Ten [More] Tidbits from the Sermon on the Mount

1. Although this discourse opens by naming the disciples as the audience, at its conclusion the crowds are said to be listening and “astounded at his teaching” (7:28).

2. The first antithesis (5:21-26), against anger, requires disciples to maintain their relationships despite (or through) their frustrations and displeasure with others.

3. The KJV reads (5:22) “..whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” The bolded phrase, which suggests that anger “with cause” has a place in the life of a disciple, is a textual variant and is not found in modern translations.

4. The second antithesis (5:27-30) requires disciples to guard and protect the marriage relationships of others. The word translated as “woman” in 5:28 may also be understood as “wife”: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at [a married woman] with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

5. The injunction against looking “on a woman/wife with lust” is probably best understood as prohibiting active planning or scheming to act on sexual attraction rather than a passive appreciation of another person’s appearance or other qualities.

6. The third antithesis (5:31-32) requires disciples to maintain their own marriage relationships except on condition of “unchastity.” The Greek word behind “unchastity” means broadly any form of unlawful sexual intercourse.

7. The fourth antithesis defines the integrity required of a disciple in all relationships. The key element (5:37),” Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’” can be read as “let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’” The ancient world regarded oaths as potent guarantees of fulfillment but the disciple needs no such crutch.

8. The fifth antithesis (5:38-42) requires disciples to remain open to establishing or repairing a relationships otherwise damaged through insult, litigation, etc., etc. The disciple must replace a response in kind with a generous reaction.

9. The sixth antithesis (5:43-47) establishes God’s benevolence as the paradigm for a disciple’s relationships.

10. One fruitful way to understand the command to be perfect (5:48) is to read it through the sixth antithesis (5:43-47), that is, as a commandment to extend love and mercy as impartially as God does.

About mogget
  • http://aphoristikos.blogspot.com hopolios

    On Tidbit 10: doesn’t the Greek (postpositive οὖν = “igitur” or “therefore”) REQUIRE us to read verse 48 as the conclusion of verses 43-47? That is, the reading you suggest is not only “one fruitful way” but the reading most easily supported by the actual text? And other readings, especially proof-texting ones that sever verse 48 from any context entirely, are much harder to defend?

  • mogget

    The question might be whether the “therefore” arises from the final antithesis or from the cumulative weight of all six of them. For my part, I do read it part of the sixth antithesis and as a summation of all of them. For purposes of blogging I simply prefer an understated approach, but wouldn’t object to stronger readings. And I think it ought not be disconnected from the co-text, as you have pointed out. Sometimes it’s best to let the idea work on folks rather than demanding a certain result.


  • http://aphoristikos.blogspot.com hopolios

    Indeed Mogget. I’ve never considered v. 48 as the conclusion of all six antitheses. I’ll have to let that work on my reading for the next little while. I appreciate your light-handed approach to your audience. It reminds me of Tolkien’s hope for applicability, letting the reader get what they may, as opposed to allegory, having a fixed meaning they must take in order to read correctly (as discussed in the foreword to the Lord of the Rings).

    I’m afraid a light hand isn’t one of my constant virtues.