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Biblical Studies Sermon on the Mount
by
Jonathan T. Pennington

Introduction

There is no portion of the Bible that plays a more central role in the history of the Church than the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7, with some parallels in Luke 6 and 11). From the days of the Church Fathers on, these three chapters have been the most frequently quoted and commented-on portion of the Bible. The Sermon has constantly received high praise as a model for the Christian life, the essence of true religion, and the epitome of Jesus’ teachings. These sentiments come not only from Christian interpreters but from many outside the Church as well, where the broader impact of the Sermon is still seen through cultural mantras such as “The Golden Rule” and “turn the other cheek.”

General Overviews

There are many excellent sources available that provide overall commentary and discussion on the Sermon, including some bibliographic works (see Kissinger 1975; Neirynck, et al. 1998; Mills 2000, cited in Bibliographies), sections within commentaries on Matthew, commentaries dedicated solely to explicating the Sermon, and a variety of monographs and articles that treat the matters of the Sermon as a whole.

Bibliographies

In light of the massive amount of literature produced about the Sermon, it is surprising that this topic is not better covered with works providing bibliographic orientation. In English one can refer to Kissinger 1975, which provides a lengthy bibliography with some annotations but is now quite out of date. More recent is Mills 2000, but while this work does provide more than one thousand entries, they are not categorized, organized, or annotated, making it somewhat ineffectual. Much better and complete is Neirynck, et al. 1998, which is quite comprehensive for the latter half of the 20th century.

  • Kissinger, Warren S. The Sermon on the Mount: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography. ATLA Bibliography 3. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975.

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    Part 2 of the book provides a lengthy bibliography of assorted works on the Sermon, with some annotations.

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  • Mills, Watson E. Bibliographies on the Life and Teachings of Jesus. Vol. 3, The Sermon on the Mount/Plain. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 2000.

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    This slim volume is in a series of bibliographic reference works that provide citations for scholarly work done on the life of Jesus. Produced in 2000, this book offers 1,028 entries for works produced on the Sermon in the 20th century. There is no annotation or organization of the works by topic. The entries cover a range of perspectives and are given alphabetically by author’s surname.

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  • Neirynck, Frans, Josef Verheyden, and R. Corstjens. The Gospel of Matthew and the Sayings Source Q: A Cumulative Bibliography 1950–1995. 2 vols. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 140. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1998.

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    This two-volume work provides a comprehensive bibliography on Matthew and Q for scholarship produced in the second half of the 20th century. Within this the authors provide extensive bibliographic information on the Sermon.

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Commentaries on Matthew

There are scores of commentaries written on Matthew from a variety of critical and confessional perspectives. Each of these inevitably devotes significant discussion to the Sermon. Most highly regarded are Davies and Allison 1988, written almost entirely by a respected Matthean scholar, Dale Allison, and Luz 2007, a commentary in translation from the leading German Matthean scholar, Ulrich Luz. Bruner 2004 emphasizes theological meaning; Witherington 2006 also provides a variety of nonliterary media sources. Several academically oriented confessional commentaries provide a good balance between critical issues and theological meaning, such as Carson 2010, France 2007, Hagner 1993, and Nolland 2005.

  • Bruner, Frederick Dale. Matthew: A Commentary. Vol. 1, The Christbook (Matthew 1–12). Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004.

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    The first of a two-volume commentary on all of Matthew, this work has nearly two hundred pages dedicated to the Sermon. Unique among commentaries, this book approaches the text from the perspective of doctrinal/theological categories. The Sermon is commented on in a detailed way, all under the rubric of the doctrine of discipleship.

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  • Carson, D. A. Matthew. “Matthew.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 9, Matthew & Mark. Rev. ed. Edited by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, 23–670. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

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    A confessional commentary that addresses the whole of Matthew, dealing with critical issues with a view toward the exposition of the text. This volume includes eighty pages dedicated to discussing the Sermon phrase by phrase.

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  • Davies, William David, and Dale C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. 3 vols. International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. London: T&T Clark, 1988.

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    This three-volume work is the standard critical commentary on the whole of Matthew. It is unsurpassed in its thoroughness and balanced treatment. Volume 1 includes 320 pages of discussion on the Sermon. This includes a detailed examination of the Greek text phrase by phrase, as well as attention to the history of interpretation and theological issues. Also included are separate excurses on the Beatitudes 5:21–48 and the Lord’s Prayer.

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  • France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

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    Another standard and helpful English commentary by a well-respected Matthean scholar from a broadly evangelical stance. This volume includes 150 pages dedicated to the Sermon, with a phrase-by-phrase explanation of the text in English.

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  • Hagner, Donald. Matthew. 2 vols. World Biblical Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993.

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    A well-respected two-volume commentary on Matthew from a broadly confessional perspective. The first volume (Matthew 1–13) contains 110 pages dedicated to a detailed discussion of the Sermon phrase by phrase based on the Greek text.

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  • Luz, Ulrich. Matthew: A Commentary. 3 vols. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007.

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    This three-volume work on all of Matthew is the leading critical commentary on Matthew in the German language and has now been translated into English as part of the Hermeneia series. The commentary is historical-critical but also deals extensively with the “history of the effects” (Wirkungsgeschichte) of Matthew. Volume 1 has 230 pages dedicated to a detailed discussion of the Sermon.

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  • Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.

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    Yet another broadly evangelical commentary on all of Matthew in one volume. This is a confessional and critical commentary on the Greek text. Included are 160 pages of discussion on the Sermon, working through the grammatical, historical, and theological matters phrase by phrase.

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  • Witherington, Ben III. Matthew. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2006.

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    This volume on Matthew is in a commentary series that seeks to provide scholarly commentary on the books of the Bible but in an accessible and multimedia way. Throughout the commentary are photographs, art, maps, and drawings meant to illumine and illustrate the text. Witherington provides sixty pages of commentary on the Sermon, including several sidenotes about a “sapiential” reading of the text.

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Commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount

In addition to commentaries on all of Matthew, many scholars have produced volumes dedicated to the commentary-like exposition of the Sermon alone. These typically provide more discussion than what is found in whole-Matthew commentaries. Most extensive and historical-critical in orientation is Betz 1995. Other works are still academic but geared more toward theological interpretation, such as Allison 1999, Guelich 1982, Hendrickx 1984, Scaer 2000, Strecker 1988, Tholuck 1834, and Vaught 2001, and/or emphasize practical application of the Sermon, such as Brooks 1985, Derrett 1994, and Talbert 2006.

  • Allison, Dale C., Jr. The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination. Companions to the New Testament. New York: Crossroad, 1999.

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    This is an accessible treatment of the entire Sermon, examined section by section. This book sets the Sermon in the context of the rest of Matthew, in relationship to Jesus’ contemporary Judaism, and in conversation with the history of Christian interpretation, especially premodern. The overall thesis is that the Sermon, while not providing a total picture of Christianity, does inspire with vivid images a vision for the Christian life.

