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Joined: 2009/4/24
Posts: 280

 Re: Concerning the Sword

“Concerning the Sword”: A Hutterian Apologia of 1577
[Article IV of the Great Article Book]


This translation first appeared in the January 2009 issue of the
Mennonite Quarterly Review.

(14) Then they assert that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were both councilors and rulers in Jerusalem, but nevertheless, secret disciples of Christ: devout, God-fearing men, of whom Scripture testifies (Mt. 27:[57]). Likewise, Erastus was a city treasurer, but nevertheless a Christian, they say (Rom. 16:[23]). When Philip brought the eunuch of the Queen of Ethiopia to faith and baptized him, he let him remain in power and office (Acts 8). Likewise Cornelius (Acts 10:[1]), Sergius Paulus the magistrate (Acts 13:[7]), and the centurion whose servant Christ healed (Mt. 8:[13]) were also believers and did not leave their office, they say. Matthew also remained in his position at customs after his conversion until he was chosen as an apostle.86

Answer: It is true, as they say, that these men came to faith, and this we grant. But when they say that they remained in government, those are their own empty words, and it is up to them to prove them with Scripture and to show that Christ commanded the sword in his church and that a person is a member of Christ even if he bears a sword.

For we do not read that Erastus remained a collector of revenue, but that he was Paul’s traveling companion, for in Acts 19 he sent him to serve in Macedonia (Acts 19:[22]). Likewise Manaen, a member of the court of Herod the Tetrarch, was in the church at Antioch, where they assembled a whole year.87 It does not say, “at Herod’s court or in the government.” To the Philippians Paul writes: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:[22]). He does not say that they were still at Caesar’s court or in his house. We read, to be sure, of others who are similar. Thus Paul, who had the great power and authority of the High Priests (Acts 9:[14]; 26:[10]), did not retain it when he was baptized and became a brother.

In summary, the apostles and Paul simply preached the Gospel to the eunuch of Ethiopia, to Cornelius, to Sergius Paulus and all the rest:
“Worldly princes rule the nations, but it shall not be so with you. The mighty are called ‘your lordship’ but it shall not be so among you” (Mt. 20:[25]; Lk. 22:[25]). Likewise, “Unless you change and become like children” (Mt. 18:[3]), without domineering, without exaltation, you will not enter into God’s kingdom. Likewise, “Judge not that you be not judged” (Mt. 7:[1]). Likewise, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (note: the cross) (Mt. 16:[24]). Again, “Put your sword back in its place” for it is no longer right to fight with it (Mt. 26:[52]). Likewise, that the Lord became angry with the man who, because of a debt, took his fellow servant by the throat and threw him into prison (Mt. 18:[34]).88

86. Mt. 9:9; Lk. 5:27.
87. Acts 11:26; 13:1

The disciples of Christ were themselves to know and consider what manner of spirit they were of and not, like Elijah, want to call down fire from heaven or destroy anyone in revenge (Lk. 9:[54-55]). Likewise, that Christ escaped when the people wanted to make him their ruler and king (Jn. 6:[15]), that he refused to judge or divide the inheritance (Lk. 12:[14]), that he refused to condemn to death the woman taken in adultery, although the law demanded that she be put to death (Jn. 8:[11]); that Christ says his kingdom is not of this world and his servants do not stand armed with sword and spear (Jn. 18:[36]); and that those whom God called and foreknew he also charged to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:[29]). Likewise, that they would be taken before kings and princes and rulers and before their councils for the sake of Christ’s name and be tortured (Mt. 10:[18]). He does not say that they, the Christians, will themselves be governors and councilors. And when the disciples said, “Here are two swords,” he answered, “It is enough” (Lk. 22:[38]).

Indeed, the apostles proclaimed the teaching that they should no longer be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:[2]), that they should be subject to the authorities (and are not to be rulers) (Rom. 13:[1]; 1 Pet. 2:[13]). “What have I to do with judging outsiders,” says Paul (1 Cor. 5:[12]). And: “Something is lacking among you that you sue one another at law. Why do you not rather suffer wrong?” (1 Cor. 6:[7]). And: “Though we live in the world, we do not fight as men fight, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual” (2 Cor. 10:[3-4]), [but we are] to “fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience” (1 Tim. 1:18). He also said “Put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take the shield of faith, . . . the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:[14-17]). [And Peter:] “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (1 Pet. 4:[1]). Likewise [in Revelation], He who puts men into prison will himself be imprisoned, and he who kills with the sword will be slain by it (Rev. 13:[10]).

