The sword of Jesus and the sword of Muhammad

A comparative study of Quran 8:12 and Luke 22:36

James M. Arlandson

Muslim apologists over the worldwide web quote Luke 22:36 in which Jesus says that if his disciples do not have a sword, they should sell their cloak and buy a sword. Therefore, why would Christians complain about jihad and the sword in Islam since Jesus endorses its use?

The reasoning of the Muslim apologists is completely flawed because they take the verse in Luke out of context. In truth, they want to divert attention away from the violence in Muhammad’s life and in his Quran and misdirect it to the life of Jesus—which does not include any physical violence whatsoever; neither did he tell his disciples to engage in violence.

On the other hand, Sura or Chapter 8:12 in the Quran relates directly to physical and literal warfare—one of many, many verses throughout the Quran that speak of battles and killing.

To understand the differences in the two verses in the two sacred Books, we follow a specific method of exegesis (detailed analysis of a text).

First, the two verses are quoted from reputable translations, and sometimes from several translations to get the fuller meaning of a word or clause.

Second, the historical context of each verse is examined, so that we do not take them in isolation and so we can therefore reach a clearer meaning.

For the third step, we either quote or summarize the literary context—the verses surrounding our two target verses—in order to clarify their meaning.

These second and third steps are important in our analysis of Sura 8:12 to prevent the standard, reflexive "out of context" defense of Muslim apologists when they see the violence that inheres in the verse. Also, these apologists take Luke 22:36 out of context, but this leads to all sorts of confusion. The context determines and clarifies the meaning of any verse.

Fourth, to interpret Sura 8:12 and Luke 22:36, we analyze key components within the verses or the larger literary contexts.

Finally, we will be in a position to contrast early Islam and early Christianity, so we will see the utter differences between the two religions on the subject of violence.

Sura 8:12 has been selected as a counter-verse to Luke 22:36 because either the verses themselves or their larger historical and literary contexts mention swords and angels. However, as we will see, both verses diametrically oppose each other, once we understand them in context.

Sura 8:12

The first step in our exegetical method is to quote the verse from a reputable translation. MAS Abdel Haleem (The Qur’an, Oxford UP, 2004) translates Sura 8:12 as follows:

8:12 Your [Muhammad’s] Lord revealed to the angels: "I am with you: give the believers firmness; I shall put terror into the hearts of the disbelievers. Strike above their necks and strike their fingertips."

The second step in our exegetical method is to examine the historical context of Sura 8:12. No scholar doubts the historical context of Sura 8—it was revealed after the unexpected victory of the Muslims over the much-larger Meccan army at the wells of Badr, some seventy to eighty miles west of Medina, Muhammad’s new city since 622. Taking place in March 624, the Battle of Badr pitted about 320 Muslims against around 1000 Meccans who had marched north to protect their large caravan returning south from Syria, laden with goods. To intercept and capture this caravan would relieve the financial strains of the fledgling Muslim community in Medina. Also, it would weaken the Meccans who had soundly rejected Muhammad two years earlier. However, the Meccans heard of Muhammad’s plan to attack their caravan, so they mustered a force and marched north. Surprisingly, Muhammad won the battle and collected the goods and returned to Medina, believing that Allah saved the weak Muslim community (Sura 8:26, 30, 72).

Some Muslims argued over how to divide the spoils (Sura 8:1), but Allah tells his prophet that he gets twenty percent for himself and for his close relatives and orphans and other needy people (v. 41); the remaining eighty percent were to be divided among all others who had participated in the battle. Now his financial standing in Medina improved immeasurably, as well as his social standing. It was at this time that he ordered some of his enemies to be assassinated.

Thus, all of Sura 8 reveals the elation of a real-life, historical military victory, and Muhammad presses home this victory, as we now see in the literary context—the verses surrounding Sura 8:12.

The third step in our exegetical method is to explore the literary context of Sura 8:12, in this case vv. 5-14. These verses show Muhammad reveling in victory and promising all unbelievers the same fate as the defeated Meccans. For example, in vv. 7-8, he admits that his Muslims wanted the unarmed group (the caravan), but Allah gave them that group as well as the army in order to prove the "Truth to be true and the false to be false" (v. 8). This demonstrates that Muhammad connected military power with the spread of the truth or Islam—always a dubious connection. Next, in v. 9 Allah promised Muhammad reinforcements of "a thousand angels in succession." This gave Muhammad the hope of victory. Finally, vv. 13-14 say that anyone who opposes Allah and his messenger would get the same punishment that the Meccans got: "‘That is what you get! Taste that!’—and the torment of the Fire awaits the disbelievers" (v. 14). This is standard deduction in the Quran. Hell is for losers.