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  • Betz, Hans Dieter. The Sermon on the Mount: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Including the Sermon on the Plain. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995.

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    This is an extensive and detailed commentary on the Sermon (nearly seven hundred pages), written from within the historical-critical method. Betz explores exegetical and historical details behind every section and interacts with a large amount of secondary literature on the Sermon, including much German scholarship. For a more condensed version, one may also consult Betz’s article on “Sermon on the Mount/Plain” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (edited by David Noel Freedman, Vol. 5, 1106–1112. New York: Doubleday, 1992).

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  • Brooks, Oscar Stephen. The Sermon on the Mount: Authentic Human Values. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985.

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    This book offers an interpretation of the Sermon in the context of the entire Gospel of Matthew. It assumes that the gospel can be taken as complete work on its own terms and seeks to explain the place of the discourse within the whole as well as within the context of this particular section. It concludes with a section on how modern readers can benefit from studying and applying the text.

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  • Derrett, J. Duncan M. The Sermon on the Mount: A Manual for Living. Northampton, MA: Pilkington, 1994.

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    Following his earlier, more detailed study, The Ascetic Discourse (Eilsbrunn, Germany: Koamar, 1989), Derrett provides an accessible treatment of the whole Sermon. He emphasizes the Jewish-ness of Jesus and the importance of a practical application of the Sermon to the Christian life.

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  • Guelich, Robert A. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1982.

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    This is an historical and exegetical commentary on the entire Sermon from a broadly confessional stance. It takes into account much contemporary scholarship and seeks to explain the original meaning of the text in its historical context.

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  • Hendrickx, Herman. The Sermon on the Mount. Rev. ed. London: Chapman, 1984.

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    This volume provides a very accessible exposition of the entire Sermon, section by section. It takes account of modern biblical scholarship but is written in a clear and applicatory way to today’s readers.

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  • Scaer, David P. The Sermon on the Mount: The Church’s First Statement of the Gospel. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia, 2000.

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    Written from a confessional Lutheran perspective, this volume provides a detailed discussion of the whole Sermon in sections that each covers but a few verses. Attention is given to historical-critical readings, but the main focus is a Christological reading of the Sermon.

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  • Strecker, Georg. The Sermon on the Mount: An Exegetical Commentary. Translated by O. C. Dean Jr. Nashville: Abingdon, 1988.

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    A translation from the German original, Strecker approaches the Sermon from a historical-critical approach. Yet, he is willing to not only examine the text in this way but also to suggest its appropriation to the current day. He comments on the whole Sermon in small sections, seeking to provide historical and exegetical information.

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  • Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5–7. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006.

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    Talbert comments on the entire Sermon by section with a focus on how the passages relate to both the formation of character and ethical decision making. He often interacts with both Jewish and Greco-Roman sources that relate to the Sermon. Talbert addresses each section within its historical and literary context.

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  • Tholuck, August. Exposition, Doctrinal and Philological, of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, According to the Gospel of Matthew: Intended Likewise as a Help Towards the Formation of a Pure Biblical System of Faith and Morals. Translated by Robert Menzies. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1834.

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    Tholuck was one of the most learned and respected scholars of the 19th century. His exposition of the whole Sermon includes several introductory chapters on the formation, setting, significance, and history of interpretation of the Sermon. This is followed by a verse-by-verse exposition of the Sermon that provides massive philological information and knowledge of how the text has been read and interpreted.

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  • Vaught, Carl G. The Sermon on the Mount: A Theological Investigation. Rev. ed. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2001.

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    Vaught provides a close reading of the Sermon that exposits the text with a view toward the transformation of the human spirit. He emphasizes that to understand the Sermon properly one must have a transformation of the heart (“poor in spirit”). He also emphasizes that the perfection demanded by Jesus is rooted in the perfection of God Himself.

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The Sermon on the Mount as a Whole

Moving beyond commentaries on the Sermon, there are several articles and books written by scholars that comment on portions of the Sermon but also provide discussion of various critical, structural, and historical issues concerning the Sermon overall. Works dealing with how to approach the Sermon methodologically and hermeneutically include Betz 1984, Davies 1976, Massey 1991, and Patte 1999. Pieces that offer a certain perspective on the proper theological approach to the Sermon include Luz 1995 and Stanton 1993a. Some works offer a survey of and interaction with other contemporary views on reading the Sermon. Most general is Carter 1994 and more specifically interacting with other scholars’ views are Stanton 1993b and Viviano 2007.

  • Betz, Hans Dieter. Essays on the Sermon on the Mount. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.

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    This is a collection of essays that explore various issues within the Sermon, including its genre, the meaning of the Beatitudes, the hermeneutical principles, and cosmogony and ethics. The perspective and approach are those of the modern historical-critical method. Betz sees the Sermon as a composition independent of the Gospel of Matthew and reflecting an epitome of the views of one branch of nascent Christianity.

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  • Carter, Warren. What Are They Saying about Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount? New York: Paulist, 1994.

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    This volume is part of the popular What Are They Saying? series, which aims to survey current scholarship on a particular biblical text or topic. This book focuses on scholarship on the Sermon from the 1960s to the early 1990s. It approaches this task through the categories of the sources, structure, function, and various topics (Beatitudes, Law, Lord’s Prayer, ethics) of the Sermon, seeking to provide a fair treatment of different scholarly opinions.

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  • Davies, William David. The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

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    Originally published in 1963, this influential work on the Sermon builds on redactional critical approaches but breaks new ground in emphasizing the social setting of Matthew’s writing, especially in relation to his contemporary Judaism. While certain aspects have since been critiqued, this work provided impetus for a sociohistorical approach in much Gospels study.

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  • Luz, Ulrich. “The Discourse on the Mount (Matthew 5–7).” In The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew. By Ulrich Luz, 42–61. New Testament Theology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    In this short but learned introduction, Luz understands the Sermon as the presentation of Matthew’s “gospel of the kingdom.” Luz briefly examines the audience and structure of the Sermon, as well as providing an analysis of 5:17–6:18 and 7:13–27.

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  • Massey, Isabel Ann. Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount in the Light of Jewish Tradition as Evidenced in the Palestinian Targums of the Pentateuch: Selected Themes. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 25. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1991.

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    Massey addresses the Jewish context of the Sermon, surveying words and themes such as “father,” the imitation of God and the theme of perfection, “measure for measure,” “words,” “vacuous” (i.e., μωρός), and “fruit.” Massey primarily surveys the Palestinian targums of the Pentateuch but also has an eye to Philo, the LXX, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, and the Apostolic Fathers.

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  • Patte, Daniel. The Challenge of Discipleship: A Critical Study of the Sermon on the Mount as Scripture. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 1999.

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    Patte seeks to challenge and retool the modern study of the Bible by focusing on the underlying assumptions behind various readers’ approaches. He offers a system of “frames” that enable readers to understand and consciously embrace their own readings of the Sermon, whether scholarly or popular.

