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Matthew 10:34 New International Version (NIV)

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

How do we understand Jesus use of the word Sword in this verse?

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"Sword" is obviously a contrast to "peace" in the same verse. While "peace" indicates harmony/tranquility/unity, "sword", the opposite, refers to war/strife/division. Is this what you're asking, or are you asking how we see in practice that Jesus' doctrine divides people against each other? –  Niobius Nov 30 '13 at 17:01
Yes your right, but are these not one and the same thing, I mean the sword representing the opposite of peace and that Jesus's doctrine divides people! yes I see something more..is there a possible correlation here to where we read that the word of God is like a two edged sword dividing between bone and marrow? –  John Unsworth Dec 1 '13 at 12:17
Check out 2 Cor 10:3-6, where Paul says his weapons are not of the flesh. Note that ideas can do battle, and ideas can take on lives of their own. Richard Dawkins was wise to coin the word meme, despite his general philosophical naïveté. :-) –  Luke Breuer Dec 4 '13 at 0:05
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In Matt. 10:34, it is written,

μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν

Do not think that I came to send peace on the earth. I did not come to send peace, but rather, a sword!

The "sword" (Greek μάχαιρα) represents "division" (Greek διαμερισμός), and this is evident when we examine the Synoptic parallel in Luke 12:51, in which it is written,

δοκεῖτε ὅτι εἰρήνην παρεγενόμην δοῦναι ἐν τῇ γῇ οὐχί λέγω ὑμῖν ἀλλ᾽ ἢ διαμερισμόν

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? No, I tell you! But rather, division!

What does this division involve?

If we read the next verses following either verse, Jesus explains that it involves division of families.

In Matt. 10:35-36, it is written,

For I came to sever a man from his father, and the daughter from her mother, and the daughter-in-law from her mother-in-law. And a man's enemies shall be of his house.

In Luke 12:52-53, it is written,

For from now on, there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

This may not be well understood in America, in which the religious majority is Christianity (however, it does happen on occasion). However, in the Middle East, particularly Judea, which is the setting of the Gospel, the religious majority was Judaism. Not too long after Christianity was born, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin became hostile to any Jews who converted to Christianity. Those Jews who confessed Christ were excommunicated from the people of Israel and placed under cherem. John Gill describes this in vast detail. Naturally, this would affect family relationships.

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I entirely agree with your answer as expressed by your definition of 'sword'. The deeper question, however, is did Jesus 'sanction' strife and debates amonst believers? and did this 'sword' mean actively using 'The Word' to point out something objectionable or fault finding? This to me spells out the difficulty in interpretting this passage: are we to go on a Scriptural 'rampage' with our 'swords', or do we accept the fact that the truth itself will reveal divisions-even within our hearts? –  user2479 Dec 2 '13 at 1:27
@user2479 your deeper question is a theological question, not a textual question. It would be better asked on C.SE. Remember that here we stop short of applying the text, and we are not a Christian (or any other religious) site. –  Daи Dec 3 '13 at 18:31
@user2479 I never had the impression that Jesus sanctions 'strife and debate'. His Kingdom is one of peace and unity and every believer experiences the body as he experiences the head in Christ. –  John Unsworth Dec 4 '13 at 18:21
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