Monday, January 07, 2013

Gun Control and Scripture

The earliest historical record of arms control actually predates guns. The Philistines implemented a weapons control regime in order to suppress the Israelites:
1 Samuel 13:19-20
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, "Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:" but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
The law given to Israel, however, did not place any restriction on weapons for the people. The law did actually restrict the kings of Israel. It stated:
Deuteronomy 17:14-20
When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
The king was not only not to multiply wives to himself, but he also was not to multiply horses to himself, or to sell the Israelites into slavery in Egypt.

However, the king was required to be familiar with the law of God. In fact, there was no command for ordinary Jews to copy out the law, but each king was supposed to make a copy of the law, which the priests/the Levites were maintaining.

Amongst those provisions of the law, was the provision that no laws should be added or diminished from the laws given. Thus, from a strictly Old Testament view, gun control (or any weapon control) laws are improper.

What does the New Testament say?

The New Testament does not contain any significant new instruction for the civil magistrate on this point. In instructing his disciples, Jesus cautioned against reliance on the sword (as we will see below). Nevertheless, Jesus did exhort purchase of a sword:
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.
Furthermore, it is clear that at least Simon Peter carried a sword:
John 18:10-11
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
Notice that Jesus' response was not, "sell thy sword, knowest thou not that swords are evil." Rather, Jesus' comment merely advised Peter that it was not the time for swords to be used.

The parallel account in Matthew states:
Matthew 26:51-52
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
But notice that even in this account of Jesus' comment (which has sometimes been taken as meaning that swords never have a place), he is telling Simon Peter to sheath his sword, not to discard it or sell it.

The Psalms provide us with a good example of the proper regard we should have for weapons:
Psalm 44:6
For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.
Finally, returning to the subject of the civil magistrate, it is clear from the New Testament that the civil magistrate continues to have authority to use weapons:
Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
In short, the government rightly has weapons and we are, as a general rule, to obey them -- not just because of the weapons, but also because we are conscience bound to obey the ministers of God.


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