Were Two Swords Enough?

And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Luke 22:36–38

I’ve heard well-meaning Christians take Jesus’ words here out of context to justify carrying weapons. When Jesus said, “it is enough,” they claim that He is saying that two swords will do. That’s the right amount. However, a closer look at the context reveals those were not Jesus’ intentions. In fact, He meant quite the opposite from how I’ve heard the passage interpreted.

Let’s begin with verse 36.

And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

Luke 22:36

Jesus is not telling them to buy an actual sword; He is preparing them for the dangerous situation to come. In just a few verses, Jesus rebukes Peter for using one of the two swords the disciples had. He takes time to undo the damage that Peter had done. Jesus then condemns the cohort (480 Roman soldiers) and the accompanying Jewish representatives for coming out to Him with swords (Luke 22:52-53; cf. John 18:12).

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, He records Jesus’ warning, “All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Instead of a cohort, Jesus explains that God could send twelve legions (4,500 infantryman and calvary x 12!!) of angels if He wanted. Both accounts contrast the Jewish leader’s dependency upon an earthly and Jesus’ insistence He came to establish a heavenly kingdom.

The apostle Paul had this to say about weapons:

For though we walk in the , we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

2 Corinthians 10:3–4

Jesus’ words align with Paul: they both relied on spiritual weapons to wage war in the kingdom. Picking up the sword inevitably leads to dying by the sword. In the book of Revelation, which is an account of the Jewish-Roman war in AD 66 – AD 70, John warns, “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the of the saints” (Revelation 13:10).

Leon Morris explained Luke 22:36 this way:

The sword may have been meant literally (so Ellis, Lenski), but it is difficult to see this in view of Jesus’ general teaching and his refusal to let Peter use his sword (51). Such considerations lead others to think the words are ironical (so Tinsley), but it is more likely that they are figurative. It is Jesus’ graphic way of bringing it home that the disciples face a situation of grave peril. ‘Because He was not thinking of their weapons, the disciples require that courage which regards a sword as more necessary than an upper garment and surrenders even its last possession, but cannot give up the struggle’ (Schlatter, cited in Geldenhuys).

Morris, Leon. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Print. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.

Now, let’s read verse 38.

They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Luke 22:38

If Jesus actually meant that two swords were plenty, then this passage doesn’t justify everyone carrying a weapon. A ratio of 2:12 would suffice! However, this is not the intended meaning of this statement.

As others have pointed out, Deuteronomy 3:26 uses the verb form of the word translated “enough.”

And the Lord disregarded me on your account, and he did listen not me. And the Lord spoke to me, ‘It is sufficient for you! Do not continue to speak of this issue any longer.’

Deuteronomy 3:26

Jesus wasn’t saying that two swords were enough, He was telling them to stop such foolish talk as Robert Stein explains:

“That is enough,” he replied. Clearly two swords were not enough for any planned armed resistance. Jesus’ words are best understood as breaking off further conversation as in Deut 3:26, i.e., “Enough of this [foolish] conversation.” Compare also 1 Kgs 19:4; 1 Chr 21:15.

Stein, Robert H. Duke. Vol. 24. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

Conclusion

Jesus was not telling His disciples to carry swords; He was preparing them for action. Jesus spoke out against so-called just violence over and over. The last thing He would do is encourage His disciples to carry weapons. The kingdom of God is heavenly. There are no need for swords, guns, or any sort of weapon when defending and spreading God’s kingdom.

In these discussions, someone always jumps to some hypothetical situation where an imagined monster is hurting my wife or son. “Would you kill him then?” these bloodthirsty Christians ask. The answer is no. Why would I have to kill them? Why does it always have to be about ? Besides the fact that this situation is unlikely to happen, although it does, why does killing have to be the answer? It doesn’t. There are alternatives. There are other ways to stop someone besides killing a person for whom Christ died.

When we save our own life through violence, we lost it. Anything we gain ends up being our own undoing. Nations have come and gone because they relied on violence, but the kingdom of Christ is forever.

Several months ago, I called for peace among my friends who turned politics into idolatry. This past week is exactly what I was warning about. Violence is never the answer. If you believe that you will live even if you die, then don’t take the life of someone who doesn’t have that security.

I’ll leave you with one more passage:

My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil And they hasten to shed blood. Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net In the sight of any bird; But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.

Proverbs 1:15–19

3 Replies to “Were Two Swords Enough?

  1. I believe you are not condemning self defense. I think you are showing there is no need to arm ourselves for violence against each other. If I am wrong let me know. Still unclear about how you are interrupting Luke 22:36. Jesus condemns fighting a fleshly war on evil, but I don’t think He condemns self defense and that is how I read that passage. Think of the church in Texas. If that man had not been carrying a weapon a lot of people in that congregation would have been killed. Though one man was.
    Thanks for all you do and I appreciate your insight.

    1. Hey Mark. I don’t condemn self defense, and I even have a gun in the house. I just pray that I never have to use it, and if it is ever used it will be as a last resort.

      I don’t believe it is right to take up a fight in the name of God or His kingdom like some have suggested we do in light of recent events in the US.

  2. Hi Daniel,
    Applying the right hermeneutics, the meaning of the mentioned passage as explained by you or the majority of Biblical commentators are not correct. The interpretation is in the passage itself that all have overlooked. Many years ago, I listened to a pastor in a church I was attending, who used this passage to claim that, it is required for God’s servants today to safeguard themselves from their enemies as well as make their own provision for sustenance, (ironically for him sustenance is not the right word but luxury, for he is one of the richest pastors in the Middle East).
    Now, please allow me to show you exactly what the passage meant.
    Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. 37 FOR I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT THIS THAT IS WRITTEN MUST YET BE ACCOMPLISHED IN ME, AND HE WAS RECKONED AMONG THE TRANSGRESSORS: for the things concerning me have an end. 38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
    Please note the capitalized text. The meaning of the passage is there itself. Jesus had to fulfill the prophecy that was written about him for that very moment. Cross-reference takes you to Isaiah 53:12 and Mark 15:28. You need to study both these passages to understand the meaning of the scripture.
    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 transgressors.
    Mark 15:28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS. And the previous verse says thus; And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. (Mark 15:27)
    Jesus was fulfilling this prophecy of himself as a transgressor by asking his disciples to carry the purse, scrip and sword that identifies him being an extortioner and a thief. All other interpretations will not do justice to the passage since it contradicts Jesus’s own teaching of forgiveness and Kingdom provision to all of our needs. I hope the explanation is meaningful without any ambiguity or injustice done to the scripture.

    I am a full preterist and follow brothers, Don K Preston, William Bell, Mike Sullivan, Tim Martin etc, and recently came to know about you as well. May God bless you.

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