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  • Stanton, Graham N. “Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount.” In A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew. By Graham Stanton, 285–306. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993a.

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    In this essay Stanton provides an overview of the Sermon, seeking to show that while it is not the entirety of Jesus’ ethical teaching to be found in the Gospels, it is a beautiful and powerful picture of both the gift and the demand of the gospel. The sections of the essay address the Sermon in Q and Luke, the history of interpretation, the structure of the Sermon, and key sections.

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  • Stanton, Graham N. “The Origin and Purpose of the Sermon on the Mount.” In A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew. By Graham N. Stanton, 307–325. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993b.

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    In this essay Stanton interacts briefly with Davies’ and Betz’ treatments of the Sermon. Stanton argues that to read the Sermon properly is to read it as an integral part of the whole Gospel and that it was meant to be understood this way.

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  • Viviano, Benedict T. “The Sermon on the Mount in Recent Study.” In Matthew and His World. The Gospel of the Open Jewish Christians: Studies in Biblical Theology. By Benedict T. Viviano, 51–63. Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus 61. Fribourg, Germany: Academic, 2007.

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    In this book of essays on Matthew, this chapter reviews contemporary scholarship on the Sermon, especially the work of Marcel Dumais and Hans Dieter Betz.

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History of Interpretation

Because of the great influence of the Sermon on the church in biblical commentary, theology, and homily, there have been a wide variety of ways in which it has been read and appropriated throughout history. As a result, one area of scholarly study in and of itself is the history of the interpretation of the Sermon. This topic is well served by many good studies and provides an important avenue into understanding the Sermon for every new generation. Some studies focus on premodern writers in particular, while others provide a more general overview, usually focusing on more modern interpretations (see General Surveys). From the earliest days of the church, the Sermon was seen as very important, and much can be learned about early Christian theology and interpretation from examining how premodern interpreters read it. Many early works have been translated into modern English editions, and there are also many good studies that examine the interpretive methods of premodern readers.

Works in Translation

Some of the most important older interpreters’ works can be readily found in translation, such as Opus Imperfectum (Oden 2010). Others include Aquinas 2009, Saint Augustine 2004, Calvin 1996, Chrysostom 1967, Saint Jerome 2008, Luther 1956, and Origen 1994.

  • Aquinas, Thomas. Catena Aurea. 4 vols. Edited by John Henry Newman. London: Baronius, 2009.

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    This classic and influential work from the medieval period consists of fragments from other, earlier commentaries put together by Aquinas into a steady chapter-by-chapter commentary. It follows the order of Matthew and therefore includes a discussion of various interpretations of the texts of the Sermon. Available online.

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  • Calvin, John. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Vol. 1. Translated by William Pringle. Calvin’s Commentaries 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996.

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    This commentary models a harmonizing approach to the Synoptic Gospels that was typical in much of Christian interpretation. As a result, the Sermon is not treated separately but in comparison to parallel passages in Luke, though still generally following Matthew’s ordering. Provides verse-by-verse Calvin comments on the text, addressing philological, historical, and doctrinal matters.

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  • Chrysostom, John. The Preaching of Chrysostom: Homilies on the Sermon on the Mount. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967.

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    This volume includes an introduction by Pelikan followed by Chrysostom’s classic sermons that present Jesus’ teaching as the foundation of the Christian politeia.

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  • Luther, Martin. The Sermon on the Mount (Sermons) and the Magnificat. Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1956.

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    Luther was a tireless preacher and expositor of Scripture. This volume from his collected works includes a series of lively expositions on the Sermon. Typical of Luther’s style, they are engaging and range from historical information to practical application and polemical engagement with his own contemporaries. Reprinted 1986.

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  • Oden, Thomas C., ed. Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus Imperfectum). Vol. 1. Translated by James A. Kellerman. Ancient Christian Texts. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010.

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    This is the first English translation to be made of a 5th-century series of homilies on Matthew that was very popular during the Middle Ages. Its author is unknown and there are sections missing, but contained in Volume 1 is an exposition of the Sermon that typifies much of the patristic approach to reading and applying Scripture.

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  • Origen. Commentary on Matthew. Edited by Philip Schaff. Ante-Nicene Fathers 9. Edinburgh: Hendrickson, 1994.

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    Origen’s commentary on Matthew is one of the oldest surviving though it is far from complete. References to and comments on texts from the Sermon are scattered throughout the remaining fragments of Books 2 and 10–14.

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  • Saint Augustine. Sermon on the Mount; Harmony of the Gospels; Homilies on the Gospels. Edited by Philip Schaff. Select Library of the Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church 1-06. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2004.

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    The first part of this volume presents Augustine’s sermons on Matthew 5–7. Augustine argues the Sermon is for mature Christians and is to be interpreted in light of the church’s creeds. Chapter 19 of the second part of this volume presents Augustine’s explanations of the similarities and differences between Matthew and Luke’s Sermon. Augustine’s Harmony represents the first full-scale effort to wrestle with the differences between the Gospel accounts. Available online.

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  • Saint Jerome. Commentary on Matthew. Edited by Thomas P. Scheck. Fathers of the Church 17. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008.

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    Written at the end of the 4th century, this is an important commentary on all of Matthew by one of Western Christianity’s most influential scholars and theologians.

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Surveys and Studies

Some works such as Simonetti 2001 give selected excerpts from a wide range of early writings. More specific studies on particular interpreters’ readings of the Sermon include Grant 1978, Hauck 2006, and Pelikan 2001.

  • Grant, Robert McQueen. “Sermon on the Mount in Early Christianity.” Semeia 12 (1978): 215–231.

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    This article focuses on the earliest interpreters of the Sermon, including the biblical authors themselves, giving special attention to the development of early Christian ethics. Includes discussion of allusions to the Sermon within James 1 Corinthians 1 Clement, and Gnostic interpretation.

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  • Hauck, Robert J. “‘Like a Gleaming Flash’: Matthew 6:22–23, Luke 11:34–36 and the Divine Sense in Origen.” Anglican Theological Review 88.4 (2006): 557–573.

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    An examination of Origen’s interpretation of the eye as the lamp of the body and how the extramission theory of vision relates to spiritual seeing.

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  • Pelikan, Jaroslav. Divine Rhetoric: The Sermon on the Mount as Message and as Model in Augustine, Chrysostom, and Luther. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001.

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    Renowned historian Pelikan provides an introduction to classical rhetoric, a background sketch of each interpreter’s life and education in rhetoric, and a discussion of how certain categories of classical rhetoric have shaped these interpreters’ expositions of the Sermon.

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  • Simonetti, Manlio, ed. Matthew 1–13. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Ia. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.

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    The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series (ACCS) is a recent attempt to resurrect the early traditions of the catena or glossa ordinaria. Eighty-one pages of this volume are dedicated to Matthew 5–7. Simonetti has collected quotations of Church Fathers on every verse of the Sermon. There are also quotations that serve as overviews of each of its sections.

