For clarity, I shall explain my terms.
“The pen” is a catch-all for language, written or spoken, as well as various linguistic instruments, including the mouth. “The sword” is a catch-all for physical force, and a notable variety of physically forceful instruments, including body parts (as some possess the strength to kill others with their bare hands).
Why do I say the pen trumps the sword?
Scripture Says So
I believe the pen is mightier than the sword most of all because Scripture teaches it:
- For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
- This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: 14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no one remembered that same poor man. 16 Then said I, “Wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good. Ecclesiastes 9:13-18
Solomon included this in his proverbs, Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.—Prov. 18:21
Jesus Christ proclaimed, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
The apostle James expostulated on the power of the tongue (and pen) in James 3:5-8:
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
I don’t expect every reader to accept Scripture as authoritative, so while Scripture is the cornerstone of this position, I shall now pass on to other reasons why the sword is less mighty than the pen.
The Sword Has Only One Function
The sword is solely physically and its one function is the function of destroying. It is a zero-sum instrument.
And whenever “the sword” destroys some thing or some one, many short-sighted persons exclaim: “Well, that proves the sword is mightier than the pen. What protection did a little pen provide from the sword??”
This short-sighted conclusion places too much confidence in the power of the sword. (Ironically, this cannot be stated through the sword; one must state it by the pen.)
First, “the sword” is not invincible. For one, using the sword wears the sword out. I do not recommend frequenting the website Cracked (the writers sink to profanity too much, for one thing); but I will cite an article thereof because it explodes myths about weaponry and fighting:
Here’s the thing about swords, or, really, any blade: When they hit too many hard things, they stop being sharp. [emphasis in original] In real life, those photogenic edge-to-edge parries quickly turn razor-sharp blades into glorified crowbars. They also cause extreme stress to the metal, which can easily snap a blade in half. All of this probably explains why medieval and renaissance fencing manuals devote zero time to the edge-on-edge parry. [...] Check out this video of a Viking-era re-enactment sword fight. Note how physical the contact is, how much they use their shields and how neither of their swords ever make contact:
A reader who thinks, “That’s irrelevant because we don’t use actual swords
anymore; we have more advanced destructive technology,” needs to realize
that this principle holds true for newer weaponry as well:
Using any forceful device will wear out the device.
Any one with experience knows that using a gun puts wear on the gun. Furthermore, it takes skill and wisdom to succeed in using “the sword” (weaponry) to destroy. From a similar Cracked myth-buster:
Movie machine guns turn anyone into a one-man army—stick one in the hands of a protagonist and multiple platoons of trained soldiers will get mowed down like weeds.
In reality, if you do that for more than a couple of minutes, your gun explodes. One of our experienced combat veterans, Jerry, said it’s called a “runaway gun.” Every time a gun—any gun—fires, the barrel heats up a little bit. After all, the bullet is being propelled by a tiny explosion, and it’s creating metal-on-metal friction all the way down the barrel. If you pass a lot of bullets through that barrel in a row without giving it a chance to cool down, the whole gun gets literally red hot.
Hot enough, in fact, that it will eventually start spontaneously igniting (or “cooking off”) the bullets without waiting for you to pull the trigger. Congratulations, you now are holding a possessed machine gun that is randomly spraying bullets on its own.
[...] Now imagine the above happening when you’re, say, running, or have just climbed into a vehicle, or any other situation where you totally don’t want to be shooting a gun at that particular moment (life is actually full of such situations, if you think about it). And that’s the best-case scenario—when the ammunition cooks off, things can get uncomfortably explodey for the man behind the gun.
That’s why, in real life, these fragile, temperamental weapons have to be used in careful coordination—not only is a guy with a machine not not a one-man army, he’s literally not allowed to be—the Marine Corps manual, as one of its first rules of machine gun deployment, states: “No machine gun should be placed in isolation.”
There are many reasons for this, but the unspoken second half of that sentence could well be: “unless you want to catch your own face on fire.”
And using guns (or heavy weaponry) is deafening.
We’ve mentioned before that if you’ve never been right next to a fired gun, you’d be shocked at how loud they are. Like, “loud enough that you can’t hear anything for a bit after it goes off.” Even the way movie theaters crank up the surround sound during action scenes, that doesn’t in any way convey how loud real gunfire is—if it did, it would permanently damage the hearing of everyone in the theater. Gunshots are louder than jackhammers—a 12-gauge shotgun going off in the same room is louder than standing on the tarmac near a jet engine. This is actually a key factor in any firefight, and one that pretty much no movie acknowledges. [...] This is why hearing loss and tinnitus are the single most common injury for returning veterans.
And we’re not even delving into details about recoil and how that can hurt and injure the one firing the gun.
The Sword Diverts Resources (Hello, Rationing!)
