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115 Editorial
117 Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount
131 The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon
on the Mount
144 The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the
157 The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral
170 Expository Articles
170 Matthew 5:43-48
173 Matthew 6:5-15
179 Matthew 6:24-34
184 Major Book Reviews
184 The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction, by Norman
K. Gottwald
187 Matthew as Story, by Jack Dean Kingsbury
190 Preaching, by Fred B. Craddock
193 Revelation and Theology: The Gospel as Narrated Promise, by
Ronald F. Thiemann
196 Shorter Reviews and Notices
220 Books Received

Copyright 1987 by Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

F PEOPLE KNOW ANYTHING at all about the Bible, it will surely

I include material found in Matthew 5-7. The Golden Rule, turning the
other cheek, the Lord's Prayer, walking the straight and narrow-all are
drawn from its content. Yet despite its familiarity, the three chapters that
make up what is popularly known as the Sermon on the Mount (wrongly
named; Matthew 5:2 refers to it not as preaching but as teaching) continue
to intrigue, baffle, and enlighten interpreters even after some two millenia
of study. Its importance for the Christian church can hardly be exagger-
ated. It was the most widely cited passage of Scripture in the Ante-Nicene
Fathers, played a major part in the way various reform movements of the
sixteenth century understood their relationship to secular society, and has
continued to playa role in the way Christians understand themselves and
their role in contemporary life. It is therefore an appropriate topic for
those interested in biblical interpretation to address.
A broad survey of the many ways the Sermon on the Mount has been
interpreted makes up the content of the first article. In it, Robert Guelich
isolates the characteristic ways of viewing this biblical passage which have
emerged in critical periods of the life of the church, and shows how each
view has influenced the way Christian life was understood within the
larger society of its time. Despite what Guelich calls the "sea of literature"
thus produced, the Sermon, showing itself to be anything but self-evident
in meaning, continues to challenge interpreters who seek to find the
Christian path within secular society. The article is an excellent guide into
that challenge and some of its possible solutions.
Because the Sermon on the Mount is part of the larger literary entity we
know as the Gospel of Matthew, an understanding of the Sermon depends
in large measure on an understanding of its place and function within the
larger context of that Gospel. In the second article, Jack Dean Kingsbury
leads the reader step by step through an analysis of that context and the
way the Sermon is related to it. Using this larger context to interpret the
Sermon, Kingsbury tackles the vexed problem of the intention of these
chapters: Did Matthew intend them to be an impossible ideal, or did he
intend them as an actual guide for Christian living? Considering the
Sermon passage by passage, from the opening Beatitudes to the closing
parable of Houses, Kingsbury shows how Matthew made clear his inten-
tion. The article thus constitutes an invaluable aid for the interpreter of
this portion of Matthew's Gospel.

In the third article, Lisa Sowle Cahill invites the reader to consider with
her the broader implications for Christian ethics which a careful interpre-
tation of the Sermon on the Mount inevitably provokes. Assuming the
canonical authority and the literary coherence of the Gospel of Matthew,
Cahill examines the ethical implications of the Sermon for a variety of
contemporary problems, including ethics as relationship and action, and
as imitation of God; the impact of eschatological judgment on ethical
decision making; and the social dimensions of the righteousness expected
of the Christian disciple, including the problems of nonviolence and
nonresistance to evil. Thoughtful reading of this carefully reasoned article
will increase one's sensitivity to the ethical implication for contemporary
life of the sayings of Jesus found in these three chapters of Matthew.
Because the Sermon on the Mount represents an address not only to the
individual believer but also to the community of believers, it is necessary to
view it from that perspective as well. In the final article, Richard Lischer
looks at the Sermon from the perspective of the actual life of that commu-
nity to see what resources it has to offer. Noting what he finds to be a
puzzling lack of references to the Sermon in contemporary literature
devoted to the practical aspects of church life, a lack all the more sur-
prising because of the organic relationship Lischer finds between this
passage from Matthew and the life and ministry of the present-day
congregation, Lischer examines how the Sermon can function in two of
those aspects: pastoral care and the liturgical life of the community.
Written from a close acquaintance with theology and biblical interpreta-
tion, this essay will reward those who read it carefully with a renewed
appreciation of the value of the Sermon on the Mount for the Christian life
of the community of believers.
The interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is continued in the
three expository articles, each dealing with a passage chosen from the
material contained in it. In an exposition of Matthew 5 :43-48, Bonnie
Bowman Thurston examines the intimidating demand that the Christian
be "perfect" and aids the reader in finding the levels of meaning contained
in that command. Philip B. Harner looks at Matthew 6:5-15 and helps the
reader to a fuller understanding of the prayer Jesus commended to his
disciples. In the third exposition, Charles E. Carlston examines Matthew
6:24-34, warning of the dangers of understanding the Word of God as a
law, or simply as an exhortation to "try harder."
Taken together, these articles provide the reader with a careful look at a
most familiar yet most enigmatic passage from the Bible.

Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount


Teaching Minister and Theologian in Residence

The Colonial Church of Edina, Edina, Minnesota

Although interpreters have been occupied with the Sermon

on the Mount for nearly two millenia, and have produced
widely differing results, the challenge of these verses
for Christians remains undiluted.

A CCORDING TO W. S. KISSINGER, "No portion of the Scriptures

was more frequently quoted and referred to by the Ante-N icene
writers than the Sermon on the Mount." 1 The same may still obtain for our
day when one recognizes that the so-called Sermon on the Mount of
Matthew 5: 1-7:29 contains such well-known passages as the Beatitudes
(5:3-11), the Lord's Prayer (6:9-13), and the Golden Rule (7: 12). Several
exhortations have become ethical maxims such as turning the other cheek
(5:39), going the extra mile (5:41), loving one's enemies (5:44), and
walking the straight and narrow (7: 13-14).
Familiarity, however, does not insure understanding. The sea of litera-
ture on the Sermon demonstrates that the meaning of the Sermon is
anything but self-evident. So vast is this literary sea that no one has
undertaken the task of charting the waters by writing a complete history of
the Sermon's interpretation. 2 Yet trends and issues have emerged over the

l. The Sermon on the Mount: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography, ATLA Biblio-
graphy Series 3 (Meteuchen, NJ: 1975), p. 6.
2. Four works offer some guidance: Harvey K. McArthur, Understanding the Sermon on
the Mount (New York: Harpers, 1960); Kissinger, The Sermon on the Mount; Ursula Berner,
Die Bergpredigt: Rezeption und Auslegung im 20. Jahrhundert (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und
Ruprecht, 1979); Clarence Bauman, The Sermon on the Mount: The Modern Quest fOT its
Meaning (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1985).

centurie,s that provide an important setting for one seeking to understand
and interpret the Sermon for an audience removed by nearly two mil-


A review of the Ante-Nicene writers' use of biblical texts reveals that "the
fifth chapter of Matthew appears more often in their works than any other
single chapter, and Matthew 5-7 more frequently than any other three
chapters in the entire Bible.,,3 Those writers indicate that the early church
understood these teachings to be from] esus and prescriptive for the life of
the Christian. For example, the Didache made frequent reference to
passages from the Sermon in its exposition of the "way of life." Justin drew
from much of Matthew 5 to describe Christian conduct in his apology
addressed to the Emperor Antonius Pius (Apol. I, 14-16). Augustine
prefaced our oldest commentary on the Sermon by referring to it as "the
perfect measure of the Christian life.,,4
Though the question of practicability never directly arose during this
period, we do find indirect signs of the early church's struggle to apply
these teachings. "Without cause"s softens] esus' prohibition of anger.
]ustin's]ewish partner in dialogue, Trypho, hints at the idealistic tone of
these demands when he says, "But the precepts in what you call your
Gospel are so marvelous and great that I don't think that anyone could
possibly keep them" (Dial. with Trypho, 12). Chrysostom may also betray
this concern in his exhortation on 6:25-34: "Let us not therefore suppose
his injunctions are impossible: for there are many who duly perform them,
even as it is.,,6
After Constantine and the mass conversion of the populace to Chris-
tianity, a tendency towards a two-level Christianity emerged. Those for
whom conversation meant rigorously following] esus' demands that
eventuated in an ascetic withdrawal from the world stood in contrast to the
masses who professed Christ and were baptized into the church.
This distinction was clearly spelled out by Aquinas. The masses lived by
the "precepts" or "the commandments" necessary for salvation, while
those who chose a higher way towards perfection and greater merit
followed the "counsels of perfection" or the "evangelical counsels" which
the Lord added to the "precepts" (Summa Theol. I, IIae. cvii-cviii). More
and more the Sermon's demands came to be interpreted as "evangelical
counsels" attainable by a few. Thus one concedes the Sermon's imprac-

3. Kissinger, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 6.

4. The Preaching of Augustine, ed. Jeroslav Pelikan (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973), p. l.
5. Eikei in l D L W 0 fl.l3 it syr; ir laL Or PL .
6. The Preaching ofChrysostom: Homilies on the Sermon on the MOLl,nt, ed. Jeroslav Pelikan
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973), p. 174.

Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount

ticability by recognizing that most of the demands were not even for every


A major shift in interpreting the Sermon emerged from the sixteenth-
century reformation. Oversimplified, three approaches arose: Luther's,
Calvin's, and the Anabaptists'.
The "Anabaptists" or radical reformers 7 stand out because they took the
Sermon to be the charter for the Christian life. Viewed as a compendium
of Jesus' teaching, the Sermon represented a new law commensurate with
the coming of the Kingdom of God and provi~ed the norm for every
Inevitably the demands of the Sermon did not mix with the socio-
political realities of this world. Consequently, some took a revolutionary
tack and attempted to build a new society, the Kingdom of God, based on
the Sermon's principles (e.g., Munzer, the Zwickau prophets, the Mel-
chiorists). The majority, however, settled for a radical separation of
church and state and a withdrawal from direct participation in socio-
political structures that might compromise the principles of the Sermon
(e.g., the Swiss Brethren and the Mennonites). Thus, in their own way, the
radical reformers illustrate the impracticability of the Sermon's demands
for life in the "real" world.
Luther's work on the Sermon addressed specifically the issue of prac-
ticability by focusing on two targets, the "canonists" and the Anabaptists. 8
On the one hand, he confronted the double standard of the "canonists" of
the Roman Church who took the Sermon's demands as optional "coun-
sels" for a select few, while holding the "precepts" or "commandments" to
be necessary for salvation for all. On the other hand, he confronted the
radical reformers who sought to apply the Sermon's demands literally for
all believers leading either to an uncompromising withdrawal from the
world or to an attempt to construct a new world.
According to Luther, both had failed to distinguish between two divine-
ly ordained orders, "two kingdoms," the secular kingdom of the world and
the spiritual Kingdom of Christ. He viewed the secular order to be
ordained by God as the ordering principle for society with roles ("offices")
and laws, the ignoring of which would lead to anarchy and chaos. At the
same time, he viewed every believer to be called to live and work in faith
and love according to the demands of the Sermon. Consequently, one

7. Luther often used Schwiixmer ("enthusiasts"), but "anabaptists," "schismatics," and

"sectarians" have all been used to refer to the often diverse followers of Thomas Munzer
and the Zwickau Prophets, the Melchiorists or Hoffmanites, the Mennonites, the Hut-
terites, and the Swiss Brethren.
8. Luther's "commentary" comes from a series of weekly sermons preached between
1530-1532 prepared for publication by his students with a preface written by Luther.

must distinguish between a believer's "office" and "person," the one
pertaining to the kingdom of the world and the other to the Kingdom of
Christ. Therefore, as a citizen, jurist, or soldier one carried out the
commensurate responsibilities established by civil law while personally in
keeping with the Sennon intending no harm and grieving over the
adverse consequences for those involved. 9
By separating the "two kingdoms," Luther avoided the "papist" error of
subsuming the temporal or secular authority under the church and the
"schismatic's" error of imposing the spiritual upon the secular and/or
withdrawing from the latter. Yet by delineating two kingdoms, Luther too
recognized implicitly what had come to be accepted by the "papists" and
the "schismatics," namely, the impracticability of Jesus' demands in the
Sermon on the Mount for the socio-political structures of this world.
Calvin also addressed the same two fronts. 10 He objected to the
"Schoolmen" relegating Jesus' demands to optional "counsels" and thus
failing to recognize Jesus as a "Lawgiver" (Institutes, I, 419). He also
rejected the literalism of the Anabaptists whose limited focus on the
Sermon and strict application, for example, of the prohibition of oaths and
the use of the judicial system illustrated their failure to interpret Scripture
in light of Scripture as a whole. Like Luther, Calvin took the Sermon as
applicable to all believers, but his response to the "Schoolmen" and the
"Anabaptists" stems from a different approach to the Sermon.
First, apropos the "Schoolmen" he raised into bold relief the issue of
Jesus' role as "Lawgiver" in relationship to Moses and the law by disputing
any distinction between "commandment" and "counsel." Jesus does not
represent any discontinuity with the law. Calvin argued strongly for the
"sacred tie between the law and the Gospel" (Commentary, I, 278) seen in
Jesus' coming as the fulfillment of the law by restoring the true meaning of
the law and stripping away the Pharisaic distortions (Institutes, I, 373-74).
Jesus clarified the spirit of the law which remains binding for all.
Second, Calvin countered the Anabaptists' narrow literalism and
cushioned the Sermon's radical demands by reading them against the
broader witness of Scripture. For example, he maintained that Jesus'
prohibition of oaths only excludes oaths that "abuse and profane the
sacred name" (Commentary, I, 295). "God not only permits oaths ... but
commands their use ... [Exod. 22: 10-11]" (Institutes, I, 391). Conse-
quently, properly understood against the broader context of Scripture the
Sermon's demands prove practicable even for one involved in the struc-
tures of society.
9. Luther's Works, Vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. Jeroslov
Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), p. 113.
10. One must extrapolate Calvin's treatment of the Sermon from his Commentmy on the
Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949)
and his Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, The Library of Christian
Classics XX, XXI (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960).

Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount


With the coming of the Enlightenment and the rise of historical criti-
cism, new questions emerged. The Sermon survived the early stages
unscathed as an accurate statement of Jesus' teaching, though the de-
mands were often colored by the interpreter's view of Jesus.
Wilhelm Herrmann, the professor of Dibelius, Bultmann, and Barth,
wrote against the backdrop of Leo Tolstoy and Friedrich Naumann. II
Tolstoy sought to implement the Sermon's imperatives literally in society
even more rigorously than the Anabaptists. Naumann also took the Ser-
mon's demands as imperatives for life but found them so impracticable as
to be irrelevant for contemporary living.
Herrmann concurred with Naumann that a literal observance of Jesus'
commands was impossible but agreed with Tolstoy that Jesus' teaching
had validity for the human situation. He combined these convictions by
denying that Jesus' demands were ever intended to be commandments,
new laws, or legalistic regulations to be slavishly followed. Rather the
demands were more illustrative. Their intent was to call for a new mind
set, a "disposition" or "attitude" (Gesinnung) based on the awareness that
God is God and that love free from all legal and external constraints is the
ultimate good. Thus, while impracticable, the Sermon's demands are
applicable illustrations of how one should live. This interpretation became
the trademark of Liberal Protestantism.
Johannes Weiss' study on the Kingdom of God in Jesus' preaching
concluded that Jesus proclaimed an imminent, eschatological kingdom,
apocalyptic in character, that was to be inaugurated supernaturally. 12 This
view eventually spelled the doom of the view that the Kingdom of God was
essentially an ethical reality in the heart of the individual. 13 Albert Schweit-
zer then placed Jesus' ethical teachings, the Sermon in particular, within
the framework of his apocalyptic proclamation as an ethic of repentance to
prepare the disciples for the imminent kingdom and catastrophic judg-
ment. 14
Jesus' expectation of an imminent kingdom makes the present but an
"interim" in which to prepare for the coming judgment by responding to
demands so foreign to this world they tear one away from all natural

11. Ethik (Tubingen: Mohr, 1901) and Die sittliche WeisungenJesu. lhr Missbmuch und ihr
richtiger Gebmuch, 2d ed. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1907).
12. Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, tr. Richard H. Hiers and David L. Holland
(Philadelphia : Fortress, 1971).
13. See Adolf von Harnack, What is Christianity, tr. Thomas B. Saunders (New York:
Harper and Row, 1957).
14. The Mystery of the Kingdom of God, tr. Walter Lowrie (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1914)
and The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity, tr. L. A. Garrard (London: A & C Black,
1968), pp. 79-88,96-101.

moorings. IS Accordingly, the Sermon's demands deliberately negate all
the values of this world. Schweitzer recognized the impractical character
of the demands but maintained all the more that this "interim ethic" was
meant to be followed by the disciples.
The lesser known work of Hans Windisch contributed primarily to the
area of methodology by distinguishing between historical and theological
exegesis. 16 "Historical exegesis," he argued, looks exclusively at the text in
its historical and literary context. "Theological exegesis" seeks to interpret
through theological and philosophical insight the text for the individual in
his or her own situation.
He subjected the Sermon to a "historical" analysis that shows a differ-
ence between the Sermon in Matthew and the demands of Jesus. The
eschatological thrust correctly seen by Weiss and Schweitzer belongs
particularly to "Matthew's" emphasis in the Sermon. Viewed more closely,
many of Jesus' demands, the stuff of the Sermon, have only a secondary
interest in eschatology. "The teaching of Jesus, like that of the prophets,
was the proclamation of salvation and of damnation and the declaration of
an ethic of obedience" (Meaning, p. 121). His demands were meant as
commandments to be fulfilled literally by the individual as a basis for
ultimate salvation. Therefore, Matthew's Sermon unabashedly in line with
Jesus' teaching offers a "religion of 'works' and eschatological salvation
. . . . The commands of the Sermon on the Mount are conditions of
admittance to the Kingdom of Heaven."17
Having determined the meaning of the Sermon by "historical exegesis,"
Windisch rejected the current options provided by "theological exegesis."
He refused the "literalism" of Tolstoy and the Anabaptists because one
was simply unable to meet the demands. Without any hint in the Sermon
of help from God or the Spirit, ours is the fate of the "many" in 7: 13
(Meaning, p. 172-73). Windisch also refused the "Paulinization" of the
Sermon which takes the demands as another expression of the law to bring
us to God as sinners in need of God's forgiving grace effected in the
obedient, atoning work of Christ for us. IS
Instead Windisch found the theological key in the Beatitudes. Whereas
doing the will of God is prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom

15. The "ethics of the Sermon on the Mount is (sic) interim ethics" that "make one meet
for the kingdom of God," Mystery, p. 97. "Detachment from all that belongs to this world is
therefore essential," Schweitzer, Kingdom, p. 96.
16. The Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, tr. S. MacLean Gilmour (Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1951).
17. Meaning, pp. 168-69.
18. Cf. Carl Stange, "Zur Ethikder Bergpredigt," ZST2 (1924-25), 37-74; and Gerhard
Kittel, "Die Bergpredigt und die Ethik des Judentums, ZST 2 (1924-25), 555-94.

Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount

according to the Sermon's demands, the Beatitudes promise salvation to

the "poor in spirit." Thus there is more than one way to God in the
Sermon. This note of promise and hope sounded loud and clear in the
Beatitudes becomes inaudible by the warnings of 7: 13-27. Windisch
found this note to be a "pre-Christian" prophetic hope of God's gracious
acceptance of those who come "poor in spirit," a state to which the
Sermon's demands would inevitably lead one. At the same time, trust in
God's promise gives hope and power to live more in keeping with the
demands. Consequently, while we cannot take Jesus' commands literally as
intended because we are unwilling to "cut ourselves loose from those
ethical and religious responsibilities whose claim upon us we admit" (e.g.,
nation, state, family, and law), we can, for example, use legal justice in
keeping with the religious attitude intended by Jesus (Meaning, pp.
With Windisch the issue of practicability became secondary, a "the-
ological" issue that no longer controlled the exegesis of the Sermon.
Furthermore, "historical exegesis" shows the Sermon to have been com-
posed in its final form by the Evangelist drawing on the ethical teaching of
Jesus. Therefore, "historical exegesis" poses two tasks. First, one must
distinguish between tradition and redaction. Second, one must inquire
about the relation of Jesus' ethical demands to the law in particular and to
the diverse religious, social, and political context in general of Jesus and
the early church's setting. Consequently, subsequent works on the Sermon
have focused almost exclusively on the issues of "historical exegesis.,,19

19. So complete is the separation of historical and theological exegesis that most
commentaries pertaining to the Sermon fall into the categories of "critical" or "homiletical"
Examples of the former: Thaddaus Soiron, Die Bergpredigt Jesu. Formgeschichtliche,
exegetische und theologische Erklamng (Freiburg: Herder, 1941); Robert A Guelich, The
Sermon on the Mount: A Foundationf01' Understanding (Waco: Word Publishers, 1982; Georg
Strecker, Die Bergpredigt. Ein exegetischer Kommentar (G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck und Rup-
recht, 1984).
More popular: Georg Eicholz, Auslegung der Bergpredigt (Neukirchen: Neukirchener
Verlag, 1965); Petr Pokorny, Der Kern del' Bergpredigt (Hamburg: Evangelischer Verlag,
1969); Donald Carson, The Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978); Jan Lam-
brecht, The Sermon on the Mount: Proclamation and Exhortation, GNS 14 (Wilmington, DE:
Michael Glazier, 1985).
Examples of the latter: Eduard Thurneysen, The Sermon on the Mount, tr. William C.
Robinson (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1963); Archibald M. Hunter, A Pattern for Life: An
Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965); D.
Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 2 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1959-1960); James Boice, The Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972);
Myron S. Augsburger, The Expanded Life: The Sermon on the Mount for Today (New York:
Abingdon, 1972).

Despite the plethora of critical literature in recent years on Matthew in
general 20 and the theme of Jesus and the law in particular,21 relatively few
works have appeared on the Sermon as such. 22 The Sermon is no longer
seen as a compendium of Jesus' ethical teaching. Rather the Sermon is
treated either as a section of Matthew's Gospel, the study of which discloses
primarily the Evangelist's "theology," or as a resource for traditions that,
when distilled from later modifications and expansions, can lead one back
to Jesus' ministry.
Of this recent literature, the work of four scholars illustrates in different
ways the route "historical exegesis" has taken. For each writer the primary
issue has become the Sermon's historical setting and meaning. Little or
nothing about the practicability of the Sermon surfaces as a controlling
factor. The issue of Jesus' relationship to the law arises exegetically from
the material rather than theologically from the question of law and gospel.
William D. Davies follows the consensus of Gospel criticism by taking the
Sermon in Matthew to be the Evangelist'S collection of traditions. 23 But he
justifies concentrating on the Sermon by arguing that one can isolate the
Sermon as a clearly defined unit (cf. 5: 1-2; 7:2Sa) which the Evangelist
consciously created more as an "author" than as an "editor" by his selection
and arrangement of traditions (Setting, p. 13).
Davies seeks to find an appropriate "setting" for the Sermon by viewing
it in the context of Matthew's Gospel, Jewish messianic expectations,
contemporary Judaism, the early church, and the ministry of Jesus. Since

20. See Donald Senior, What Are They Saying About Matthew? (New York: Paulist Press,
21. E.g., Gerhard Barth, "Matthew's Understanding of the Law" in Tradition and
hzte1pretation in Matthew (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963); M. Jack Suggs, Wisdom, Chris-
tology and Law in Matthew's Gospel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970); Alexander
Sand, Das Gesetz und die Propheten (Regensberg: Pustet, 1974); John P. Meier, Law and
History in Matthew's Gospel: A Redactional Study of Mt. 5:17-48, AnBib 71 (Rome: Biblical
Institute Press, 1976); Ingo Broer, Freiheit vom Gesetz und Radikalisierung des Gesetzes; Ein
Beitrag zur Theologie des Evangelisten Matthaus, SBS 98 (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk,
22. E. G. Jacques Dupont, Les Beatitudes: Le problhne litteraire. Les deux versions du Sermon
sur la Montagne et des Beatitu.des, Vol. I, 2nd ed. (Bruges: Abbaye de Saint-Andre, 1958); Les
Beatitudes. La Bonne Nouvelle, Vol. II (Paris: Gabalda et Cie, 1969); Les Beatitudes. Les
Evangelistes, Vol. III (Paris: Gabalda et Cie, 1973); William D. Davies, The Setting of the
Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: University Press, 1964); Ulrich Luck, Die Voll-
kommenheitsforderung der Bergpredigt, TE 150 (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1968);
Hans Theo Wrege, Die Uberlieferungsgeschichte der Bergpredigt, WUNT 79 (Tubingen:
Mohr, 1968); Hans Dieter Betz, Essays on the Sermon on the Mount (Philadelphia: Fortress,
1985 ).
23. The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount.

Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount

the Sermon is a Matthean literary product, one seeks first to find its
"setting" in Matthew's Gospel. Davies concludes that the Sermon repre-
sents for the Evangelist the "Messianic Torah" of Jesus Messiah which
embodies not a new or different law but "a new interpretation of the Old
Law" that is "authoritative in a new way (7 :28)" (Setting, p. 107). He
supports this by arguing that the Evangelist viewed his community to be
living in the Messianic Age inaugurated by Jesus the Messiah who, like the
Teacher of Righteousness in Qumran and the Messiah with a didactic role
in certain rabbinic traditions, gives the normative interpretation of the law
(halakah) for this Messianic Age (Setting, pp. 188-89). But what specifically
occasioned this portrait?
Davies first seeks the answer in contemporary Judaism by comparing
the Sermon with emerging Gnosticism, sectarian Essenism, and develop-
ment in Pharisaism that culminated at J amnia. The last development
offers the primary counterpart for understanding the Sermon. Thus the
Sermon on the Mount is "the Christian answer to J amnia ... a kind of
Christian, mishnaic counterpart to the formulation taking place there"
(Setting, p. 313).
At the same time, a look at various traditions of the early church reveals
that Jesus' words, including the Sermon's radical demands, had been
preserved because they constituted an indispensible part of the gospel
itself. These demands were "revelatory of the nature of the gospel." Yet
when used as directives for the life of the disciple, these radical, revelatory
demands became more regulatory in a rabbinic manner and soon con-
stituted a "base, or given ground, from which halakoth are deduced or to
which they are attached" (Setting, p. 413). Therefore, for Davies the
external pressures of J amnia and the internal needs of the community to
use Jesus' demands as commands coalesced as the formative "setting" for
the Sermon.
Georg Strecker also recognizes the Sermon to be the final product of the
Evangelist's redactional reworking of traditions that have passed through
stages of development but whose core has roots in Jesus' ministry.24
Consequently, he concentrates on the Sermon as a statement for a com-
munity which despite its disappointment with the delayed Parousia still
holds fast to the hope that the "crucified and resurrected One will appear
as the Son of Man-WorldJudge and visibly establish the Kingdom of God"
(Die Bergpredigt, p. 185).
According to Strecker, the Sermon reflects the christological, es-
chatological, and ethical stance of the Evangelist. Jesus for Matthew does