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General Surveys

There are several articles and books that provide a very helpful overview of the history of the interpretation of the Sermon as a whole. These books serve our understanding by highlighting and evaluating certain trends and themes among various past interpreters of the Sermon. Several works scan the whole range of Christian interpretation from ancient to modern times, including Allen 1992, Kissinger 1975 (cited under Bibliographies), McArthur 1978, and Stanton 1993. Greenman, et al. 2007 also falls into this category but with the unique advantage of providing more in-depth analyses of particular interpreters written by scholars with particular expertise in those readers. Stevenson 2004, likewise, covers a range of interpreters but focuses specifically on the Lord’s Prayer. Bauman 1985 instead focuses on only a variety of modern interpretations, while Starr 2008 provides the unique perspective of the reception of the Sermon in Chinese culture.

  • Allen, Lloyd. “The Sermon on the Mount in the History of the Church.” Review & Expositor 89.2 (1992): 245–262.

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    Allen surveys some of the more influential Christian interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount. He highlights how its interpretation has varied from an absolutist, “common sense” approach to the view of classic liberalism, which sees the Sermon as a good example. The surveyed interpretations include that of the Didache, Chrysostom, Augustine, Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Luther, Calvin, the Anabaptists, Schweitzer, Hans Windisch, C. I. Scofield, and Carl F. H. Henry.

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  • Bauman, Clarence. The Sermon on the Mount: The Modern Quest for Its Meaning. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1985.

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    Bauman gives a detailed discussion of nineteen major interpretive views spanning the period from Tolstoy to the 1970s. For this time period, it is very helpful and comprehensive. Its weakness is its lack of attention to the history of interpretation before this period and, of course, the lack of coverage of any work done since its publication. Nevertheless, it stands as a helpful summary of modern readings of the Sermon.

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  • Greenman, Jeffrey P., Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer, eds. Reading the Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2007.

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    Each contribution to this collection of essays describes how one significant Christian interpreter understood the Sermon. Each essay is written by a scholar with an expertise directly related to the interpreter about whom he or she writes. The interpreters analyzed include Chrysostom, Augustine, Hugh of St. Victor, Dante and Chaucer, Luther, Calvin, John Wesley, Spurgeon, Bonhoeffer and Yoder, Pope John Paul II and Leonardo Boff, and John Stott.

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  • McArthur, Harvey K. Understanding the Sermon on the Mount. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978.

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    Each chapter focuses on a significant theological issue related to the interpretation of the Sermon. McArthur sketches patristic, medieval, reformation, and modern views concerning the Sermon and the Law (chapter 1), the Sermon and “the Pauline tradition” of grace and justification by faith, noting potential allusions to the Sermon in Romans (chapter 2), the Sermon and Eschatology (chapter 3), and the Sermon and Ethics (chapters 4–5).

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  • Stanton, Graham. “Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount.” In A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew. By Graham Stanton, 285–306. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993.

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    Within this overview of interpretive challenges that face readers of the Sermon, Stanton offers a brief sketch of its history of interpretation. He highlights major theological issues that have risen from the church’s reading of the Sermon.

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  • Starr, Chloë, ed. Reading Christian Scriptures in China. London: T&T Clark, 2008.

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    These essays were originally presented at a same-titled conference held at Oxford in 2007. Two of the essays offer a Chinese-Christian perspective on the Sermon: chapter 7, “Interpreting the Lord’s Prayer from a Confucian-Christian Perspective: Wu Leichuan’s Practice and Contribution to Chinese Biblical Hermeneutics” by Grace Hui Liang, and chapter 9, “Reading the Sermon on the Mount in China: A Hermeneutical Enquiry into Its History of Reception” by John Y. H. Yieh.

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  • Stevenson, Kenneth W. E. The Lord’s Prayer: A Text in Tradition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

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    This book offers a history of interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Stevenson surveys the recent resurgence of interest in the Jewish background of the Sermon and the differences between the Eastern and Western traditions of interpretation. Chapter 3 discusses interpretations of the Sermon in “the patristic East,” chapter 4 in “the patristic West,” chapter 5 in “the later East,” and chapter 6 in “the Medieval West.”

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The Structure of the Sermon

One of the perennial and important topics of discussion regarding the Sermon is how it is structured. Although everyone seems to agree that these three chapters are a literary masterpiece within the New Testament, how exactly to interpret the structure of the whole finds a variety of opinions. Structural decisions are important because of how they affect the overall interpretation of the different parts of the Sermon. Kingsbury 1987 and Syreeni 1987 focus on the overall structure of Matthew and how the Sermon is part of that. Other works focus on the literary structure of the Sermon itself, including Allison 2005, Kodjak 1986, Sibinga 1994, and Syreeni 1987. Yet other articles examine the structural elements of certain parts of the Sermon, such as Stassen 2003 and Wilson 2007.

  • Allison, Dale C., Jr. “The Configuration of the Sermon on the Mount and Its Meaning.” In Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present. By Dale C. Allison Jr., 173–216. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005.

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    This chapter offers a proposal for the structure of the Sermon on the Mount, arguing that the triad is the major building block. Three main sections (Torah, Cult, Social Issues) each in turn reveal further threefold structures. This triadic breakdown is shown to have similarities to 1st-century Jewish attempts to sum up the Torah and further suggests a Jewish background for the author of the first Gospel.

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  • Kingsbury, J. D. “The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount within Matthew.” Interpretation 41 (1987): 131–143.

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    This article explores issues related to how the Sermon on the Mount fits into the overall structure of Matthew, its internal structure, and the nature of the ethics Jesus calls his followers to. The author suggests that Jesus is not enumerating an impossible ethic but one that he intends for them to obey.

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  • Kodjak, Andrej. A Structural Analysis of the Sermon on the Mount. Religion and Reason 34. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1986.

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    This book examines the paradigmatic and syntagmatic structure of the Sermon in order to unlock its “secondary language.” Each pericope is considered in order and comments are made about the relationships of the parts to the whole. The concluding section describes what a typical sermon by Jesus might have been like.

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  • Sibinga, Smit J. “Exploring the Composition of Matth. 5–7: The Sermon on the Mount and Some of Its ‘Structures.’” Filologia Neotestamentaria 7 (1994): 175–195.

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    An in-depth analysis of the Sermon on the Mount’s structure, focusing particularly on how Matthew’s use of imperatives helps the reader recognize the Sermon’s structure.

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  • Stassen, Glen H. “The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21–7:12).” Journal of Biblical Literature 122.2 (2003): 267–308.

    DOI: 10.2307/3268446Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article seeks to heed the call of Günther Bornkamm to assume a high degree of structure in the Sermon and look more deeply at several unsolved puzzles. A triadic structure is identified within each pericope, and this approach is compared with other commonly used attempts at identifying the structure of the Sermon.

