Not peace, but a sword

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Jesus holds a whip in his hand in striking position while merchants scramble away, or brace for blows.
James Tissot (19th century) rendition of the Cleansing of the Temple.

"I came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" is one of statements attributed to Jesus according to Gospel of Matthew.[1] According to the most common Christian interpretation, the "sword" is a metaphor for an ideological conflict brought by Jesus.

The phrase appears in verse of Matthew 10:34, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send [or bring] peace, but a sword."[2] The controversy is that Jesus seems to advocate physical violence by sword—a view that is rejected by the traditional, pacifist branches of Christianity. In the Christian faith, Jesus is the "Prince of Peace" mentioned in Isaiah 9:6, and they are taught in Romans 12:18 to "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Yet the sword can be a metaphor for a Christian-kindled ideological division or conflict:

I have come to cast fire upon the Earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:49–53)

Hebrews 4:12 uses "two-edged sword" and "division" in a metaphorical and ideological way: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Micah 7:5-6 states: …Do not trust in a neighbor; Do not have confidence in a friend. From her who lies in your bosom Guard your lips. 6For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man's enemies are the men of his own household. But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.…

R. T. France explains the verse in context as follows: "The sword Jesus brings is not here military conflict, but, as vv. 35–36 show, a sharp social division which even severs the closest family ties. … Jesus speaks here, as in the preceding and following verses, more of a division in men’s personal response to him."[3]

The Book of Kells, a Celtic illuminated manuscript copy of the Gospels, uses the word gaudium, meaning joy rather than gladium which means sword, rendering the verse in translation: "I came not [only] to bring peace, but joy".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cim, David. "The sword motif in Matthew 10:34". Theological Studies; Vol 56, No 1 (2000), 84-104. School of Theology, Australian Catholic University. doi:10.4102/hts.v56i1.1698. 
  2. ^ Matthew 10:34
    - Charles Mathewes. Understanding Religious Ethics. p. 186. 
  3. ^ France, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol 1: Matthew (1985). 2nd ed (2008), p. 192. ISBN 978-1844742677.
  4. ^ Nathan, George Jean Nathan; Henry Louis Mencken (1951). The American Mercury. p. 572. The compilers of the late seventh century manuscript, The Book of Kells, refused to adopt St. Jerome's phrase "I come not to bring peace but a sword." (" . . . non pacem sed gladium.")To them the phrase made no sense and they altered it ... 

External links[edit]

Not peace, but a sword
Preceded by
John the Baptist Beheaded
Ministry of John the Baptist
New Testament
Succeeded by
Feeding the Multitudes
Miracles of Jesus