24. Die Bergpredigt, pp. 9-12, 181-85.

not represent a "new Moses" or a Christian parallel to Jewish scribal or
rabbinic teachers of the law. Rather the Sermon comes as a divine revela-
tion, an epiphany, from Jesus as the "Kurios-Son of God" whose post-
Easter majesty (28: 16-18) shines through his teaching seen in the moun-
tain setting (5: 1, cf. 28: 16) that speaks of epiphany, of divine revelation
(pp. 85-88). Jesus' teaching contains an eschatological call to decision in
light of the coming eschaton that confronts one in the present tense from
the first Beatitude to the concluding parable. Therefore, his "ethical
exhortations" are simultaneously "eschatological demand" (Die Berg-
predigt, p. 27).
In 5: 20 we find the theme of the Sermon, the demand for a "righteous-
ness" necessary to enter the kingdom. This "righteousness" means doing
the will of God (7: 21) as revealed in the "law and the prophets" (5: 17-19)
which Jesus "fulfilled" by his own exemplary ministry and above all by his
teaching in 5:21-7:12. This teaching, for Strecker, fulfilled the law and
the prophets by "bringing the 'law and the prophets' to their fullest
expression" (Die Bergpredigt, p. 57). Therefore, the Sermon sets forth the
"righteousness" demanded by Jesus, Kurios-Son of God, as the entrance
requirement for the Kingdom of Heaven. The concluding warnings and
exhortations (7: 13-27) make clear how seriously and unavoidably one was
to take Jesus' demands.
Hans Dieter Betz's essays provide the most recent treatment of the Ser-
mon. 25 In contrast to Davies' use of source criticism and Strecker's use of
redaction criticism as their primary critical device for interpreting the
Sermon, Betz employs a form of literary or genre criticism as a means for
understanding what the Sermon is and how it was understood. In search
of a literary parallel for the appropriation of ethical tradition called for by
the Sermon, he turned to the Hellenistic ethical literature of Plutarch and
particularly the diatribe literature of Epictetus where similar appropri-
ation takes place (Essays, pp. 7-10).
Betz discovered the Sermon's literary genre in the "philosophical epit-
ome" of Epictetus' Enchiridion (Essays, p. 11), a genre whose roots lie in
Epicurus' Kurai Doxai (Essays, pp. 13-15). This genre consists of "a con-
densation of a larger work" made for the specific purpose of being a
systematic synopsis to help one think and apply principles of the larger
work without having the benefit of studying the whole or remembering
the larger work (Essays, pp. 113-14). Accordingly, the Sermon is "an
epitome presenting the theology of Jesus in a systematic fashion" (Essays,

25. Essays on the Sermon, which anticipates a forthcoming commentary on the Sermon for
the Hermeneia series.

Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount

p. 15). "The SM is not law to be obeyed, but theology to be intellectually

appropriated and internalized, in order then to be creatively developed
and implemented in concrete situations of life" (Essays, p. 16).
Betz assigns the redaction of the Sermon to a pre-Matthean Jewish
Christian community within the walls of] udaism but finding themselves in
tension with Judaism (5:20; 6: 1-18) and especially with a "gentile Chris-
tianity of a Pauline stamp, with its freedom from the law" (5:17-19;
7: 15-20). Their distress stems from their loyalty to Jesus as the teacher of
the "proper interpretation of the Torah and the correct praxis of piety"
(Essays, p. 21). This community produced the Sermon apologetically and
polemically to establish what] esus did and did not teach and to offer a
"systematic theology" as the basis for right thinking and practice. The
Evangelist preserved the Sermon in his Gospel but made little or no
modifications even though he shared neither its setting nor its theology
(Essays, pp. 18, 22).
For Betz the key to the Sermon lies in four "hermeneutical principles"
formulated in 5: 17-20. First, 5: 17 implies the formal genre of an "epit-
ome" of sayings from the] esus-tradition whose theological content shows
Jesus to be" 'orthodox' in the]ewish sense." His teaching like that of any
orthodox teacher of the law was interpretation, not Torah, that "fulfills"
rather than "abolishes" the law (Essays, pp. 41-43). Second, 5: 18 spells out
the obedience demanded by] esus to the written Torah (,jot or tittle") until
the passing of this age ("until heaven and earth pass away/all things come
to pass" [Essays, pp. 43-45]). Third, 5: 19 declares the binding force of
] esus' interpretation of the Torah ("these commandments") which forms
the teaching of the Sermon (Essays, pp. 46-51). Fourth, 5:20 defines the
goal of] esus' teaching in the Sermon, a "righteousness" as the entrance
prerequisite to the kingdom that comes from those who understand and
practice] esus' instructions as found in the Sermon and thus "do justice in
their thought and conduct to the will of God" (Essays, pp. 51-53). In sum,
the Sermon "belongs, both theologically and in terms of history of reli-
gions, within the richly diverse] udaism of the first century" (Essays, p. 22).
Though differing in many ways, Davies, Strecker, and Betz share two
views. First, the Sermon addresses the ethical needs of a narrow, parochial
community seeking to establish its identity in a diverse world of] udaism
and gentile Christianity. Second, this identity comes through one's re-
sponse to the Sermon viewed as] esus' normative interpretation of the law
and of true religious praxis.
The vexing question of practicability that has haunted the church's
reading of the Sermon does not arise. For Davies and Strecker, the
Sermon represents] esus' normative interpretation of the law according to

the Evangelist that comes as the "Messianic Torah" of or the entrance
requirements for the kingdom respectively. Accordingly, practicability is
assumed. For Betz, the Sermon represents a community's synopsis of
theology to be developed intellectually and appliced creatively to life
rather than a law set forth to be obeyed. Practicability is not the point.
More importantly these readings fail to address the issue of
applicability-Windisch's "theological exegesis." What, if anything, does
the Sermon have to say to the church today when "historical exegesis"
leaves us with a text whose time-bound Christology, eschatology, and
ethics reflect a community whose theology has proven wrong-headed and
passe, unable to survive the first century?
By contrast,johnP. Meier's work on a portion of the Sermon 26 shares in
common with several other studies a very different reading of the Ser-
mon's Christology, eschatology, and ethics. 27 The basis of these totally
independent studies has been a careful redactional critical analysis of
5: 17-20 seen by Strecker and Betz as the fundamental, "hermeneutical"
key to the Sermon.
A redaction-critical analysis of 5: 17-20 indicates clear evidence of the
Evangelist's modification of tradition dealing specifically with the law to
make a broader programmatic statement about jesus' coming and its
impact on the law. 28 Accordingly, the Sermon serves more a christological
than an ethical or ecclesial function. 29 The Evangelist portrays jesus as the
eschatological fulfillment of the prophetic hope of the Scriptures (5: 17,
18d), the one whose ministry including his deathlresurrection provides the
"turning point of the old and new aeons" (Law and History, p. 165). As the
one fulfilling the promise,jesus demands a "greater righteousness" (5:20)
set forth in 5:21-7: 12. An analysis of the Antitheses shows that the law
belongs to the old order and is transcended by jesus' "radicalizing"

26. Law and History.

27. See Robert Banks,jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, NTSMS 23 (Cambridge:
University Press, 1975); "Matthew's Understanding of the Law: Authenticity and Interpre-
tation in Matthew 5: 17-20,"jBL 93 (1974),226-42; Broer, Freiheit vom Gesetz; Guelich, The
Sermon on the Mount; Ulrich Luz, Das Evangelium nachMatthaus, EKK III (Zurich: Benzinger
Verlag, 1985).
28. Clear Matthean characteristics: (a) 5: 17-the editorial use of "or" (e), the "law and
the prophets," the salvation historical use of "to fulfill" (plemun); (b) 5: 18-the broken
structural pattern (A, C1, B, C2); the editorial use of "or" (e), the use of "until all things
come to pass" and (c) the Matthean vocabulary of 5:20.
29. A literary critical reading of Matthew as a whole supports this redactional critical
analysis of the Sermon. See Jack Kingsbury, Matthew: Structure, Christology, Kingdom (Phil-
adelphia: Fortress, 1975) and Matthew as Story (Philadelphia, 1986).

Interpreting the S erman an the M aunt

(5:21-22,27-28,33-37) and "rescinding" the letter of the law (5:31-32,

38-39, 43-44).30
The Sermon-expresses "kingdom ethics" for Matthew in that it calls for
conduct commensurate with the presence of the age of salvation, the
"kingdom of heaven," inaugurated in time by Jesus Messiah, Son ofGod. 31
These demands only become "entrance requirements" for the kingdom
future (cf. Strecker) because this conduct befitting the will of God demon-
strates the reality of the "kingdom" or the new age in one's life (5:20;
7: 13-27). Rather than a fully developed"law" or even halakoth (cf. Davies'
"Messianic Torah"), the Sermon's demands serve an illustrative role (cf.
Betz's "epitome") by calling for behavior stemming from a new relation-
ship of wholeness (5:48) between brothers and sisters (5:21-48; 7:12)
growing out of a fundamentally new relationship with God (6: 1-7: 11).
This relationship with God comes through the word and work of Jesus
Messiah who announces the "good news" of God's deliverance in the
opening Beatitudes (5:3-6) which he has aligned with Isaiah 61. 32
As for practicability and applicability, the Sermon addresses the people
of the kingdom, all "disciples" (5: 1-2), who have turned empty-handed to
God for grace (5:3-6). It offers neither a "new law" nor a more normative
interpretation of the "old law." Nor does the Sermon play primarily a
negative role to remind us of our failures. The Sermon, above all, sum-
mons the "disciple" to a new relationship with God and others that issues in
conduct befitting the age of salvation ("the greater righteousness") made
possible in this age through the presence of God's eschatological rule in
Jesus Messiah, Son of God. As radical demands, they both set forth the
marks of the kingdom present and expose one's short fall and all casuistic
self-righ teousness.

Our survey has shown that the interpretation of the Sermon over the
centuries has generally followed either a narrow, literal, and legalistic tack
or a broader, more illustrative one. On the one side, the demands are
interpreted literally and legalistically for the church as a whole (the early
church and the Anabaptists), for a select few ("evangelical counsels"), for a
select time period (Schweitzer), or for a special community (Davies, Strec-
ker). On the other side, the demands are read more symbolically as

30. See also Robert A. Guelich, "The Antitheses of Matthew V. 21-48: Traditional
and/or Redactional?" NTS 22 (1976-77),444-57.
31. For this interpretation of the Sermon, see Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount.
32. Robert A. Guelich, "The Matthean Beatitudes: 'Entrance Requirements' or Es-
chatological Blessings?" JBL 95 (1976),415-34.

illustrative calls for ethical and religious conduct whose application is
qualified by the broader context of (1) Scripture that provides a her-
meneutic such as a Two Kingdom Ethic (Luther) or Scripture specifically
interpreting Scripture (Calvin), (2) the ethic of Jesus in the underlying
tradition (Herrmann, Windisch) or the social-rhetorical setting of a com-
munity seeking to follow their understanding of Jesus' teaching (Betz), or
(3) a close reading of the Evangelist's compositional work in the Sermon
supported by the literary setting in the Gospel read as a whole (Meier,
Until this century the controlling issue for interpreting the Sermon was
practicability. This issue still obtains in the so-called "homiletical" com-
mentaries whose primary concern is application. But the impact of Gospel
criticism has moved the focus to the historical, religious, and literary
context of the Sermon and raised antecedent issues that greatly influence
the question of practicability and, as we have seen, the question of appli-
How does one address the antecedent questions? First, we accept the
consensus of Gospel criticism that the Sermon as we know it is a "literary"
product rather than a transcript of Jesus' teaching and we focus on the
text. Second, we use the tools available to determine what the Evangelist
has done with underlying tradition and concentrate on the import of the
resultant text. Third, we check this reading and adjust it, if necessary, in
terms of the structure and thought of the Gospel as a whole. Fourth, we
seek a credible socio-religious setting for the Sermon as well as the Gospel
in the life and times of the early church. Despite the lack of consensus in
steps two through four, this writer is convinced that rigorously pursued
they provide the necessary foundation for understanding the message of
the Sermon and applying it today.

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the
Sermon on the Mount Within Matthew


Professor of Biblical Theology
Union Theological Seminary in Virginia

For disciples who live in the sphere

where God rules through the risen Jesus,
doing the greater righteousness is
the normal order of things.


Mount is perhaps familiar to more people than any other part of
Scripture. Prominently situated toward the beginning of Matthew's Gos-
pel, it is an extraordinarily imposing composition. The purpose of this
essay is to examine the Sermon on the Mount precisely as one section of
Matthew. To guide this examination, questions such as the following will
be explored. What is the place of the Sermon on the Mount within the
ground plan of Matthew? In what capacity does Jesus deliver it? To whom
does he deliver it? What is its structure, and what is its central theme and
message? How would Matthew have the reader regard it, as an impossible
ethic, or as an ethic actually to be lived?