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  • Syreeni, Kari. The Making of the Sermon on the Mount: A Procedural Analysis of Matthew’s Redactoral Activity. Methodology and Compositional Analysis. Helsinki, Finland: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1987.

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    This is the first of a two-volume work on the Sermon, which surveys the redaction critical approaches to the Sermon, how the Sermon fits into the overall plan of the Gospel, and finally the literary plan of the text itself. It considers how the themes of “the law and the prophets” and “righteousness” provide impetus to the structure chosen by Matthew and his reason for choosing it.

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  • Wilson, Walter T. “A Third Form of Righteousness: The Theme and Contribution of Matthew 6.19–7.12 in the Sermon on the Mount.” New Testament Studies 53.3 (2007): 303–324.

    DOI: 10.1017/S002868850700015XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Scholars debate what theme holds together the third part of the Sermon. Wilson proposes that the moral issue of “goods” is the theme of this section, meaning that which conveys good standing or status economically, socially, or spiritually. This theme is shown to coincide with teaching on goods in other examples of wisdom instruction. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Special Topics

Each section of the Sermon has been analyzed and commented on in a myriad of ways, but there are three sections and topics in particular that are worthy of separate mention due to their great theological significance and the sheer amount of secondary literature that has been dedicated to them. They are The Beatitudes, the question of Jesus’ relationship to the Old Testament Law (Torah) (Jesus and the Law), and The Lord’s Prayer. In addition to the question of the ethical teaching of the Sermon (see Ethics in the Sermon), these are the most important parts of the Sermon.

The Beatitudes

There are many more helpful works on the Beatitudes than can be summarized here (including Stassen 2003, cited in The Structure of the Sermon), but we can provide reference to some representative works. Several works focus on the origin, background, and composition of Matthew’s Beatitudes and compare them to other ancient literature. These include Dupont 1973, Betz 1985, Buchanan 1983, Collins 1992, Dodd 1968, Green 2001, and Viviano 2007. Some scholars have written on how the Beatitudes fit into the theology and meaning of Matthew as a whole, such as Batdorf 1966, Green 2001 in part, and Powell 1996. McEleney 1981 is representative of a study of the structure and meaning of the Beatitudes themselves.

  • Batdorf, Irvin W. Interpreting the Beatitudes. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966.

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    Offers a brief history of the interpretation of the Sermon with observations on how to interpret them. Argues that the Beatitudes, as Matthew’s first full-length portrait of discipleship, form a hinge on which the whole of the First Gospel turns.

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  • Betz, Hans Dieter. “The Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3–12): Observations on Their Literary Form and Theological Significance.” In Essays on the Sermon on the Mount. Edited by Hans Dieter Betz, 17–36. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.

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    From his redactional and historical critical perspective, Betz analyzes the background and source of the Beatitudes, especially focusing on the first one (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”) as paradigmatic for the whole of the Beatitudes and indeed the entire Sermon.

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  • Buchanan, G. W. “Matthean Beatitudes and Traditional Promises.” In New Synoptic Studies: The Cambridge Gospel Conference and Beyond. Edited by William R. Farmer, 161–184. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983.

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    An analysis of the theology and structure of the Beatitudes and their relationship to Second Isaiah, Psalm 24, 37, and 73. Argues that a midrashic analysis of the Matthean Beatitudes calls attention to their unity of content, theology, and structure.

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  • Collins, Raymond F. “Beatitudes.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 1. Edited by David N. Freedman, 169. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Examines the literary form of the Beatitudes, the Jewish Beatitudes, and then the New Testament Beatitudes.

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  • Dodd, C. H. “The Beatitudes: A Form-Critical Study.” In More New Testament Studies. By C. H Dodd, 1–10. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968.

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    Argues that the pericope of the Beatitudes in the First and Third Gospels has taken differing forms, each of which is a distinct and characteristic literary product, related to different established forms of composition, and that, in spite of the large common element that they share, each stands on its own proper footing.

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  • Dupont, Jacques. Les Béatitudes. 3 vols. Paris: Gabalda, 1973.

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    Together, these three volumes, written over fifteen years’ time, comprise a massive and detailed monument to the study of the background and origins of the Beatitudes. Their approach is heavily influenced by a source-critical perspective, and from within this view they provide a very learned and scholarly work. Though a bit dated now in methodology and chronology, these volumes still stand as important reference works. Volume 1 originally published in 1958 (Bruges, Belgium: Abbaye de Saint André).

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  • Green, H. Benedict. Matthew, Poet of the Beatitudes. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement 206. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 2001.

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    Seeks to demonstrate that Matthew’s Beatitudes are a formally self-contained poem, deeply influenced by the LXX, particularly the Psalter. Especially influential on the Beatitudes is Psalm 119, which provides a formal model for the Beatitudes’ composition. Yet, the Beatitudes are involved thematically with the argument and the content of the entire Gospel.

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  • McEleney, Neil J. “The Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43 (1981): 1–13.

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    This article traces the development of the Matthean beatitudes from the ministry of Jesus to their present form in Matthew. Argues that two sets of four beatitudes, arranged chiastically in their second members, now stand in Matthew’s Gospel before the larger beatitude in Matthew 5:11–12.

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  • Powell, Mark A. “Matthew’s Beatitudes: Reversals and Rewards of the Kingdom.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 58 (1996): 459–479.

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    Argues that acceptance of a two-stanza structural outline for Matthew’s beatitudes allows this passage to be interpreted as a coherent unit that promises both eschatological reversals for the unfortunate and eschatological rewards for the virtuous.

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  • Viviano, Benedict T. “Eight Beatitudes at Qumran and in Matthew.” In Matthew and His World—The Gospel of the Open Jewish Christians: Studies in Biblical Theology. By Benedict T. Viviano, 64–68. Fribourg, Germany: Academic, 2007.

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    Compares the Beatitudes in the text discovered in Qumran Cave 4 with those in Sirach 14 and in Matthew.

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Jesus and the Law

Because Jesus’ teachings regarding the Law in the Sermon are so important and complicated, there have been many studies that examine the background of the use of the Law in Matthew. Banks 1975 examines the topic of Jesus’ teaching on the Law from the broader perspective of the whole Synoptic tradition, including but not limited to the Sermon. Lioy 2004 highlights the specific connections between the Sermon and the Decalogue, while Worth 1997 provides a detailed study seeking out the variety of Old Testament texts that may be informing the Sermon in 5:17–42.

  • Banks, Robert. Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph 28. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

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    A survey of the materials in the Synoptic Gospels addressing Jesus’ relationship to the law.

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  • Lioy, Dan. The Decalogue in the Sermon on the Mount. Studies in Biblical Literature 66. New York: Lang, 2004.

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    This book considers the concept of law in the Old and New Testaments and analyzes the connections that can be made between the Decalogue and the Sermon. The chiastic structure of the Sermon is shown to highlight the prominence and continuing relevance of the “moral law” for the people of God.