From all this and from many other Scriptures, as the Apostle says, “only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:[27]), they could well have learned that they could never be worldly princes, lords, magistrates, governors, judges or army captains, if they

88. Text reads: Mt. 10.

wanted to be followers of Christ. Neither Paul nor any other apostles of Christ bore a worldly office of judgment or a sword. He says to his entire brotherhood, “Follow me, taking me as your example.”89
They preached no other or different gospel to them than what they themselves had accepted and received from Christ.

(15) They may also say, Governors are rulers and together they compose the government (1 Cor. 12:[28]), along with: “if someone governs, let him do it with care” (Rom.
12:[8])—saying, that this is addressed to governing authorities. [Answer:] But that is not the case.
For then the Scriptures would give more evidence that at the time of the apostles there was such a worldly government in their church. But there is none, and all the Scriptures speak against it. For Christ did not entrust any outward rule to his church, but an inner rule which shall be governed by the Word of truth, and consequently, concerning the assignment of the people for outward tasks, and work and service to the poor, managers and stewards in the church of Christ were appointed to manage and care for temporal needs (Acts 6:[1-6]). But this is not government with the sword.

(16) The world says, and may well raise the objection: The Prophet also says the opposite, “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears” and your “pruning knives, scythes and saws into lances” (Joel 3:[10]). Answer: The prophet said this about his own age; for it was in the Old Testament that they marched against their enemies with swords, spears and javelins, for they were commanded to hate their enemies and they were often sent by God’s command to wipe out their enemies. But now, in the New Testament, it is not so, but is forbidden by Christ. Therefore a distinction must be made between the figurative and the actual, the carnal and the spiritual, the law and grace or truth, between Moses and Christ, yes, between the Old and New Testament, Judaism and Christianity.

Otherwise we would be half Jews, half Christians and who knows what. We must interpret everything with judgment, thought and discernment90 blessed by God

89. Phil. 3:17.

and see the Scriptures with spiritual eyes and glasses. Then God’s Word will become clear and unified to us. For the great wars, victories, possessions and physical blessings in the law are now past and replaced in the Spirit. Therefore the prophet Joel, who was quoted, spoke of his contemporary Jewish era, after which, however, another time was to come, the era of which Isaiah, Micah and others speak, when weapon shall not be lifted against weapon and there will henceforth be no more war, but they will put away their weapons, break them in pieces and burn them (Isa. 2:[4]; Mic. 4:[3]; Ps. 46:[9]; 76:[4]; Ez. 39:[9]; Hos. 2:[18]). That is the kingdom of Christ, the time of Christians and our time, when it is no longer right for us to make or use such murderous weapons.

(17) Finally, there may be people so ungodly as to raise the objection that the Prophet says and it is written, “Cursed be he who does the work of the Lord with slackness; and cursed be he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed” (Jer. 48:[10]). Answer: If one wanted to understand and use the Scripture in such an absurd way, those men would be the best who constantly shed blood. Far be it from a Christian to have such ungodly thoughts. The Prophet is speaking here of the punishment of the sinful nation of the Moabites, whom God wanted to punish and devastate (Judg. 3:[28]).91 And in order to make the punishment so much more severe he encourages the avenger, whom he is sending, to carry it out without qualms. Therefore it is just the same as if the false prophets, or the world, who quote this passage were to say “Cursed be the Turk if he is indolent and negligent in punishing us and keeping back his sword from shedding our blood.” Therefore, O woe to the blindness of this world, which tries to cover one blindness with another.92

Since the Fathers at first also held that Christians may not go to war or serve as secular judges and that those in office were not regarded as Christians, let us look at some documents and testimonies that speak against their own practice.

90. “Wir müessen mit einem gotsälligen urtaill eintruckh und gespaltnen klauen alle dinge [verstehen] . . . ”: the original, “gespaltnen klauen” (cloven hoofs—see Lev. 11:3), is translated here, “discernment.” This image was used by other Anabaptists as well.—Van der Zijpp, “Gespauwde Klauw,” ME 2:508.
91. Text reads: Joel 3.
92. Here ends the series of seventeen polemical responses to some of the “world’s” questions, which began with point 71.

Papal law specifies93 that it is not fitting for them to kill anyone. Their code puts no one to death, but places excommunication on the wicked. The reason why these are not to be so punished is given in their decree, that those who are foreordained to salvation may better their lives. But the others will be damned, with all punishment deemed useless, referring to the example in Luke 9:[51-56]. Furthermore, those who take the sword shall be judged by the sword (IV. Quidam; cum quisque; obtineri; ipsa pietas, Augusti).

Thus, [causa] 23, questi 4, c. si ecclesia, also says that the true church persecutes no one but only suffers persecution, referring to the example of Sarah and Hagar, and others.

