2013-04-11 / Letters
Were Jesus’ disciples armed?
Spreading the Lord’s message is dangerous work and Jesus prepared his disciples well. He had been sending them on training missions to friendly towns with little reparation. But at the Last Supper, with his time on earth growing uncomfortably short, he told them that the rules for their personal safety were now mandatory.
On future missions they must take with them their wallets (purses) and knapsacks (scripts). Most particularly any disciple who was not yet armed should sell his coat (garment) and buy a sword. The disciples scurried about in that upper room and found two not yet disbursed swords. Those two must have fulfilled the equipment complement because Jesus declared, “It is enough.”
Note that Jesus specified a real fighting tool, a two-edged sword rather than just a sharp cooking utensil like a butcher knife or a fish scaler.
Note also that Roman law forbade Jews and other subjected peoples from carrying swords, which meant that these swords had to be carried concealed, which in turn meant that the disciples carried the Roman short sword because the Roman long sword was impossible to hide, even under their flowing robes.
The Roman short sword was the quality personal combat weapon of its day, effective against thieves, animals and temple police. It was the Biblical counterpart of today’s high-quality handguns.
We don’t have to speculate as to what he would do about today’s gun control issues because we know exactly what he did do in Biblical times. He armed his disciples with concealed weapons in defiance of Roman law. That decision and a heavily overcast night were why all the disciples got away when Jesus let himself be arrested in the garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus was no pacifist. Today he’d say, “Get thee a SIG Sauer.”
William O. Felsman
Editor’s note: Jesus never told his disciples to arm themselves. When they did use their weapons in Gethsemane, Jesus told them to stop and he healed the injured parties. None of the disciples in the book of Acts were armed or used weapons.