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  • Worth, Ronald H. The Sermon on the Mount: Its Old Testament Roots. New York: Paulist, 1997.

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    After a brief introduction to the Sermon, this volume analyzes the Antitheses (Matt 5:17–42) in light of the Old Testament background to Jesus’ words. For each section, Worth examines what Old Testament texts relate to Jesus’ teaching, some obvious, some less so. The overall thesis is that what Jesus taught was faithful to what the Torah already taught.

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The Meaning of the Law in Jesus’ Teaching

The meaning and function of the Law in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon have been explored by many scholars. While not every scholar agrees, there is a large degree of unity in scholarly opinion about the way in which Jesus emphasized continuity with the Law. Some works focus on what it means for Jesus to “fulfill” the Law (see Dumbrell 1981, Luz 2005, and Moo 1984). Closely related, many scholars discuss the issue of continuity between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Law (see Levison 1982, Snodgrass 1996, Viljoen 2006). Some works emphasize the Jewish-Christian context of Jesus’ teachings, such as Cuvillier 2009, while Hamerton-Kelly 1972 seeks to unpack a variety of views in 5:18. Meier 1976 focuses on how to interpret 5:17–48 in light of all of Matthew.

  • Cuvillier, Élian. “Torah Observance and Radicalization in the First Gospel. Matthew and First-Century Judaism: A Contribution to the Debate.” New Testament Studies 55.2 (2009): 144–159.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0028688509000101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focusing on Matthew 5:17–20, Cuvillier examines Matthew’s break with Judaism and the discontinuity between the Law and its fulfillment in the Messiah.

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  • Dumbrell, W. J. “The Logic of the Role of the Law in Matthew V 1–20.” Novum Testamentum 23 (1981): 1–21.

    DOI: 10.1163/156853681X00016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of why Jesus included a statement about fulfilling the Law where he did and how 5:17–20 fits with the surrounding context. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. “Attitudes toward the Law in Matthew’s Gospel: A Discussion of Matthew 5:18.” Biblical Research 17 (1972): 19–32.

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    Argues that by paying close attention to Matthew 5:18, one discovers three distinct attitudes toward the Law in Matthew’s Gospel.

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  • Levison, J. “A Better Righteousness. The Character and Purpose of Matthew 5.21–48.” Studia Biblica et Theologica 12 (1982): 171–194.

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    Argues that 5:17–20 contains both antithesis and continuity. The antithesis is between the righteousness that Jesus demands and the righteousness that the Pharisees and scribes demand. With respect to the Law, Jesus asserts that he has a relationship of continuity. These two themes of antithesis and continuity are then proved in verses 21–48.

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  • Luz, Ulrich. “The Fulfilment of the Law in Matthew (Matt. 5:17–20).” In Studies in Matthew. By Ulrich Luz, 185–220. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.

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    An exegesis of Matthew 5:17–20 and a brief comparison of Matthew and Paul’s teaching on the law.

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  • Meier, John. Law and History in Matthew’s Gospel: A Redactional Study of Matthew 5:17–48. Analecta biblica 71. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976.

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    Argues that Jesus was not completely negative on the Law but instead that he was an apocalyptic prophet who saw the Law as continuing until the fulfillment of the eschatological age. This age then is fulfilled (at least in part) through Jesus’ own death and resurrection, which is the “apocalyptic terminus” that 5:18 looks forward to.

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  • Moo, J. D. “Jesus and the Authority of the Mosaic Law.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 7.20 (1984): 3–49.

    DOI: 10.1177/0142064X8400702001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of how the Law functions in different ways in Jesus’ life and teaching. Moo also wrestles with what it means for Jesus to have “fulfilled” the law.

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  • Snodgrass, Klyne. “Matthew and the Law.” In Treasures New and Old: Recent Contributions to Matthean Studies. Edited by David R. Bauer and Mark Allan Powell, 99–127. Society of Biblical Literature Symposium 1. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996.

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    Argues that Matthew views the law as having an unquestionably enduring validity. A proper understanding of the law is a prophetic reading of it in which the love command and the call for mercy demonstrate the true requirements of the law.

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  • Viljoen, Francois P. “Jesus’ Teaching on the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount.” Neotestamentica 40.1 (2006): 135–155.

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    Situates Matthew’s discussion of the law in the context of conflict between Christianity and Judaism, which accused Christianity of not adhering to the Torah. Argues that Jesus is presented as the new, eschatological Lawgiver (Moses). The Torah remains permanent in Christian conduct but as a demonstration of the deeper attitude of one’s heart.

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The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer has always been an important part of Christian theology and liturgy. Some modern works that analyze it focus on its origins and background, as in Houk 1966, Houlden 1992, and Petuchowski and Brocke 1978. Other pieces emphasize the theological meaning and application of the Prayer, such as O’Collins 2007, Schnackenburg 1995, and Wright 2001. Wenham 2010 is an example of an article that concentrates on the structure of the Prayer, while Stevenson 2004 provides a helpful history of the interpretation.

  • Houk, Cornelius B. “Peirasmos—The Lord’s Prayer and the Massah Tradition (Ex. 12:1–7).” Scottish Journal of Theology 19 (1966): 216–225.

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    Argues that the entire Lord’s Prayer should be reappraised from the point of view of reference to the Massah testing found in Exodus 17:1–7 and the murmuring of Israel in the wilderness. In light of this tradition, the “temptation” should be understood as man’s tempting of God.

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  • Houlden, J. L. “Lord’s Prayer.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4. Edited by David N. Freedman, 356–371. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Examines the issues in interpretation, the text, the origins, the general meaning, and the points of detail relating to the Lord’s Prayer.

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  • Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Studies in Biblical Theology. 2d ser., 6. London: SCM, 1967.

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    This book contains a translation of four important and classic essays by Jeremias, all of which relate to the Lord’s Prayer. Included are Jeremias’ essays on God as “Abba,” prayer in the life of Jesus and the early Church, the Lord’s Prayer in light of recent research, and characteristics of the ipsissima vox Jesu (the essential voice of the Jesus sayings).

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  • O’Collins, Gerald. The Lord’s Prayer. New York: Paulist, 2007.

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    An exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, which also takes into consideration the broader theological relationship between the Lord’s Prayer and the Kingdom of God.

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  • Petuchowski, Jakob Josef, and Michael Brocke, eds. The Lord’s Prayer and Jewish Liturgy. New York: Seabury, 1978.

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    A selection of essays that examine the Lord’s prayer in its Old Testament and Jewish background, its role in the New Testament, and its application in the life of faith communities. The book is divided into four parts—Part 1: The Hebrew Bible; Part 2: The Prayers of the Synagogue; Part 3: The New Testament; and Part 4: Practical Applications.

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  • Schnackenburg, Rudolf. All Things Are Possible to Believers: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. Translated by James S. Currie. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1995.

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    Provides an overview of the Sermon on the Mount and its original meaning, history of interpretation, and application with special focus on the Lord’s Prayer. Argues that the Lord’s Prayer is key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount.

