Why did St. Peter carry a sword?

A thought has intrigued me for a while. I wondered, why was St. Peter caring sword? If you remember, the night the Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane and the soldiers came to arrest him, Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of a slave. John 18:10-11 (NIV) 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

If you look more into the text, you see that among Jesus’ disciples there were two swords. That means two of his twelve disciples, Peter and another were carrying swords. I just wonder why they were carrying swords? I mean think about it, there is a God of the universe, he’s right there with them, and they are carrying swords. And to top it off Jesus does not correct or rebuke them for it. He does not opposed it. He knew they were carrying swords.

ImageNow they were likely carrying a Roman short sword. This is not necessarily the battle sword, but a sword for self-defense. So in modern-day vernacular, they would’ve been carrying a handgun. I guess in many respects, it makes sense that they were carrying a weapon. I mean, these were guys who travel for their ministry. They were out on the road quite a bit. The roads were very dangerous. There were criminals, thieves, and marauders out on the roads. It was unsafe. There also were wild animals around the roads in the countryside and the swords would’ve been very handy for self-defense.

It seems to me that Jesus is okay with the person defending and taking care of himself or herself and their family. In fact we’re emplored to care for our family and part of that care is defending them when their safety is threatened. The Scriptures say, 1 Timothy 5:4, 8 (NIV) But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God….8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

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4 comments on “Why did St. Peter carry a sword?

  1. Augustina says:

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  2. JD Bagge says:

    A common error in interpretation of the above Timothy passage is to read “provide” as “defend”. They are not the same word in the Greek and do not carry the same meaning. If we carry our meaning into the text we run the risk of drawing a faulty conclusion. The New Testament does not appear to contain any prescriptive passage for the church or the individual believer to defend people or possessions, although there are several in the Old Testament. It’s an interesting question why there is the absence.

    I was looking for the reason why Peter carried a sword. I read once somewhere he was a part of a sect of Hebrews that were known sword carriers. I am having a hard time finding it though.

  3. Rev. Bill Christy says:

    First of all, we must remember that God’s commandments, including those commanded by Christ, pertain to how one saint is to interact with and treat another saint. Throughout the Bible, God’s reference unto the unsaved are as one who is dead. With that being said, Christ knew that the Apostles would have to continue on in an unreceptive and disbelieving world. Thus, they would have to fend for themselves, including their own self-defense. Remember, Christ warned that troubles would come. Back in the day, the Apostles would need to carry a sword. Although it is true that only approximately 3 or 4 Apostles were designated sword carriers for the group, from time to time a sword was needed for many things. Remember, a sword was simply a tool. Nowadays, a gun would be in place of a sword. God’s commandments of how one Christian saint is to interact with and treat another Christian saint still applies, but with the increasing godless violence occurring daily, the lesson of our Lord’s commandment to buy and carry a sword remains even more pressing. In Christ’s rebuke of Peter’s cutting off the high priest servant’s ear pertained to aggressively first turning to violence. A sword used as a self-defense weapon for escape is not spoken against in the Bible.

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