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Christianity and the Martial Arts - The First Known Weapon

Updated on February 10, 2013

Genesis 3:24: So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Man has fallen. A part of the punishment for his disbelief was banishment from the Garden of Eden. And to make sure they could not return, God placed armed "guardian angels" around the Garden to secure the Tree of Life.

We could go into a great theological debate as to the angels' purpose and why an all knowing, all powerful God would need a guard for the Garden. But we are not looking at the theology aspects here, but the martial aspects, i.e. the first known weapon of war, and martial arts.

We note the angels had a "flaming sword." Here, again, we could have a theological debate centered on another lesser important, but equally an unanswerable question; "Why does an angel need a sword?" Study may help one understand these two questions better, but the fact remains, God did order it done and men of faith have accepted it. So we move on to the results of this faith, of which many put into art form, a universal language.

Frescoes and paintings depict Michael the Archangel in several battles with Satan. Probably one of the most famous is Raphael "Michael vanquishing Satan." In this picture, Michael has both a spear and a sword. (We'll get to the spear next time.)

Guido Rini's painting shows Michael with a sword only. Throughout the art world, one can find many variations of this battle between "good and evil." And the sword is very much a part of the works, which is our point, no pun intended. The sword has existed at least since man came on the scene.

So we have mankind dismissed from the Garden and their return to it is barred by angels with flaming swords.

But still, what would this sword mean to Adam and Eve? Why would a sword generate fear, or how would they know what a sword could do? To this point in their history, war did not exist, at least here on Earth. We must reflect back a few verses to Genesis 3:17-21 to find some direction.

But, first, we must understand the Hebrew meaning of "sword" used here, Hebrew being the text language of the Old Testament.

The meaning can be that which quickly comes to mind when we hear the word "sword," but a truer meaning would be "a cutting instrument" from the Hebrew word "chereb" (OT2717 in your concordance). This would include a sword, but would also include a "knife" which is more prominent in the definition. As with many compound or dual-meaning words of the Bible, context defines the object. Here we see angels with short bladed swords, but they may also be long bladed knives. There is no conflict, except in perception. So now to our verses and definitions, its time to theorize.

In Genesis 3:17-19, God addresses the finality of death. In verse 20, Adam calls his wife the mother of all living. In verse 21, man dresses in animal skins. And here we present our theory, as do most highly respected theologians in this area. But we will not be as dogmatic, just conversational and thought provoking.

We believe that the words of verse 17-19 in some way relate to the death of sacrificial animals and that Adam was here instructed and executed the first sacrifices. And he did it with a knife.

Verse 20 is his apology for causing death to come into play in the world. The knife and sacrifices of innocent animals is his constant reminder of his disobedience. But as he is the "cause of death," he also aptly gives his wife a name to support her mission. Eve is designated the giver of life. And, as God aptly stated in verse 14, she would bear the savior of the world.

Verse 21 has God showing mankind how to make clothing, probably out of the skins from Adams the sacrifices

In all this, we see the "sword" in play. Adam learned the ability of the knife from personal use. He saw the angel with the sword and got the message. "You are no longer welcome in my Garden. If you try to enter, there will be judgement, death." But he had learned obedience in this area as we see no attempt by him to regain Utopia.

The sword was first presented as an instrument for redemption. It is also a constant reminder that man lost Paradise by disobedience.

Again, much of the above is theory. However, the "sword" was real. It does exist. And it was promoted, in its first use, in this world, as a weapon of defense. But, like many God-given items, it was changed by many to a weapon of war. Yet, it remains the first named weapon of martial arts in the Bible.

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