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Topic 12 Sermon on the Mount. Literary considerations Sermon on Mount (Mt. 5-7) // Sermon on Plain (Lk. 6:17-49). Overlapping content: Beatitudes; Two Foundations; etc. Matt. is much longer (107 verses vs. 30 verses). Each has distinctive material.

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Topic 12 Sermon on the Mount

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topic 12 sermon on the mount
Topic 12 Sermon on the Mount
  • Literary considerations
    • Sermon on Mount (Mt. 5-7) // Sermon on Plain (Lk. 6:17-49).
      • Overlapping content: Beatitudes; Two Foundations; etc.
      • Matt. is much longer (107 verses vs. 30 verses).
      • Each has distinctive material.
    • Both are gathered collections of Jesus’ sayings.
      • Lk.’s sermon is based on Q; most has parallel in Mt.’s sermon or elsewhere in Mt.
      • Mt.’s sermon is based on Q and M; some has no parallel (M); much has parallels scattered through Lk.
      • That the parallels are scattered leads to conclusion that sermons are gathered collections.
    • Setting emphasizes Jesus’ authority (Mt. 5:1-2; 7:28-29).
      • Mountain is place of revelation (cf. Ten Commandments).
      • Sitting to teach is traditional authoritative posture of rabbis.
      • Reaction of crowd is astonishment at his authority.
      • Audience appears to be a band of disciples around Jesus, with larger crowd listening in at greater distance.
The Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-12 # 19)
    • “Blessed” = makarios.
      • Blessed, happy, fortunate.
      • Derives from wisdom tradition: happiness of those who live wisely, righteously (cf. Ps. 1).
    • Paradoxical and eschatological:
      • Paradoxical: happiness of “the blessed” is not apparent.
      • Eschatological: blessing of God’s kingdom awaits them.
    • Luke’s version:
      • Based on Q; only 4; shorter; 2nd person; balanced by 4 woes.
      • Focus on socio-economic conditions to be reversed(“you poor”).
    • Matthew’s version:
      • Based on Q and M; 8 or 9; longer; 3rd person; no woes.
      • Focus on spiritual qualities to be rewarded (“poor in spirit”).
      • Qualities of a true disciple:
        • Not 8 character traits one must perfect to qualify for kingdom.
        • Not 8 different groups of people but 8 ways of looking at same basic character.
        • Those who depend on God and long for his reign; they are promised the grace of God’s kingdom.
        • Jesus’ qualities turn upside down the values of the world.
The Beatitudes – cont.
    • Eight qualities of a true disciple.
      • Poor in spirit – humble; aware of spiritual need; utter dependence on God; kingdom is given to those who receive.
      • Those who mourn – grieving over sin, evil, injustice; God will comfort them.
      • Meek – not weakness or cowardice but gentleness, power under control, like a tamed animal; they will inherit the earth = “possess the (promised) land” (cf. Ps. 37:11).
      • Hunger/thirst for righteousness – hungry for justice, victory of right over wrong, elimination of oppression; they will taste God’s victory.
      • Merciful – moved by compassion to deeds of kindness; readiness to forgive/help rather than criticize/condemn; they will receive God’s mercy on judgment day.
      • Pure in heart – not “morally perfect” but “single-minded” devotion to God; loving God wholeheartedly; they will see God and enjoy his fellowship.
      • Peacemakers – not simply living peaceably but “making peace” by actively pursuing it (cf. Lk. 19:38, 42); they are called “children of God” because God is a God of peace.
      • Persecuted for righteousness’ sake – suffering that comes as a by-product of pursuing God’s righteous cause will be rewarded.
C. Salt and light (Mt. 5:13-16 # 20)
  • Beatitudes emphasize grace of kingdom; rest of sermon emphasizes the demands placed on disciples.
  • Being “salt of earth” and “light of world” involves living by values of God’s kingdom in the midst of this world.
  • Jesus’ disciples fulfill Israel’s mission of being a “light to the nations” (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 60:3).