A gun cannot fire without ammunition, and it must be fired with accuracy for the firing to be effective. Ammunition is not cheap. Last but not least, the materials and resources neccesary to make and use weaponry are finite. Scarce. Have we not heard of war-time rationing? In order to manufacture and use weaponry, there must be the resources to make the weaponry; and since resources are finite, whatever is used for weaponry can’t be used in other areas of life.
Even using one’s own physical strength has limits and risks. A bully who doubles his fist and punches his victim expends physical strength and uses up his physical strength. Furthermore, those who study boxing and other violent activities know that hitting, punching, kicking, and so on can end up bruising or otherwise injuring one’s own self. This Fighting Arts article elaborates:
It is amazing how many people punch incorrectly. By this we don’t mean using the incorrect type of punch, but instead punching anatomically incorrectly. It should be pretty obvious that the purpose of a punch is to deliver force. And that force is intended to go to your opponent, NOT to yourself.
While the above statement seems obvious, apparently it is NOT. In fact a lot of students, even senior ones, punch incorrectly, and they hurt themselves doing it. The most common injury is what is known as “boxer’s fracture,&rquo; which is a fracture of the long bone that runs across the top of the hand (metacarpal) and/or the knuckle of the little finger and sometimes the ring finger too. The top of the hand is not well supported for the transmission of force because it connects to other bones of the wrist at an oblique angle. Other common injuries include the fracture of the wrist and/or the elbow.
Please don’t think that the boxer’s fracture is one that occurs only in new students or inexperienced fighters. Just the opposite is true. The new and inexperienced person frequently cannot generate the sufficient force to cause a boxer’s fracture, whereas with training the ability to deliver force increases and with it the occurrence of boxer’s fractures. [emphasis added]
[...] You want the force of the punch to go into your opponent, but by Newton’s laws we know that for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thus OUR bodies will absorb as much force as we deliver. Therefore you MUST design a way to disperse the force generated so it doesn’t injure your hand (boxer’s fracture), wrist, elbow or other body part.
A website with fighting advice puts it bluntly: Hands are delicate. You can’t bash them against something over and over again without causing problems. Sore knuckles, sore wrists, bone bruises, inflammation, scraped skin (and thereupon, skin infections...)
(Notwithstanding the risks and drawbacks, I do believe it is worth learning how to use “the sword” for self-defense or the defense of the innocent, when or if the need arise. I strongly advcoate the right to keep and bear arms.)
The Pen is Superior
Using words doesn’t wear out or exhaust the words. Yes, I’m aware that if, say, the words are printed, one must have equipment (ink, presses, paper) to print the words, and the equipment will wear (or run) out, but the words themselves do not “wear out.” When you use words, you haven’t drained the resources of language. If you took a quantity of metal to make weaponry, you have to go without something else that could have been made from that metal; but if you choose ten words to speak a sentence, those words are still readily available for use in other ways.
With the pen, one can destroy, though the destruction is not as physically visible as the destruction of the sword. Using sharp words, one can cut another to the core; the pen can destroy others internally, invisibly, insidiously.
Using lies, one can cause another to destroy his own self. In the Garden of Eden, Satan did not force Eve or Adam to eat the fruit and destroy themselves. He spoke lies to Eve; she believed them; and she destroyed herself. Adam believed not the lies, but he still destroyed himself.
But with the pen, one can also create. And the ability to create is superior to the ability to destroy. Consider God, Who is THE Creator. He used “the pen” to create. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. While Satan can destroy—the thief cometh not but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy—Satan cannot create.
The pen can convert an enemy into a friend. The sword cannot.
The pen—language itself—is key to achieving better, higher standards of living. It is the instrument for preserving history, heritage, facts, knowledge, wisdom. It enabled innovators to design appliances and machines that give us creature comforts, that ease our lives: Vacuum cleaners. Zippers. CD players. Refrigerators. Computers. (We can’t even repair these appliances without relying on the pen.)
The pen enables us to study and absorb wisdom, to learn to master complex and valuable skills. A heart surgeon could never have learned his trade without the pen.
The pen is mightier than the sword. Civil-ization is mightier than barbarian-ism. In barbarianism, two neighbors may conflict over who can use water from a well, and may fight to the death over drinking privileges. The survivor has the water privileges, but his neighbor is needlessly dead, and the survivor himself will sustain physical injury.
In civilization, two neighbors can work together in harmony to figure out how to share the water supply so both of them can live.
Solomon, the wisest man in history, wrote of the civilized man: He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. Proverbs 16:32
Indeed, everything wears out, everything runs down (Second Law of Thermodynamics, anyone?) and every one dies physically in the end: so the one thing the sword can do is not even something that can permanently be avoided.
I know I will physically die. A sword may hasten my physical death. But that is all the sword can do. So how can the pen protect you or I from the sword? The pen of the word of God can save me—and you—from spiritual, eternal death.