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Luke 22:36: Did Jesus call to buy a sword?

Some Muslims claim that Jesus call to buy a sword:

“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” (Luke 22:36).

I. Introduction

Jesus was against using violence and he commanded his disciples not to use a sword for physical action:

“Put your sword away!” (John 18:11).

Therefore the word “sword” in Luke 22:36 are not to be understood literally. The meaning is that disciples should not expect that their friends would be kind to them as they had been. Therefore, he that has a purse, let him take it, for he may need it. They must now expect that their enemies would be more fierce than they had been, and they would need weapons. At the time the apostles understood Jesus Christ did not mean real physical weapons, but weapons of the spiritual warfare. The sword of the Holy Spirit is the sword with which the disciples of Jesus Christ must furnish themselves.

II. Meaning of the word “sword”

The English word “sword” is in the original Greek text μάχαιραν (machairan). This word can have the meaning [1]:

1. An offensive weapon, having a long and usually sharp/pointed blade with a cutting edge or edges. It is the general term, including the small sword, rapier, saber, scimiter, and many other varieties.
2. The emblem of judicial vengeance or punishment, or of authority and power.
3. Destruction by the sword, or in battle; war; dissension.
4. The military power of a country.
5. One of the end bars by which the lay of a hand loom is suspended.

III. The word “sword” in other verses

We can read in the New Testament again about the meaning of machairan (sword):

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53).

”Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17).

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Therefore the meaning of machairan (sword) in Luke 22:36 is option (2): The emblem of judicial vengeance or punishment, or of authority and power.

IV. Practices of the early Christians with a sword

Last step is to verify in reality how was the word machairan (sword) as told by Jesus Christ, applied by his followers. We can see in history that the first Christians were not allowed to serve in fighting and could even not have a job as a butcher, so they had abandoned the physical sword completely and were obedient what Jesus said:

“Put your sword away!” (John 18:11) and we can read in the New Testament (e.g. book of Acts) that the early Christians never used violence, even under pressure to defend.

V. Conclusion

Conclusion: the explanation that the sword in Luke 22:36 is not that the followers of Jesus were commanded to buy a physical sword, but that they had to be equipped with a spiritual sword. Only this explanation is consistent with all teachings of Jesus Christ (summary is in Matthew 5) and with the practices of the followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore Christians can keep love and peace in their hearts makes them forever a winner in a world full of hate.

[1] Noah Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language.

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