Just to state, I don't necessarily believe Jesus contradicted Himself. But these parts of Scripture sound like a contradiction, and I would like to hear any thoughts on how this can be reconciled.

I thought of this question after reading this post and these verses:

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That is enough,” he replied.

Luke 22:36-38

But then when they come to seize Jesus, after Judas betrays Him with a kiss, this happens:

51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword and, striking the body servant of the high priest, cut off his ear.
52 Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Matt. 26:51-52

As per the answers in the linked post, Jesus had them get swords so the prophecies could be fulfilled: That He would be counted amongst the transgressors, and His arrest would be certain. But then why would Jesus reprove Peter of using his sword the way he did in the latter verses, when that is what He wanted to happen? Perhaps "contradiction" wasn't the best choice of wording, feel free to edit if you can word it better for me :)

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    Related: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/7121/… Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 19:58
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    Also Jesus did not want them to use their swords for that kind of purpose. See the question I have posted above for reference. Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 19:59
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    I fear of closure to this question as it is answered in the very post. Yet I would give you a big summary of my own answer there. Read it and read the bible from where you cited from. "But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled." (Matthew 26:56).
    – Nok
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 20:22
  • I didn't read @Nok's answer in the linked post, which was insightful. It makes more sense now, but my question still stands, as a comment by MarcGravell I just read in the linked post: "If we add the Matt 26 account to this, that means: Jesus instructed them to fetch swords, just so he could tell them off for using them?" - Not that I feel to that degree, since there was other purpose for it, but it still doesn't fully add up. Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 2:10

5 Answers 5


I should preface my answer by saying this is entirely educated guesswork, as is any answer to this question. Don't take it as divine revelation, but as just one of many views on the events of the time.

Some have mentioned that maybe he was being metaphorical, and that the disciples were having one of their (quite frequent) blond moments in taking him literally. You think they would learn... anyway, this is very possible.

If you prefer to take it literally, my guess would be that Jesus wanted them to have swords for a short time. My reasoning is that Jesus has prefaced this with a comparison. Previously, they had gone out, preaching love, repentance and righteousness under the authority of their rabbi, their teacher / mentor / religious authority.

Having a rabbi was quite common. Many rabbis were radical, hard-hitting, slightly nutty and often very wrong (just read some of their recorded theories. One I read recently: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/hl/index.htm). While Jesus was "just another rabbi", they had little to fear.

Yet for the next few weeks, "Jesus" was synonymous with "criminal". People who wanted to get in the good books with the religious leaders might want to present the head of one of his disciples, and people who might have once given them free stuff as a thank you for their wisdom and guidance would now be treating them as scum.

This crowd that came with the temple guards might consider it a good idea to take Jesus' collaborators as well - but when they arrive they are faced with a dillema. They could take an unarmed and willing Jesus without any fuss - which is all they really came for - or they could try and take an armed and unwilling 12 disciples. It's a no-brainer.

P.S: I find it interesting that Jesus doesn't say "You shouldn't have done that", but instead says, "That's enough of that, you won't actually need to draw the sword unless you want to be killed by it" (paraphrased and liberties taken!). I imagine he was secretly glad they cut off the guard's ear, because it showed the crowd that the disciples meant business.

Also, to counter any potential arguments that God could have protected the disciples without resorting to swords, yes, you are correct. But that doesn't mean that the disciples were not more confident knowing that they had swords with them, and it meant that the legacy of focus was solely on Jesus. Remember that "the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

  • Wow, great interpretation! I like how you said the purpose to move the guards to be more willing to leave the armed and unwilling disciples alone and just take an unarmed and willing Jesus, the reason they were there, and they didn't need to actually draw the sword unless they wanted to die by the sword. That makes a lot of sense. Tyvm for your answer :) Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 18:42
  • I don't necessarily think cutting off the ear had him counted amongst the transgressors (for prophecy), but just that they accused Jesus as blasphemous and had him nailed between two criminals could have fulfilled that prophecy. Whether Jesus actually wanted Peter to draw the sword and cut off His ear is debatable. Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 18:47

The sword is spiritual which he asks them to buy, such as the kind Paul refers to in his letter as 'the Sword of the Spirit', for example. Peter may have taken it literally (which mistake had been made several times in the past) and bought a sword with which he fought against the High Priest's servant.