The historical and literary contexts, then, reveal that Allah helps Muhammad with angels, that his military victory demonstrates the truth of Islam and the falsehood of polytheism, and that the unbelievers go to hell. Clearly, Muhammad’s victory wins him respect and even fear from the inhabitants of Medina.

The fourth step in our exegetical process is to analyze and interpret key elements in Sura 8:12, which reveal three bloody truths. First, the verb "to strike" (three-letter root is D-r-b) is used two times: "strike above their necks" and "strike their fingertips." Some translations exceed the fingertips and say: "fingers and toes" (Hilali and Khan); "every joint of their bodies" (Maududi); "every pore and tip (Zafrulla Khan); and "every joint" (Ahmed Ali). Though Maududi’s translation is probably the original intent of the verse, the goal was to incapacitate the enemy so that he cannot fight again. Second, striking "above" the neck seems misplaced, but Yusuf Ali in his short comment on the verse says that the sword should strike "on the neck, face or head," which "finishes him off." So we must not take the preposition "above" too literally, unless Muhammad meant the head or the face. Regardless, the enemy would have died.

Third and finally, Allah sends Muslim angels to fight either for or with the Muslim humans. Their purpose is to put "terror" into the hearts of the unbelievers. Did these angels actually fight or just help the Muslims by their sides?

S. Abdul A’la Maududi holds the opinion that the Muslim angels merely helped the Muslims:

[T]he angels were not employed directly to take part in fighting and killing, but probably they were used to help the Muslims in making their strokes hard and effective. But the true knowledge is with Allah. (The Meaning of the Qur’an, vol. 2, pp. 133-34)

This last line is a polite way of saying that he really does not know, but favors the belief that the Muslim angels did not actually hit the Meccans. But the Muslim angels made sure that the sword strokes were "hard and effective."

On the other hand, Egyptian radical and godfather of modern jihadist movements Sayyid Qutb says that Muslim angels did strike the unbelievers, but he does not know the details.

God also ordered them to strike the unbelievers over their necks and strike off their fingertips. So they did all this, but in a fashion unknown to us. (In the Shade of the Qur’an, vol. 7, p. 85)

Hence, these two prominent modern commentators go in opposite directions, so they have not decided the question. What did the first generation of Muslims think?

More important than Maududi and Qutb are the earliest Muslims who witnessed the Battle or who heard from firsthand testimony. Bukhari (AD 810-870) collected the most reliable traditions and edited them in his hadith (words and actions of Muhammad outside of the Quran).

Narrated Rifa’a who was one of the warriors who participated in the battle: Jibril (Gabriel) came to the Prophet and said: "How do you look upon the warriors of (the battle of) Badr among yourselves?" The Prophet said, "As the best of the Muslims," or a similar statement. On that Jibril said, "And so are the angels who participated in (the battle of) Badr." (5:3992)

However, this report does not say how exactly the angels participated. Did they strike the necks and the fingertips?

Next, Bukhari offers this report from Ibn Abbas, Muhammad’s cousin, who is considered a highly reliable source for the hadith:

Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet said on the day (of the battle) of Badr, "This is Jibril (Gabriel) holding the head of his horse and equipped with arms for the battle." (5:3995).

But this report does not say how the angels participated, so Maududi’s words fit the uncertainty: "But the true knowledge is with Allah."

Regardless of these inconclusive opinions, they have been briefly cited and discussed as a contrast to the Gospels. Jesus had at his disposal during his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane more than twelve legions of angels, or more than 72,000, but he did not call on them to wage jihad on unbelievers (Matt. 26:53). Rather, he went to the cross and died a physical death in order to ransom the entire world from its sins.

To sum up our interpretation of Sura 8:12, then, this verse is one of many that are found in the context of physical warfare and bloodshed. Muhammad is promised the help of Muslim angels who put terror in the hearts of the Meccans. But it is unclear from the Muslim sources and commentators whether these angels or the Muslims struck above the necks and cut off the fingers. Historically and in reality, this was done by the Muslims. But even if we assume, contrary to fact, that angels either slaughtered or helped the Muslims to slaughter sinners and polytheists, Sura 8:12, as we will see, diametrically opposes Luke 22:36. History demonstrates that Jesus never waged jihad on sinners or unbelievers—he did not even swing a sword—and he died for the polytheists whom Allah’s holy soldiers killed.

