The Epistle of Jude is an earnest warning against false teachers with a strong denunciation of them. In Judges 1:12-13
the writer uses one metaphor after another to depict the falseness, sensuality, and apostasy of these men. The list ends with ‘wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved for ever.’ ἀστέρες πλανῆται are words used to distinguish the planets from the fixed stars; but the regular motion of the planets would supply no fit comparison for the author’s idea, and we must rather see a reference to meteors or shooting stars, whose sudden and terrifying appearance, rapid transit, and speedy disappearance into a darkness rendered more intense by contrast would be a fitting picture of the short-lived fame and hurtful influence of the false teachers, and a prediction of that abyss of darkness into which they were hurrying.
Of the three great Asiatic religions which have poured into Europe, the youngest has never found any difficulty about war; to Islam war is a power, not a problem. The Qur’ân sanctions and enjoins warfare upon non-Muslims as part of the propaganda of the mission. To ‘fight in God’s way,’ i.e. on a, jihad, or holy war, is a pious duty, and the Muhammadan who falls in battle against the infidels is ipso facto a martyr.
‘Say, “Fighting therein
is a great sin; but turning folks off God’s way, and misbelief in Him and in the Sacred Mosque, and turning His people out therefrom, is a greater in God’s sight; and sedition is a greater sin than slaughter” ’ (Qur’an, tr. E. H. Palmer, ii. 213); ‘What ails you that ye do not fight in God’s way, and for the weak men and women and children?’ (iv. 76); ‘O thou prophet! urge on the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty patient men, they shall conquer two hundred’ (viii. 67); ‘When ye meet those who and bind fast the bonds!’ (xlvii. 4); ‘O thou prophet! fight strenuously against the misbelievers and hypocrites and be stern towards them; for their resort is hell, and an evil journey shall it be’ (lxvi. 9).
In practice toleration of infidels has been not uncommon, partly owing to political considerations, but in theory the ‘curse and smite’ policy is put forward.
Muhammad held up Joshua for the admiration of his followers as a model fighting captain of the Lord, and in ancient Israel also war was sanctioned by religion. Jahweh was a ‘man of war,’ and Israel fought their way from the Red Sea into freedom. ‘He teacheth my hands to war’ (Psalms 18:34
) is the proud, grateful word of David, or of the community voicing the Davidic ideal. But the altered political situation after the Exile had re-set the primitive and naive view of war (cf. HDB v. 635 f.). In Judaism the Semitic custom which determined the relation of the people to war as tolerated, or even under certain circumstances enjoined, by the principles of their faith, as an enterprise for which warriors were consecrated before they fought at all, had undergone a change at the period when Christianity arose in Palestine. Even earlier, in a battle-song like the 68th psalm, militarism is abjured: ‘Scatter thou the people that delight in war’ (Psalms 68:30
). Judaism, before Christianity, abhorred aggressiveness and discouraged military rapacity. The Hebrews warred in later days for the defence of their religion and country rather than for aggrandizement. But even the older conception of a theocracy under arms for the defensive, which had flashed up brilliantly in the Maccabaean wars (cf. 2 Maccabees 15:15
f.) against a corrupt and domineering civilization, had given place to a fairly general repudiation of revolt against the Romans-a repudiation which the authorities, who were passivists, voiced for more or less prudential reasons. ‘The Zealot and the “passivist” were really agreed on the general principle, but they differed on the question of expediency. The former would exercise his military rights at once, while the latter would wait for God to take the initiative’ (S. J. Case, ‘Religion and War in the Graeco-Roman World,’ in AJTh xix.
190). Pious Jews were not agreed whether they were bound to start the rebellion which would inaugurate the armed intervention of Messiah or whether they were to wait for His orders or even whether He would not do all the fighting for them. At the same time, the working compromise at the opening of the 1st cent. a.d. covered hot ashes, which might flame up; two elements still survived in Jewish religion-the intractable passion for national freedom and supremacy which was represented in an extreme form by the Zealots, and the strain of militant messianism which glowed in apocalyptic circles.* The problem of Christianity’s relation to war, during the primitive period, is partly determined by these two factors in the contemporary situation. We must therefore begin by taking account of their bearing upon the ideas and practice of the early Church.
