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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Jesus called for civil disobedience against disarmament laws!

tjic posts this snippet from Luke 22:36 of Jesus speaking to the apostles:
He said to them, “…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
Looking up the full citation, one sees that Jesus was talking about one of the prophesies that he had to fulfill in order to usher in the new dispensation of God's law (replacing "the law of sin and death" with "Christian liberty"). He had to be "numbered with the transgressors" and so he needed to commit a crime. What crime could he commit without doing wrong? Easy: violate the Roman prohibitions against subject peoples being armed for self-defense!
(35)Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

(36)He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. (37)It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

(38)The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That is enough,” he replied.
Looking up on the list of prophesies fulfilled, there it is, Isaiah 53:12:
Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the
Awesome. Jesus knew immediately which law it was moral to violate. One more example of his moral genius. One more bit of evidence that he was who he said he was.

This should motivate all Christians to get behind the abolition of civilian disarmament laws. Of course conservative Christians are solidly behind gun rights, but Luke 22:36 provides a powerful challenge to left-wing anti-liberty types who try to interpret Christianity in socialist, anti-liberty, terms. Just ask yourselves, leftists: "What would Jesus commit civil disobedience over?" Prophesy posed that question to him, and he gave us his answer.

UPDATE: Web-searching "Luke 22:36" and "civil disobedience" does not turn up any any commentary that links the two. Instead, there are a number of lame attempts to reconcile Jesus's call for the apostles to bear arms with his assessment that two swords are enough. There is speculation that Jesus was speaking metaphorically when he said to buy arms, and that his "that is enough" was an expression of annoyance when the Apostles took him literally. There is also speculation that since the arms were for defense, two might be enough. But isn't the passage perfectly explicit? Jesus plainly states that the purpose of having the swords is in order to be "numbered with the transgressors," and for purposes of civil disobedience, two is enough!

It does seem that Jesus was also expressing a broader approval of arms for self-defense, because the carrying of swords is listed in sequence with the carrying of purses and bags; other practical items which the apostles did not need while Jesus was on Earth, but would need once he had ascended. But neither the purse nor the bag was illegal. The reference to what needed to be done in order to be "numbered with the transgressors" can only be a reference to the sword.

It is also worth appreciating the economy of language. The practical point and the explanation of what was needed to fulfill prophecy could not have both been communicated in fewer words.

If anyone knows of a source that interprets Luke 22:36 in terms of civil disobedience, engaged for the fulfillment of prophesy, please leave a comment. AHA. The Restored Church of God has a commentary that understands that the reason for the swords was in order to be "numbered with the transgressors." So does Bethel Church of God. James Arlandson writing at American Thinker also gets it. (The correct search seems to be "Luke 22:36" and "Isaiah 53:12".)

What these analyses seem to miss is the implication that Jesus was answering the question, posed by prophesy, of what law a moral man could disobey without doing wrong. Probably this point is being made somewhere, but it certainly isn't common knowledge, and it should be. Jesus's chosen act of civil disobedience was to bear arms. But civil disobedience is justified only when a law is a violation of right. Thus one could even interpret that Jesus recognized a RIGHT to keep and bear arms. That is highly relevant, at a time when left wing Christian churches are prime movers behind the left's war against the right to keep and bear arms.

UPDATE: I have been trying to document that carrying swords was illegal for Jews under Roman occupation. My original assertion was based on general history about the Romans jealously maintaining a monopoly on arms. e.g. From Halbrook’s That Every Man be Armed: “…aggression against both ‘barbarians’ and Roman citizens by Roman tyrants and empire builders was coupled with the policy of disarming and then eliminating their opponents.” (p. 14.) I seem to recall as well that the sword was an exclusive privilege of Roman citizenship, though I can’t find a citation for that.

Web searching for specific references to Roman policy towards the Jews, some claims can be found, but they are without documentation.

Duncan Long writes:
During this period of Jewish history [Long refers to Luke 22:36], a Roman ‘ban’ on weapons was in place and the average Jew was disarmed with weapons legally allowed in the hands of special Jewish ‘police’ groups charged with enforcing the law (both Roman and Jewish religious law) as well as in the hands of the occupying army.
Jody Hudson writes:
At the time that Jesus the Christ told his disciple to sell his purse and get a sword -- that was a crime against the State... a felony in today's terms.
Robert Avrech writes:
During the Roman occupation of Judea, Jews were forbidden to own swords, spears or any implements of war.
If you know of any authoritative source for or against these kinds of claims, please comment.


excellent analysis; I've been bringing up this quote from Jesus for a decade or more, just to shock wishy-washy liberal Christians, but hadn't really looked into it deeply (or even thought about doing so!).


Thank you, TJIC, for your persistence. I must have read that passage several times before without ever realizing what it said. It's important!
I thank you for the email you sent me pointing out this post. I have read and studied the references you post and I do not come to the same conclusion you do. Jesus in fact told Peter to stop when he cut off the ear of the Roman soldier and He reached and healed the soldier's ear.

