Is it possible that Jesus was carrying a sword, and that this was the real reason he was crucified?
This is one of the latest theories by some scholars. The theory need not shock us; it is a reminder that scholars are always closely scrutinising the details of our Lord’s life, and are often coming up with different theories.
A professor of religious studies at Yale University now says that the arrest of Jesus, as told in the gospels, has received too little attention. His theory about a sword could explain Jesus’s execution and would then show that the man from Nazareth was not a pacifist.
The books of Mark, Luke and John state that at least one (and probably two or more) of Jesus’s followers was carrying a sword when Jesus was arrested shortly after the Last Supper, at the time of the Jewish festival of Passover.
One disciple, Simon Peter, even used his sword to cut off the ear of one of those arresting Jesus, according to the Gospel of John.
Historical documents show it was illegal at the time to walk about armed in Rome and in some other Roman cities.
Although no legal records survive from Jerusalem, it might stand to reason—based on a knowledge of Roman history—that the region’s rulers would have frowned upon the carrying of swords, and especially would not have tolerated an armed band of Jews roaming the city during Passover, a festival that was often turbulent.
An even more important question may be: Why were Jesus’s followers armed at all, especially during a religious festival?
But not everybody agrees with the suggestion that Jesus may have been armed. One scholar points out that the Greek word used in the Gospels often translated as sword really means something more akin to knife. And knives could be easily concealed.
Only professionals, like soldiers, carried swords.
Personally, I think the idea that Jesus may have been carrying a sword cannot be settled by examining the Roman or Jewish background alone. More importantly, I believe, is the background of Jesus.
Was Jesus the sort of person who would place his trust in earthly weapons? I think not. “Love your enemies” is what Jesus preached.
“Put away your sword,” Jesus told Peter (John 18:11).
Then, as always, Jesus was stressing peace.