Chrysostom (who lived in 390) is strongly opposed to warfare and taking revenge because they have committed themselves to him who taught peace. Read his exposition of Matthew and John.

The Council of Elvira decided that magistrates should not be admitted into the church during the year that they serve. Indeed, many other decrees and many ancient teachers are opposed to the participation in war of those who are spiritual(which simply means the true Christians).
([In margin:] Note, Neither do they consider the worldly rulers to be Christians.)

In the Council of Toledo, held in Spain in the thirteenth year after the regulation, at the time of Honorius and Arcady, it was decided that whoever is a soldier after baptism shall never become a deacon even if he has not committed any specific deed in war.

In Canon 23, q.v., Circumcel.; pena illorum (punishment of those), it is more clearly stated by Augustine that heretics should not be punished by death. Chrysostom, discussing Matthew 13 on the tares, shares that view. The best ancient canons are also against this wantonness; they say that those who are spiritual should neither kill nor attack anyone for any reason at all (not to mention for the sake of one’s faith). They should not do so themselves, nor delegate others, nor assist by word or deed, but also censure it in others (c. 23., quest. vlt. Chap).

It continued to be held until the time of Pope Pelagius, A.D. 553, that heretics should not be condemned to death nor should worldly authority be called on for assistance. He was the first to order that when a man refused to be persuaded by reasonable arguments, he should be forced and compelled to do so. This was done, and increased constantly with the passage of time.

93. All references in this point, except for the citation from Luther, come from Sebastian Franck, Geschychtbibel, mostly from pp. 388r ff.

Luther, in his sermon on Matthew 13:[24-30], in the collection of sermons for home use, also speaks of the tares:94 The church or the office of preaching does not wield the sword, but whatever it does it does solely with the Word. Therefore, he says, the ancient teachers are right in this matter. If Matthew, when he was still a tax collector, and Paul, when he was persecuting the Christians, and the thief on the cross had been sentenced and executed as wicked men (which they were) immediately after the deed, then the wheat that grew from them afterward (since they were won over) would have been uprooted.

But this is not to say that the church is to put the wicked to death with the sword. It is to ban and exclude them as heathen, so that they recognize their sin and mend their ways, and that others may be warned by their example and be watchful. ([In margin:] Just listen, you Lutherans, how well you follow him!) Do you say, Why does one not deal thus with thieves, murderers and others, for some might be saved and repent?

Answer: Here you must understand that the Lord is speaking of the kingdom of Christ. That is where no sword is to be used, lest the wheat be torn out with the tares. ([In margin:] That is what Luther says; however, when we say it, we are called heretics.) But in the kingdom of the world God has given a different commandment, which is:
He who takes the sword shall perish by the sword.95 Christ does not say a word here about that worldly realm. Therefore, they dare not be mixed together, but what applies to Christ’s kingdom is supposed to be achieved there; then again, what applies to the realm of the world is supposed to be achieved there. This Luther himself says and writes.

Paul the Apostle writes to the believers, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to this indeed you are called in one body” (Col. 3:[15]) (note that we are called to peace, and the one body is the Christian church). It is unfitting for a body to have a sword and use it against itself.
It is a desperate act to commit suicide or injure oneself. It is gross foolishness if the body

94. Taken from the edition of Veit Dietrich, first published in 1544 (Weimar Edition)
52:134, 7 ff), discussed by Roland H. Bainton in “Religious Liberty and the Parables of the Tare, “Early and Medieval Christianity (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), 112f.
95. Mt. 26:52.

deliberately tried to injure its own members with the power of the sword. Thus it is completely inappropriate for the church of Christ to use the sword within itself. For they are all one body and members of one another (Rom. 12:[5]; 1 Cor. 12:[12]; Eph. 1:[23]; 4:[4]; 5:[1-14]; Col. 1:[17]; 2:[19]).

Therefore, the man who is a servant of the worldly sword demonstrates clearly that he is not a member of the true Christian church. For no member holds a sword overanother. Would it not be absurd if both hands of one body each had a sword and stabbed and struck each other and became disunited from one another?
That is how it is if you say that Christians can be soldiers and use the sword. Therefore a ruler cannot be a Christian. It is not we who say this but Christ and his apostles, if one considers and studies their words.


Lee Chapel

 2010/1/1 11:11Profile

Joined: 2009/6/14
Posts: 703

 Mennonite Publications

Really - this thread has become nothing more than a venue for the spamming of Mennonite publications through copy/paste by someone who apparently is a devout Mennonite. I have nothing against the Mennonites and their beliefs, but I don't think such spamming is appropriate. This thread occasionally provokes reactions from those who don't hold to the idea of total non-resistance and who get tired of the endless Mennonite spamming, but I do believe it has already run its course and should be locked.