Before leaving this section, if the readers would like to see the Quranic verse in multiple translations, they should go here and type in the reference, like so: 8:12. Typing in the larger context (8:1-14) is interesting as well. Readers should keep in mind the historical context of the Sura, and the verses will then make sense.

Luke 22:36

This brings us to Luke 22:36, and we use the same four exegetical steps, ending with a contrast between early Islam and early Christianity, the fifth and final step.

The first step is to use a reputable translation. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is a translation done by a team of international scholars, and it is respected throughout the English-speaking world.

22:36: [Jesus] said to them, "But now the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag; and the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one."

The second step in the exegetical method is to examine the historical context of Luke 22:36. For three years Jesus avoided making a public, triumphal entry of his visits to Jerusalem because he understood that when he set foot in the holy city in this way, he would fulfill his mission to die, in a death that looked like one of a common criminal, just as Isaiah the prophet had predicted hundreds of years before (Isaiah 53:12). He needed to complete his work outside of Jerusalem. Now, however, Jesus finally enters it a few days before his arrest, trial and crucifixion, all of which he predicted. Religious leaders were spying on him (Luke 20:20) and asked him trick questions, so they could incriminate him. These insincere questions, though they were also asked before he entered the city, increased in frequency during these compacted tense days. But he answered impressively, avoiding their traps. Despite the tension, each day Jesus taught in the temple, and crowds gathered around him, so the authorities could not arrest him, for fear of the people. Judas volunteered to betray him, saying that he would report back to the authorities when no crowd was present (Luke 22:1-6).

As Passover drew near, Jesus asked some of his disciples to prepare the Last Supper. He elevated the bread and the wine, representing his body and blood, which was broken and shed for the sins of the world in the New Covenant (Luke 22:7-20). However, during the meal, Judas slipped out to search for the authorities because he knew that it was the custom of Jesus to go to the Mount of Olives to pray (Luke 21:37), and that night would be no different.

At this point we pick up the literary context of Luke 22:36 (bold print), the third step in our exegetical method. He is eating the supper on the night he was betrayed. The context needs to be quoted in full (Luke 22:35-38):

        35 [Jesus] asked them [the eleven apostles], "When I sent you out without a purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"
        They said, "No, not a thing."

        36 He said to them, "But now the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled."
        38 They [the disciples] said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."
        "It is enough," he replied

This literary context reveals four truths. First, at this time only eleven apostles were present since Judas slipped away to betray Jesus. Second, Jesus contrasts his ministry before his arrival in Jerusalem with the tense few days in Jerusalem when spies and the authorities themselves were seeking to trap him. But does the tension play a part in understanding why he told his disciples to go out and buy swords? This is answered, below. Third, he says that he would be arrested and tried as a criminal, as the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12 predicted. Does this have anything to do with swords? Do criminals carry them around? This too is explained, below. Finally, the words "it is enough" can either be a statement (as it is translated here), or it can be a command: "That’s enough!" That is, "Put away your swords! You’re taking my words too literally!" But regardless of the translation, Jesus clearly has a deeper meaning in mind than the physical swords. What is it?

This last question brings us to the fourth step in our exegetical method. The interpretation of the verse can either follow a literal direction (Jesus intended to fight with swords) or a nonliteral direction (Jesus is using physicals sword to convey a deeper meaning). The surest and clearest direction is the nonliteral one, but first we analyze why the literal one will not fit into Luke 22:34-38 and in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested (Luke 22:39-53).

The first direction, the literal one, is inadequate for four reasons, based on v. 38, which says that two swords are enough.

First, the obvious question is: two swords are enough for what? In Luke 22:35-36, in Jerusalem and at the last meal, Jesus tells his disciples that they should get their purses and bags and bring them with them. Did he tell them to buy a sword to defend their possessions? This is the "self-defense" or the "defense of one’s property" explanation of the swords. At first glance, this explanation has some plausibility, if we were to take only vv. 35-36 out of context. In reply, though, how much money do these eleven apostles have at this time? We do not know, but it was probably not large. But even if it were, Jesus and his new movement (as sociologists of the New Testament call it) received the goodwill offering of some followers, and Luke even names some women supporters (8:4). But Jesus saw no need to protect the money with swords at this time. But did not the last few days in Jerusalem have more tension than his three years outside of Jerusalem? The tension was indeed compacted into a few days, but Jesus frequently had to answer the antagonistic questions of his opponents before his entry into Jerusalem, so his three years was certainly not peaceful all of the time; yet he did not protect the money with swords. And this brings us back to the number of swords that Peter shows Jesus during the last meal. Would two swords be enough to protect the contents of the purses and bags that Jesus now says the disciples should bring with them? No, so clearly the two weapons serve a nonliteral purpose, for the "self-defense" explanation does not fit into the entire context.