1. The teaching and practice of Jesus in relation to war.-The religion of Jesus was never intended to spread by force of arms. So much is clear from the teaching of the Gospels. He never aimed at heading a Galilaean revolt against the Roman power, and in fact. He explicitly discouraged all attempts to exploit His personality and influence for nationalistic ends. He deliberately disappointed such hopes. It is a fair verdict that some sections of His teaching cannot be understood (cf. H. M. Hughes, in ExpT xxvii.
151 f.; K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, London, 1911, p. 392 f., The Stewardship of Faith, London, 1915, p. 30 f.) apart from the theories of the Zealots or the dagger-men of the age (cf. DAC i. 103; H. B. Sharman, The Teaching of Jesus about the Future, Chicago, 1909, p. 113 f.), whom He implicitly repudiates. He is not an Essene, opposed to war, but He is not a Zealot. One of His disciples, Simon, had originally belonged to that party, but Jesus evidently had offered him a nobler outlet for his enthusiasm. The mere fact that He stood aloof from such aspirations must have seemed intensely unpatriotic, even to the Pharisees. Josephus is speaking more as a pro-Roman than as a Pharisee when he argues that, as the Jews have never succeeded in war, they are evidently meant by God to be pacifists (see below), but the Pharisaic party practically acted on a policy of inaction. They opposed the Zealots. Only, they opposed Jesus even more.
‘At great political crises he who opposes the patriots is not so likely to be considered their worst foe, as he who ignores them. It was not that our Lord preached submission to Rome, though no doubt the decision as to the tribute money was capable of being represented in that light-it was that He raised a spirit which moved in another plane than that of resistance or submission to imperial power. He created a weapon (it would seem) and withheld it from the service of the State. It will be found, in genera], that no other treason is felt so deadly as this. To use power against the State is penal;-to hold power, and not use it for the State, is, to the zealot for the State, far more hateful. Christ would neither join the alliance with worldly power, nor the fanaticism of revolt against worldly power.’†
And, as Jesus declined to be drawn into any revolutionary movement of His own nation, as He ‘withdrew’ (John 6:15
) when an enthusiastic crowd of Galilaeans would have forcibly made a king of Him, as He seems to have shown no sympathy with the Galilaeans whom Pilate had ruthlessly murdered (Luke 13:1-2
), so He withheld His own party from resenting by force any attack or outrage on themselves. When the Jew would retaliate, if he could, and take up arms against any foreign power which violated his religious scruples or profaned his sacred possessions, the disciple of Jesus was to suffer patiently and passively. Neither hot word nor quick blow was to defend His faith. Like the great prototype of their Leader, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, His followers were to let their throats be cut, unresisting sheep as they were, butchered by the cruel knife (cf. Romans 8:35-36
In the apocalyptic address of the Synoptic tradition the disciples in Judaea are warned that they will ‘hear of wars and rumours of wars’ (Mk, Mt; ‘of wars and disturbances,’ Lk); but they are not to be scared. Why? Because this does not mean the end of all things yet. Mark and Matthew regard these terrors as the first stage of the end, while Luke, who omits the apocalyptic ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων ταῦτα, rather suggests that they are simply prior to the end; but in either case the outlook is the same. There will be international strife as well as physical catastrophes. But Christians are never for a moment supposed to take any part in the former; it is a clash of pagan powers. In the invasion of Judaea the disciples will suffer, but they are bidden withdraw to the hills and leave Jerusalem to its fate, since the ‘City of Peace’ had failed to recognize ‘the things that belonged to’ her true peace. There is no active rôle for them in this grim prelude of the final tragedy. It is now the period of the end, but they have no concern with the issue between Jews and Romans; it will be a miserable time, throbbing with social anarchy and the horrors of an invasion, with convulsions and delusions, but soon the Son of Man will appear to muster His non-combatant elect for safety and bliss, lifting them right out of the jarring, untoward world. It was not His design to ‘restore the kingdom to Israel’ (Acts 1:6
). He had no faith in the nationalistic fury and programme of Judaism. He foresaw a catastrophe, and His regulations for the disciples were made in view of a crisis, not only for the Jews but for the universe.
