end, even if it means giving up one’s family. But this applies only if the family rejects the new convert, not if the family accepts him in his new faith; he must not reject them, because the whole point of Jesus’ advent is to win as many people to his side as possible, even if this divides the world in two, but never violently.

Furthermore, we can reference the larger textual context in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Garden of Gethsemane, during the hour when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Peter struck off the ear of the servant of the high priest in order to protect his Lord. But Jesus tells him to stop.

Matthew 26:52-53 says:

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)

Jesus denounces violence to accomplish the will of God—at least as Peter imagines the will of God. Then Jesus says that he has more than twelve legions of angels at his disposal. He did not come to crush the Roman Empire. Instead, he willingly lays down his life and dies for the sins of the whole world. Will it accept this wonderful gift?

Now we can appeal to even a much larger textual context. The non-literal interpretation of the sword is confirmed by a parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 12:49-53 reads:

49 "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo [my death], and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

It is entirely possible that these two parallel passages in Matthew and Luke represent two different occasions. After all, when I teach the same topic in two different classes, I also change the wording a little. Neither class knows about the slight change, but this does not matter, for the meaning is essentially the same. Likewise, in the three years that Jesus taught, he most likely repeated this call to commitment several times to different audiences (though recorded only twice in the Gospels), as he crisscrossed Israel. He issued such radical calls often, telling his listeners to pick up their cross and to follow him (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27).

Whatever the case, the proper way to interpret Scripture is to let verses clarify other verses, particularly parallel passages. And now Luke 12:49-53 confirms our interpretation of Matt. 10:34. Jesus did not endorse physical violence against one’s own family, but he warns people about possible family division.

So what does all of this mean?

History demonstrates that Jesus never wielded a sword against anyone, and in Matt. 10:34 he does not order his followers to swing one either, in order to kill their family opponents or for any reason. But a true disciple who is worthy of following Christ and who comes from a possibly hostile family has to use a sword of the will (never a physical sword) to sever away all opposition, even as far as taking up his cross—another metaphorical implement for the disciples. It is true that Jesus divides the world into two camps, those who follow him, and those who do not, those in the light, and those in the dark. However, he never tells his followers to wage war on everyone else, and certainly not on one’s family.

It is true that the Roman Emperor Constantine, Medieval Crusaders, and Protestants and Catholics have used the sword against unbelievers and each other. However, none of them is foundational to Christianity—only Jesus is, and he never endorses the sword to spread his message. Also, Christianity has undergone Reform (c. 1400-1600) and has been put under the pressure of the Enlightenment (c. 1600-1800), which demanded peace. Be that as it may, Jesus himself never calls for military holy war, and only he sets the genetic code for his movement.

There is not a single verse in the New Testament that calls the Church to commit violence to spread the gospel or to plant churches or to accomplish anything else. Rather, the New Testament hands the sword over to the State (Rom. 13:1-6). In any case, Jesus says a spiritual sword, not a physical one, may sever family ties, so his disciples must be ready for that.




A Brief Explanation of the Sword in Luke 22:36

James M. Arlandson

Did Jesus endorse and encourage violence in the Gospels, presumably a righteous kind of violence? Did he call his original disciples to this? Did he order all of his disciples to buy swords, really? One verse may indicate that he did.

And Luke 22:36 reads:

36 [Jesus] said to [the disciples], "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." (New Revised Standard Version, NRSV)

Cited in isolation, the verse suggests that swords and violence are a possibility. It seems as if all of the disciples should go out and buy one each. After the death and burial of Jesus, they would have to face the world alone without him, so they thought.

However, what happens to the apparent meaning of the verse when it is not read in isolation, but in context? Did Jesus really wield a sword and want all of the disciples to buy one each?

Exegesis of Luke 22:36

The historical context of Luke 22:36 demonstrates that 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 (Is. 53:12). He needed to complete his work outside of Jerusalem.

Now, however, Jesus finally enters the city famous for killing her prophets (Luke 13:33-34), a few days before his arrest, trial and crucifixion, all of which he predicted. Religious leaders were spying on him and asked him trick questions, so they could incriminate him (Luke 20:20). 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. Then 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 (most likely the Seder). He elevated the bread and the wine, representing his body and blood, which was broken and shed for the sins of the world in the New Covenant (Luke 22:17-20). However, 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.

At this point we pick up the textual context of Luke 22:36 (bold print). He is eating the Last Supper on the night he was betrayed.

Luke 22:35-38 says:

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. (NRSV)

The textual context reveals at least two truths. First, 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. Does the tension play a part in understanding why he told his disciples to go out and buy swords? This is answered, below. Second, he says that he would be arrested and tried as a criminal, as the prophecy in Is. 53:12 predicted. Does this have anything to do with swords? Do criminals carry them around? This too is explained, below. Jesus may have a deeper meaning in mind than the violent use of the swords. What is it?

