2017, April 6, Thursday

I did not post yesterday. I came home from work in the mid afternoon and after picking up some food I fell asleep. My stomach was aching and my concentration unsettled by it, so I got little else done. I then had stomach issues all day today. I rested to get well before tomorrow. I will be traveling to Ohio to see my daughter’s art show.

Let’s finish up the outline of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5—7.

Matthew 5:17-20 and 7:12-14;
5:11-16 and 7:15-23;
5:3-10 and 7:24-27;
and 4:25—5:2 and 7:28—8:1

If we take another step further out from the center, we would be considering the words in 5:17-20 and possibly 7:12 or 7:12-14. But, between 7:12 and 7:12-14, which is it?

  • The words, “The Law [Torah] and the Prophets,” appear in both 5:17 and again in 7:12, making them a bracket that includes what lies between them (namely 5:21—7:11).
  • The teaching contained in 5:17-20 is about exceeding the adherence of the scribes and Pharisees to the Torah and Prophets (in rabbinical language, to fulfill means to obey, to abrogate means to not obey). The teaching in 7:13-14 is about entering the narrow gate and taking the constricted path, thereby exceeding those who enter the wide gate and take the broad path. Recall my discussion of 5:21-48: the “broad path” incorrectly concerns itself only with ascertaining limits and boundaries, not perceiving that the standard is actually God’s own love. It would seem therefore that 7:13-14 corresponds to 5:17-20 rather than 7:12 alone.

I would be inclined, then, to include both 7:12 and 7:13-14 as the portion balancing 5:17-20. The words, “the Torah and Prophets,” function as a formal framing; the concept of surpassing others likewise forms a frame with respect to content.

The next layer out is 5:12-16, in which Jesus switches from the third person to speak to his disciples in the first person; here he speaks of their prophetic relationship to others. In 5:12 Jesus compares his disciples to the prophets and in 5:14-16 he says that they are to be a light to others. Correspondingly, in 7:15-23 Jesus speaks in the first person before he switches to the third person in 7:24, and warns them about false prophets, the antithesis of 5:12-16. I think the relationship between these two passages is evident.

The next layer out is the beginning and end of the Sermon on the Mount, 5:3-10 and 7:24-27, which Jesus delivers in the third person. The Beatitudes describe the place into which the disciples have entered by becoming disciples of Jesus. The closing of the Sermon on the Mount compares those who hear and obey his words—who build on rock—versus those who merely hear and do not obey—who build on sand. The eight Beatitudes each speak of a condition—“blessed [are] the poor in spirit”—and its consequence—“for theirs is the dominion of the heavens.” The closing parable also speaks of a condition—having built one’s house on a rock—and a consequence—the house does not fall. The closing also gives the antithesis—a house built on sand will fall.

The final layer is the setting up and the taking down of the stage (4:25—5:2 and 7:28—8:1). They both, at the beginning and the end, feature the great crowds, the mountain, and Jesus teaching. In the set up Jesus “opens his mouth and taught them” and in the take down Jesus “finished these words.”

There are still questions that need to be answered concerning the interpretation of its content and on the overall purpose of this block of teaching, but understanding the internal contextualization and environment will aid our inquiry.

An Outline of the Sermon on the Mount

We are now ready to present an outline of the whole “sermon” in seven layers:

  • 4:25—5:2 (setting up the “stage”)
    • 5:3-10 (Beatitudes: the “land”)
      • 5:11-16 (you are to be [like?] prophets)
        • 5:17-20 (surpass the behavior of the scribes and the Pharisees)
          • 5:21-48 (measure your love only by God’s)
            • 6:1-4, 5-8 (acts of righteousness are only done before God)
              • 6:9-15 (being before God: the “Lord’s Prayer”)
            • 6:16-18 (acts of righteousness are only done before God)
          • 6:19—7:11 (only the reality of God matters)
        • 7:12-14 (enter the narrower gate; take the constricted path)
      • 7:15-23 (beware of false prophets)
    • 7:24-27 (the right “ground”)
  • 7:28—8:1 (taking down the stage)

We have already shown how the central verses, 6:9-15, can be further broken down in the same manner, its lines pivoting around the phrase, “as in heaven so on earth.” If the etymology of the word Torah alludes to an arrow seeking its mark, the structure of this block of teaching seems very appropriate.

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