SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The sermon on the mount is recognized by all serious Bible scholars to be a statement of the very essence of Christian conduct and living. In this blog, I depart from my usual practice of writing and commenting to give you some quotes about the sermon on the mount. No quote should be taken as an endorsement of any of the other teachings of those quoted.

“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.'” — Jonathn T. Pennington Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

“The Sermon on the Mount compared with the summaries of moral duty belonging to other religions is comprehensive while they are fragmentary. No moral code can be produced which approaches this in completeness or depth. There is no other moral code belonging to an accepted and ancient religion for which any educated European could even claim finality and completeness. We know what John Stuart Mill, though not a believer, said about our Lord’s moral teaching. He said ‘Not even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete, than to endeavour so to live that Jesus Christ would approve our life.’ And Dr. Pusey commented on that by saying ‘If men would set this before themselves, there would be fewer unbelievers.’ There is then, I say, no other moral summary belonging to an ancient religion on behalf of which a man of modern enlightenment could, with a reasonable chance of being listened to, make the claim that its principles can never be outgrown or found insufficient for any race of men. This is to others as the comprehensive to the fragmentary.”

“Lastly, it differs from other codes by the authoritative sanction which is given to the words by the person of the speaker. ‘He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes.’ All the weight of His mysterious person, all the majesty of His tone, His demeanour, His authority, go to give sanction to this law which He uttered: and not only to give it sanction, in the sense of making men feel that they were dealing with one whose mysterious power it would be better not to offend: His person gives sanction to His words also by inspiring the profoundest confidence that He who makes the claim will also provide strength to correspond with it.” — Charles Gore, M.A., D.D. EDIN.

“The magna charta of Christ’s Kingdom: the unfolding of His righteousness; the sublimest code of morals ever proclaimed on earth; the counterpart of the legislation on Mount Sinai; Christ here appears as Lawgiver and King; Moses spoke in God’s name; Christ speaks in His own.” — Philip Schaff

“We have only to read these ‘instructions’ carefully to see that they bear the mark of Jesus’ genius. Running through them like a golden cord is the handprint of the Master. No man ever spoke like this man. Classic literature is in one sense very little different from ordinary literature in that the words used are the same. But it is the way in which those words are put together, and the ideas that they convey, that make the difference. And that is why they are remembered and become world changing. It is the same with this message. It is more than a classic, it is a work of genius. It is not a question here of selecting out from His material something here and something there, and trying to find from it something spectacularly new. It is a matter of seeing the whole. For the whole is, in its presentation, spectacularly new, even though it is firmly based in the Scriptures. Nothing like it can be found before or since. It presents a total picture that has astounded the world throughout the centuries, including many of differing religions and no religion. Any view of it that does not recognise this element of genius within it can be dispensed with immediately. To suggest therefore that it could be the invention, or even part invention, of a committee or ‘school’ (apart from that consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is so absurd as to be ludicrous. For it hangs together as one whole and has far too much quality for that. It contains ‘the ring of truth’ and ‘the mark of its genius’ throughout. It bears the stamp of a unique personality. It is not only unique in its generation, it is unique in every generation. — Peter Pett

“So the Sermon on the Mount is not a disconcerted jumble of fine sayings, but exhibits remarkable unity as a discourse, as will be observed when I briefly state the outline and analysis of it. Indeed, I much question if any speech has ever been delivered more remarkable for unity than the Sermon on the Mount.” — B. H. Carroll

“It is simple, familiar, direct, sententious, paradoxical, startling, illustrative, conversational, practical, and authoritative.

“It is a simple talk. I mean that every one in that audience could understand it. There was no attempt at big words; the language of the common people, as they spoke it and as they understood it, was used by our Saviour. It was familiar in that it was as homely in its phrases as if he were sitting by the fireside or out on the housetop in the cool of the evening or on the curbing of the street and talking with the passing people. It was not an oration, for there is an utter absence of declamatory, theoretical elocution, and rhetoric, as there must be in all great teachers. I mean to say that there is not an indication of a single strained mental effort after rounded phraseology, euphonious diction, rhetorical effect, dramatic gesticulation. It is direct. I mean to say that it does not intend to reach things by cannoning, hitting here and intending by glancing shot to strike out yonder. He moves right straight forward to the accomplishment of his object.

It is illustrative. The illustrations do not have to be explained, as some men’s illustrations. They illustrate. They preach a sermon by themselves – that is, they carry in their familiar imagery their own application. He selects objects that are perfectly well known to the people and so thoroughly familiar that when used as an illustration there can be no misconception as to the meaning. Sometimes he illustrates by a hen and chickens, sometimes by a lily, other times by rocks and thorns and sheep and birds. It is conversational in its style, . . . But the distinguishing characteristic in style is that which most impressed his audience, because of its intrinsic power and of its marked dissimilarity to the methods of their ordinary religious teachers. He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees. The style then was authoritative . . . But Jesus spoke with authority – authority vested in himself. He leaned on no human buttresses – did not attempt to defend his doctrine, nor to vindicate it. He spoke as God speaks, and without stopping to give an explanation of his manner – and so ought men always to speak who speak for God. Let him speak as the oracles of God. Now as to the rank of this Sermon. Daniel Webster says that no mere man could have produced the Sermon on the Mount. . . Old age and wisdom bow before the simplicity and sublimity of this incomparable teaching. Little children sweetly imbibe its spirit as if it were milk, and aged saints draw from it the strong meat which supplies their sinews of strength. Babes in Christ by it take their first step in the practical walk of Christian life while the men or women in Christ Jesus by it soar on eagles’ wings into the anticipations of the heavenly world. It is peerless, matchless, divine. — B. H. Carroll

Eric L. Padgett

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