The interpretation of the verses can follow either a strictly physical direction in which swords must be used, or a nonphysical one in which swords must not be used, during Jesus’ last hours. 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 into the passage about the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53).

Violent use of the swords

Jesus says to the disciples to buy swords, but when they show him two, Jesus says the two are enough. The first direction, the literal one, is inadequate for two reasons.

First, the obvious question is: two swords are enough for what? Are they 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 (Malchus according to John 18:10) of the high priest. 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.

Second, were the two swords enough for an armed rebellion to resist the authorities and to impose the new Jesus movement in a political and military way? Jesus denounces this purpose in Luke 22:52, as the authorities are in the process of arresting him: "Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs?" The answer is no, as he is seized and led away (v. 54).

So the physical interpretation of Luke 22:36 (the two swords were intended to be used) will not work in the larger context. Two swords are not enough to resist arrest, to pull off a revolt of some kind, or to fully protect themselves in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The contextual meaning of the swords

In contrast to the literal interpretation of using swords physically, the following interpretation works smoothly in context so that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

First, 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 their opposition to him 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. When the authorities are not present, they send their spies. The atmosphere is therefore tense, and the two swords—no more than that—represent the tension. Jesus’ mission has shifted to a clear danger, and the disciples must beware. 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.

Second, "For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless’" (Luke 22:37). By far the clearest purpose of the two swords is Jesus’ reference to Isaiah’s prophecy (53:12). He was destined to be arrested like a criminal, put on trial like a criminal, and even crucified like a criminal (but his arrest, trial, and execution were based on false evidence. He did nothing but good.) Yet, he was hung on the cross between two thieves, which is also a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 23:32; 39-43). What are criminals known for carrying with them? Weapons, and to be numbered among criminals, Jesus must also have weapons. That is why he said that only two swords would be enough—to fulfill this prophecy. Also, Matthew mentions fulfilling prophecy (26:54). If Peter had kept on physically using the sword to prevent Christ’s arrest, prophecy would not have been accomplished smoothly and without hindrance. Jesus says that he could call on twelve legions of angels to protect him, meaning he is destined by God to die; he was not permitted to stop even the mighty Roman Empire from fulfilling its role (Matt. 26:53). That is why Jesus told Peter to put his sword back in its place (Matt. 26:52). And in Luke he says to Peter after the disciple cut off an ear, "No more of this!" (22:51).

The third and final nonliteral interpretation says that Jesus frequently used physical objects (seeds, lamps, vineyards, coins, lost sheep and so on) to teach nonphysical, universal truths, and the same is possibly true of the two swords. This interpretation of clarification is supported by Matt. 10:34: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword." As seen in this article on Matt. 10:34, in context he does not mean a physical sword that cuts up and bloodies the family, but a spiritual and moral one that may divide it up nonphysically. And it is precisely Luke who clarifies Jesus’ meaning of "sword" as nonliteral, in the two parallel passages of Matt. 10:34 and Luke 12:51. If Luke does this in 12:51, then why would he not shift slightly the meaning of "sword" in 22:36-38?

Early Christian history

The foregoing interpretation of the nonphysical use of swords does not say that the two swords did not exist (Luke 22:38). They are not symbols, nor were they imaginary or invisible. Peter really did cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest with one of them (Matt. 26:50-51; Luke 22:49-51).

However, Peter’s use of the sword is done before the formal birth of the Church at Pentecost, when he will be filled with the Spirit in an unprecedented way (Acts 2). It would be misguided to build church doctrine on such a reaction in the heat of the moment, during Jesus’ arrest at night, before Pentecost.

On the other hand, Jesus said to Peter in the Garden, "Put your sword back in its place," meaning, back in its scabbard or holder or in Peter’s belt or another article of clothing. He never said to throw the sword away, off to the side at a distance. Therefore, it is entirely possible that some disciples carried the two weapons after the crucifixion and burial when they lived in hostile territory, and maybe some did after the Resurrection and Ascension.

However, later reliable tradition says that none of the Apostles fought or even tried to fight their way out of fiery trials with swords, as some sort of misguided, twisted, violent martyrs. Instead, tradition says that all of the Apostles but John were martyred as a direct result of persecution (John died from natural causes in old age). Evidently, the example of Jesus throughout his life and in the Garden of Gethsemane made an impression on them.

Though part of this is an argument from silence (drawing conclusions from what a text or history does not say), it is a significant silence of the historical records that speaks volumes. Readers may scroll to the end of the article to begin a series on Pacifism and the Sword in the New Testament. There, this silence will have the support of words.


The events in the Garden of Gethsemane and the commands of Jesus there teach the Apostles nonaggression, so Luke 22:36 does not permit violence. He said to Peter: "For all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Matt. 26:52). Peter and the others heard those words that clarify the use of swords. Therefore, a lifestyle of the sword must not be part of the disciples’ new walk with the resurrected Christ, as they preached his message of hope.