What is the place of the Sermon on the Mount within the ground plan of
Matthew's Gospel? Of the several answers given this question in this
century, the one by Benjamin Bacon has been advocated by more scholars
over a longer period of time than any other. In Bacon's view, the Sermon
on the Mount dominates the whole of Matthew's Gospel, for from it one
gains insight into the structure of the Gospel and into its nature and

Briefly put, the thesis Bacon promulgated 1 is that the evangelist Mat-
thew was a converted rabbi, a Christian legalist, who, as a member of a
church threatened by lawlessness, met this heresy by providing a sys-
tematic compend of the commandments of Jesus after the analogy of the
Mosaic Pentateuch. In structure, Matthew's Gospel constitutes a com-
pilation of "five books" that culminate in great discourses of Jesus and are
supplemented by preamble (chaps. 1-2) and epilogue (chaps. 26-28).
Among the great discourses, the Sermon on the Mount is programmatic,
for here Jesus sets forth the "new Law," that is to say, his "teaching
regarding Righteousness."
Despite the enormous influence Bacon's understanding of the structure
of Matthew has enjoyed, it has not been without its critics. Indeed, the
arguments marshaled against it are of such force that there are many who
regard it as having already been overthrown. 2 Nevertheless, Bacon's
outline of Matthew continues to exert strong appeal. How is this to be
The principal reason, it would appear, is that the method almost all
scholars have used in their study of Matthew over the last forty years has
been redaction criticism. In redaction-critical perspective, Matthew is
generally looked upon as an amalgamation of traditions and as in some
sense a revision of Mark. When Matthew is held to be founded upon Mark,
the single, most striking, feature distinguishing it proves not to be the story
it tells but the presence in it of the Sermon on the Mount and the other
great discourses. Because Bacon's outline identifies exactly the great
discourses as the climactic feature of Matthew, scholars seem predisposed
to accept it as necessarily being correct.
Recently, however, the near monopoly that redaction criticism has had
on the study of Matthew has begun to show signs of strain owing to the
emergence of a new method, literary criticism. According to one form of
literary criticism, a Gospel such as Matthew is not to be construed as an
amalgamation of traditions but as a unified "narrative" that is made up of a
"story" and its "discourse.,,3 Part and parcel of a story are the "events"
being told, and these in turn are so arranged as to form a "plot." In the case
of Matthew, the driving force of the plot is the element of conflict, and this
pits Israel and especially the Jewish leaders against Jesus. Analyze Mat-

1. Cf. Benjamin Bacon, Studies in Matthew (London: Constable, 1930), pp. xiv-xvii, 29,
40-41, 47, 81-82, 165-68.
2. For a review of the arguments against Bacon's position, cf. Jack Dean Kingsbury,
Matthew: Structure, Christo logy, Kingdom (Philadelphia and London: Fortress Press and
SPCK, 1975), pp. 1-7; and especially David R. Bauer, "The Structure of Matthew's Gospel,
Diss. Union Theological Seminary in Virginia 1985, pp. 75-81 (forthcoming from Almond
3. For a literary-critical treatment of Matthew that also explains the method, cf. Jack
Dean Kingsbury, Matthew as Story (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986).

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

thew, therefore, in terms of its story-and plot-development; and the

climax of the story occurs, not in the presentation of the Sermon on the
Mount and the other great discourses of Jesus but in the narration of his
passion. 4 It is through the narration of the passion that the reader is told of
the resolution of the conflict Jesus has with the Jewish leaders; Whereas
the leaders bring Jesus to the cross and believe that they have thereby
triumphed over him and the error he has perpetrated in Israel, God
vindicates him through the resurrection so that, at the last, Jesus is seen to
be the one through whom God has accomplished the salvation of J ew and
Gentile alike (chaps. 26-28).
If literary criticism shows that the climactic feature of Matthew is in fact
the narration of Jesus' passion, what importance is one to assign the
Sermon on the Mount and the other great discourses? The importance of
each of the great discourses is commensurate with the role it plays within
the plot of Matthew's story. In the case of the Sermon on the Mount, it has
its place in 4: 17-11: 1, where the narrator tells of Jesus as proffering
salvation to Israel through his ministry of teaching, preaching, and heal-
ing (4:23; 9:35; 11: 1). Since the narrator characterizes the Sermon on the
Mount as "teaching" (5: 1-2; 7:28-29), it becomes the example par excel-
lence of this facet of Jesus' activity. In any event, Jesus' delivery of the
Sermon on the Mount is not the climactic event in Matthew to which all else
is made subordinate. The climax toward which the whole of Matthew
steers is, again, the passion.

Although Matthew's story of Jesus culminates in the passion, It IS
nonetheless testimony to the great store' that Matthew sets by Jesus'
teaching that the Sermon on the Mount is the imposing composition it is.
In what capacity does Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount, and to
whom does he deliver it?
Bacon's views have been almost as instrumental in determining schol-
arly opinion on the Christology of Matthew in this century as they have
been in determining how scholars have understood the structure of
Matthew. Bacon himself describes Matthew's Jesus as a "second Moses" or
"Lawgiver."s Topping this, another scholar has referred to him as "Torah
incarnate.,,6 Still other scholars, while designating Jesus more typically as
"Messiah," nonetheless attest to Bacon's influence on their thinking by

4. To see how this is the case, cf. Jack Dean Kingsbury, "The Developing Conflict
between Jesus and the Jewish Leaders in Matthew's Gospel: A Study in Literary Criticism"
(forthcoming in CBQ).
5. Cf. Benjamin W. Bacon, "Jesus and the Law: A Study of the First 'Book' of Matthew
(Mt. 3-7)," JBL 47 (1928), 207-08.
6. J. M. Gibbs, "The Son of God as the Torah Incarnate in Matthew," StudiaEvangelica,
IV (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1968),38-46.

explaining that what they mean by this is that] esus is preeminently the
preacher of "sermons" or the one who delivers to the church the "new
verbal revelation.,,7 The point is this: The christological corrollary of the
thesis that, structurally, Matthew's Gospel culminates in the great dis-
courses is that the Matthean] esus is made out to be, under one guise or
another, the "Teacher."
Yet however highly Matthew esteems Jesus' activity of "teaching,"
"teacher" remains for him no more than a term of human respect. This is
why one never discovers persons of faith or true disciples addressing] esus
as "teacher" or "rabbi," but only]udas, opponents, and strangers. No, the
] esus who teaches in Matthew and who delivers the Sermon on the Mount
is not the "Teacher" but the "Son of God." Nor is it idle in Matthew's eyes to
press this distinction. Conceived by the Holy Spirit,] esus Son of God is also
empowered by the Holy Spirit (1: 18,20; 3: 16-17). In him God's kingdom,
or end-time rule, is a present though hidden reality (12:28). He therefore
enjoys a unique filial relationship to God (11 :27), by virtue of which he
speaks and acts on the authority of God (7:28-29). Accordingly, when
] esus engages in teaching as when he delivers the Sermon on the Mount,
he dares to speak in the stead, and as the mouthpiece, of God.
To whom does Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount? According to
the flow of Matthew's story, ] esus has just begun his public ministry by
summoning Israel to repentance (4: 17) and by calling his first disciples
(4: 18-22). Atop the mountain, therefore, it is the "crowds" and these first
"disciples" who receive the teaching Jesus offers (5: 1-2).
Still, to understand the crowds and the disciples as the recipients of
] esus' teaching from the mount poses a problem. Close scrutiny of the
message] esus conveys reveals that it is, in certain respects, suitable to
neither group. It is unsuitable as far as the crowds are concerned because
they are not, as some would claim, nascent disciples 8 but "outsiders."
However well-disposed the crowds may appear to be toward ]esus,9 as
early as chapter 11]esus censures them as "this [evil] generation" that has
repudiated both]ohn the Baptist and himself (11 :7, 16-19), and at the end
of the gospel story they of course join with their leaders in calling for the
crucifixion of ] esus and in making themselves responsible for his death
(27:20-26,38-44). If one keeps in mind the fact that the crowds are not
nascent disciples, one has only to read the Sermon on the Mount to
recognize how little the contents envisage persons who do not hold to him.

7. Cf. Willi Marxsen, Introduction to the New Testament, trans. G. Buswell (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1968), pp. 151-52; Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction (New
York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), pp. 174-77.
8. Cf., e.g., Paul S. Minear, "The Disciples and the Crowds in the Gospel of Matthew,"
Gospel Studies in Honor of Sherman Elbridgejohnson, ed. M. H. Shepherd,Jr. and E. C. Hobbs
(Anglican Theological Review, 1974), pp. 28-44.
9. Cf. Matt. 4:24-25; 7:28-29; 8: 1, 9:8, 33.

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

Yet even to read the Sermon on the Mount with the idea that the
disciples just called by Jesus are the recipients is not wholly unproblematic.
Passages like 5: 11-12 and 7: 15-23, which speak of enduring persecution
on account of Jesus or tell of followers of Jesus who prophesy, cast out
demons, and perform many miracles in his name but are in reality workers
of lawlessness, simply have no place in the picture the narrator paints of
the disciples during the earthly ministry of Jesus.
Consequently, as fitting as it is from the standpoint of the flow of
Matthew's story that the crowds and the first disciples should be named as
the recipients of the Sermon on the Mount, the contents themselves of the
Sermon indicate that they are meant not at all for non-disciples such as the
crowds and only in part for the first disciples, and that they therefore have
in view still other persons. Who are these other persons? Are they those
first-century Christians who comprised the membership of Matthew's
church? Yes, but this is not the most accurate answer one can give, for
these first-century Christians are obviously not to be regarded as living
within the "world of the story" Matthew is narrating but apart from it, in
the real world. The answer to be preferred, therefore, is that the persons
indicated by the contents themselves of the Sermon on the Mount as being
its recipients are the "implied readers" (or the "implied reader") of Mat-
thew's Gospel. Still, to say this is merely to prompt another question: Who
is this "implied reader"? To ascertain this, one must probe the "world" of
Matthew's story.
In two or perhaps three passages, Matthew, as implied author, provides
indicators of who the implied reader is whom he envisages as the recipient
of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. At 27:8, Matthew remarks through the
voice of the narrator that "to this day" the field bought with Judas' money
is known as the Field of Blood. At 28: 15, Matthew similarly remarks that
"to this day" false rumors are being spread to the effect that Jesus did not
rise from the dead. At 24: 15, Matthew has the narrator abruptly interrupt
the story so as to issue the reader a challenge to comprehend the meaning
of the signs of the times ("Let the reader understand!"). What dis-
tinguishes these three passages is that they all point beyond the immediate
story being told of Jesus, which extends from birth to resurrection, to a
place in time and space following the resurrection from which one can
look back upon the earthly life of Jesus. This place beyond Jesus' earthly
life to which Matthew points and which he includes in the world of his story
is that of the implied reader. The implied reader, then, is to be looked
upon as one who is a disciple of Jesus and who lives in the perilous times
between the resurrection and the Parousia which are so vividly described
in such passages of the Gospel as chapters 24-25.
Looking back upon Jesus' earthly life from a point beyond the resur-
rection, the implied reader can relate without difficulty both to the place of
the Sermon on the Mount within Matthew's story and to the words Jesus
utters in it. On the one hand, the implied reader can easily follow the
narration of Matthew's story, so that the dramatic necessity of having Jesus
deliver the Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of his ministry to his
first disciples and the crowds attracted to him poses no problem. By the
same token, the implied reader can also relate both to the character and
the tenor of the Sermon on the Mount, namely, its profoundly "Christian
coloration" as a word of the Messiah Son of God and the fact that in it Jesus
speaks of such "future Christian experiences" as suffering severe per-
secution on account of him or encountering Christian prophets who are
workers of lawlessness.
In sum, the intended addressee of the Sermon on the Mount is primarily
the implied reader of Matthew's Gospel. References made hereafter to
"disciples" as recipients of the Sermon on the Mount in reality have this
particular disciple, that is, the implied reader, in view.

We have seen thus far that the Sermon on the Mount is the example par
excellence of Jesus' teaching, that he delivers it in his authority as the Son
of God, and that whereas according to the dramatic setting of the story it is
the crowds and the first disciples he has called who receive it, the tenor of
the Sermon itself indicates that the primary addressees are such "disciples"
as the implied reader. With these matters in mind, two questions arise:
What is the structure of the Sermon on the Mount, and what is its theme
and its message?
The narrative frame of the Sermon on the Mount describes Jesus as
ascending the mountain to teach (5: 1-2) and, after finishing, as descend-
ing again (7:28-8: 1). This aside, the Sermon on the Mount divides itself
into five parts: (1) Introduction: On Those who Practice the Greater
Righteousness (5:3-16); (2) On Practicing the Greater Righteousness
Toward the Neighbor (5: 17-45); (3) On Practicing the Greater Right-
eousness Before God (6: 1-18); (4) On Practicing the Greater Righteous-
ness in Other Areas of Life (6:19-7:12); and (5) Conclusion: Injunctions
on Practicing the Greater Righteousness (7: 13-27).
As is apparent from this outline, the theme of the Sermon on the Mount
is the "greater righteousness." Perhaps the passage in which this theme
finds expression most clearly is the pronouncement Jesus makes at 5:20:
"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and
Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." What is one to
understand by the "greater righteousness"?
The "greater righteousness" is that style of life intended to be the mark

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

of disciples of Jesus. As was mentioned, Jesus in Matthew is preeminently

the Son of God (1: 18,20; 3: 16-17). As God's Son, he calls persons to follow
him, which is to say that he summons them to enter and to live in the
sphere of God's eschatological kingdom, or end-time rule. Those who
hear Jesus' summons become his disciples (4: 18-22) and "sons of God"
(5:9); they, too, know God as Father (5:45). In fact, they form a new
"family" (12:48-50), described as a "brotherhood" of the sons of God and
of the disciples of Jesus, which is the "church" (16: 18; 23:8; 28: 10). The
"greater righteousness," then, is the quality of life which is indicative of
disciples who make up the church. It is behavior that comports itself with
living in the sphere of God's kingdom (5:20; 6:33).
Yet more can be said of the "greater righteousness," however. At 5:48,
Jesus instructs disciples: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your
heavenly Father is perfect." What "being perfect" means here is not, say,
being flawless, but "being wholehearted," as this is described, for example,
in an injunction like Deuteronomy 18:13: "You shall be wholehearted in
your service of the Lord your God." Accordingly, to be perfect is to be
wholehearted in one's devotion to God, and disciples are wholehearted in
Matthew when they do God's will as this is taught by Jesus (7 :21). In Jesus'
teaching, however, to do God's will is, at its core, to exercise love
(22: 34-40). Loving as God loves, therefore, is of the essence of the greater
righteousness (5:44-45). When disciples love as God loves, this reflects
itself further in the fact that they also love the neighbor (7: 12). In sum,
therefore, it is love toward God and love toward neighbor that constitute
the heart of the greater righteousness.
If the greater righteousness is the theme of the Sermon on the Mount,
Jesus specifies in the introduction (5:3-16) the types of persons disciples
are who practice the greater righteousness. The introduction falls into two
sections: the Beatitudes (5:3-12) and Jesus' words on salt and light
(5: 13-16).
Whereas Luke has four beatitudes balanced by four woes (6:20-26),
Matthew has nine beatitudes and no woes (5:3-12).10 In pronouncing the
Beatitudes, the Matthean Jesus confers end-time "blessings" upon dis-
ciples who are characterized by what they are (e.g., the poor) or do (e.g.,
the peacemakers). These blessings assure disciples of the vindication and
reward that attend the salvation of God's consummated kingdom and thus
provide encouragement in time of persecution and difficulty.
To take each beatitude in turn, "the poor in spirit" are disciples who are