Second, if self-defense does not work with the disciples’ property, does it work during the arrest of Jesus that night in the Garden of Gethsemane? Are two swords enough for a physical fight to resist arrest? This is hardly the case because during Jesus’ arrest a disciple (Peter according to John 18:10) took out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (Malchus according to John 18:10). Jesus sternly tells Peter to put away his sword, "No more of this!" and then he heals the servant, restoring his ear (Luke 22:49-51). Resisting arrest cannot be the purpose of the two swords.

Third, were the two swords enough for an armed rebellion to resist the authorities and impose the new Jesus movement in a political and military way? Jesus denounces this purpose in Luke 22:52, as the authorities were in the process of arresting him: "Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs?" (New International Version). The answer is no, as he is seized and led away (22:54). Since this literal interpretation will not work, Jesus intended to teach a deeper meaning than a physical fight with only two physical swords.

Fourth and finally, within two or three decades after the Resurrection (and more), we have no record of the disciples wielding swords. For example, Paul sent Titus, his fellow-worker, with a large offering to Corinth, with the goal of collecting even more money from the Corinthian Christians (2 Cor. 8-9). After that, he and some "brothers" were to transport the money to the church in Jerusalem, which had fallen on hard times. In all of the long distances that the money traveled, there is simply no indication that Titus and the "brothers" protected it with swords. And this is true for other Christian offerings that circulated around the Mediterranean world. In addition, throughout the Book of Acts, which was written by Luke and which depicts Paul and his companions getting beaten and stoned and arrested by the local authorities and some religious opposition, he never defends himself or retaliates with a sword. He is following the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Violence plays no part in the life of the early church. Swords were never envisioned to be swung by the disciples as if the true God would call them to go forth as a military army to kill pagans or force Jews to convert, die, or pay a special tax if they do not convert (Sura 9:1-5; 29).

So the literal interpretation of the two swords will not work in the larger context of Luke 22:36. In contrast to the literal interpretation, the three following nonliteral interpretations work smoothly in context so that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

First, as noted, Jesus reminds the disciples of his mission for them before he arrived in Jerusalem (Luke 9:3; 10:1-17). Did they need a purse, a bag, or extra sandals? No, because people were friendlier, and his opposition was spread out over three years. Now, however, he is in Jerusalem, and he has undergone the compacted antagonism of religious leaders seeking to trap him with self-incriminating words. In addition, when the authorities are not present, they send their spies. The atmosphere is therefore tense, and the two swords—no more than that—symbolize the tension. Jesus’ mission has shifted to a clear danger, and the disciples must take note. However, he certainly did not intend for his disciples to use the swords, as we just saw in the literal interpretation, above, for he is about to tell Peter to put away his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the swords symbolizing tension fits perfectly into the context of Luke 22:36.

Second, by far the clearest purpose of the symbolism of two swords is found in 22:36-37, when Jesus refers to Isaiah’s prophecy (53:12) about being numbered with the lawless in the context of swords. He was destined to be falsely arrested like a criminal, falsely put on trial like a criminal, and even falsely crucified like a criminal. After all, he was hung on the cross between two thieves, which is a further fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 23:32; 39-43). What are criminals known for carrying with them? Weapons, and to be numbered with them Jesus must also have weapons. That is why he said that only two swords would be enough—to fulfill this prophecy in a symbolic way.

A little knowledge of the basics of first-century Greek, the original language of the New Testament, clarifies this interpretation. The Greek word gar (the first word in v. 37, above) means for, whose function and meaning is to explain the preceding clause. Here is an example in English: "I am bringing an umbrella, for it is raining." So the word for explains why I am bringing an umbrella: it is raining. This often works in New Testament Greek, as well. In v. 36 Jesus tells the disciples to buy a sword: "And the one who has no sword must go out and buy one." Why? Jesus explains in the next clause: "For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me" (v. 37). The use of swords outside of official and legal authority represents criminal behavior. Thus, Jesus wants to identify with common criminals as predicted by Isaiah, and two swords alone would suffice. However, Jesus would not let them be used when the time came for his arrest, for he was really not a criminal, but to use them would mean that he would become one; plus, he was destined to die as he himself predicted (Luke 18:31-33). So he immediately stops Peter’s misuse of his sword: "No more of this!" (Luke 22:51). Peter or any follower of Jesus must not use swords to maim or kill sinners, unbelievers, or anyone else.

