Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Luke 22: 35-38---A Different view

                                         Luke 22: 35-38
[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'; 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.”

INTRODUCTION: The above is a more-or-less standard translation of the noted verse. From reading the many different interpretations of these three verses I can only conclude that the various commentators are so divergent as to lead me to doubt that they have a handle on this tidbit of the Gospels. The following comments provide a base for a very different view of these words.
Could it be that something happened after the Christ's earlier sending-out of disciples on the lawless roads of that land? Could it be that his concern for His People (As we are) as moved Him to have them take such measures as were needed to protect their bands?

ON SWORDS IN JESUS' TIME: The sword of c.33AD in the Roman world were the ultimate personal weapon. There were the AK-47s/AR-15s of that time. As all weapons of that era and most of today's they could be used for offense or defense.
Swords required much more metal than axes, daggers, spear points and other weapons. They also required very much more skill, effort and time in their manufacture which made them more uncommon in private hands than not and more costly than otherwise.
The writers of that era (Including those of the Gospels) were very aware of Roman and other weapons and, unlike some of the historically uninformed commentators on the verses noted above, not prone to confuse “swords” with “daggers”.

JESUS' NATIVE LANGUAGE: There is little doubt that the native language of Jesus was a form of Aramaic. He appears to have known enough Hebrew for the purposes of the Synagogue and may have known some Greek, the lingua-franca of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire as demonstrated by his interactions with Pontus Pilot who, as most members of the Roman upper class, spoke Greek.

JESUS' LAST “GEMERAL ORDERS” ABOVE IN ARAMAIC: The interlinear translations of the above verse, in the Christ's own mother tongue, yields the results: “They are sufficient”. This variation from “they are enough” is more-than-sufficient to cast serious doubts on the comments of some that Jesus was being sarcastic about his disciples' reaction to his declaration that they should have swords about them in the future. The first translation implies a dismissal of a wrongful reaction to His earlier statements; The latter a clear statement that two swords are “sufficient” to meet the needs of travelers. [This mistranslation is as wrong as giving “Thou shall not murder!” as “Thou shall not kill!”.]
After all, the roads of that time were not secure from bandits and other ill-doers as Roman and local “law enforcement” provided little security even within cities, let alone on the roads.

THE BIAS OF TRANSLATORS & COMMENTATORS: After reading the many and very varied translations of the noted text and the even more varied comments on it, I can only conclude that some of those persons put into those words what they wished them to mean, too often by convoluted arguments without sound premises or tempered logic. There is certainly no consistency on the interpretation of these verses. Some of these individuals could well be described as “Pathological Pacifists”! They might have done better by applying Occam's Razor and accepted that the words meant what they said (In Aramaic).

IRONY AND SARCASM: I am neither a biblical scholar nor an expert on language usages. However, it appears to me that even the most emphatic and pointed of Jesus' corrective teaching and chiding, often in parables, is ironic and without the harshness of sarcasm.
       Therefore, there is great doubt as to the validity of the statements of commentators who declare that the Christ was being sarcastic in his (Mistranslated as “That is enough”.) “That is sufficient”.

