Luke 22, Proverbs 28
Critics of Christian theology, especially Protestant theology, will ridicule the notion of giving the Bible such great authority, given the existence of a variety of competing Biblical interpretations. In response, we always insist that individual passages can be reasonably interpreted differently, but the main themes and doctrines of scripture should bring unity amongst believers. Today’s reading presents an obvious scripture that has conflicting readings by those committed to the Bible’s authority, while without undermining scripture’s grand narrative. After Jesus delivers an extended warning to His closest disciples that the time of their great protection is over, there is a brief exchange between teacher and students. I quote here the NIV from Luke 22:38, “The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.” That exclamation mark makes quite the difference in interpretation. Traditionally, other translations don’t make Jesus’ two words here exclamatory. Thus after Jesus has warned the disciples about need to sell cloaks to buy swords and prepare hard times, those two words, “That’s enough”, is simply answering their question. However, if we see Jesus making an exclamation, he is saying, something like my extended paraphrase here: “Why will you keep misunderstanding my teachings, I am simply warning you of danger, not telling you that you need to be ready for physical battle!” Now obviously, I took incredible liberties there to highlight the difference I see in how the NIV translation understands this dialogue. Part of the reason the NIV does this is because of the larger story of the disciples misunderstanding Jesus’ teachings, asking wrong questions, and of course the fact they are not known to defend themselves at all after Jesus’ resurrection. Either way, the only practical implication with the NIV’s rendering is you have a slightly more pacifistic teaching from Jesus. But the fact Jesus is going to the cross, that the disciples will be scattered, and the fact other will followers of Christ will suffer isn’t altered in the least. This is how we navigate the truths of scripture. Our interpretations need be grounded in sound reading, theology, and scholarship. But some of how read individual passages must be tentative, with recognitions that sound like,“It seems to me Jesus is saying this.” There are other scriptures, on other hand, that are unequivocal in their meaning. Certainly the great teachings of scripture are plainly repeated so that, in the midst of many interpretations of particular passages, the great truths of scripture, and the great Truth of the Gospel is abundantly clear and not up for reasonable debate.