Misusing the Bible: Gun Control and Simon Peter’s Sword

I have to admit, this is not a take I’ve seen before; I have addressed the “Jesus forgave the adulterous woman” claim in other contexts; it is more accurate to say he told them “produce the other adulterer and stone them both, or go away.” But the “Jesus told Simon Peter to drop his sword” as a support for gun control is a new one on me. I’m not all that concerned with the gun control aspect of the statement (though I’ll briefly comment on it at the end), but with the incorrect reading of what Jesus told Simon Peter

Carlos’ take is one that will be very effective. It’s also very distorted regarding the overall biblical and traditional view on pacifism or capacity for violence. The scene where Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword is summarized below:

[Jhn 18:8-11] 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Seems simple enough. Jesus told Peter to sheath his sword, because Jesus needed to “drink the cup,” meaning he needed to endure the trials that lay before him. This obviously means Jesus was against weapons, right?

First, Jesus told Peter to “sheath” his sword, not to “drop” it. Significant implications there – his possession of it was not in question, but his misplaced used of it. Second:

[Luk 22:35-38] 35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 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. 37 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.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

So Jesus told them to possess swords, and it’s clear the above was not merely a spiritualized allegory.

The underlying “pacifist” assumption of Jesus’ teachings is also wrong, but that’s a much more detailed discussion. I think most of it comes from a very narrow reading of these verses:

[Mat 5:38-42] 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

I think the root of it the misinterpretation here is the “eye for an eye” part. There are three different parts of the law that use this language; Exodus 21:24 (interestingly, with regard to men who force an early childbirth and harm results to the fetus, which necessarily implies the fetus is considered fully human), Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21.

All of these deal with judicial issues; in other words, someone has wronged you, and you have legitimate legal rights against them. Jesus teaches that, when possible, to forego these rights for a greater purpose, and you will have much greater reward than mere earthly justice. The common interpretation is that Jesus “abrogated” “eye for an eye.” He did no such thing. He gave a higher, harder commandment. He continues in the same vein:

[Mat 5:43-48] 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So, about gun control.

Self-defense against aggression and as a protective measure is entirely justified (even if my ownership of the gun increases the likelihood of others dying to gun violence), and no, Jesus isn’t telling America to drop their guns, though I don’t disagree with the overall sense of the writer; gun violence is a major problem, particularly in the context of handguns and violence in poor areas (typically inner cities, the cause of which has a longer and darker past than can be discussed here). A vast majority of the gun deaths in the US are handgun related, not “assault rifle” related. I think the larger issue in those cases is that the socioeconomic state of those places is so awful that they’ve essentially become warzones, and apparently they haven’t been able to solve these issues in decades of iterations of local and state leaders.

And there simply isn’t nearly enough political goodwill for a midwesterner or southerner to give any ground on giving up assault rifles. So they’re not going to submit to any sort of regulatory or mitigating political framework to limit these sorts of deaths or better organize gun ownership and security at the state and local level (which is probably the best way to handle it).

Additionally, banning handguns would make the gun control movement a no-go immediately from a brand perspective. They have to use school shootings as the image of gun control, not Uncle Sam taking away your Aunt’s Ruger.

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