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  • Stevenson, Kenneth W. The Lord’s Prayer: A Text in Tradition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

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    This book offers a history of interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Stevenson’s survey stands out because of (1) the focus on the recent resurgence of interest in the Jewish background of the Sermon and (2) its sensitivity to the differences between the Eastern and Western traditions of interpretation.

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  • Wenham, David. “The Sevenfold Form of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel.” Expository Times 121.8 (2010): 377–382.

    DOI: 10.1177/0014524610364409Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the Lord’s Prayer, in the form we find it in Matthew’s Gospel, consists of seven petitions, carefully and chiastically arranged. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Wright, N. T. “The Lord’s Prayer as a Paradigm of Christian Prayer.” In Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament. Edited by Richard N. Longenecker, 132–154. McMaster New Testament Studies. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001.

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    Places the Lord’s Prayer within the ministry and kingdom announcement of Jesus. In this context, Wright argues that Jesus saw his kingdom work in terms of the much-hoped-for “New Exodus” and that the Lord’s Prayer encapsulates this vision.

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Ethics in the Sermon

One of the most important topics that the Sermon touches on is Christian ethics. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon address several practical ethical issues such as divorce and remarriage, adultery, lying, and the forgiveness of enemies. This, combined with the central place of the Sermon in church history, means that these texts are some of the most important for the formation of Christian ethical views. As a result, there are many studies on the ethical implications of the Sermon. Many scholars concentrate on ethics in general in the Sermon, as evidenced in Cahill 1987 and Schrage 1988, often arguing for a particular way of understanding the ethical approach (see Charry 1999, Hagner 1997, Harvey 1990, and Matera 1989). Others focus on the intended effect of Jesus’ ethical teaching, either in general (Williams 1990) or on specific issues such as social action (Tinker 2007) or pacifism (Wink 1992).

  • Cahill, L. S. “The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the Mount.” Interpretation 41.2 (1987): 144–156.

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    After surveying the different proposed approaches to the ethics of the Sermon, the author examines its canonical and intertextual meaning. Issues of the impact of eschatological judgment on interpretation and the social implications of the teaching are also examined.

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  • Charry, Ellen. “Authoritative Teaching: The Sermon on the Mount.” In By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine. By Ellen Charry, 61–86. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195134865.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The chapter on the Sermon in this book presents a virtue-formation reading in which Jesus’ teaching is intended to create moral vision in the hearers and prompt them to righteous living. The second-temple setting in which Matthew’s vision of purity (righteousness) is presented is also briefly considered.

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  • Hagner, Donald A. “Ethics and the Sermon on the Mount.” Studia Theologica 51.1 (1997): 44–59.

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    The context of the Sermon is analyzed, emphasizing the unique nature of an ethic spoken by the messiah of Israel who has arrived. The content is then considered, covering in turn the objective and practicality of the Sermon, as well as significant hermeneutical issues. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Harvey, A. E. Strenuous Commands: The Ethics of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity, 1990.

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    This book examines the moral teaching of Jesus in the Sermon in comparison to the typical prudential wisdom of the moral teachers in the ancient world. Jesus did not present new ideas as much as he used paradox and exaggeration to challenge the presuppositions of his hearers. Jesus’ goal is to motivate his hearers to life “as if” the kingdom of God were already a reality.

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  • Matera, Frank J. “The Ethics of the Kingdom in the Gospel of Matthew.” Listening 24 (1989): 241–250.

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    This article is a summary of Matthew’s presentation of the ethics and moral behavior required of a person who wishes to enter the kingdom of heaven. The author presents this moral vision as grounded in Matthew’s reverence for the law of Moses and expressed in the language of the pursuit of righteousness. The Sermon is given significant consideration as a part of this larger theme.

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  • Schrage, Wolfgang. The Ethics of the New Testament. Translated by David E. Green. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.

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    The Sermon is dealt with in the first section of this book that addresses the ethics of the New Testament authors. The “eschatological ethics” of Jesus are examined, as well as his understanding of the relationship of the will of God to the law. An analysis of Jesus’ command to love neighbors and enemies is also included.

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  • Tinker, M. “The Servant Solution: The Co-Ordination of Evangelism and Social Action.” Themelios 32.2 (2007): 6–32.

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    This article engages the contemporary debate on the relationship between social action and the church’s mission by examining the Isaianic background to Matthew 5:13–16. The author suggests that while the proclamation of the evangel must remain the priority of the church, this passage speaks of the authenticity that must be present through a transformed community of disciples.

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  • Williams, James G. “Paraenesis, Excess, and Ethics: Matthew’s Rhetoric in the Sermon on the Mount.” Semeia 50 (1990): 163–187.

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    This essay uses anthropological and literary models to explain the meaning of the Sermon, which is seen to be parenetic in form and content. Through discourse the disciples are initiated into a vision of discipleship influenced by the coming Passion and the reward that will be theirs for faithfully following him.

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  • Wink, Walter. “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way.” Review & Expositor 89 (1992): 197–214.

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    This article explores the nonviolent ethic of Jesus, connecting his teaching in the Sermon with the way he lived his life and especially the way he approached death. His ethic is described as an alternative to “fight or flight” and is opposed to both violence and passivity.

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Assorted Texts

In the preceding sections, we have provided information on the most significant portions and topics of the Sermon (Beatitudes, Jesus and the Law, the Lord’s Prayer, Ethics). But every other verse and every other section of the Sermon have also received treatment by interpreters throughout the centuries. Following is a selection of some important scholarly articles on various other portions of the Sermon. These are necessarily representative and not exhaustive.

Matthew 5

Dale Allison is the source of many insightful articles on the meaning of various texts in Matthew, often concentrating on the history of interpretation and intertextual connections; see Allison 1987, Allison 2005a, and Allison 2005b. Divorce and remarriage as they relate to Matthew 5:32 is a perennial area of debate, such as in Janzen 2001, Jensen 1978, and Witherington 1985. Other representative academic articles on various topics include Campbell 1978 and Nauck 1952.

Matthew 6–7

As with Matthew 5 in the preceding section, there are many studies perennially produced on a variety of passages in Matthew 6–7. Many articles have addressed the perplexing metaphor of sight and the eye as the lamp of the body in 6:22–23, such as Allison 1987, Turan 2008, Whitters 2006, and Zöckler 2001, or the even more confusing statement about dogs and swine in Matthew 7:6 (see Bennett 1987). The background and meaning of 6:21–34 also receive regular attention in Carter 1997 and MacAskill 2005. Jesus’ climactic ending to the Sermon, with its three-fold set of images (7:13–27), is addressed, at least in part, in articles such as Derrett 1982 and Hill 1976. Again, these articles are merely representative and not exhaustive of the scholarly output on these texts.