 2010/1/1 12:04Profile

Joined: 2006/2/11
Posts: 2895
Philadelphia PA


It is true, as they say, that these men came to faith, and this we grant. But when they say that they remained in government, those are their own empty words, and it is up to them to prove them with Scripture...

For we do not read that Erastus remained a collector of revenue, but that he was Paul’s traveling companion, for in Acts 19 he sent him to serve in Macedonia (Acts 19:[22])...

To the Philippians Paul writes: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:[22]). He does not say that they were still at Caesar’s court or in his house.

Whatever Erastus may have done after this, he is mentioned here in Romans 16:23 this way:

"Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother."

[i]Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you...[/i]

But isn't it an odd thing to send greetings from one who would otherwise be viewed(that is if the author's assertions are correct) as an infidel and an evil person for his contributions and participation in government? And that in a private letter to be read by other Christians?

those are their own empty words, and it is up to them to prove them with Scripture

I think it is rather up to the author to prove that the Apostles and other believers had the same view of these men that he(the author) did. Not, as the author says, in his own words, but in the words of the scriptures.

To the Philippians Paul writes: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:[22]). He does not say that they were still at Caesar’s court or in his house.

I think that Paul indicates in the letter that he was both a prisoner and perhaps in the palace when he wrote this letter(Php 1:13).

So when the letter concludes with a greeting from those that(in KJV) are of(present tense) Caesar's household, it would be the authors task to show that they were not somehow as they are described there, but were otherwise.

Christopher Joel Dandrow

 2010/1/1 12:59Profile


HI ChrisJD,

Often we will hear quotes from the "founding fathers," of this country. Great weight is laid upon what they said, upon what they wrote. If you were to go to Bible school or seminary, you would find out that great weight is put upon the early church fathers. Now the reasons for this is fairly obvious. These men had direct connections to the Apsotles, therefore, opinion expressed by these men in their writings carry a lot of weight. As time goes on, the further away we get from the original, we begin to see a greater diversity of opinion. I would argue that it was an absolute disaster for the Church that Constantine "became a Christian." Now we begin to see a bending of Scripture in order to accomodate, amalgamate the Church with the State and the State's ambitions. So, I give you ........

1. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165)
“And that (the prophecy of Isaiah 2:1-4) did come to pass, we can convince you. For twelve men, illiterate and without speaking ability, went out from Jerusalem into the world, and by the power of God they proclaimed to every nation that they were sent by Christ to teach the word of God to everyone. And we, who formerly murdered one another, not only refuse to make war against our enemies, but in order not to lie nor deceive our judges, meet death willingly, confessing Christ.”
Apology I, 39

And you give me Stonewall Jackson :)

Can you see the dis-connect? Now, if you could give me an early church father that wrote that it was okay to kill in a "just war," then I would be suitably inpressed:) It is also worth noting that the majority of the Apostles were martyred in the year 70ad, and , suprisingly, were killed, like dogs, in the street. Not a single mention of them fighting for their lives, not a single mention. You can find a short video of the martyred saints here

 2010/1/1 15:32

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7471


Last week we had a customer in our store. I got to talking to him...interesting how these conversations develop, but never mind this - he was a total stranger to me.


Mr. Moore is a Vietnam War veteran who served as a chaplain in the war zone, often rendering aid to the wounded. He told me how soldiers would come to him and say they just cannot kill a person...

I asked him about PTSD, and how common is it? He said that up to 80% of all those who engage in combat will experience it, more so if you were a young person. He said the human psyche is such that it will be adversely affected if one kills another human being, even in combat situations. He also said the probability is less if you are older. I asked him if he experienced it? He said, "Yes, ..." He was well into his 30s when he served. This comes from a man who has master degrees in psychology, theology and criminology.

I just thought I would share this about how life does once again prove the validity of the WORD.


Sandra Miller

 2010/1/1 15:56Profile

Joined: 2006/2/11
Posts: 2895
Philadelphia PA


Hi Frank,

First if I could, the scope of the articles that are being presented go beyond involvement of war but includes involvement in civil goverment of any kind.

About the qoute from Justin Martyr,

In my view, it isn't clear from the qoute what exactly Justin Martyr beleived about capital punishment or wars in general. He made a statement that all Christians could agree with:

that we don't commit murder and we ourselves as Chrisitians do not use war against our enemies, that is the Christian Church does not raise a Christian army to fight a Christian war.

The distinction that the [b]Bible[/b] makes between killing in general and [b]murder[/b] has been presented several times so far.

