Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not peace, but a sword?

Matthew 10:34 quotes Yeshua as saying:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword."

The meaning of these words have been highly debated. Some say that this verse points to proof that Yeshua advocated violence. Others struggle to show that the word for "sword" actually means something other than the violent idea it conjures. Most Christians believe that the sword is a metaphor for ideological conflict, rather than physical violence and that Yeshua did not advocate violence. A fair reading of the verse in context, however, leads to the conclusion that the word for "sword" actually does mean violence, and also an understanding of Syriac word-meaning leads to the conclusion that Yeshua was not advocating violence, but rather warning his disciples of the violence that they would soon bring upon themselves.

Matthew 10 tells of Yeshua sending his disciples out to minister to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He commanded his disciples to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." This does not sound like the advocacy of violence.

In verse 13, Yeshua informs his disciples that they should not expect to be warmly received. He instructs them to depart from homes and cities that will not receive them. Yeshua then warned his disciples that they would encounter violent resistance on their ministry. In verse 16 he is quoted as saying, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves..."

So, the context of Matthew 10 is certainly one of shalom and not violence. What about word meaning? The Peshitta translates verse 34 as:

LA TSBRWN DATYT DARMA ShYNA BAREA LA ATYT DARMA ShYNA ALA XRBA

The key word is DARMA (or DA'RMA) - "to place." But, the common Syriac use of this word included a causative sense "to cause to come," or "to bring about," or "to arouse." It is this sense that Yeshua intended it. Additionally, he forms an interesting wordplay between the words DA'RMA (to bring about), which has an idiomatic meaning of "slaughter" and XRBA (sword), which also means slaughter. He was warning his disciples that their actions would soon bring a slaughter (XRBA) upon themselves.

A better translation:

"Do not suppose I come to arouse tranquility in the land, I have not come to arouse tranquility, but rather, a slaughter."