10. For this and the following paragraph, thanks go to Harper's Bible Dictionary, ed. Paul
J. Achtemeier (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), p. 100.

not only economically deprived but who also stand before God with no
illusions of self-righteousness or self-sufficiency (5:3). "Those who
mourn" are disciples who grieve over sin and evil in the world. "The meek"
are disciples who are lowly and powerless, whose only hope is God. "Those
who hunger and thirst for righteousness" are disciples who yearn for the
final salvation that only God can effect. "The merciful" are disciples who
eschew judgment and forgive. "The pure in heart" are disciples who are
undivided in their allegiance to God. "The peacemakers" are disciples who
work for the wholeness and well-being that God wills for a broken world.
"Those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake" are disciples who
incur tribulation because they serve God. What Jesus promises all these
disciples is fundamentally the same benefit, the eschatological salvation
that attends God's kingdom (5:3, 10).
Jesus pronounces his beatitudes upon disciples who together form the
new community of God's eschatological people, said above to be the
church. In 5: 13-16, Jesus affirms that this community both is, and is called
to be, the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world." As it pursues the
life of the greater righteousness, this community summons others to
glorify God, that is, to live in the sphere of his eschatological rule by
themselves becoming disciples of Jesus.
If in the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus focuses on the
types of persons disciples are who practice the greater righteousness, in
the second, third, and fourth parts he explicates what it is to practice this
righteousness. At the head of the second part, which treats of practicing
righteousness toward the neighbor (5: 17-48), Jesus utters a series of
programmatic statements that have to do with his eschatological mission,
the abiding validity of the law, and the necessity of doing God's com-
mandments and of leading the life of the greater righteousness (5: 17-20).
In 5: 17, Jesus roundly declares that it is not the purpose of his mission to
abolish the law or the prophets but-by virtue of who he is, the Son of God
in whom God's end-time kingdom is a present though hidden reality, and
through what he says and does-to fulfill them. In 5: 18, he flatly asserts
that the law will never pass away and that all that it requires will be done. In
5: 19, he utters "sentences" that pledge to disciples higher and lower
degrees of eschatological reward so as to warn in the one instance against
breaking even the most insignificant of the commandments and to urge in
the other the observance of all of them. In 5:20, he similarly enjoins
disciples to practice the greater righteousness "now" on pain of otherwise
not entering the consummated Kingdom of Heaven "then." On balance,
Jesus Son of God asserts in 5: 17-20 that in his coming, whereby God's
kingdom has become a present though hidden reaJity, he accomplishes the

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

fulfillment of the law, giving it abiding validity, and that to do the law (or
will of God), is to do the greater righteousness, at the heart of which, one
will recall, is love toward God and neighbor.
] esus continues the second part of the Sermon on the Mount by pro-
claiming the six Antitheses, one of the more famous sections of the
Sermon (5:21-48). Each "antithesis" overrides in some respect a "thesis" of
the Mosaic law. Since the law as Jesus teaches it has abiding validity, the
antithesis intensifies, or radicalizes, the thesis. Introducing each thesis is a
formula that may be longer or shorter in length. Always intended, how-
ever, is the formula in its entirety, which reads: "You have heard that it was
said to the people of old ... " (5:21, 33). As is apparent, this formula
divides itself into three parts. 11 The first part ("You have heard") reminds
disciples of the traditional custom (e.g., in the Jewish synagogue) of
hearing the law read and expounded in services of worship. The second
part ("it was said") features the use of the "divine passive" and is a
periphrasis for "God said." The third part ("to the people of old") envis-
ages the Israelites at Sinai who received the law but includes as well the
generations subsequent to them who have likewise received it. In its
totality, therefore, the formula introducing each thesis reminds disciples
that it has been taught them that God, at Sinai, delivered Israel his law.
In stark contrast to this introductory formula stands the formula with
which Jesus introduces each of his antitheses. It reads: "But I say to you
... " (cf., e.g., 5:22). The force of this formula is unparalleled, for] esus, in
uttering it, is in effect pitting his word against the word God spoke at Sinai,
that is to say, against the law as known through Moses. In the last analysis,
therefore, the astonishing thing about the Antitheses is that in them]esus
Son of God dares to place his word and his authority above those of Moses.
To turn now to the Antitheses,] esus commands, variously, that disciples
are not only not to kill, but not even to become enraged (5:21-26); not only
not to commit adultery, but not even to lust (5:27-30); not merely to
comply with the law in obtaining a divorce, but not to divorce at all
(5:31-32); not merely to obey the law and not swear falsely, but not to
swear at all (5:33-37); not merely to adhere to the law in securing
retribution, but to offer no resistance at all to one who would harm or
exploit them (5:38-42); and not merely to love the neighbor while hating
the enemy, but not to hate the enemy at all but instead to love him
A special word is in order concerning the third antithesis, about divorce

11. For a discussion of the meaning of these three parts, cf. Robert A. Guelich, The
Sermon on the Mount (Waco: Word Books, 1982), pp. 179-82.

(5:31-32). It contains the so-called "exceptive clause": "But I say to you
that everyone who divorces his wife, parektos logou porneias, makes her an
adulteress ... " (5:32). The issue is simple: What does this Greek expres-
sion mean? To date, three interpretations have been advanced.
The traditional interpretation is that advocated, for example, by the
translators of the RSV. As they construe it, the Greek expression means
"except on the ground of unchastity." The contention of this interpreta-
tion is that the Matthean Jesus, though he forbids divorce in principle"
nevertheless sanctions it in the event that a spouse commits adultery.
Against this interpretation stand at least two objections: (1) Since Matthew,
in referring to "adultery," uses the Greek word moicheia, it is unlikely that
porneia is to be understood as a mere synonym of moicheia (cf. 15: 19); and
(2) one can also question whether the Matthean Jesus, in sanctioning
divorce by reason of unchastity, can truly be said to radicalize the Mosaic
commandment on divorce (Deut. 24: 1).
A second interpretation of the exceptive clause would read 5:32 along
these lines: "But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife-
notwithstanding the word about immorality [found in Deuteronomy
24: IIJ-makes her an adulteress.,,12 The idea here is that the Matthean
Jesus most assuredly does radicalize the command of Moses, for he forbids
divorce altogether.
The third interpretation of the exceptive clause would render 5:32 as
follows: "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the
grounds of an incestuous marriage, makes her an adulteress.,,13 This
rendering of 5:32 portrays the MattheanJesus as flatly forbidding divorce
in every case except one:· Should, for example, a gentile couple join the
church, whose marriage would (on the basis of a passage like Leviticus
18:6-18) have to be adjudged to be incestuous, that couple would be
required to divorce (cf. also Acts 15:20,29). To choose between these three
interpretations, either of the latter two would fit Matthean thought, and
perhaps the third one is most likely to be correct.
As Jesus takes up the third part of the Sermon on the Mount (6: 1_18),14
he has arrived at its center. This is true both formally and materially.
Formally, the third part constitutes the center because it is preceded by the
introduction and the second part and followed by the fourth part and the

12. Cf., e.g., Bruce Vawter, "The Divorce Clauses in Mt 5,32 and 19,9," CBQ 16 (1956),
165-67; Robert Banks,jes1l.5 and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition (Cambridge: University
Press, 1975), pp. 146-59 (esp. 156).
13. Cf., e.g., John P. Meier, Law and Hist01Y in Matthew's Gospel (Rome: Biblical Institute
Press, 1976), pp. 140-50; also Guelich, pp. 209-10.
14. For a detailed analysis of Matt. 6: 1-18, cf. Hans Dieter Betz, Essays on the Sermon on
the Mount, trans. L. L. Welborn (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 56-64.

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

conclusion. By the same token, the third part itself contains three parts: It
treats of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. What is more, at the center of the
middle part, on prayer, is the Lord's Prayer. Formally, therefore, the
Lord's Prayer can be seen to lie at the very heart of the Sermon on the
Mount. IS
Materially, too, the third part constitutes the center of the Sermon on
the Mount. Thus far,] esus has delivered the introduction and addressed
the topic of practicing the greater righteousness toward the neighbor.
Upon completion of this third part, he will speak on practicing the greater
righteousness in other areas of life and conclude the Sermon. Here in this
part, he concerns himself with the fundamental issue of practicing the
greater righteousness before God (6: 1-18). In the Lord's Prayer, the
centerpiece of the Sermon,] esus highlights the essential element on which
all such practice is predicated: that disciples know God as "Father" (6:9).
Through Jesus Son of God, disciples are invited to live in the sphere of
God's eschatological rule, where they, as sons of God, are rightly related to
God and hence know him as Father. Consequently, as ] esus instructs
disciples on how they are to give alms, pray, and fast, he is instructing them
on how to give expression to their right relationship to God.
To give alms is to perform charitable deeds, to pray is to approach God
in petition as Father, and to fast is to show contrition. In contemporary
] udaism as well as for disciples, these were the three cardinal acts of piety.
As] esus describes the doing of these acts, he contrasts "to be seen by men"
(6: 1) with "in secret" (6:4, 6, 18). This contrast is manifestly not one
between "public" and "private" per se, as though] esus were denying
legitimacy to all public expression of charitable activity, prayer, and
fasting. 16 No, "to be seen by men" expresses intent, and the contrast]esus
draws is between "ostentation" and "proper motivation." The hypocrites
who practice their acts of piety ostentatiously do so in order to win public
acclaim for themselves. Such acclaim is all the reward they shall receive
(6:2,5, 16). Disciples are to practice their acts of piety "in secret," that is,
out of heartfelt devotion to God. Such practice God acquits with the
promise of eternal reward at the latter day (6:4, 6, 17-18).
The Lord's Prayer (6:7-15) is recited by]esus to provide disciples with
an example of how they are to pray (6:9a). It divides itself, including the
doxology, into four parts. The "address" (6:9b) shows that the prayer is
directed to God as Father. The "thou petitions" (6:9c-l0) focus on God and

15. For a diagram of this, cf. Ulrich Luz, Das Evangelium nach Matthiius, EKK
(Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1985), I, 186.
16. On this point, cf. the remarks by Guelich, pp. 300-06.

the advent of his kingdom as a consummated reality. The "we petitions"
(6: 11-13) focus on the suppliants and their physical and spiritual needs.
The "doxology," a later addition to verse 13, closes the prayer on a strong
note of praise.
In the fourth part of the Sermon on the Mount (6: 19-7: 12),jeslls deals
with the practice of the greater righteousness in areas of life he has not
already touched on. The prohibitions and imperatives he employs mark
the subunits: "Do not store up" (6: 19-24); "Do not be anxious" (6:25-34);
"judge not" (7: 1-5); "Do not give" (7:6); and "Ask ... seek ... knock"
(7:7-11). The Golden Rule (7: 12) serves as both the conclusion and
culmination of this fourth part.
In each of these subunits, a climactic utterance of jesus occurs which
captures the unit's intention. In 6: 19-24, jesus enjoins disciples not to
store up for themselves treasures on earth, for "no one can serve two
masters ... ; you cannot serve God and mammon" (6:24). In 6:25-34,
jesus commands disciples not to be anxious about food, drink, or clothing
but to "seek first the kingdom and his [God's] righteousness, and all these
things shall be yours as well" (6:33). In 7:1-5, jesus forbids disciples to
judge others, on pain that "with the judgment you pronounce you will be
judged" (7:2). In 7:6 (a prohibiton whose meaning is much disputed),
jesus warns disciples against giving what is sacred and precious to persons
who are undeserving, lest they, like swine, "trample [what is precious]
underfoot and turn to attack you." In 7: 7 -11, jesus suddenly shifts from
the negative to the positive and exhorts disciples to constant and fervent
prayer ("Ask ... seek ... knock"), for they can rest assured that "your
Father who is in heaven will give good things to those who ask him" (7: 11).
And with the Golden Rule, jesus ends this part of the Sermon on the
Mount by reminding disciples of what he has stressed earlier as well: Doing
the greater righteousness is always, finally, an exercise in love (7: 12).
In the fifth part of the Sermon on the Mount (7: 13-27),j esus concludes
his teaching. The point he drives home to disciples is unmistakable: It is
not only the hearing of his words but also the doing of them that counts.
Disciples who both hear and do are like the "wise man who built his house
upon the rock" (7:24). They, unlike the false prophets who will prove
themselves to have been workers of lawlessness, will at the latter day "enter
into the kingdom of heaven," for they shall have done "the will of my
Father who is in heaven" (7: 15-16, 20-23).
This survey of the five parts of jesus' Sermon on the Mount still leaves
one question unanswered: How would Matthew have disciples regard the
Sermon on the Mount, as an impossible ethic, or as an ethic actually to be

The Place, Structure, and Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

Matthew holds up Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as an
ethic disciples are to live. Disciples have been called by Jesus to enter the
sphere of God's eschatological kingdom, the sphere in which God rules as
Father. The ethic of the Sermon on the Mount describes life in this sphere.
Disciples of Jesus are summoned to lead this life, which is to say that they
are summoned to lead the life of the greater righteousness. They are to
love God with heart, soul, and mind and to love the neighbor as the self.
Does this mean, then, that Matthew is, in his understanding of human
nature, impossibly idealistic and completely unrealistic? Not at all. His
Gospel shows that he is fully aware of the reality of sin and of little faith.
After all, disciples pray in the Lord's Prayer: "And forgive us our debts, as
we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from the Evil One" (6: 12-13). Matthew is aware that disciples
experience failure as they lead the life of the greater righteousness and
. that they are continually in need of forgiveness from the side of both God
and the neighbor.
The thing to observe, however, is that Matthew refuses to make the
reality of sin and of little faith the determining factor in his ethic. Instead,
the determining factor for him is the reality of God's eschatological
kingdom, or rule, which is present even now in the earthly and risen Jesus
Son of God. For disciples who live in the sphere where God rules through
the risen Jesus, doing the greater righteousness is the normal order of
things. Until the consummation, disciples will, to be sure, have to contend
with the shadows that invade this normal order, with sin and little faith.
But this notwithstanding, they are indeed summoned to be the kind of
person Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount, the kind of person
who loves God perfectly and the neighbor as the self.
Summoned as disciples are to lead the life of the greater righteousness
yet being unable to realize this summons, are they therefore left without
example? Again, not as Matthew sees it. Disciples are also bid to pray: "Our
Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy
will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (6:9-10). The human being in
Matthew's Gospel who is whole in his relationship to the Father, in whom
God's kingdom is a present reality, and who does God's will perfectly is of
course Jesus Son of God. He it is who stands before disciples as the one who
realizes in his life the ethic of the greater righteousness. Accordingly,
bound to him in trust and assured of his forgiveness, disciples "follow after
him" as they hear his call and lead the life of the greater righteousness.