I have read the entire chapter of Isaiah 53, and I do not see anything in it that says Jesus would be disobedient in any way, civil or otherwise. He was numbered among the transgressors simply because He was who He was and the Jewish leaders wanted Him to be crucified. This was according to God's will as spelled out in Isaiah 53 and other places in God's word.

I, personally, own a pistol and my husband and I often go to the range to do target practice. I am not against people owning weapons. I would never personally use a weapon against another living being except maybe a snake if it were attacking me but I'd have to find where my husband has the pistols hidden, get the key to unlock them, load a magazine and insert it into the pistol and then if the snake were still around, shoot him.

I'm sorry I do not agree with your interpretation and I therefore cannot fulfill the request you made of me.

May God richly bless you in all you do.

Dear Jeanette: I would actually say that the observation about Jesus not wanting Peter to fight the soldiers reinforces my interpretation of the passage rather than contradicting it. If Jesus was not telling the apostles to trade their cloaks for swords in order to establish civil disobedience, that would mean he was simply telling them to get swords! That Jesus was seeking to establish civil disobedience in order to fulfill prophesy (which seems to be explicit) squares Jesus' rejection of violence as a means (at least in this circumstance, where his purpose was to be apprehended), with his call for the apostles to have swords.
I have three main problems with your analysis:

1. The remainder of the Gospel account tells us exactly why Jesus was numbered among the transgressors and was given a criminal's death. It wasn't because he told his disciples to bear arms.

2. "Civil disobedience" is generally used to refer to peaceful resistance to unjust laws. Carrying weapons seems more relevant to armed rebellion and insurgencies.

3. There's a potential problem with interpretation of the Greek word "Machaira" (=sword). Scripture sometimes uses it when refering to the sword in a figurative sense, but here Jesus is referring to actual items. As far as I can tell from surveying books on Greek and Hellenistic weapons and warfare, Machaira usually refers to something roughly equivalent to a machete with a single edge and a heavy chopping blade. Such blades can be used as weapons (see Rwanda, genocide), but they are also all-purpose tools. If you spend time in many parts of the third world, you will see that they are ubiquitous; in the countryside, virtually everyone carries them.

If Jesus was referring to a machete-like tool, then his comments and the disciples response make sense. Jesus cites the prophesy that says he will not be with them much longer. Then, he tells them to prepare by obtaining a purse and a bag and a blade. If the blade is a weapon, then the disciples response is absurd; two swords are not enough to defend 12 men. But if it is a tool, then two blades are enough to chop firewood and cut rope.

In context, Jesus' quoting of the prophecy and his further instructions seem to be an attempt to get his disciples to understand that he would not be with them much longer and that they should prepare. If his response "It is enought" is exasperated or sarcastic, it is probably because the disciples focused on the concrete instructions rather than the subtext ("I am going away.").
Hmmm. The “tool” interpretation does, like the civil-disobedience interpretation, sit logically with the judgment that two is enough. Two are enough either for camp chores or for illegally carrying weapons. But still, isn’t the passage perfectly explicit? Doesn’t Jesus directly imply that the purpose is to be “numbered with the transgressors.” He is NOT simply saying “I’m going soon.” He is saying that they have to do this in order to fulfill prophesy: “this must be fulfilled in me.”
Very good analysis. I had never heard of that passage being explained in such a way. Now it makes more sense, for me anyway.
Hi all god bless.
Ok get your Bibles out before reading further.
Luke 22 v35 Jesus tells his disciples when he sent them out to preach the word he sent them without worldly items.(money bag knapsack sandals).
Items common folk regard as necessities.
Luke 22 v36 Jesus tells his disciples that if they have gathered worldly intent or the need for the worldly things they might as well gather their weapons(sword) because you cant love god and mammon(worldly wealth)worldly wealth always leading to war.
Luke22 v37 Jesus tells that no matter the choice of all or any individuals the Word will be fulfilled in him. note:- as it was and is written to be fulfilled.
The offender numbered with the transgressors is not Jesus but is he who now places before righteousness their money bag knapsack etc (ones worldly desire cannot be balanced against righteousness).

FINALLY the most important thing to read in relation to any doubt about JESUS and what he would do in the face of persecution or war.is.
Mathew ch 5 v 43-44.
IN JESUS WORDS "You have heard that it was said,you shall LOVE your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, LOVE your enemies,BLESS those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and PRAY for those who spitefully use and persecute you. AMEN
**** don't stop reading now please
GOD Bless****
LUKEch22 v37
Luke22 v37 Jesus tells that no matter the choice of all or any individuals the Word will be fulfilled in him. note:- as it was and is written to be fulfilled.
The offender numbered with the transgressors is Jesus so he can be the path between God and the ones who place before righteousness their sins,money bag, knapsack etc (ones worldly desire cannot be balanced against righteousness).But through Jesus we can be excepted by god.
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