Saturday, August 13, 2011

2 Swords (just for fun)

We all know the story of Peter trying to protect Jesus by cutting off the ear of Malchus with a sword (John 18:10). While researching for my story, I was forced to ask: why the heck does Peter have a sword? And why, having a sword, is he so incredibly bad with it? At first, only those two facts are apparent: Peter has a sword, and he doesn't know how to use it. The Bible doesn't directly tell us how he got it, or when or where, but there is an interesting verse in Luke that possibly sheds light on the issue.

Luke 22, Luke's account of the passover, contains several interesting passages, including a controversial passage concerning the proper conduct of Christians following the death of Christ (not gonna cover that now, because I'm in the mood for something easy and non-controversial right now). Jesus mentions the need for a sword in the coming days, saying that the need is so great that one should sell his cloak and buy a sword if he does not already have one (the controversy is whether he is speaking of a literal sword or a figurative one). Immediately following this (Luke 22:36), the disciples, not having understood very much of what Jesus was saying, latch onto one thing: swords. Their response? "Look, Lord, here are two swords" (Luke 22:38).

This is an interesting verse, and I think it offers a good explanation of why Peter has his sword. (Note that I did not come up with this explanation: I read it in Lenski's commentary on Luke, and it fits Peter's story far better than any other explanation I have heard). They are not talking about the passover knives: the word consistently means "sword." So they are definitely talking about two literal, physical blades, almost certainly Roman short-swords. Why, then, are there two swords here at Passover? Even if it were true that Jewish men were in the habit of carrying swords (and this probably was not the case), why would two of them (and only two) have swords on Passover? Actually at the Passover feast, in Jerusalem, where only days before the entire city had welcomed Jesus and supported him?

Lenski offers an alternate explanation. The proper reading of "Look, Lord, here are two swords," is not "Hey, Jesus, we brought two swords with us." Instead, it should be read, "Check it out! There are two swords right here in this room!" Lenski theorizes that two swords were hung up as decoration in the upper room, and that Peter just takes one. Peter is probably thinking, "Awesome! I've always wanted a sword! This is gonna be sweeeet." Jesus is talking about swords, saying they really need them now, and that things are going to be super crappy for them now. Why not just take the sword? Maybe it'll come in handy.

I love this explanation. It fits perfectly. It explains how Peter, a fisherman from Capernaum, came to posses a sword: not only possessing a sword, but having it on him on Passover in Jerusalem. It also explains why he is so terribly bad with it. He attacks, not a trained soldier, but a servant of the high priest, and he only succeeds in cutting off an ear. He doesn't even do enough damage to make arresting him worth while for the soldiers. He has clearly never handled a sword before.

Just a bit of fun, something interesting that I learned while writing my story. Later.

If you enjoyed this post (which was written in 2011), you should check out my recently published book (2014), Simon, Who Is Called Peter!

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