In short, he is telling them to set aside worldly possessions (he who has a cloak) and arm themselves (let him buy a sword) for the war they are going to enter, which does not, indeed, end with his crucifixion, but continues until the end of time.

  • Why then would he say "that is enough", when they brought him two literal swords? Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 1:46
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    Because one was all Peter would need. 'That is enough' could also mean 'you're not getting it.'
    – user304
    Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 2:40
  • Well I get it would mean it is enough literal swords. I'm saying that doesn't tie with the sword of the Spirit. In this case, I don't think it means "you're not getting it", but that "it was enough" to fulfill the prophecy. But that's just my opinion. Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 16:50
  • Which prophecy do you have in mind? I'm thinking only that the example of restraint which showed that Christ was not going to fight, not that he couldn't, had to be made.
    – user304
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 13:56
  • In the linked post, Nok says to fulfill Isaiah 53:12. I think it might have been so that they wouldn't try messing with the armed disciples and take them too, but instead just take jesus, and his disciples would flee and be separated, which jesus said would happen not long before this took place, and I believe it is prophesied elsewhere too, but idk the verse. Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 15:18

This obviously, to me, is NOT the Sword of the Spirit.

A. Quote 'The sword is spiritual which he asks them to buy'! Jesus would not be mixing concrete terms like 'cloak' or 'bag' with 'Spirit' metaphors. That would be making Himself the god of confusion! That does not happen in the Bible. B. The Sword of the Spirit is another term for the Word, or Bible. The Bible was not complete at that time. Only scrolls from the Torah were owned by Scribes & temple scholars, usually. They were not freely bought like metal swords! C. the added verse, It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’, would make more sense with transgression via the metal sword, not by Scripture/scrolls! Conclusion: if Jesus meant scripture texts/scrolls/ Mosaic or the prophets, as 'sword', He would have made it clear, and two would not be enough

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    NB The use of the term 'Sword of the Spirit' is only used once, and not by Christ, or in the OT, and that's by Paul in Eph 6. The Holy Spirit has not been sent, no disciple filled, at the time Jesus is speaking here - it comes in force at Pentecost. Paul, not the disciples here, would be more familiar with Spiritual use and effects, tongues, etc... and links to Christ being the Word.
    – J Scotland
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 16:10

The sword spoken of by Jesus is the sword of the Spirit. Jesus never contradicted Himself at any time. Though He was born of a woman he always pleased His Father. It is impossible to please God unless one is in the Spirit. (Heb 11:6) Why did Jesus rebuke Peter by saying "Get thee behind me Satan," (Mt 16:23) when Peter desired to spare Him from harm?

Peter was trying to protect Jesus from harm, by raising a literal sword and was stopped. (Mt 26; Jn 18) Why? Because Jesus was following His Father's direction, in the Spirit. We also must discern spirit by the Spirit, not by the flesh. (1 Cor 2) Ye must be born again. (Jn 3:7)

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    Welcome to the site! It's customary here to back up answers with references. I added verse citations but the answer would be even stronger if you could demonstrate that this is a common interpretation and who believes this. Personal opinion is frowned upon here. Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 17:38
  • This sounds more preachy than explanatory.
    – user3961
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 20:07

A simple message for all Christians to abide by. The war of spirit cannot be won by force - you will surely be identified as an enemy. Patience understanding and teaching are our arsenal wielded with our love.

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    Would you mind expanding this into a full answer? I only see a vague connection, this should be fleshed out (possibly with some verses, a commentary reference or two, and some more thought from you!)
    – wax eagle
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 15:13

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