Mount of Beatitudes

The “Greater Righteousness” (Mt. 5:17-20 # 21)
    • Jesus does not abolish the law but fulfills it (v. 17).
      • Answers accusation that Jesus’ teaching destroys the law.
      • Rather, it upholds law by showing its true meaning as an instrument of justice and compassion.
      • To “fulfill” Scripture does not simply mean that its predictions now come to pass, but that Jesus gives Scripture its full meaning.
    • Taken literally, v. 18-19 would make Jesus a super-Pharisee.
      • Some think inauthentic; arose in conservative Jewish Christian trad.
      • If authentic, it is forceful denial of intention to negate law, as long as it is properly interpreted.
    • “Greater righteousness” exceeds that of scribes and Pharisees(v. 20).
      • Goes beyond letter of law to the love, justice, and mercy which lie at heart of God’s will (cf. Mt. 7:12; 9:13; 12:7; 19:19; 22:34-40; 23:23).
      • Pharisees viewed law “casuistically” – find a rule for every situation; comply with every rule; 613 commandments in Torah.
      • Two problems with “casuistry”:
        • Leaves loopholes – avoid God’s will because no specific rule.
        • Leads to idea of merit – keep rules and earn reward.
      • “Greater righteousness” puts whole person under whole will of God.
        • Radical obedience to God’s will even in absence of specific rule.
        • Allows Jesus to sit more loosely with “letter of law” – bend, stretch, intensify, set aside – in order to capture its “spirit.”
The Antitheses (Mt. 5:21-48 # 22-27)
    • Form (“You have heard it said…but I say to you”)
      • Six pairs of sayings contrasting law with Jesus’ teaching.
      • Second term of each pair introduced by authoritative “I say to you” (cf. “Amen, I say to you” in v. 18, etc.) – radicalize, intensify, internalize, override commandments.
      • Cf. G. Stassen’s “triadic analysis”: (1) traditional righteousness; (2) “vicious cycle;” (3) “transforming initiative” (Jesus’ imperative).
    • The six sayings
      • Murder vs. anger (v. 21-26).
        • Internalizes/intensifies commandment; not only avoid murder but work on relationships.
        • Worship of God not isolated from human relations.
      • Adultery vs. lust (v. 27-30).
        • Internalizes/intensifies: lustful look is adultery in the heart.
        • “Lust” = epithumeō – same word for “covet” in 10th commandment; intentional coveting after another woman.
        • Coveting a woman is to view her as an object for sexual gratification.
        • Law spoke only of adultery against a man; violating his wife as if his property; Jesus speaks of adultery against woman (Mk. 10:11); treats woman as a person.
The Antitheses (Mt. 5:21-48 # 22-27) – cont.
    • The six sayings – cont.
      • Divorce vs. “no” divorce (v. 31-32; cf. Mk. 10:1-12 par. # 187; 1 Cor. 7:10-11).
        • Law provides for “certificate of divorce” (Dt. 24:1); intention is to protect woman by prescribing limits/procedures.
        • Rabbis debated sufficient grounds for divorce:
          • Shammai – only for serious moral offense, like adultery.
          • Hillel – even for minor offenses, like burning the food.
        • Jesus (Mk. 10): divorce provision was concession to sinful nature; Creation theology shows God’s original design was permanence of marriage; hence, no divorce.
        • Mt.’s “except for unchastity” (5:32; 19:9) prob. added by Mt. or his tradition to make a more workable rule.
        • Jesus overrides law’s divorce provision in order to uphold law’s intention of protecting women. (Would he object to similar flexibility with his own “rule” for the same purpose?)
      • Oaths vs. no oaths (v. 33-37).
        • Law allows oaths but warns against swearing falsely.
        • Jesus disallows oaths; simple honesty makes oaths unnecessary.
The Antitheses (Mt. 5:21-48 # 22-27) – cont.
    • The six sayings – cont.
      • Retaliation vs. no retaliation (v. 38-42).
        • Law allows retaliation if just/measured; intent was to limit retribution.
        • Jesus disallows retribution; “do not resist” uses word associated with violent, military resistance; warns against militant, revolutionary movements.
        • Examples – not passivity but “non-violent direct action.”
          • Turn left cheek – dare him to treat you as an equal.
          • Give cloak – humiliate creditor by standing naked.
          • Go second mile – Roman soldier could “compel” only one.
          • Give to beggars; lend to borrowers.
        • “Cycle of violence” must be broken by those willing to become victims of violence without striking back. (Cross theology!)

f. Love neighbor vs. love enemy (v. 43-48).

