I see this quote

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

And there are many interpretations (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/But_to_bring_a_sword#Interpretations)

Also, Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace (Isaiash 9:6), so this is quite confusing. What then, does the "sword" refer to? Does it mean that Jesus is por-war? Or does it just mean that Christianity is a contentious doctrine that will lead SOME people to wage war?

Jesus advocates peace, right?

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! The Wikipedia article you referred to has several suggestions for what could be meant. Obviously some different Christian traditions are going to hold different views about this. What are you trying to accomplish with this question that isn't covered there already? If you want a word study I think we'll redirect you to a Hermeneutics site. You already have a list of interpretations. If you want something more specific you should edit your question to be more specific. Perhaps you would like to know how a specific Christian tradition interprets and acts on this? – Caleb Jan 7 '12 at 20:58
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    As you pick a more specific line of inquiry, you might also check out What makes a good focused question? and Why was my question closed? How can I get it open again? for more info on the guidelines we expect questions to live up to on this site. Thanks! – Caleb Jan 7 '12 at 21:00
  • Hey you around? I'm going to close this question pending the necessary edits to fine tune it as noted above. That's not a death sentence to it, it's just a hold until it conforms to our site guidelines a little better. Please feel free drop a comment here if you are unclear on what needs to be done. I'd be happy to help and I know there are lots of other folks here that will pitch in. – Caleb Jan 18 '12 at 14:48
  • @Caleb:I have edited the question to make it more focused, and to try to highlight the paradox of apparent contradictions. Can you re-open it in its edited form? – Tom Au Nov 10 '12 at 21:48
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    Still seeing a major problem here. there are divergent opinions here on how to work out this apparent contradiction. I'm not reopening this in current form. It needs to shift away from seeking truth to focusing on the beliefs of a specific subset of Christianity (christian pacifists perhaps?) – wax eagle Nov 12 '12 at 21:03

This is not about war, as in killing people, but about the coming struggle to bring people into the Christian faith, when the faith will deny their previous beliefs, whether Jewish or Pagan. Jesus is likening the struggle to spread the faith to a war. I believe this interpretation is pretty much universal to all denominations.

This verse is sometimes cited by non-Christians as evidence that Jesus was a historical militaristic guy, like Bar-Kochva. This is just not a reasonable interpretation.


Jesus certainly is the Prince of Peace as you point out. That peace is peace between God and man. Previously man was at enmity with God, but now through Jesus Christ, God and man may be reconciled.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10 ESV

That is not to suggest that Jesus desires Christians to be violent. On the contrary, we are live lives of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

So, the question then becomes, "In what sense did Jesus bring a sword?" Here it is instructive to look at how Jesus taught the world would relate to believers in Jesus:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:18-21 ESV

All of the apostles, except for John, died a martyrs death. At its birth, Christianity was enveloped by rampant persecution--not Christians taking the sword against others, but others taking the sword against Christians. It is remarkable, indeed, that with such an intensely persecuted and martyred group of believers in this new revelation of Jesus as the Messiah could have survived.

All throughout history, in fact, true believers in Jesus have been severely persecuted. There are quite a few countries today in which Christians are martyred just as frequently as they were 2,000 years ago. The Soviet Union intensely persecuted Christians as well, prior to its collapse.

In the future, we can expect the same thing. True believers in Jesus will be victims of the sword through persecution and martyrdom. True believers are always on the sharp end of the sword in matters of persecution, because true Christianity spreads not through conquest, but through the drawing of a person's heart and soul.

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