The third and final symbolic interpretation presents itself in addition to Isaiah’s prophecy and the tense atmosphere in Jerusalem. Jesus frequently used physical objects (seeds, lamps, vineyards, coins, lost sheep and so on) to teach nonphysical, universal truths, and the same is true with the two swords in this passage. Though Luke 22:36 is not a parable, Jesus is about to instruct the disciples, using two physical swords, on how not to behave when they go out into the highways preaching the gospel after his Resurrection. They will not need swords when Jesus is arrested, and they will not need them even if they suffer persecution later on. Hence, the physical swords teach this nonphysical and universal truth based on Jesus telling Peter to put away his sword in the Garden during Jesus’ arrest: no violence should be used to spread the word of the true God. Later tradition supports this interpretation, saying that all of the original apostles but John were martyred as a direct result of persecution (John died from natural causes of old age, but he was imprisoned for his faith on the Island of Patmos), but none of them fought or even tried to fight his way out of his fiery trials with swords. Evidently, the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane made an impression on them. To repeat, that is the message of Jesus when he tells Peter in the Garden, "No more of this!" That is, "Never use a sword again!"

As noted, the early history of the church supports this symbolic meaning of swords in Luke 22:36 in its larger context. In the Book of Acts, which records some of the history of the church after the Resurrection, the disciples never swing a sword. Bloody warfare is excluded as they spread the message of the kingdom of God, throughout the larger Mediterranean world by peaceful proclamation alone.

To sum up, the three symbolic interpretations fit together in both the historical and literary contexts of Luke 22:36. Jesus says that two swords are enough, but clearly they are not sufficient for a physical fight in the Garden of Gethsemane or anywhere else. They are enough, however, to do three symbolic things. First, they embody the tension of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem. Second, they complement Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that he would be numbered among criminals. A mere two swords would nicely fill out the picture of this prophecy, since criminals carried weapons with them. Third, they are enough for Jesus to rebuke Peter when he swings one of them and cuts off Malchus’ ear. Therefore, Jesus uses them as object lessons that the disciples should follow his example and not use swords—they must never swing them to bring about the kingdom of God by a holy war, even in the direst moment of Jesus’ life, his arrest in the Garden.

Peter interpreted Jesus’ words literally, but he was wrong, so Jesus rebuked him. Therefore, we should avoid the same mistaken literal interpretation of "sword" in Luke 22:36, so that we may not receive the same rebuke.

This symbolic use of swords in the Gospel of Luke stands in complete opposition to Muhammad’s real-life use of swords in Sura 8:12 and in many other verses in the Quran.

Early Islam and Early Christianity

Once in a while I get an email from a Muslim who points out that America, a "Christian" nation, uses the sword, so who am I to talk about it? First, we should set aside the complications of defining the US as Christian. Rather, we should note that this comparison leaps over 1,400 and 2,000 years of history. It is always better to compare the founder of a religion and his sacred texts with the founder of another religion and his sacred texts. Jesus and Muhammad should be contrasted, not Muhammad and the US government.

This contrast between the two religions addresses the two topics of angels and the first generation of followers after the death of Muhammad and after the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Sura 8:12 was chosen as a counter-verse to Luke 22:36 because of the swords behind the scenes and because of angels. Sura 8:12 says that Muslim angels helped the Muslims in their bloody holy war. Where does an angel fit into the Gospel of Luke at the end of Jesus’ ministry?

Luke 22:42-44 says that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was in such anguish that an angel came down to minister to him because he was about to take the sins of the whole world on his shoulders. His prayers were so earnest that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (v. 44).

Furthermore, in the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked Peter, after Peter struck the ear off the servant of the high priest:

26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (NIV)

These two verses agree with Luke’s account and add some details. Jesus denounces violence to accomplish the will of God—at least as Peter imagines the will of God. Then Jesus says that he has more than 72,000 true angels at his disposal. This means that he willingly lays down his life and dies for the sins of the whole world. Jesus thus demonstrates that angels will serve a high purpose. They are not involved in slaughtering sinners or unbelievers in bloody battles led by any self-proclaimed human messenger (Sura 3:144).