When the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans was imminent, the local Christians did withdraw to Pella. Whether this was in consequence of the apocalyptic oracle preserved in the Synoptic tradition, or whether this oracle reflects to some extent the course of affairs, it is not easy to say. The main point of interest for us here is the interpretation of the spirit of Jesus upon which the primitive Church acted, and out of which this apocalyptic address arose. The Palestinian Christians disavowed any connexion with the national cause of Judaism. The vultures were gathering over the corpse of Jewish nationalism. Why should they linger beside it? It is possible that this policy was not adopted unanimously; the language of Matthew 24:10-12
may hint at Jewish Christians who, in the excitement of the crisis, took a more popular line. ‘The Jewish war saw at least one Essene heading the rebels, and others in the ardent ranks of the Sicarii and the Zealots’ (ERE v. 400). If the stress of war produced this cleavage in the ranks of the pacific Essenes, it may have had a similar effect upon the local Christians. But the majority, or at any rate the vital section, must have been those who fled to Pella and abandoned Jerusalem to its fate. That policy of abstention from the use of force in aid of Jerusalem or in defence of themselves against persecution may have been trying, but it was thoroughly consonant with the trend of the teaching of Jesus. Under no circumstances did He contemplate any active measures on the part of His disciples as patriots or as attacked persons. The position of affairs indeed ruled out a militant attitude. The eschatological outlook rendered the downfall of Jerusalem a foregone conclusion, and in this way made for quietism. Besides, His kingdom was not of this world; no Christians who had understood His instructions could dream of allying themselves with the dagger-men in Jerusalem or even with the loyalist Jews who manned the walls of the city so heroically, in the spirit, though not with the success, of their ancestors who faced pagans with ‘the high praises of God on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hands’ (Psalms 149:6
). As for self-defence, His own word in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:52-54
) to the disciple who impulsively struck with a sword was sufficient: ‘Put your sword back into its place; all who draw the sword shall die by the sword. What! do you think I cannot appeal to my Father to furnish me at this moment with over twelve legions of angels? Only, how could the scriptures be fulfilled then-the scriptures that say this must be so?’ He had already told the disciples that they were being sent out like sheep among wolves, defenceless against any brutal attack; He had censured the Elijah-spirit in the two disciples who were indignant at the churlish behaviour of a Samaritan village; He had bidden His followers face arrest, ill-treatment, and death itself, rather than be untrue to their confession; and the refusal of armed help for Himself was only the climax of the regulations which He had laid down for their conduct.*
These regulations were followed by the early Church. There was never any serious fear of armed rebellion on the part of Christians against the Roman power. From St. Paul onwards responsible Christian teachers inculcated submission to the legal authorities. Christians had to accept civil government as they had to accept the weather in the world of God. Towards the end of the 1st cent. the insane suspicions of Domitian led him to arrest some grandsons of Judas the brother of Jesus, on the ground that rumour connected the descendants of David with a revolutionary movement. But, when he found they were horny-handed sons of toil, simple peasants of Palestine, instead of turbulent Jews or influential agitators, and when he heard that Christ’s kingdom was a pious dream of the far future, he dismissed the alleged revolutionaries with contempt (Eus. HE iii. 20). Malicious cries might be raised by the Jews that these Christians were overt agitators, setting up ‘another king, called Jesus’ (Acts 17:7
