The sword of God brings peace not violence in the Bible

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The sword in the Bible is most often metaphor for God’s power to fix the broken world. Some Americans are misusing the Biblical use of the word sword to promote carrying guns and using deadly force to resolve societal conflict.

The concept of the sword in the Bible has often been a metaphor for God’s power. In Hebrews 4:12-13 the Word of God is likened to a living and active sword, sharper than any two-edged blade. The Word of God has the ability to find and reveal truth, to see through our soul and spirit, and clarify the intentions of the human heart. In the New Testament, the sword is also described as the “Sword of the Spirit”. This phrase appears in the book of Ephesians (6:17), representing the power of God’s Word to combat spiritual forces and bring about change.

Some political activists use the Biblical passage when Jesus says to the disciples to buy a “sword” and that two “swords” will be enough to prepare for their journey to the disciples to justify civilians being armed with guns at the ready to meet societal disagreement with violence. They leave out that Christ rebukes Peter for cutting the ear off a Jewish official in Matthew 26:52 asking him to put the sword away because those who live by the sword will die by it.

This week the state of Texas pardoned an armed man who drove into a crowd of protestors supporting Black Lives Matter and killed another armed man supporting the protest in 2023. The governor of Texas celebrated the event as liberty in action not as a tragedy. There are multiple celebrities selling Bibles like Lee Greenwood who gives many interviews with media saying Jesus told his supporters to carry swords so all Americans should carry guns. We do not hear that if neither man in the Texas tragedy had brought a weapon the deadly violence may not have occurred.

The Greek word machaira used in Luke has usually been interpreted by modern lingual historians as referring to a knife or short sword. Jerome translated the word into Latin for the Catholic Bible calling it a glabis which is the Roman sword of the Legions. This sword translation implies the Jewish disciples now Christians were preparing for armed conflict in the future. Jesus specifically denies he was a Messiah who came to carry out a military conquest.

After living near the Middle East for a decade I have one explanation of my own about the machaira. I am familiar with the Jewish method of slaughter because in Ethiopia, being Syriac Christians who live by Jewish dietary law, I saw how they slaughtered animals. Since ancient times Jewish tradition has called for the use of a chalaf or sakin in the ritual to slit the throat of an animal to be used for food. It is a small exceedingly sharp knife which would have likely been carried by the disciples to slaughter and butcher the domestic stock for food.

Historians have noted that Jews would have difficulty obtaining a Roman sword and would most likely be arrested immediately if they had one in their possession. Additionally is hard to imagine the skill it would take to just cut off an ear because the sword was a “stabbing” weapon not a sliced one. They have also noted the Jewish rebel assassins or sicario used small concealable small knifes to kill Romans. They would not have used ritual food knives and if they did they would break Jewish law. Jesus message of non-violence and respect for his heritage would make impossible he would condone carrying those weapons.

Jesus predicted that the disciples would be weak and deny Jesus before his death. My thesis was that in a weak moment, Peter’s emotions became uncontrollable, he used his chalaf of sakin in a way that violated not only what Jesus had taught him but also Jewish tradition. A knife that touched human blood would never be able to be used to prepare food again.

Professor Tony Magana

Dr. Tony Magana is Professor Emeritus in Neurosurgery who spent many years doing international teaching and research including 10 years in Ethiopia. Over the past 15 years he concomitantly intensified his Christian faith through study and worship through the Episcopal Church. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Attended Texas A&M University, Harvard Medical School, and trained at the University of Miami. Additionally he took the University of South Education for Ministry as well as attending the Southeast Florida Episcopal Diocesan School for Christian Studies.
Professor Tony Magana, a seasoned neurosurgeon, has not only dedicated his life to medical practice but also embarked on a profound spiritual journey. Over the past 15 years, he has deepened his Christian faith through study and worship within the Episcopal Church. His experiences span international teaching, research, and a decade of service in Ethiopia
Dr. Tony Magana’s writings blend faith, compassion, and wisdom, inviting readers to explore the intersection of spirituality and the human experience. His journey serves as an inspiration for those seeking deeper connections with faith and humanity.

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