“… πάντες γὰρ οἱ λαβόντες μάχαιραν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀπολοῦνται.”
“All who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” ~ Jesus Christ
My literal, expanded translation: “To be sure, indeed, note … everyone, all, everybody, who is bearing as a matter of course the sword, in the sphere of and by means of the sword, they shall be dying/destroying themselves.” What did Christ mean in these words? The Aramaic for Semitic scholar-friends … הֹידֵ֗ין אֵמַר לֵה יֵשֻׁוע אַהפֵ֗ךֽ סַפֽסִרֹא לדֻֽוכ֗תֹֽה֗ כֻ֗להֻון גֵ֗יר הֹנֻון דַ֗נסַבֽו סַיפֵֽ֯א ב֗סַיפֵֽ֯א נמֻותֻֽון. The Aramaic in Syriac script: ܗܳܝܕ݁ܶܝܢ ܐܶܡܰܪ ܠܶܗ ܝܶܫܽܘܥ ܐܰܗܦ݁ܶܟ݂ ܣܰܦ݂ܣܺܪܳܐ ܠܕ݂ܽܘܟ݁ܬ݂ܳܗ݁ ܟ݁ܽܠܗܽܘܢ ܓ݁ܶܝܪ ܗܳܢܽܘܢ ܕ݁ܰܢܣܰܒ݂ܘ ܣܰܝܦ݂̈ܶܐ ܒ݁ܣܰܝܦ݂̈ܶܐ ܢܡܽܘܬ݂ܽܘܢ.
The New International Commentary provides the following parallel between the words of Christ and the para-biblical work, Joseph and Asenath: “Except that ῥομφαίαν is used in place of μάχαιραν for ‘sword’, the words ἀπόστρεψον τὴν μάχαιράν σου εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς (‘return your sword to its place’) are found identically in Jos. As. 29:4. The coincidence is particularly striking because we can add to it the fact that the previous verse in Joseph and Asenath has in explanation of this directive the words ‘It does not befit a man who worships God to repay evil for evil’, thus reminiscent of the second last antithesis, Mt. 5:38–42, normally thought to be echoed in Mt. 26:52. Possibly language from 1 Ch. 21:27 (cf. Je. 47:6), where the return of the sword to its sheath functions as an image for curbing God’s punitive wrath, underlies both Mt. 26:52 and Jos. As. 29:4, but, if so, only because it is mediated to each from some common tradition.
“It is clear from the earlier discussion of the final two antitheses (Mt. 5:38–42, 43–48) that Jesus’ views on not returning evil for evil and on love of enemies represent a particularly radical exemplar of views found in a much wider world of moral reflection. At least in relation to the OT instances, he is manifestly dependent on that wider world of discussion, and his view is best understood in conscious connection with other variants explored in the earlier discussion of these antitheses. I think it likely that an element in this wider discussion is being echoed jointly by Mt. 26:52 and Jos. As. 29:4.
“The language of Jos. As. 29:4 may even be a clue that ‘return your sword to its place’ is meant to be recognised as a quotation: the use of ‘your’ is odd since Benjamin (who is being addressed by Levi) has no sword of his own, but has drawn the sword that is in his hand from the sheath strapped to the prostrate form of the son of Pharaoh (whom he intends to kill with the sword).
“The relationship between the way the quoted words function in Mt. 26:52 and in Jos. As. 29:4 is much like the relationship between Jesus’ views in the final two beatitudes and those in the related traditions explored in the earlier discussion. In Jos. As. 29:4 one is not to use the sword against an enemy who is powerless and has fallen into one’s hands; in Mt. 26:52 one is not to use the sword against an enemy who comes well armed and threatens life itself, at least p 1113 Jesus’ life. Jesus’ teaching is seen to represent the general approach in its most radical form.
It proved wise in the discussion of the final two antitheses to pay close attention to the specific contexts of application. Here in Mt. 26:52 the context is the arrest of Jesus, an event which he has recently been confirmed in believing was the will of God for him. If Jesus’ words in v. 52 consisted only of the clause we have discussed, it would be reasonable to link the insistence on non-resistance with Jesus’ conviction about the will of God. But as the second half of the verse justifies (γάρ [‘for’]), it also generalises: ‘Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword’. This is proverbial-sounding language. And with proverbial language the need is to identify the appropriate setting within which the dictum proves true. We might couple the dictum with statements like ‘The life of a soldier is glorious but short’ and ‘Conquerors have their moment in the sun, and then they in turn are conquered’. But a rather different context is primarily in mind here.
The formal principle involved in Mt. 26:52 finds primordial expression in Gn. 9:6: ‘Whoever sheds the blood of a person, by a person their blood will be shed’. Gn. 9:6 expresses the principle as foundational to human justice. In the OT the principle is reexpressed under various images as a principle of divine justice.213 In Tg. Is. 50:11 the image of Is. 50:11 has been expanded to include the sword.214 But there are ultimately two significant differences between all of this and what is found in Mt. 26:52. First, by speaking generally of taking the sword, the sphere seems to have been broadened to embrace the imposition of one’s will by violence or threat of violence—that is what the crowd is doing; it has no specific violent or murderous intent. And second, there has been a move from a consideration of violence only as evil done to another to the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to protect oneself from the will of the other—that is what the disciple is seeking to do with his sword.
“If I have rightly followed the track of development, we have in Jesus’ words a version of the fundamental principle of justice which has been refracted through the lens of Jesus’ own particular understanding of the call to love one’s enemies. Here also we have, to quote from my comment on 5:47, ‘a concern to remain “on the side of” all people, no matter what they might do to provoke a different orientation’. In relation to the use of the sword, love of enemies is identified as a principle on the basis of which God will judge human behaviour. (Though the imagery is of perishing by the sword, the question of p 1114 whether the principle of ‘retribution’ articulated is seen to operate in the flow of history or instead or as well before the bar of God remains open.)” ~ Nolland John. (2005). Preface. In The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 1112–1114). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
The consensus of the commentators is that violence leads to more violence. Pacifist commentators argue for no use of force whatsoever, citing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount exhortation “turn the other cheek.” Matthew 5.39: “ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ· ἀλλ᾿ ὅστις σε ⸀ῥαπίζει ⸁εἰς τὴν ⸂δεξιὰν σιαγόνα [σου]⸃, στρέψον αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ἄλλην· (But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also).” The words here do not forbid all violence, as earlier He told his disciples to acquire a sword in Luke 22.36: “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.” ~ The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Lk 22:36). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
The point is that a “violence-only” approach leads to a “violence-only” result.