The Ethical Implications of the Sermon
on the Mount


Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Boston College

The primary question the Sermon on the Mount

poses is: What is the fullness of discipleship
like when imitation of the Father known in Jesus
pervades one's existence?


N egesis, theology, and ethics bound more closely together than in
approaches to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). When
ethical concerns are foremost, the so-called "hard sayings" (Matt. 5:38-48)
command attention. By demanding nonresistance and love of enemies,
Jesus seems both to hold the faithful to impossible standards of concrete
action and to break up the foundations of justice on which social cooper-
ation is built. Also problematic are the equally direct and at points more
impractical imperatives to avoid anger, lust, divorce, and swearing (Matt.
5:21-37). The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-11) generally have been of second-
ary ethical interest, while the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 5:9b-16) has remained
peripheral in most accounts of Christian morality. Before the develop-
ment in the nineteenth century of a historically critical method of studying
and correlating biblical texts, the ethical attention given to the remainder
of Matthew 5-7 was occasional at best, and the Gospel setting of the
Sermon was virtually ignored.
Undoubtedly the greatest impact of the historical-critical method on
ethical interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount has been made by the
discovery that the early church expected the imminent return of Jesus,
Risen Lord and Judge, to complete the reign of God begun in his lifetime.
The questions of the eschatology behind the Sermon and its relevance to
The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the Mount

the Sermon's continuing meaning have been most prominent in recent

discussions of the Sermon's ethics, especially those well-informed by
biblical scholarship. Standard typologies of historically and theologically
important readings have highlighted the importance of this emergent
modern interest. The model proposed by Joachim Jeremias is simple,
representative, and of continuing influence. According to this model, the
Sermon usually is seen in one of three ways: (1) a perfectionist code, fully
in line with the legalism of rabbinic Judaism; (2) an impossible ideal, meant
to drive the believer first to desperation, and then to trust in God's mercy;
or (3) an "interim ethic" meant for what was expected to be a brief period
of waiting in the end-time, and which is now obsolete. Jeremias adds his
own fourth thesis: The Sermon is an indicative depiction of incipient life in
the Kingdom of God, which presupposes as its condition of possibility the
experience of conversion. More complex or comprehensive schema-
tizations have been offered, but most major interpreters can be under-
stood in relation to the options posed by Jeremias. 2
The "perfectionist conception" becomes a "straw theory" if taken in the
most extreme sense, because it would be impossible to find any representa-
tive of the position that every single injunction of the Sermon on the
Mount, including the destruction of morally offensive bodily members
(Matt. 5:29-30), should be taken literally and strictly. There is a strong
tradition of gospel-based nonviolence which commends as stringently as
possible the commands to love the enemy to the point of nonresistance.
Early proponents include Tertullian and Origen; the best Reformation
examples are the Radicals (e.g., Menno Simons), who faced extreme
persecution for wanting to return to primitive Christianity and the Cross
of Christ. In more recent times, the Quakers, Mennonites, and other
pacifists follow in this current. Some mainstream theorists of natural
rights and just war theory also understand the Sermon as in a sense a "new
law." Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin all take Matthew 5:48, for
example, as a direct moral precept commanding obedience. To find ways
around the prima facie social and political implications of loving the
enemy, they do not deny the precept's force as moral law, but limit the

1. The Sermon on the Mount, trans. Norman Perrin (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1963).
2. I have attempted a more detailed, historically oriented discussion of major inter-
preters, with reference to primary texts, in "Nonresistance, Defense, Violence, and the
Kingdom, "INTERP. 38 (October 1984),380-97. See broader schematizations by Harvey K.
McArthur, Understanding the Sermon on the Mount (New York: Harper, 1960), who has
twelve categories; Krister Stendahl, "Messianic License" in Biblical Realism Confronts the
Nation, ed. Paul Peachey (Nyack, N.J.: Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1963), pp. 139-52,
who adds a thirteenth; and the historical survey in Robert A. Guelich, The Sermon on the
Mount: A Foundation for Understanding (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1982), pp. 13-22. The
commentaries of Guelich, W. D. Davies, and Hans Dieter Betz are discussed by Charles E.
Carlston, "Recent American Interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount," Bangalore
Theological Forum 17 (1985), 9-22.

law's range. (Augustine applies it to attitude rather than to external action
and is followed by Calvin; Luther distinguishes personal relationships as a
Christian from larger social roles; and Thomas distinguishes precepts
meant for all persons from counsels of perfection and places the "hard
sayings" in the latter category.) Even so, none deny that following the law
of love in the applicable realm goes beyond sheer extrinsic obedience to
require heartfelt faith and charity.
The notion that the Sermon is impossible of fulfillment, but has a
pedagogical function, is usually associated with Martin Luther or, as
Jeremias puts it, with "Lutheran orthodoxy." However, Luther himself
maintained that faith is active in works of love and that it is precisely faith
which loving service presupposes and of which it is a sign. For this reason,
Jeremias' own hermeneutic of the Sermon carries through Luther's most
central insights. The Sermon indicates a way of life which presupposes
conversion; the Sermon's portrayals of discipleship, while not literal pre-
scriptions, create ideals and set burdens of proof for all concrete
Finally, the position that the Sermon on the Mount is an "interim ethic"
represents an extreme or caricatured version of an interest characterizing
much contemporary thought. That interest is in early Christian es-
chatology, its impact on the original meaning of the Sermon, and on its
continuing relevance. Among the historical questions which have domi-
nated exegesis in the last one hundred years, this is surely one of the most
central; its implications for ethics are vast. It was Albert Schweitzer who
saw that the religious and ethical commitments of Jesus and the primitive
church hardly could be disentangled from their eschatology. 3 Schweitzer
saw no way to build a bridge from their world view to our own, a dilemma
shared by many subsequent interpreters. Recently, ethicists and exegetes
have rephrased the question: What is the continuing relevance of the
eschatology which is so definitive a part of the early Christian religious
experience ?4
Contemporary interpreters who reject the "interim ethic" solution share

3. The Mystery of the Kingdom of God (New York: Dodd and Mead, 1914). Guelich
provides an overview of the development of historical-critical research on the Sermon in
the post-Reformation period, pp. 18-22. A constructive, historically based study is Nor-
man Perrin, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (Philadelphia: The Westminster
Press, 1963).
4. For instance, this question is important both for the exegete Pheme Perkins, in Love
Commands in the New Testament (New York/Ramsey: Paulist Press, 1982, pp. 2-4) and for the
ethicist Thomas Ogletree, in The Use of the Biblic in Christian Ethics (Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1983), p. 177. In Perkins' words, biblical eschatology furnishes at least a "critical
edge" to the Christian's perspective on the present world. In those of Ogletree, it demands
the creation of a community which "stands apart from" the "dominant society" (p. 180). In
The General Reversal: Ethics and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984) Allen
Verhey, a: biblically grounded ethicist, develops the thesis that the ethics of the kingdom is
response to the apocalyptic action of God, which reverses all earthly values.

The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the Mount

with the pioneering historical critics the conclusion that the eschatological
perspective is key. Also shared is a desire to recover as closely as possible
the original setting, process of composition, and the meaning of the
Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Two important questions
are whether the Sermon should be read in terms of originally discon-
tinuous sayings and units or read as finally redacted, and whether even to
understand the Sermon on the Mount as final collection requires refer-
ence to its place within Matthew's Gospel, the New Testament, and
eventually the whole canon. To assert that the literary collection which the
Christian community takes as its "Scripture" is authoritative in its final,
edited form implies that the normative meanings of texts or units must be
balanced out within a larger frame of reference in which other notes are
struck. Although not every modern interpreter of the Sermon on the
Mount has a full-blown theory of canonical authority, most agree at least
on the importance of correlating the most pointedly moral constituents
with other elements, and of situating these three chapters within the
general program of the Gospel writer, surmised partly with the aid of
historical critical tools. 5
My method likewise presupposes (1) at least a de facto functional
authority of the canon in Christian theology, (2) the coherence of Matthew
5- 7 as a unit of meaning if considered from either a literary or a religious
perspective, (3) reciprocity of meaning between this unit and the Gospel,
(4) the usefulness of historical-critical research in shedding light on the
original settings and meanings ofbot.h the smaller and larger units, and (5)
continuity but not identity of the original meanings of Sermon and Gospel
with their meanings for later communities which rely on the canon. No
pretence will be made in this essay either to settle or to render superfluous
the answers to two further issues of even greater importance and diffi-
culty, (6) whether the authority of the canon as such is not only a fact but a
requirement of Christian theology, and (7) the precise nature and criteria
of the continuity between the original and the presently normative mean-
ings of canonical texts.


In recent hermeneutics of the Sermon there is a trend to avoid the
extremes of Jeremias' first three types, and to appropriate the insights of
his fourth by recognizing coherence among several interdependent fac-

5. A notable exception is Hans Dieter Betz, who theorizes that Matthew took over the
Sermon on the Mount from a pre-Synoptic source, with its own (and different) soteriology,
in which the death and resurrection of Jesus plays no role. Understood independently
from Matthew's Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount pictures the Kingdom of God as
identical with God's activity of continual creation. The Sermon's central text is taken to be
Matt. 6:25-34 (Essays on the Sermon on the Mount [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985], pp.

tors: Matthew's view of ] esus as the Messiah who fulfills] ewish expec-
tations,] esus' depiction of discipleship in concrete and action-oriented but
extreme terms, the Sermon's eschatological "kingdom" language, and
traditional Christian views of ethics, both personal and social. These
factors often are tied together in some understanding of converted relation-
ship. The Sermon on the Mount portrays a new relationship to God as
Father, which is epitomized in and somehow made possible for others by
] esus, which individuals actually and presently experience in their own
lives and communities, which transforms their relationships so that, like
God, they can look even on enemies selflessly, which makes them doers of
concrete actions concerned foremost with grasping the situation and
meeting the needs of others they affect, and which would be so radical in
its fulfillment that fullness never has been experienced.
The commentary by Robert A. Guelich exemplifies well this trend,
proving the inseparability of the exegetical, theological, and ethical di-
mensions of the Sermon on the Mount. He interprets the "impossible"
demands of the Antitheses as setting forth "] esus' demand for behavior
commensurate with whole relationships rather than the broken relation-
ships" demonstrated by the repudiated activities. 6 The Antitheses and
especially the "hard sayings" demonstrate that "love" is "action that places
the other's best interests rather than one's rights foremost.,,7 A practical
question is whether the Sermon defines these loving acts in any precise
way. The divorce texts and the instruction to love one's enemy can be
translated into clear moral mandates-however problematic to interpret
and apply. However, critical historical study has cast doubt on whether any
apparently self-evident "mandate" can be taken for granted as original to
the texts, and whether even the original specific meaning (to the extent
that it can be uncovered) ought to be normative for every cultural and
social situation. s If the Sermon's specific moral commands are most

6. Ibid., p. 193.
7. Ibid., p. 254.
8. On the disputed original senses of the divorce texts, refer to John R. Donahue,
"Divorce: New Testament Perspectives," The Month 14 (1981),113-20. Equally disputed is
the original referent of "enemies" in Matt. 5:39b. The present consensus appears to be that
they were not national or political enemies but religious or perhaps personal ones. See
Richard A. Horsley, "Ethics and Exegesis: 'Love Your Enemies' and the Doctrine of
Non-Violence,"JAAR 54 (1986),3-31; Guelich, p. 219 on the "evil one," and p. 227 on
religious enemies; Krister Stendhal, "Hate, Non-Retaliation and Love: 1QS X. 17-20 and
Romans 12: 19-21," HThR 55 (1962),345-55; Victor Paul Furnish, The Love Command in the
New Testament (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), p. 47; Stephen Charles Mott, Biblical Ethics and
Social Change (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), Chap. 9; Luise Schot-
troff, "Non-Violence and the Love of One's Enemies," in Essays on the Love Commandment,
ed. Reginald H. Fuller (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), pp. 12-13; William Klassen,
Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), pp. 85-88; Pheme
Perkins, Love Commands in the New Testament, pp. 27-40.

