25 February 2021
Sydney College of Divinity congratulates James Arblaster on being awarded the 2020 SCD Centre for Gospels and Acts Research (CGAR) Essay Prize for his essay, “Not Peace, but a Sword: Exegetical Reflections on Matthew 10:34-39”.
In Matthew 10, Jesus is about to come to the end of commissioning his disciples to go and preach that the kingdom of heaven is near, and to provide greetings of peace to each household they encounter, when suddenly he takes a sharp turn. “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth,” he proclaims.1 “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”. If we were to take Jesus at his word, then the remainder of this paragraph could be the grim words of a dangerous cult leader. Jesus claims that he came to sow significant family division, even enmity. He claims that those who are worthy of him will love him above all else, and that those who die for his sake will find life. Unlike its ‘double tradition’ equivalent in Luke (12.51ff), which uses the softer word ‘division’, Matthew’s Jesus embraces the violent connotations of ‘sword’. The effect of Matthew’s rhetorical choice remains so powerful that one contemporary university professor used Mt 10.34 to claim that Christianity can justify either peace or violence. These words in Mt 10.34 are “conveniently forgotten” in a contemporary whitewashing of Christianity as a “peaceful religion”. As most Christians in contemporary Australia live a comfortable and unchallenged existence, what is the challenge of Jesus’ words for contemporary discipleship?
The CGAR Essay Prize is awarded annually for the essay deemed to be the most excellent amongst those tendered for consideration. Essays considered were those submitted in 2020, on a Gospels or Acts topic, as an assessment towards any SCD course, and received a distinction or high distinction score.
The CGAR Essay Prize was introduced in 2017 and the past recipients were Mr Jason Israel (2017), Mrs Pamela Reed (2018), and Ms Anna Vagias (2019).