When seeking Biblical support for their notion of a militaristic Jesus, Neocon warmongers sometimes quote Luke 22:36.
First, some context. This scene from the Gospel According to Luke occurs during the Last Supper. Jesus is addressing his apostles, shortly before he is arrested and crucified.
Luke 22:36 states: He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.
Is Jesus telling his apostles to prepare for combat? Perhaps to overthrow the Roman Empire? Or maybe just a defensive battle against the Jewish religious leaders (soon to arrest him) or the Roman governor (soon to convict him)?
Neocons have used this verse to justify our current wars. But is this verse even about war?
Let's examine this quote in context, reading what comes before and after this verse. Here is what Luke 22:35-38 states:
And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, 'And he was reckoned with transgressors'; for what is written about me has its fulfilment." And they said to him, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough."
That's odd. Two swords? Among twelve apostles? Two swords hardly seem enough to battle an empire, or even a garrison of guards.
Seems this context changes things. It's a key to understanding this verse. Seeking a Catholic understanding, I look to the commentary in the Navarre Bible. Its commentary for Luke 22:35-38 states:
Jesus announces his passion by applying to himself the Isaiah prophecy about the Servant of Yahweh (Is 53:12) -- "he was numbered with the transgressors" -- and by pointing out that all the other prophecies about the sufferings the Redeemer would undergo will find fulfilment in him.
The testing-time is imminent and our Lord is speaking symbolically when he talks about making provision and buying weapons to put up a fight. The apostles take him literally, and this leads him to express a certain indulgent understanding: "It is enough."
"Just in the same way as we," Theophylact says, "when we are speaking to someone and see that he does not understand, say: 'Very well, leave it.' " (Enarratio in Evangelium Lucae, in loc.).
So it seems Jesus spoke symbolically of swords, not literally. This interpretation is also consistent with one of the Gospels' recurring themes: the apostles' repeated misunderstanding of Christ prior to his resurrection.
If you're curious, my edition of the Navarre Bible is "the Revised Standard Version with a commentary by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre." A great source for a Catholic interpretation.
According to its Preface: "The commentaries contained in the notes are the result of looking up thousands of sources (sometimes reflected in explicit references given in the commentary text) -- documents of the Magisterium, exegesis by Fathers and Doctors of the Church, works by important spiritual writers (usually saints, of every period) ... The editors felt that it would have been impertinent to comment on the Bible using their own expertise along;
If anyone ever throws Luke 22:36 at you in support of war, saying that it's time to buy a sword, ask him why Jesus said that only two swords were "enough."
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