The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the Mount

appropriate to their own historical setting, and if the ethical import of the
Sermon derives primarily from its depiction of evangelical discipleship,
then it becomes questionable whether the formulation of moral rules
ought to play any further part in interpreting the Sermon.
If not, then it remains to account convincingly for the Sermon's endur-
ance and practical forcefulness. Robert C. Tannehill suggests that the
Antitheses of Matthew 5:39b-42 function as a literary unit to reverse
conventional religious and moral values. These verses can provide effec-
tive directives toward action in various historical settings. Although spe-
cific, extreme commands such as "turn the other cheek" obviously are not
literal language, they center on "focal instances" of action which stand "in
deliberate tension" with the way in which we "normally live and think."g
The patterning of instances induces the hearers to enlarge their field of
reference to other situations cailing for overriding attention to others. The
hearers are urged to act likewise without being told exactly which acts in
which situations will represent substantially similar relationships.


If it is true that the Antitheses' examples of righteousness function as
"focal instances," what attitude or disposition toward others gives co-
herence to the "pattern" represented by the series of exemplary actions?
What does the Sermon suggest internally about the substantive relation-
ship out of which the mandated actions are to proceed? The grounding
relationship will characterize the kingdom, since its presence is the subject
of the Sermon on the Mount.
A key theme of the Sermon's depiction of the kingdom is imitation of
God; 10 to act as God does, with forgiveness and mercy, is to live in the
kingdom. The Lord's Prayer, an appeal for the fullness of the kingdom,
closely associates it with doing on earth the will of the Father (6: 10). It is
one's forgiveness of neighbor on which one's own forgiveness by God
explicitly depends (6: 15); the disciple prays to be forgiven as one who also
forgives (6: 12, 14-15). The purpose of loving even the enemy is to "be sons
of your father who is in heaven" (5:45a); if one is to go beyond merely
self-gratifying relationships, then one must aim to be as "perfect" in the

9. "The 'Focal Instance' as a Form of New Testament Speech: A Study of Matthew

5: 39lr42,"JR 50 (1970),379. Tannehill does not see all the imperatives of Matthew 5-7 as
"focal instances," however. Others, like the divorce texts, are of the form "legal rule,"
because practicable as stated, though open to future applications and exceptions (p. 381).
10. The theme is noted by William Spohn, SJ., What Are They Saying About Scripture and
Ethics? (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), p. 122. Spohn ties imitation to participation in the
life of God by the power of the Spirit and cites authors such as Augustine, Calvin, Jonathan
Edwards, and H. Richard Niebuhr.

ways of mercy and forbearance "as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5 :48).
The command not to judge others' failings (7: 1-5) bears out the for-
giveness theme of the prayer for the kingdom; it is our attitude toward
others which will determine God's attitude of judgment or forgiveness
toward US. 11 Righteousness in God's eyes is not purity and law-
abidingness, but mercifulness effective in compassionate action. Mat-
thew's inclusion of the "Golden Rule" (7: 12) urges the disciple to identify
with the other, to perceive the other's concrete need as though it were the
disciple's, to act toward the other as though the other were oneself. The
morally right act is simply but radically the act which demonstrates the
forgiving attentiveness to the needs of others disclosed by Jesus as the will
of God. Love is defined in Matthew's Sermon as a way of acting, not as an
emotion. However, inferable from the deeds done is an attitude toward
others which might be characterized as empathy, kindness, generosity, or
compassion. 12 With this, the "dilemmas" which an ethic of love is some-
times said to pose, such as the conflict between love and justice or the
impasse of a choice between two neighbors, are set aside if not answered.
The mandate is not to settle such conflicts in the most prudent or effective
way but to enter into them by identifying the needs of those concerned as
one's own.
This theme of love as attentive forgiveness fleshes out the concrete
meaning of the "hard sayings," including the baffling instruction not to
resist the evil one (5:39). Although the precise original meanings of
nonresistance and "one who is evil" remain unclear, 13 it can be concluded
minimally that the disciple does not approach the enemy or evildoer in
hard, resistant, alienating, and self-righteous judgment but in a compas-
sionate desire to meet the needs of wrongdoers and victims as well as
possible in the circumstances. 14 The Beatitudes are confirmatory: Those
blessed with the kingdom are "poor in spirit" (5:3), "meek" (5:5), "mer-
ciful" (5:7), "pure in heart" (5:8), "peacemakers" (5:9), those who "hunger
and thirst" for the "righteousness" understood throughout the Sermon as
forgiveness, and those who are ready to be persecuted by those who judge
by power and status, or even by the law of the scribes and Pharisees

11. Elsewhere in Matthew, kingdom "righteousness" also is constituted by forgiveness

and mercy, e.g., the parable of the King and the Wicked Servant (18:23-35); or the giving
of a cup of cold water to one of the "little ones" (10:42).
12. On forgiveness and compassion, see Frederick E. Schuele, "Living Up to Matthew's
Sermon on the Mount," Christian Biblical Ethics: From Biblical Revelation to ContempoTaJY
Christian Praxis: Method and Content, ed. Robert]. Daly (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), p.
13. See n. 10 above.
14. Tannehill illustrates this point with a case study, p. 383.

The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the 1\10unt

(5: 10-11, 20). The phrases of the Beatitudes may well have reference to
minority social position as well as to discipleship attitudes,I5 and thus fit
well with the many sayings of Jesus (in the Sermon, 6: 19-21) about the
dangers that wealth and power present to the greater righteousness
expected of the disciple. The more position and prestige one has to
protect, the less likely one is to enter with compassionate action a situation
in which one's assets are required for the well-being of others. Sur-
rounding the Lord's Prayer are admonitions (6: 1-8, 16-24) not to pray or
do good works for worldly motives, especially in order to increase one's
own importance, but rather out of a desire to imitate God's generosity.
The often cited and seemingly naIve "lilies of the field" passage can be
understood in context as an exhortation not to be caught up anxiously in
one's own daily needs but to seek first of all God's kingdom and his
righteousness. Action which is righteous the way God's forgiveness and
attentive care are righteous is the most basic condition of the goodness
experienced in the life of the disciple.

An obvious next question is what will sustain a compelling connection
between relation to God and acts toward others, if acts are not backed
forcefully by sanction-implying moral rules. I6 To insist, as did Luther and
many recent interpreters, that action flows necessarily and spontaneously
from conversion, seems right but inadequate once the incompleteness of
the kingdom is acknowledged. Eschatological concerns can diminish the
stringency of the Sermon's ethics if they tip the balance to relationship
over acts or to the imminent over the present character of the kingdom. 17
Needing attention are the eschatological themes of warning and judgment
which accompany those of salvation, freedom, and blessing. I8 When the
radical, conversion-based injunctions are placed in the context of the three

15. E.g., Guelich, pp. 97-109.

16. On whether any general moral principles or specific moral rules may be grounded in
the New Testament, compare Allen Verhey, pp. 174-78, 187-95; Richard N. Long-
enecker, New Testament Social Ethicsfor Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), pp. 14-15,
26-28; and Robert J. Daly, Christian Biblical Ethics, pp. 97-103.
17. In The Kingdom of God in the Teaching ofjesus, Norman Perrin draws on his teacher
Jeremias to develop a tensive "present/not yet" approach, highlighting the disciple's
relationship with God (see esp. pp. 184-204). The "peace pastoral" of the U.S. Catholic
Bishops recognizes this fundamental view of the kingdom in its first half, but in its second
half defends 'just war" and nuclear deterrence provisionally because of the imperfection
of the present order (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace: God's
Promise and Our Response [Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1983]).
18. Verhey, pp. 88-89,92; Guelich, pp. 405-13; Hermann Hendrickx, The Sermon on the
Mount (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1984)pp. 160-74.

chapters of the Sermon and, more broadly, in that of the Gospel, they
derive much of their forcefulness from accompanying warnings .of the
consequences for those who fall short of the law's fulfillment and of the
greater righteousness enjoined by Jesus (5: 17, 20). Those who fail "will
never enter the kingdom of heaven" (5:20), "shall be liable to judgment"
(5: 22a), "will be liable to the hell of fire" (5: 22), or "thrown into hell" (5: 29;
cf. 30b).
The insistent pairing of the twin themes of righteous action and judg-
ment is central to Matthew 7; these themes are amplified by those of
efficacious prayer and mission. As we have seen, action is an important
component of spreading the gospel. It is the life of "good works" which
gives "glory to your Father who is in heaven," and by which the disciples
will be "salt" and "light" to the world (5: 13-16).19 Doing the good works
commended is not a distant ideal but necessary now. "Not everyone who
says to me 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who
does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (7: 21). Although doing what is
heard is hard, Jesus assures that "good things" shall be given to those who
earnestly ask (7: 11). The Sermon's exhortation to pray counteracts exag-
gerated "gift" interpretations of the kingdom, since the petitioner has a
role in securing the blessings from which action springs. The warnings not
to be taken in by false prophets in sheep's clothing (7: 15), or by trees that
do not bear good fruit (7: 16-20), or by those who perform showy works in
Jesus' name (7:22-23), or to build one's house on "sand" by not actually
living up to Jesus' words (7:24-27) suggest choice, responsibility, diffi-
culty, and the possibility of delusion in the life of would-be discipleship.
The allusions to the "narrow gate" (7: 13-14) and the Lord's repudiation of
"evildoers" on the "last day" (7 :22-23) are explicit references to
judgment. 20


Three questions, well-rooted in the tradition, surface as soon as one
moves out from radical discipleship to contemplate the roles and respon-

19. Possibly also 7:6 is a mission saying, cf. Guelich, pp. 353-54; and Hendrickx, p. 155.
If so, it may be illumined by 6: 1-8, 16--21. Christian discipleship and respectable religious
practice are not the same; do not be religious for earthly reward and do not prostitute the
gospel by giving it to those who will use it for worldly respect or power.
20. This ties the Sermon to other judgment material in Matthew, as in chaps. 13 and
24-25. Enlightening for the ethicist isJohn R. Donahue, S.J., "The 'Parable' of the Sheep
and the Goats: A Challenge to Christian Ethics," TS 47 (March 1986), 3-31. Donahue ties
together discipleship deeds, implications for justice, and the text's apocalyptic horizon of
judgment and restoration.

The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the Mount

sibilities of the disciple as also a member of communities whose identity is

not primarily religious. (1) Do the actions mandated for the Christian by
the Sermon have necessarily any political, institutional sphere of refer-
ence? (2) Is justification of violence definitively excluded from Christian
ethics? (3) To what extent are the ethics of the Sermon translatable into
"public" discourse?
The Sermon on the Mount does not suggest a "social ethics" in any direct
or usual sense. It depicts active, personal outflow of a total conversion by
virtue of which ordinary religious and moral expectations are shaken to
their roots and one is transfixed by Jesus' transparence to the reign of God.
Sayings and imperatives with ethical content and even prima facie socio-
political implications function most obviously and effectively within the
parameters of the Sermon as engaging illustrations of the immediate
sphere of committed discipleship. Indeed, the energy of the practical
moral life must spring up here: in individual commitment within a sup-
portive community. Martin Hengel argues historically that a fundamental
difference between Jesus and the Zealot revolutionaries is that Jesus saw
the primary source of evil in the world as the evil in the individual's heart
rather than Roman political domination, the priestly aristocracy, or large
landowners. Thus the reign of God is not brought about in the first
instance by socio-political transformation but by the "transformed heart"
which alone "is capable of new human community, of doing goOd.,,2I
Yet, even if the Sermon does not plainly dictate social objectives, it may
imply them. It is particularly appropriate to draw out such implications if
the realization of the kingdom is understood biblically to span races,
cultures, nations, and now also generations. Inasmuch as the twentieth-
century disciple has increased capacity to affect whole groups of socially
and economically disadvantaged, even oppressed, persons, the broader
social duties of discipleship hardly can be ignored. Stephen C. Mott, by
emphasizing "status" as "the key to social ethics" in the New Testament,22
shows how specific New Testament injunctions can serve as the basis, not
of prescriptions, but of a social ethics of consistent discipleship action. The
inclusive religion of Jesus challenged the status distinctions on which
secular cultures depend, thus destablizing traditional Roman society, and
provoking persecution. Compatibly with Tannehill's hermenutic of "focal
instances," Mott affirms the continuing social meaning of the inclusive call
to discipleship and of merciful action. One hardly can forgive another,
show mercy in the face of his or her need, and treat the other as oneself

21. Martin Hengel, VictOlY over Violence: Jesus and the Revolutionists (Philadelphia: For-
tress Press, 1973), pp. 47-48.
22. "Use of the Bible in Social Ethics II," Transformation 1 (1984), 24.

would want to be treated, if the other is perceived as alien and approached
in terms of gender, race, national, religious, or class stereotypes. To be
perfect in one's compassion is to presuppose that such divisions have
ceased to exist, along with the institutions which support and feed on
Parallel perceptions of the social implications of the Sermon are repre-
sented by the ethics of theologies of liberation. Hermann Hendrickx's
commentary lifts up the dawning of the kingdom in Jesus as the key
theme, expressed paradigmatically in the Lord's Prayer. God's rule re-
quires identification with the oppressed, mutual solidarity, non-
condemnation, liberation from fear, and praxis which enhances human
welfare. 23 With good biblical warrants, liberation theologians highlight
Jesus' special concern for the outcast (but notably, not only or even
particularly the "innocent"), and suggest that the disciple ought to prefer
the most powerless.