  • Allison, Dale C., Jr. “The Eye is the Lamp of the Body (Matthew 6.22–23=Luke 11.34–36).” New Testament Studies 33.1 (1987): 61–83.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0028688500016052Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Allison defends the “extramission theory of vision” interpretation and also demonstrates the influence of this vision theory in Jewish sources that antedate the Sermon. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Bennett, Thomas J. “Matthew 7:6—A New Interpretation.” Westminster Theological Journal 49.2 (1987): 371–386.

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    An interpretation of Matthew 7:6 that seeks to clarify Jesus’ ambiguous metaphor by connecting it to the context of Matthew 7:1–5.

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  • Carter, Warren. “‘Solomon in All His Glory’: Intertexuality and Matthew 6:29.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 19.65 (1997): 3–25.

    DOI: 10.1177/0142064X9701906501Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An intertextual look at the difference between the inactive but cared-for lilies of Matthew 6:29 and the anxious toil of Solomon. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Derrett, J. Duncan M. “The Merits of the Narrow Gate (Mt. 7:13–14, Lk. 13:24).” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 5.15 (1982): 20–29.

    DOI: 10.1177/0142064X8200501502Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Derrett provides an exposition of Matthew 7:13–14 and demonstrates that this statement in the Sermon is best understood in connection with Isaiah 59. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hill, David. “False Prophets and Charismatics: Structure and Interpretation in Matthew 7:15–23.” Biblica 57 (1976): 327–348.

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    Hill provides a brief survey of interpretations regarding the identity of the “false prophets” in Matthew 7:15. He then argues that the identity of these prophets is not to be confused with the charismatics described in 7:22–23. The false prophets come from outside the church (Pharisees), whereas the charismatics are those within the community but who fail to do the will of the Father.

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  • MacAskill, Grant. “Matthew 6:19–34: The Kingdom, the World and the Ethics of Anxiety.” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 23.1 (2005): 18–29.

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    MacAskill shows that the broken relationship between Creator and creature is the cause of anxiety and that the eschatological in-breaking of the New Creation gives a solid foundation to pursue tranquility.

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  • Turan, Sinai. “A Neglected Rabbinic Parallel to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:22–23; Luke 11:34–36).” Journal of Biblical Literature 127.1 (2008): 81–93.

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    Turan looks at the relationship between Jesus’ statement about the eye as the lamp of the body and the claim of Oshaiah the Younger that the eyes of a bride inform one of her character.

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  • Whitters, Mark F. “‘The Eye Is the Lamp of the Body’: Its Meaning in the Sermon on the Mount.” Irish Theological Quarterly 71.1–2 (2006): 77–88.

    DOI: 10.1177/0021140006072570Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An exposition of Jesus’ “eye is a lamp” phrase that focuses on external actions and a Gospel of Thomas parallel.

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  • Zöckler, T. “Light within the Human Person: A Comparison of Matthew 6:22–23 and Gospel of Thomas 24.” Journal of Biblical Literature 120 (2001): 487–499.

    DOI: 10.2307/3267904Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of “light” as used by Matthew and Thomas and their rhetorical effect in the literature.

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Textual Critical Issues

As with any New Testament text, there are always questions about which manuscript readings are the most accurate and original ones. This is the realm of textual criticism. The general commentaries on Matthew and the general studies of the Sermon often address these issues in the course of their exposition, but there are also a number of specific articles that address variant manuscript readings, such as Black 1988, Holmes 1986, and Jongkind 2006.

Source-Critical Issues

Many studies have been produced that address the Sermon from the perspective of the sources behind it and its composition. In addition to several sources listed in this entry under other sections, such as those of Betz and Dupont, works dealing with the source relationship between the Sermon and Luke or Q include Farmer 1986, Guelich 1976, Hartin 1989, Luz 1983, Tuckett 1983, Worden 1983, and Youngquist 2011. Lachs 1978 is a study on the connections between Jesus’ teachings and Rabbinic sources. These kinds of studies were dominant in previous decades, whereas more literary, theological, and interpretive issues are commonly discussed currently.

  • Carruth, Shawn, and Albrecht Garsky. Q 11:2b-4: Lord’s Prayer. Documenta Q: Reconstructions of Q through Two Centuries of Gospel Research Excerpted, Sorted and Evaluated. Edited by Stanley D. Anderson. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 1996.

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    This volume is part of the scholarly reconstruction of the text of Q. This book contains the reconstructed Greek text of Q 11:2b-4, which is the Lord’s Prayer. Various scholars’ opinion on what was original are categorized by “pros” and “cons,” and a final evaluation is given.

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  • Farmer, William R. “The Sermon on the Mount: A Form-Critical and Redactional Analysis of Matt 5:1–7:29.” SBL Seminar Papers (1986): 56–87.

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    Farmer deals with a potpourri of topics regarding structure, exegesis, historical setting, and textual reconstruction.

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  • Guelich, R. “The Antitheses of Matthew v. 21–48: Traditional and/or Redactional?” New Testament Studies 22.4 (1976): 444–457.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0028688500010122Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A source and form-critical analysis of Matthew 5:21–48. Guelich wrestles with whether the antitheses were the product of Matthew’s redactional work or whether they were already part of his received Jesus Traditions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hartin, Patrick J. “James and the Q Sermon on the Mount/Plain.” SBL Seminar Papers 28 (1989): 440–457.

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    An investigation into the relationship between James and the Jesus Traditions that constitute the Sermon on the Mount.

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  • Lachs, Samuel Tobias. “Some Textual Observations on the Sermon on the Mount.” Jewish Quarterly Review 69.2 (1978): 98–111.

    DOI: 10.2307/1454051Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lachs argues that Rabbinic material can illumine our understanding of the Sermon on the Mount. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Luz, Ulrich. “Sermon on the Mount/Plain: Reconstruction of Q(Mt) and Q(Lk).” SBL Seminar Papers 22 (1983): 473–479.

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    Luz provides the text of a reconstructed Q based on comparing Matthew and Luke.

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  • Tuckett, C. M. “The Beatitudes: A Source-Critical Study.” Novum Testamentum 25.3 (1983): 193–216.

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    An examination of the relationship between the Lucan and Matthean Beatitudes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Worden, R. D. “The Q Sermon on the Mount/Plain: Variants and Reconstruction.” SBL Seminar Papers 22 (1983): 455–471.

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    A survey of the scholarly reconstruction of Q as it relates to the Sermon.

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  • Youngquist, Linden. Q 6:37–42. Not Judging—The Blind Leading the Blind –The Disciple and the Teacher –the Speck and the Beam. Documenta Q: Reconstructions of Q Through Two Centuries of Gospel Research Excerpted, Sorted and Evaluated. Edited by Christoph Heil and Gertraud Harb. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2011.

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    Like other volumes in this series, the goal is a reconstruction of the original Q saying behind certain Gospel texts. In this case, Q 6:37–42 is evaluated, which corresponds to Mathew 7:1–5 in the Sermon.

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LAST MODIFIED: 02/06/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0059

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