Otherwise would John the baptist have told the soldiers to repent of [b]their murders[/b]. Which he did not.

Christopher Joel Dandrow

 2010/1/1 16:41Profile

Joined: 2006/2/11
Posts: 2895
Philadelphia PA


Frank, also about this,

And you give me Stonewall Jackson :)

Actually, I didn't give you Stonewall Jackson as an example of a Christian father, but as an example of someone who is testified to on [b]this site[/b] as being both involved in war, and a man that feared God and prayed.

We're left then to decide whether God answered his prayers, and what implications that might have.

Can you see the dis-connect? Now, if you could give me an early church father that wrote that it was okay to kill in a "just war," then I would be suitably inpressed:)

But Frank, I think I can just as easily ask this of you?

The first century and its governments and rulers are gone.

We cannot only make decisions on issues like this, based upon what the first and second century Christians did [b]in their own generations[/b].

The Roman armies were not the armies of George Washington, or Stonewall Jackson.

Ultimatley our decisions need to be based upon the Bible and the aid and help of God, in the situations that are facing us now. Or in any generation(Acts 13:36).

No doubt the Moravians benefited from having someone with earthly authority, like Count Zinzendorf.

A different time and a different place, than Justyn Martyr, and ancient Rome.

Christopher Joel Dandrow

 2010/1/1 16:51Profile


Hi Chris, you stated.........

'Otherwise would John the baptist have told the soldiers to repent of their murders. Which he did not."

Hmm, do we have a list of all the sinners that John spoke to and what their specific sins were? I think what may be missing in all of your assertions about the few examples of soldiers being spoken to is that when a man or woman is saved he or she is then led into all truth by the Holy Spirit. Time and time again Chris I have pointed out that to be a Roman soldier, one would have had to make vows to the Roman God of war, Mars. And again I have pointed out that countless tens of thousands were martyred because of their refusal to acknowlede a mere man as a God. Could it be that it was perfectly okay for a Christian to acknowledge and make vows to a false God while at the very same time his brothers and sisters were being slaughtered for their refusal to do the very same thing? This does not even pass the smell test brother. Would the Holy Spirit lead and guide whole families, by the tens of thousands, to be slaughtered for a Truth that was relative? Interesting points to ponder :) Frank

 2010/1/1 17:55

Joined: 2006/2/11
Posts: 2895
Philadelphia PA


Hi Frank,

Quote: we have a list of all the sinners that John spoke to and what their specific sins were?

Frank, no, but that isn't the point I don't think?

What we do have is a group of soldiers, whether they were Roman or Jewish I do not know, that asked John [b]what they should do[/b] in response to his preaching [b]to repent[/b].

And so far as I can tell, his reponse to them was [i]to continue doing their jobs[/i], [b]only to do it honestly[/b]!

What doesn't pass the smell test to me Frank is that John was telling the soldiers to go on [b]being murders[/b](if that is what being solders made them), only do it [i]honestly[/i]. In other words: it was alright for them(EDIT for the time being you might say) to murder others, just don't take their money?

Frank, I think I can understand what you saying about further light coming, but when the Lord Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount, it seems to me that He also affirmed the legitimacy of the courts and judges(Mat 5:22,25). At least He did not call them murderers in general.

Edit: [i]...just don't take their money[/i]

It may be that Isaiah was speaking about extortion like this in Is 59:6? According to Strong's, the hebrew word transalted [i]violence[/i] in the KJV is:

From H2554; violence; by implication wrong; by metonymy unjust gain: - cruel (-ty), damage, false, injustice, X oppressor, unrighteous, violence (against, done), violent (dealing), wrong.

Injustice seems to be a main theme of the passage. It may be that corruption and incompetency at every level of society was the Judgement of God(Is 3:1-5).

Christopher Joel Dandrow

 2010/1/1 18:31Profile

Joined: 2006/2/11
Posts: 2895
Philadelphia PA


Time and time again Chris I have pointed out that to be a Roman soldier, one would have had to make vows to the Roman God of war, Mars. And again I have pointed out that countless tens of thousands were martyred because of their refusal to acknowlede a mere man as a God.

Frank, yes, I understand. But then the issue there is not whether it is ever persmissable to be a soldier as a Christian, but if one could be so in an army that required idolatry as part of its service(this is the piont I was making about the Roman armies not being the same as George Washington's).

A similar issue is presented in the story of Naaman, captain of the Syrian armies, who after God healed him, wanted to go back to his place and worship God, instead of the idols(2Kings 5:1-19).

Christopher Joel Dandrow

 2010/1/1 18:42Profile

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