); but the conduct of the Christians disarmed suspicion as a rule. It is true that in the 2nd cent. Christianity did seem often to the authorities to be a secret, immoral, Eastern society, which might be harbouring political designs. But, whenever investigations were made, the idea of a political menace disappeared. Although the Christians were still regarded as adherents of a perverse superstitio, i.e. a religion which was not the Roman religion, they were steadily drawing away from the Jews, and this helped to clear their character, so far as the suspicion of rebellion went. Whoever were ‘assidue tumultuantes,’ it was not they. The authorities did not know much about Jesus, but they knew plotters when they saw them, and Christians had little difficulty in establishing their peaceful character. To the Romans both Jews and Christians seemed obstinate creatures. Only, Jewish obstinacy would seethe into rebellion now and then; the Christians merely offered a passive resistance. When they were afterwards put to death for high treason, it was not because they rose in armed revolt. The charge of disloyalty did not rest upon their disposition to fight for themselves. Their Jesus had not come to draw the sword.† What they believed about His policy is well expressed in this beautiful description from the 2nd cent. Epistle to Diognetus (7): ‘Was He
sent, as one might suppose, to set up a sovereign rule, to make men fear and shudder? By no means. He sent Him in gentleness and meekness,* as a king might send his royal son; He sent Him as God, sent Him as a man to men, sent Him to save, to use not force but persuasion-for force is no attribute of God (βία γὰρ οὐ πρόσεστι τῷ θεῷ). He sent Him to summon, not to persecute; sent Him to love, not to judge.’ There is a slight flavour of sentimentalism in these words, but, so far as they go, they are adequate and accurate. It is the Fourth Evangelist who says that Jesus set Himself to win the heart of the world (‘he that hath the bride is the bridegroom’), but the truth that Jesus came to reign by other powers than those of the sword is written over all the Gospels.
It is in the Lucan writings, not only in Acts (cf. S. Buss, Roman Law and History in the NT, London, 1901, p. 322 f.) but in the third gospel as compared with Mark and Matthew, that the most numerous references to war and the army are to be met. Luke, e.g., not only omits the disarming rebuke of Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:52
), but (i.) preserves the tradition that John the Baptist, instead of ordering the soldiers† who consulted him to leave the army, merely told them that it was their duty to abstain from what was called concussio, or the ill-treatment of civilians, i.e. from extorting money by violence‡ and making false charges; they were also to be content with their pay (Luke 3:14
). The negative part of the counsel (μηδένα διασείσητε μηδὲ συκοφαντήσντε) is not quite clear. The ‘violence’ may mean overbearing poor civilians, and soldiers had many opportunities of taking such unfair advantage, not only in war but in the police-duties which they discharged during a peace. If extorting money by threats is pot covered by διασείσητε, it is embraced by συκοφαντήσητε, which also could connote rough treatment, as is plain from the Passio S. Perpetuae (iii.), where the hapless martyrs are exposed not only to privations in gaol but to hard usage from their guard of soldiers (στρατιωτῶν συκοφαντίαις πλείσταις). The soldiers bullied the prisoners, in order to get money from them for certain privileges and slight relaxations of the prison regime. The general sense of John’s advice is therefore plain, and the point is that, if John the Baptist was not a Theudas, he was not a ‘pacifist.’ Furthermore, among the special parables, or rather illustration’s, of St. Luke’s gospel, we find (ii.) the only§ military one (Luke 14:31-32
) which Jesus is recorded to have spoken. It is an illustration of forethought and deliberation. ‘What king sets out to fight against another king without first sitting down to deliberate whether with ten thousand men he can encounter the king who is attacking him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, when the other is still at a distance, he will send an embassy to do homage to him.’ The prudent action of Toi, King of Hamath, as told in the LXX text of 2 Samuel 8:9
f. (cf. H. St. John Thackeray, in JThSt xiv.