        • Law requires love of neighbor (Lev. 19:18), i.e. fellow Israelite; “hate your enemy” not explicit in OT.
        • Qumran: “hate all the sons of darkness,” i.e., non-sectarians.
        • Jesus expands love commandment to include enemies: loving enemies makes us “children of God” because God loves his enemies; radically different way of being “Israel.”
Miscellaneous Teachings (Mt. 6-7 # 28-44)
    • Against hypocrisy: alms, prayer, fasting (6:1-18)
      • Practice piety in secret to ensure pure motivation.
      • Lord’s Prayer (6:9-13) – prays for coming of God’s kingdom.
    • True treasure (6:19-24)
    • Against anxiety (6:25-34)
    • Against judging others (7:1-5)
    • Encouragement to prayer (7:7-11)
    • Golden Rule (7:12) – cf. Hillel
    • The narrow way (7:13-14)
    • Warning against false prophets (7:15-23)
    • The solid foundation (7:24-27)
    • Closing formula (7:28-29)
Major interpretations of Sermon on Mount (“Hermeneutics of the Sermon” – How do we apply Jesus’ radical ethic?)
    • Absolutist view (Anabaptists; Tolstoy)
      • Design for new society based on love and justice.
      • Took literally: no oaths or retaliation; radical pacifism; no participation in courts, government, army, or police; Christian society would not need these institutions.
    • Two-level view (medieval Catholicism; Thomas Aquinas)
      • Precepts – basic commandments (10 Commandments; Golden Rule) required for all Christians; nec. for salvation.
      • Counsels – more rigorous demands (poverty; celibacy) apply only to clergy, monks, nuns; gain special merit.
    • Two-realms view (Luther)
      • Public/political realm – Christian holding office must use force to resist evil, maintain justice for sake of others.
      • Private/personal realm – radical demands apply only here; as private person, renounce resistance and suffer injustice.
    • Internal conviction view (Liberalism)
      • Specific commands not literally binding.
      • Important is their inner spirit, the inward disposition of love, which should motivate all conduct.
Major interpretations of Sermon on Mount– cont.
    • Call-to-repentance view (Lutheran orthodoxy)
      • Radical demands are intentionally impossible to keep.
      • Designed to induce despair over salvation by works and show us our need for grace (cf. Luther’s view of OT law).
    • “Interim ethic” view (Schweitzer)
      • Jesus’ ethical teaching is temporary emergency ethic intended only for the brief interval before kingdom of God appears, bringing end of world, final judgment, etc.
      • Since kingdom failed to appear, this ethic is no longer valid (Schweitzer resorts to something like the Liberal view).
    • Response-to-grace view (Jeremias; Hunter; et al.)
      • Jesus’ demands are preceded by proclamation of good news of forgiveness; grace precedes demand.
      • Grace transforms the heart in a way that motivates and empowers obedience; obedience is now “from the heart.”
      • Having been touched by the grace of God’s kingdom, we live out its values in the midst of this world.
      • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, distinguished “cheap grace,” which does not result in obedience, and “costly grace,” which results in obedient discipleship. (“Grace is free, but it is not cheap.”)
torah interpretation

Views Law piecemeal, as end in itself

Find a rule for everything.

Find a way to comply with every rule.

Problems with “casuistry”:

Leaves loopholes.

Leads to idea of merit.

Will of God

(Love, Justice, Mercy)

Love God

Love neighbor


Views Law as pointer to God’s will

Commandments are finite, partial expressions of God’s will.

Fullness of God’s will (love, justice, mercy) transcends the letter of the law.

Torah Interpretation


613 Commandments

Oral law – countless rules