In contrast, Sura 8:12 says that Muslim angels either hit people with swords or helped Muslims to slaughter people in a war—six hundred years after Christ came to show us a better way. In Islamic theology, Muslim angels may potentially slaughter unbelievers in warfare, though the data on their role at Badr are inconclusive. Per contra in Christian theology, true angels help unbelievers who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14); they are not destined to fight in jihads for the self-declared human messenger of Arabia (Sura 3:144).

We also discussed the first generation of followers in Christianity. The Book of Acts and later accounts demonstrate that they preached the gospel and turned the world upside down without the sword. By the third and fourth centuries, Christianity was spreading to the far corners of the known world by mere words, not sharp weapons—the Emperor Constantine is not foundational to Christianity.

In contrast, the first generation of Muslims used primarily the sword. For example, shortly after Muhammad died of a fever in 632, the tribes who had accepted Islam, or better, who had surrendered to Muhammad's military strength, immediately revolted, for their forced allegiance dissolved upon the death of ‘the prophet.’ The tribes wanted to go back to their old way of life. However, Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s successor, would have none of this and spent the next two years crushing the revolts, successfully. It is no wonder that the Saudi flag has a sword on it today. And as soon as the revolt at home has been put out, the Muslim armies march to conquer neighboring countries for Islam (see, for example, Sir William Muir's "The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline and Fall").

It is true that the Roman Emperor Constantine, Medieval Crusaders, and Protestants and Catholics have used the sword against unbelievers and each other. However, none of them is foundational to Christianity—only Jesus is, and he never endorses the sword to spread his message. Also, Christianity has undergone Reform (c. 1400-1600) and has been put under the pressure of the Enlightenment (c. 1600-1800), which demanded peace. Be that as it may, Jesus himself never calls for military jihad, and only he sets the genetic code for his movement.

On the other hand, Muhammad is foundational for Islam, and he indeed endorses using a sword, and he actually swings one on his frequent military raids and wars. For centuries the spread of Islam was backed by large Muslim armies. This is not a sign of divine approval. The world could have evaluated Islam more positively if it had spread only by peaceful means in Muhammad’s life and in the first centuries after his death. But this is not the case. So the Muslims today are merely following their leader and his Quran. They are not misinterpreting or misapplying their sacred text, for Sura 8:12 (and many other verses) is clear and unambiguous, according to the historical and literary contexts: a physical and sharp sword actually came down hard on the necks and fingers of the Meccans.

Therefore, Muhammad and Jesus are in fact completely different from each other—as different as dark night and bright daylight. Muhammad commands his believers to kill unbelievers with a physical sword, whereas Jesus says to Peter that he must put away his sword, and this teaches Christians today that the word of the true God is not disseminated by violence.

Thus, the Muslim apologists are misusing Luke 22:36 in order to mask the violence coming from Islam, which is inspired by Muhammad and his Quran, the source of Islam. For this reason (and many others), the true God is not backing Islam—from the very beginning in seventh-century Arabia to right now.

Jesus Christ showed us the better way to please God and to get into heaven.

Jesus saves. Muhammad killed.

Sometimes Muslim polemicists point out the wars in the Old Testament and the severe commands of God. But they have been explained and contrasted with Islamic wars in this article and this one. Besides, for Christians, Jesus Christ fulfills this area of the Old Testament and raises our vision to spiritual warfare, waged by preaching and praying, alone. He is our example to follow, and he did not wage military war on anyone, even though, as noted, he had at his disposal twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53).

This article has a companion piece, which may be read here.

Further reading:

  • Did Jesus instruct his followers to buy a sword? This superb, short article is well worth the read. Its conclusions differ somewhat from my article, for his says that it is possible that some early disciples may have carried swords for self-defense. This is a plausible interpretation, though the evidence is sparse. But the broader historical evidence states emphatically that the early Christians never waged a holy war on pagans who refused to convert or on civil authorities who persecuted them. They did not assassinate any opponent for any reason whatsoever, even for composing insult poetry. All of this, in contrast, Muhammad and his followers did, and the historical evidence on this is firm and full.

Copyright (c) by James Malcolm Arlandson and used by permission. Originally published at, and later slightly edited for Answering Islam.

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