389-399), is an OT illustration, if not a source, of the parable. But this analogy is as old as Socrates. When Glaukon asked him how it was possible to enrich a State at the expense of its enemies, he replied that it was quite possible if the State first made sure that it was stronger; otherwise, it would run the risk of losing what it already possessed. ‘Consequently, when one will consider with whom he may fight, he must find out his own State’s strength and the strength of his opponents, so that, if the force of his State be superior, he may counsel aggressive measures, whereas, if it be inferior to its opponents, he may advise caution’ (Xen. Mem. iii. 6, 8; and again in iv. 2, 29). A third item (iii.) in St. Luke’s contribution to the martial aspect of the gospel-story is the detailed reference to the siege-operations of the Roman army when it invested Jerusalem in the war of a.d. 67-70 (Luke 19:39-43,
‘a time is coming for you when your enemies will throw up ramparts round you and encircle you and besiege you on every side and raze you and your children within you to the ground, leaving not one stone upon another’; also Luke 21:20,
where the apocalyptic allusion of Mk. and Mt. to Daniel 12:11
is replaced by the concrete and historical ‘Jerusalem surrounded by armies’). This, like the sentence in Matthew 22:7
(where the Roman στρατεύματα are agents of God’s retribution on His disobedient people, as the Assyrians had been in Isaiah 10:4,
etc.), is a water-mark of the date of the gospels. But the outstanding item (iv.) is the puzzling bit of conversation just before Jesus and His disciples left the upper room for Gethsemane, a fragment of tradition preserved by St. Luke (Luke 22:35-38
) alone. ‘And he said to them, “When I sent yon out* with neither purse nor wallet nor sandals, did you want for. anything?” “No,” they said, “for nothing” (Luke 22:35
). Then He said to them, “But he who has a purse must take it now (ἀλλὰ νῦν), and the same with a wallet; and he who has no sword must sell his coat and buy one (Luke 22:36
). For I tell you, this word of scripture must be fulfilled in me: he was classed among criminals. Yes, there is an end to all that refers to me (καὶ γὰρ τὸ περὶ ἐμοῦ τέλος ἔχει)” (Luke 22:37
). “Lord,” they said, “here are two swords!” “Enough! enough! (ἱκανόν ἐστι),” He said (Luke 22:38
(a) The least unsatisfactory interpretation is to suppose that Jesus was speaking of the dangers that awaited the disciples in the immediate future, when His arrest and death would alter their circumstances. Formerly, they did not need to provide for themselves. Now, they must look to their livelihood and even their very existence, for neither will be secure. ‘Take your purses and wallets with you now, and equip yourselves with swords.’ We can imagine Jesus uttering these words with a realistic touch of grave suggestiveness. The supreme crisis is at hand. You are going now into an enemy’s country, and you will need to cut your way out of the difficulties created by My death as a so-called criminal. He did not mean literally that they were to use force against force, or to defend themselves against physical attacks; His words were a proverbial and metaphorical expression for alertness in view of the critical situation ahead. But the disciples were too prosaic to catch this meaning. They evidently thought that He intended them to defend Himself and themselves against the Jews; they were armed with a couple of swords or long knives (cf. Luke 22:49
), and they naively hastened to assure Him of their equipment. They pulled out the weapons. Would these do? ‘Enough! enough! that will do!’ Jesus replied, with a sigh and a note of something like irony in His words. It was useless to discuss the matter any further with men who could so misunderstand Him.
This allusive interpretation (‘Totus hic sermo allegoricus est: quasi dicat, “Vixistis adhuc in pace, commilitones, nunc vero hellum instat acerrimum, et caeteris rebus omissis de unis armis cogitandum. Quaenam autem illa sint arma, ipse, quum in horto precarctur et Petrum gladio ferientem reprehenderet, suo exemplo docere maluit, quam importune hoc loco stupidis adhuc et ad res istas non satis attentis discipulis explicare’
), favoured by writers like Strauss and Keim, has been recently defended by Burkitt, in his Gospel History and its Transmission, Edinburgh, 1906, p. 140 f. The words of this passage, he observes, ‘are among the saddest words in the Gospels, and the mournful irony with which they are pervaded seems to me wholly alien from the kind of utterance which a Christian Evangelist would invent for his Master.… It is impossible to believe that the command to buy a sword was meant literally and seriously: it is all a piece of ironical foreboding.’ He adds that the words ‘afford us a very welcome glimpse into the mind of our Lord. They shew us that there was in Him a vein of what I have no other name for but playfulness, a tender and melancholy playfulness indeed, but all the more remarkable that it comes to outward expression in moments of danger and despondency.’ But the passage, even in this light, remains unique. On any interpretation of it, the connexion of the verses is a difficulty. Luke 22:35
f. seem to refer to the future experiences