Est. May 2008

13 January, 2013

Some More Eisegesis – This Time On Disarmament

In a CNN article titled Gun issue divides religious community, Shaun Casey, Christian ethics professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, had this to say:
He said he believes some Christians misinterpret an episode late in Jesus' life when his disciple Peter tried to defend him from Roman soldiers with a sword.

"Some people say 'Well, that clearly means that disciples of Jesus Christ can carry personal weapons,'" he said, before adding that those readers ignore the part of the story where Jesus orders Peter to put the sword back in its sheath.

“People who look at that story and come away thinking that it's permissible for Christians to carry concealed weapons really misconstrue the whole story. The story is in fact about how Christians have in fact been disarmed by Jesus Christ."
Pardon me for saying so, but I think the one misinterpreting and misconstruing the ‘whole story’ here happens to be Professor Casey.

Allow me to explain.

All four Gospels include the story of the confrontation in the Garden between Jesus and the mob; the greatest coverage of the event is found in Matthew and John.  Here are both accounts:
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54, NASB)

Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:10-11, NASB)
Number one:  in both accounts, Jesus tells Peter to put his sword back in its place, its sheath.  If Peter followed Jesus’ instruction (and there’s no reason to believe he didn’t), then Peter was still armed, just as someone with a pistol is still armed even when said pistol is holstered and within reach.  Had Jesus actually demanded Peter disarm himself, might He not have said, ‘Peter, throw away your sword’?

Number two: in Luke 22 (verse 36) we have the now-infamous (among some folks) verse where Jesus actually tells His disciples to go and sell their coat to buy a sword if they haven’t got one.  Combined with the previous information, how this can be interpreted as Jesus wanting His disciples ‘disarmed’ eludes me.

Number three: Note that in both accounts, Peter’s defense of Jesus was both unnecessary and ill-conceived.  Jesus tells Him that He could call on His Father to send angels to defend Him; a single sword is nothing compared to that.  And, just as when Peter tried rebuking Jesus earlier for speaking of His death (Matthew 16:22-23; Mark 8:32-33), Jesus points out that Peter’s interference is interfering with God’s plan for salvation.

Jesus tells His disciples to protect themselves; Jesus tells Peter not to use his sword because He has angels at his beck and call and the arrest (and subsequent humiliation and death) are part of God’s plan.  The Garden episode does not teach us that Jesus expected His disciples to be unarmed and unable to protect themselves; it teaches us that self-defense is often appropriate and necessary, but that it’s more important to know when it’s appropriate and necessary. 

But that would require critical thinking and personal responsibility, two things which our ‘betters’ (read, ‘liberals’) don’t want us to do or take.

And, for what it’s worth, Professor Casey was an advisor for Obama’s 2008 campaign; personally, I’m unsurprised he has a disarmament take on this story from the Bible.

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