What are Two Swords Good For?
Mary Schertz is Professor Emerita of New Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, happily living and worshipping in Elkhart, Indiana. Mary recently completed the Believers Church Bible Commentary on Luke which will be available soon from Herald Press at MennoMedia.
The two swords passage in Luke 22:31–35 has been a burr in the saddle of pacifists, Mennonite and otherwise, for many years. It is a passage that is unique to Luke and some scholars have called it the most difficult text in the entire biblical witness. The traditional reading contends that Jesus is finally facing reality and realizing that non-violence will not work after he is gone from the scene. So, he is opening the way for his followers to adopt another tactic, usually some form of just war theory. Mennonites have proffered other readings, but most of these see this text as problematic.
In this short course, we will look closely at another possibility. Using ancient reading techniques and literary figures of the first century, we will use the guide Luke offers to propose that Luke is portraying Jesus as integrating the holy warrior motif with the suffering servant motif, both available in his sacred texts, texts that he has studied since at least the age of 12. Jesus’s synthesis, his movement toward the cross as a holy warrior who is not violent and a suffering servant who is not passive also offers us a way forward toward an approach to non-violence that doesn’t force us to choose between love of enemies and love of the defenseless. From the tragedy of the Holocaust to the genocides of indigenous peoples, to the war in Ukraine, we carry sorrow and hope into this study of what it was that Jesus was really about at the end of his journey to Jerusalem.
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