While the last blog was about how one author supports his own take on the environmental issue. This blog will be about gun control. Let me say that, as an American, I feel that there is some merit on gun possession but also stricter gun control. My concern is not about pro or anti gun control. My problem is the way some people justify the right to bear arms to the extent of twisting scripture that clearly teaches the opposite to fit their agenda.
One author cites Luke 22.36-38.
“He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, ‘it is enough.’”
Any careful reader will see that the bringing of the two swords made the carriers of the swords transgressors. The word “transgressors” in Greek simply means someone who breaks the law, like a brigand. The literal meaning of the Greek word is “lawless.” (cf. LXX Is. 1.5) In the Galilean environment, if we read Josephus the Jewish historian who led troops of rebels from there, those who carried swords are rebels against the government. They have then trespassed against the law. When reading Scripture, we should not just read the words but get the force of those words from wider context. This is what I teach my first year students whether at the BA or masters level. Let’s see what happened with the swords.
In Lk. 22.49-51, Jesus’ followers (Luke did not say) first asked whether they should strike, and then one took action. Jesus’ reaction was an annoyed, “No more of this” and healed the person whose ear got cut off. Based on Jesus’ reaction of “no more of this,” his view of bearing sword for this particular instance was decidedly negative. Let me summarize the evidence.
- Jesus called the sword carriers lawless brigands only to appeal to the problem of revolution again in Lk. 22.52.
- Jesus rebuked the sword carriers and had told them to put the swords away. This explains why Jesus said that “it” is enough. He didn’t say that TWO swords “are” enough. He said that “it” is enough. We can’t help but to see that Jesus was talking in frustration about their singular (i.e. “it) misunderstanding of his meanings in telling them to carry a sword. Surely, Jesus could use sarcasm in frustration! In reality, Jesus was merely saying that the situation was so dire that it would require people to carry swords. He was not telling them to carry literal swords.
Consequences of Misreading
This author commits the classic mistake of not studying words such as “sword” to see how an author used it to describe the situation in the entire scene of Jesus’ arrest. When reading a narrative, the plot of each scene determines meanings of the words. Authors further use words specifically in the narrative of the whole book to discuss various aspects. The careless reader can further commit the elementary mistake of not looking closely at the way Jesus talked about the disciples as being trespassers. A simple word study will point to the meaning as being primarily negative.
Instead, this is the way this author concludes about gun possession.
“When Jesus says, ‘It is enough,’ it is immediately in response to the disciples showing him ‘two swords,’ so ‘enough’ is best understood to mean ‘enough swords.’ … When Jesus says, ‘It is enough,’ he means that two swords are enough … there is no hint of rebuke. But that means that Jesus is encouraging his disciples to carry a sword for self defense … It is true that later in Luke 22 Jesus rebuked Peter for cutting off the right ear of the servant … but this was because he did not want his disciples to attempt to atop his crucifixion or try to start a military uprising against Rome …”
The fact is, the passage is not about weapon acquisition. Even when he gets the plot, he still misses because he sees weapons as the main issue and not some other issues. Clearly the final result was Jesus’ command to put the sword away, but the author is so eager to push the right to bear arm by saying that this in fact does not really mean not to carry sword for that circumstance. What good is the sword if it is not used? This exegetical gymnastic has once again violated the basic reading of a narrative by letting the conclusion of a narrative judge all the previous material. Surely, we can’t twist stuff that comes straight out of Jesus’ mouth (so it is perceived), but some do so to push their agenda.
If we put the author’s gun situation back into the scene in Luke, it makes gun owners illegal sinners because that’s exactly what Jesus called them. By misquoting such a passage, this author actually achieved the opposite effect. Proof text is overrated.