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John 18:10:

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus. (Douay-Rheims)

Why would a disciple (or in this case, Apostle) want (or need) to carry a sword with him?

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The simplest answer is obedience

Let's see the preface of that story as explained by Luke.

And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. (Luke 22:35-38 KJV)

Jesus knew the violence of those last few days was coming. We see this when He exposes the fear Peter will feel.

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. (Luke 22:31-34 KJV)

Whether we believe that Jesus had the power of a Seer and knew the future He would experience, or believe that He was simply cautious, knowing the turmoil of those few days, Peter had a sword because Jesus commanded that he buy one.

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The "sword" used by Peter in the garden of Gethsemane was likely a skinning, carving, or utility knife and not the combat weapon usually envisioned:

The noun μαχαιρα (machaira) denotes a large knife, dagger or scissors, and obviously derives from the above or shares its root. This noun covers a broad range of knives, from an assassin's compact assault weapon to utility knives, and even served to proverbially describe a greedy person (after priests who carved generous helpings off sacrifices for their own consumption). In the modern age, this word came to describe the genus Machairodus, or saber-toothed tigers. Our noun describes a relatively small and handheld cutting tool, and not particularly a military weapon that a soldier would wield in a military confrontation (that would be a ρομφαια, rhomphaia, or stick-sword). The core idea captured by our noun is not that of a hysterical head-on confrontation with the intention to destroy, but rather of calmly trimming small bits off the side, or fleshing a carcass and dividing it into useable and not useable parts. - Abarim Publications

Thus, when Jesus instructs the disciples to sell a garment and buy a "sword" if they do not have one (Luke 22:36-38) he is not telling them to arm for battle but to gear up for life on the road (money purse, food pouch, and utility knife):

And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. - Luke 22:35-38

Therefore, Peter was not armed for physical combat with his "sword" but had, on his person, a utility knife with which he drew and struck at Malchus.

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The original question asks:

Why would a disciple (or in this case, Apostle) want (or need) to carry a sword with him?

To fulfill prophecy (Isa 53:12) by appearing to be a law breaker to the Jewish authorities. After telling his disciples to buy swords (Lk 22:36) Jesus says, “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.”

In the next verse, when the disciples say they have two swords, Jesus says “That is enough.” (vs. 38). If Jesus intended the disciples to actually use swords in self defense, I posit two wouldn’t be nearly enough. But it was sufficient to fulfill the prophecy and justify the Jewish authorities in accusing him of being a rebel leader.

Credit Tony Bartlett, Cross Purposes.

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Why would a disciple (or in this case, Apostle) want (or need) to carry a sword with him?

I am sure countless individuals have asked this question, but ultimately we do not know the real reason to this puzzle. Yes Jesus apparently approved of it, but the Gospels do not mention a reason for doing so.

This a reason has to be logically deduced through other means.

The Apostles certainly made trips through areas where they would have to clear areas of shrubs and other debris for sleeping. A sword would be helpful against wild animals especially at night and for hunting if necessary. Self defence could possibly have been an issue too.

Being in the backcountry, I would not go without some sort of precautions or tools for my own personal safety on my person. The Apostles were possibly thinking in the same manner!

In any case, Wikipedia does have an article on the sword of St. Peter.

The Sword of Saint Peter (Polish: Miecz świętego Piotra) is a holy relic held in the Poznań Archdiocesan Museum.

It is claimed to be the sword with which the Apostle Peter cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant at the time of Jesus' arrest in Gethsemane. The sword is wide-tipped, similar in shape to a dussack or machete. An exact copy of the sword, made by Bogdan Puchalski, is displayed on the wall of the Poznań Archcathedral Basilica.

The sword is mentioned for the first time in 1609 in Vitae Episcoporum Posnaniensium of Jan Długosz as being the original Roman sword, or gladius, used by Saint Peter in the Gospels, or a direct copy made for Pope Stephen VII. However, at that time Stephen was already dead, and the current pope was John XIII.

The sword arrived in Poznań in 968 as a gift from John XIII for either Bishop Jordan or Duke Mieszko I. The Archdeacon of Poznań Cathedral in 1699 wrote about the sword, describing it as a part of Saint Peter's sword brought to Poznań by Bishop Jordan, where it was usually kept in the cathedral treasury, except for the few times a year when it was shown to the people. The 1721 Decree of Poznań Cathedral Chapter refers to having the sword moved to the chapter house as a more proper placement for the artifact.

According to British folklore, St. Joseph of Arimathea brought the sword to Britain, and it was kept at Glastonbury Abbey for many years until the abbot gave it to Saint George. - Sword of Peter

Is the Sword of St. Peter in Poland the Real Deal

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As Thermion and JBH aptly demonstrated in their answers, the principles of hermeneutics include context, and the context was Jesus' own explanation of why the disciples should buy swords. He plainly stated that this was to fulfill the prophecy that he should be counted among the transgressors as written in Isaiah 53:11-12:

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. ESV

Also note that the Greek words used for swords at the time the Septuagint was being written included the following:

• The machaira is loosely used for any single-edged sword or dagger and was typically about the size and shape of a bread knife.

• The xiphos is a double-edged stabbing weapon averaging 18 inches long that’s widest at two-thirds of the distance to the point and appears 13 times in the Septuagint.

• The kopis is a single-edged chopping weapon that’s widest at the front half and has a downward curve similar to the kukri knife used by Gurkhas. This sword is not mentioned in the Septuagint.

• The rhomphaia is a feared, double-handed Thracian weapon that was about five feet long. It had a wooden haft that was almost half the length of the weapon, and the slightly curved blade had an extremely sharp edge on the concave side only. This weapon is estimated to have been in use primarily from about 400 BCE until about 100 CE. In the Septuagint, it was used in the passages concerning the flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden, Goliath’s weapon, the sword of the angel confronting Balaam, the sword of God’s judgment, several military actions by Israel against its enemies, and in Psalm 22.

The New Testament uses only two Greek words for sword:

Machaira is used 29 times

Rhomphaia is used only seven times, six of them in Revelation and one in Luke 2:35, which might have been an allusion to Psalm 22.

In none of the New Testament references is machaira (Strong’s Greek 3162) ever used in context with food preparation, cutting brush, or anything other than a weapon. Check it out for yourself.

An interesting, related question might be asked whether Jesus being crucified along with criminals was a more thorough and less volitional fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12.

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Matthew 10:34 KJV

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

Luke 22:36-38 KJV

36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. 37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. 28 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

The interpretation by the Apostles of the passages from Matthew 10:34 and Luke 22:36-38 suggests a misunderstanding regarding the intended meaning of these verses. They seemingly believed in the anticipation of a physical battle or conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the worldly powers.

In Matthew 10:34, Jesus uses metaphorical language, stating, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Here, the term "sword" is a symbolic representation of division or conflict that may arise due to the transformative and challenging nature of his teachings. It was not an endorsement of physical warfare.

Similarly, in Luke 22:36-38, when Jesus advises the disciples to sell their garments and buy a sword, it's likely a metaphorical expression meant to illustrate the imminent challenges and opposition they would face. The disciples, however, took this advice literally, presenting two swords, to which Jesus responded, "It is enough." This response may signify that the physical acquisition of swords was not the point, but rather the disciples' understanding and readiness for spiritual battle.

The Apostles' misunderstanding highlights the challenge of comprehending the metaphorical and symbolic elements present in Jesus' teachings, often interpreted through a literal lens. Jesus' mission was primarily about spiritual transformation and the establishment of God's kingdom through love, peace, and righteousness, rather than engaging in physical warfare against worldly powers.

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