"I Dreamed a Dream and enjoyed it so much I went out and lived it"

I would be damned indeed if I took the Way of Cain and not of Christ and lived the Life and Teaching My Lord died to give and God gave approval to by raising Him from the Dead.

I would be most damned indeed if I did not see Men as Trees walking and through the Mists of Fog and Rain of Gods own tears not recognize the Words that echoes from the years of martyrs who live the dream and die the reality of a life given to God to Live or to Die.

"I would indeed be a Man so damned if I did not live as they have died and die as they so lived"

I will not be damned.

I will live as one dead already and cry out to my brothers in arms who have so attested to the Truth and the Life that Cain may have many brethren, but God has many sons.

God alone was our defense; because God alone is our resurrection and life is not lived until it has died. 

I will not stand as many of those who call upon the Name of Christian and raise a banner to satan and follow a lie of beelzebub by holding hostage the Spirit of God from working out the violence of Cain within me....

NO, I will die on the Cross my God has given me and reject every notion, lie and perversion that tries to tell me I must Live and Protect Myself lest I die for Cain and be saved as Abel.

For it is not in this life I finally attain salvation, but in death I am rewarded it's merit.


I Choose as those before have and I dedicate to do as they have done in so dying by following;

Love Your Enemies and do not tell me the cost. 

It is obvious by those who cannot pay it; the price of following Jesus IS MY LIFE.

AND I WILL GLADLY DIE; that He might live.

-------------------------- --------

# This post was in response to those American Brothers and Sisters who are still trying to decide if Jesus would have carried a gun or sword or any other means except to die.

##For those who argue the 'take up sword" see Part 3




I find myself in the throes of a humanity that has lost touch with the essence of a reality that God has Promised to every child that is wanting to enter the Promised Land and replaced it with a selfishness that absorbs the ideology of CAIN and looks at His Fellow Man and once again cries out in rebellion to God Almighty:


God in His infinite love and resplendent mercy did not Kill Cain though often I am told in the Modern American Era as a Christian Following God I must take up Arms and Defend myself because CAIN was not Slain but is by and by at large in the World Today and I must have a Sword, a gun, a knife or an assault weapon because Cain has won and Abel is defeated and dead.

"I have woken from the Dream and I see Man dying that Cain might live" 


When One Man Made a Difference I will not FAULT my Brothers and Sisters who live in fear of Cain and tremble at the violent force that takes the Kingdom of God and seeks to compromise the Higher Calling of Life lived in a sacrifice that My Lord and My God offered up to the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth and did in fact die a horrible death.

NO, I will not fault Men and Women that in fear of death causes so many to turn to strength of arm and use of technology recognizing that the weakness of faith must give time and trial to be tested and finally at the end of life proffered to the one who created life and hope for the calling so desperately needed that good men and women will cling to this life before yielding to the Eternal One for a final judgement of Life or Damnation in Eternity.

No. I cannot fault them, But I cannot follow them.

"I Dreamed a Dream and enjoyed it so much I went out and lived it"

(See Pt 2)



VidDevoWordPress: " "Know the Lord Jesus"" Devotional (DWP10)



"Know the Lord Jesus"



"My sheep hear my voice,

and I know them,

and they follow me"

John 10:27





What This is about is Personal.

It is my Personal Relationship and Response to Jesus.

It is about the Way I relate to Jesus and How He Communicates to Me. It is not an uncommon experience, but it is one that is Unique and Distinctive to God because He did it. I merely responded to what He did to me. This should be common to all men and could be.

VidDevo is Testimony.

It is the personal experience of God related in an intimate and personal way about what Jesus wants to communicate to me and through me for others as well as for my self. It is life experiences. It is Testimony. It is real. It is live. None of it is exaggerated. It is my devotional life as I live it in Video: VidDevo.

VidDevo is Personal.

It is about You. It is about Me. We are relating Jesus to each other by Video but communicating to each other as the Spirit of God makes real what fits in your life the same way he does for me. And it may not be the same thing. It is God speaking. It doesn't matter how He does. It is personal to you and Him, just as it is personal to He and I. God speaks thru VidDevo to each individual person; personally.

VidDevo is Real.

It is life. It is daily. It is about what happens to me and as much as possible what affects you as I see it happening to you. It is the response of a Man of God with God in success and failure, in happiness and sorrow, in all aspects of life and living it. It is not reality video, but the reality of God manifest in the flesh, mine, as I relate to God in all I am doing. It is God in me as Jesus said He would be and is. He is real, I am not.

(more to follow...)

 Last Update 10-6-2012





Billy Graham Daily

God Bless America.


God Bless America.


God Lead the President.

God Help the Congress.

God Direct the Judiciary.


God Save the People.



God Bless America and

Shed your Grace On us ALL


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