Walter Wink on Luke 22.35-38

In an excursus in his book Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink discusses the “two swords” story that I discussed in my last post. I thought what he had to say was worth sharing:

That Jesus taught nonviolence is indisputable. But did he live it? Two passages force on us that question: the “two swords” saying, and the misnamed “cleansing” of the Temple.

The first is Luke 22:35-38. Luke has intruded into his passion narrative a piece of mission discourse: “‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals [Luke 10:4], did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.'” This material is wholly out of place in the passion setting. The saying contemplates a journey (“take”), not the arrest. Surely a purse and a bag are of no use in defending Jesus!

The disciples’ response, “Lord, look, here are two swords” (v.38), is clearly Lukan redaction, most likely prompted by the anomaly of 22:49-50–how did disciples of Jesus come to have swords in their possession? Since Luke has also added the proof from prophecy (Isa. 53:12), Jesus’ rebuke for their using the sword, and the healing of the slave’s ear, there can be no doubt that Luke, at least, understands Jesus as censuring armed resistance. That the two swords are extraneous to the story is shown by the fact that only “one of them” wields the sword, just as in Mark, Matthew, and John. Luke has added the “two swords” to the account specifically to provide an occasion for Jesus to condemn their use. This is consistent with his rejection of violence in 6:27-29. (128; emphasis in original)

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