MOSAIC & NATURAL LAW & DEADLY FORCE: Here I will diverge from the actual verses noted above and travel to the related question of the use of force as appears to bother too many who fail to understand the history of this subject.
       From the Talmud (Moses killing the Egyptian attacking the Hebrew slave; And other verses as to slaying evil-doers) to the Torah (It is permitted to kill a night time burglar or trespasser The foundation of some jurisdiction's “Castle Laws”?) to such luminaries of our Anglo-American Law as Hobbs, Locke & Blackstone to even the very recent US Supreme Court's majority decision in District Of Columbia VS Heller the Natural Law right of self-defense (And defense of innocent others) has been supported. The means (Modern handguns) to enforce that right was the real cause-in-action for the Heller case, where the majority decision relied on Natural Law to support its decision.
        For the Orthodox and Catholics explaining the meaning of the scriptures gives greatest authority to the Ecumenical Councils of the Church and, to some extent, the lesser councils and synods. [If anyone can inform me of any decisions of such as to the use of force to defend self and innocent others against criminal attacks, I would be happy to receive such information.]
       Catholics, of course, accept the rare ex cathedra decisions of the Pope as to (Only) matters of Faith and morals [Same request!].
       Both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches also give great weight to the early Church Fathers. Catholics, at the least, grant those persons designated as “Doctors Of The Church” great authority in matters of Faith and morals AND in interpretation of the meaning of the Gospels.
       The only “Doctor Of The Church” who, as far as I know, directly addressed the use of deadly force was St. Bernard of Clairvaux who (In his De Laude Novae Militae) mentioned the “two swords”, closely outlined when Christians may use deadly force AND noted that “the edge of the sword” could be used to defend Christ and His Church.
        He also noted that St. John the Baptist did not demand that soldiers give up their profession; But, only that they not abuse their authority.
        The Christ, of course, gave great honor to the Centurion (A professional soldier and, if you will, a professional killer) and to his Faith.

"PUT UP YOUR SWORD”: To my mind, Christ's command to St. Peter was a “special case” as Jesus's capture, death and resurrection was necessary for the salvation-of-mankind; Such a special case not being a model for other situations or for such lesser persons as ourselves.

LEGIONS OF ANGELS: Yes, the Christ could have called upon “Legions Of Angels” to protect his followers as well as himself. Yet, as to His followers, that would have eliminated the virtue of their becoming witnesses (Martyrs) to Him and his teachings before the world's authorities of that time, rather than having the protection of two swords against common bandits. As to Himself, the same applies as in the paragraph above.

SWORDS AND THE STATE: Of course, those (eg Mr. Mark Shea) who place special weight on the words of St. Paul should recall his approval of the State's use of the sword to punish evil doers.
Some others had thought that the “two swords” referred to the division of authority between Kings (Civil governments) and the Church. This is not scriptural as it derives from the Reformation and is, at best, a strained argument.

AN EXCELLENT PRINTED DISCUSSION: The following book is worth reading on general principle and especially as to the use of force and justified war:
Webster. Alexander F.C. (Fr.) & Cole, Darrell (Professor);
The Virtue Of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West;
Regina Orthodox Press (Salisbury, MA);
ISBN 1-928653-17-1.
       This volume's positions and arguments can be extended, in part, to personal self-defense when the State or international-organizations are unable or, sad to write, unwilling to aid the innocent from criminal attack (eg By the Jihadi in the Sudan against the Pagan, Christian and some Muslim peoples of that nation/criminal-organization).

INSULTS & TURNED CHEEKS: Yes, the Christ told us to respond to insults, even to a slap to the face, by “turning/offering the other cheek”. That is, even the most gross insults are not an excuse for such evils as revenge.
       To better understand this, it must be remembered that for time immemorial any blow to the head or face was the worst of insults in most cultures. Even in the “civilized” Western world, it has not been so many years since such a blow would result in two “gentlemen” standing ten-paces from each other with pistols in hand and murder in their hearts.
        Yet, I do not find in the Scriptures any instructions to accept murder, rape, genocide, mutilation or even robbery/theft (The taking of that part of a honest person's life expended in earning property) without taking effective and immediate actions to forestall the execution of such crimes. Such are beyond insults and are dealt with, above, in the “Natural Law” section of this essay.

CONCLUSION—AN ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION: It appears that Jesus had sent his disciples out before the time of the noted verses without anything and with some very restrictive commands. Perhaps, some of them were confronted by evil men on the unsafe roads of that time. Perhaps, Jesus then wished them to have the “sufficient” protection of “two swords”, being enough to ward off bandits without giving the appearance of an armed party. This appears to be the simplest explanation of those verses and, therefore, the best one.

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