Can "love" and "nonresistance" express themselves as socio-political
resistance to injustice, or even as physical violence and killing? The
Sermon's answer lies in a further question, Which among available alter-
natives is truly merciful and forgiving? This question certainly puts the
burden of proof on the advocates of violence. Political and economic
resistance may be justified, but any attitude of righteous anger likely to
result in a less compassionate or more self-assertive act toward the per-
petrator of injustice looks dubious. 24
John Howard Yoder is outstanding among those who take seriously the
"hard sayings" (and Jesus' nonviolent example) as a part of discipleship
witness. Taking due account of canonical complexity and historical-critical
research, Yoder arrives at a negative judgment on any Christian use of
violence, in any situation. 25 Absolute exclusion of violence on the basis of
23. Hendrickx, pp. 3, 87.
24. I do not find in the Sermon justification for the disciple to seek or use power and
anger against injustice; such justification is scant in the New Testament generally. This is
no doubt why many Christian defenses of active resistance to injustice rely heavily on the
Hebrew Prophets. One of the few New Testament warrants might beJesus' confrontation
with the merchants in the temple, found in each Gospel (Matt. 21: 12-13, Mark 11: 15-17,
Luke 19:45-46, John 2: 13-17).
25. The Politics ofJesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972); The Original Revolution: Essays
on Christian Pacifism (Scottdale, Pa.lKitchener, Ontario: Herald Press, 1971); The Priestly
Kingdom (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984). Yoder is followed in
his conclusions by Stanley Hauerwas, whose view of the Christian life as "story" is based in
biblical themes, but less so in exegesis and current biblical scholarship. See, among many
books, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Prime1' in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1983).
The Ethical Implications of the Sermon on the Mount

the Sermon (Matt. 5:38-48) is challenged by those who, like Richard

Horsley,26 do not identify questions of war, revolution, or even personal
self-defense against an attacker as concerns for which it has direct im-
plications or who, like Stephen Mott,27 resist the extrapolation from it of
moral rules.
It should not be assumed that Christian ethicists who reject violence also
reject involvement in the transformation of the social order. Even Yoder,
who ostensibly repudiates "resistance,"28 does not seem to see "non-
resistance" as incompatible with social action, as is clear in The Priestly
Kingdom. Yet, the gospel is betrayed if social effectiveness is made more
than a secondary objective. William Klassen, like Yoder a Mennonite, finds
"the way to peace" in nonretaliatory enemy love, tied to and "modeling" a
coherent life of discipleship.29 Luise Schottroff sees aggressive love of
enemy as resistant to social evil and as "a combative and evangelistic means
for the salvation of all,,,30 consistent with gospel inclusiveness and Jesus'
manifest intent to cut across religious and social boundaries.

All social justice interpretations of the Sermon suggest translation into
language viable in the larger social order. The Thomistic "natural law"
tradition of Roman Catholics, for instance, claims that radical gospel
demands support reasonable cooperation toward social justice. This is
true both of those who discuss the Sermon at length, such as Hendrickx
and J an Lambrecht, and of those more concerned with social problems,
such as Pope John XXIII and the U.S. Bishops in their recent pastoral
letter, The Challenge of Peace. 31 Even without arguing that the Sermon
expresses common ideals, its special insights can challenge secular society,
as they do for Yoder. A recent volume of the Bangalore Theological Forum

26. Horsley, "Ethics and Exegesis," cited in n. 8 above.

27. Biblical Ethics and Social Change (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982).
28. The Original Revolution, pp. 48, 55-63.
29. Klassen, p. 135.
30. Schottroff, p. 28. See also Daly, "The Love Command and the Call to Nonviolence,"
in Daly, p. 216; the Jesus of the New Testament urges "active, converting love ... toward
enemies of the community." Gerard Vanderhaar, Enemies and How to Love Them (Mystic,
Conn.: Twenty-Third Publications, 1985) defends nonviolence as an effective course in
Soviet-U.S. relations, though Christian love does not "let the enemy wallow triumphantly in
ugliness" (p. 74). Franz Alt argues that the only way to address "the atomic threat" is with
modest, empathetic understanding of "people who think differently" (Peace Is Possible: The
Politics of the Sermon on the Mount [New York: Schocken Books, 1985], p. 86).
31. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), in Seven Gr'eat Encyclicals, ed. WilliamJ.
Gibbons (New York/Paramus: Paulist Press, 1963), pp. 289-326; see n. 17 above for the

addresses the power of the Sermon's message for non-Christian and even
non-Western cultures. 32
Certainly the Sermon's integral presupposition of discipleship makes
moot, from its internal viewpoint, the question whether Christian ethics
can be universalized. Even though discipleship may affect the social order,
it is still true that, as J. L. Houlden notes, the New Testament never
presents ethics autonomously.33 The primary question the Sermon poses
is not, How can the Christian speak to or affect natural moral values or
social justice? nor, In what way does the Christian live differently from
others? but rather, What is the fullness of discipleship like when imitation
of the Father known in Jesus pervades one's existence? It is a question
directed very much from inside an experience of radical commitment, of
life in and with the risen Lord. The answer is that discipleship is lived only
in the action which identifies the agent with the needs of the other,
neighbor or enemy (not in fruitless "hearing").
To return to this section's three programmatic questions, if the ethics of
the Sermon is an ethics of discipleship and forgiving love, then (1) the
social dimensions of Christian action are necessary but presuppose per-
sonal transformation; (2) there exists a profoundly serious bias against any
act which violates a basic condition (e.g., life) of the wellbeing of one
toward whom the Christian acts; and (3) questions of public language and
policy are not questions internal to (though not excluded by) this unit of
Matthew's Gospel. Ethical attention is redirected toward concerns more
germane to the Sermon when its eschatology is grasped. These concerns
converge in three claims: (1) God's reign is present in and only in those
who, with Jesus, share God's special righteousness; (2) the kingdom
righteousness of forgiving love is given to those who wholeheartedly pray
for it; and (3) converted, active discipleship presents itself to hearers of
Jesus' words as an obligation for which each will be held responsible.

32. Bangalore Theological Forum 1711 (1985); see Eric]. Lott, "The Indian Christian and
the Sermon on the Mount," pp. 1-8; Wolf Kroetke, "The Sermon on the Mount &
Christian Responsibility for the World," pp. 23-40; Somen Das, "Violence & Non-violence:
Re-appraising Gandhi's Understanding of the Sermon on the Mount," pp. 41-64. Mark
Heim draws on Reinhold Niebuhr's love-justice dialetic to argue that the Sermon's general
relevance to social life can only be recognized by faith ("The Sermon on the Mount: Ethic
and Ethos," pp. 65-82).
33. Ethics and the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 66, 125.

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical
Pastoral Care

Associate Professor of Homiletics
Duke University Divinity School

As the expression of God's radical pastoral care,

the Sermon on the Mount can only be interpreted
as communities of Christians attempt to live it.

ARLY in the Church Dogmatics Karl Barth asserts that the task of
E theology is to assess the relationship of the church's distinctive talk
about God with the church's being. 1 How do doctrinal and liturgical
formulas square with the life of the church, and how faithful is the church
to the various charters which have shaped its identity and purpose? The
Sermon on the Mount is one such charter. Yet for many reasons, not the
least of which is its alleged impracticability, the Sermon is usually ignored
by practical theology or isolated from its churchly context and admired for
the grandeur of its moral or psychological truths.
Contemporary Christians, however much they may admire the Sermon
on the Mount, want even more to use it or to know if it is usable in the
congregation. Most Christians are convinced that the Sermon cannot
regulate a secular society, and many doubt its viability in the bureaucracy
and political intrigues of the denomination. Yet what of the congregation,
the empirical community of Jesus Christ which often lives in tension with
both society and church bureaucracy? One would suspect that the congre-

1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1975), I, 1, 4.

gation enjoys a more intimate relationship with the Sermon on the Mount,
for the congregation derives its identity, tasks, and sustenance from the
Scriptures and the sacraments as they are expounded and celebrated in its
midst. May we not reasonably expect to find that the Sermon is not merely
applicable to the church but is, as Barth put it, expressive of the "being" of
the Christian congregation? The congregation is, in fact, the most appro-
priate theater for this, Jesus' greatest teaching.
One finds little published support for such a claim. The church has
directly appropriated little of the Sermon on the Mount into its polity and
ritual, and only a few contemporary works in practical theology, ministry,
pastoral care, and preaching comment on the Sermon. It is another essay
to say why this is true. Instead, I will sketch a few characteristics of the
congregation in order to confirm and promote the organic relationship
that continues to exist between the Sermon on the Mount and the life and
ministry of the contemporary congregation.


The Sermon on the Mount is set in the most ecclesially oriented of the
Gospels. No other Gospel is so shaped by the church's thought or designed
for its use as Matthew's. For this reason it has exercised a uniquely
normative influence in the later church. In Matthew alone the con-
gregation is the ekklcsia (Matt. 16: 18), which is the qehal Yahweh of Old
Testament-Jewish expectations. 2 Matthew's Gospel does not rely on a
hierarchy of pastoral offices to make Jesus present to the church. Quite the
opposite is true (Matt. 20:25-28). Because Jesus is still the pastor in this
church, in the midst of his people (Matt. 18: 12, 20), his congregation
offers the richest possibilities for fellowship, service, discipleship, and
suffering. Matthew does not delineate gradations of "church," with the
greatest of these residing somewhere beyond the local congregation; nor
does he feed modern idealizations of "community" by glossing over the
sins of his own group.
Matthew's congregation has its problems,3 and those problems appear
to revolve around the "being" of the church in the physical absence of

2. Gunther Bornkamm et al., Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew, trans. Percy Scott
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1963), p. 38.
3. The Matthian community'S problems are outlined by W. D. Davies in The Setting of
the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: The University Press, 1964), pp. 316 and passim; Jack
Dean Kingsbury, Matthew, Proclamation Commentaries (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
1977), pp. 91-93; William G. Thompson, Matthew's Advice to a Divided Community, AnBib 44,
pp. 258-59; Hans Deiter Betz, Essays on the Sermon on the Mount, trans. L. L. Welborn
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 20-22; and Bornkamm, Tradition and Interpreta-
tion, p. 22.

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pasto'ral Care

Jesus. What is the nature of the church? The question of the temple tax in
17:24-27 apparently reflects the unresolved issue of the church's dis-
tinctive identity amidst the conflicting currents of popular piety, Judaism,
and Paulinism. Matthew's community is also torn by the more banal
disputes that perennially divide congregations: moral laxity, legalism, bad
preaching, factionalism, ignorance, and wealth. Who may belong to the
church? Like any pastor, the Evangelist is concerned with the quality of
relationships within the congregation, with offenses and restoration; yet
the Sermon breathes a different spirit than later manuals of church
discipline. Matthew agonizes over the mixed nature of the community, but
the Sermon pleads for reconciliation and makes no provision for expelling
sinners and heretics. What is the mission of the church? Even the Gospel's
perception of the church's mission is not without ambiguity. Matthew
begins and ends with delegations from and toward the nations; yet it
portrays a teacher whose concern is only momentarily deflected from the
lost sheep of the house of Israel. The radicality of the "you have heard ...
but I say to you" construction is balanced by respect for the law, which
Jesus has come to interpret and fulfill, not to relax or abolish (Matt. 5: 17).
The members of this community will take the law seriously in their
dealings with one another. If the Sermon on the Mount is a catechism, as
some have characterized it, 4 it is not so much a doctrinal summary as a
guide to pastoral care for those who are endeavoring to live in God's new
congregation. In sum, the Gospel renders typical Christians struggling to
be faithful in what one writer calls "the climate of ordinary Christianity ,,,5 a
major feature of which I take to be the intense and conflicted life of the
local congregation.
That there appears to be a movement of audience from "the disciples" in
5: 1 to "the crowds" in 7:28 does not suggest an attempt to generalize
something so peculiar as a church's catechism. If the disciples represent
the "typical" Christian and the crowd the potential disciple, then the
audience of the Sermon has merely shifted from the initiated to those who
have overheard the teaching and must now decide if they are ready to
commit themselves to the One who makes such a blessed and difficult life

4. Bornkamm, Tradition and Interpretation, p. 27 and Joachim Jeremias, The Sermon on

the Mount, trans. Norman Perrin (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), p. 23. The radical
nature of the teaching in Q prompts Davies to remind us that this is not a catechism in the
sense of elementary instruction (Setting of the Sermon, p. 386).
5. James P. Martin, "The Church in Matthew," INTERP. 29 Uan. 1975),41, n. On the
disciples as "typical" Christians in Matthew, see Edward Schillebeeckx,Ministty, trans.John
Bowden (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981), p. 22.

The Sermon on the Mount is difficult in many ways: difficult to try, as in
love for one's enemy or uncoerced generosity, difficult to do, as in non-
resistance or total sexual purity, but even more difficult to conceptualize as a
framework for Christian existence. The framework larger than any of the
precepts or prohibitions within it is the eschatology of the Sermon. The
Rule of God provides a more comprehensive auspices for the Christian life
than even the most thoroughgoing principle of nonviolence, for the latter
is ultimately a response to the former, a courageous way of bringing
oneself or one's group into alignment with the hidden but real dynam~c of
God's governance in the world. Whereas morality-if we are to believe
Reinhold Niebuhr-suffers in collision with institutions but proves work-
able in the individual, eschatology in anything but its crassest varieties of
futurism meets with incomprehension at all levels: institutions, communi-
ties, groups, and individuals. It is the eschatology of the Sermon, not its
morality, that confounds contemporary Christians.
The eschatology of the Sermon begins with the Beatitudes but underlies
the entire discourse. The Beatitudes characterize those who have been
called by God. 6 They are less a roll call of kingdom-virtues than an
affirmation of the eschatological blessedness which is already enjoyed by
those who are followers of Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes are not a strategy
or exhortation to blessedness but an indicative with the force of a promise.
So sure is the reality of the kingdom which has been inaugurated by Jesus
that his followers already have what the kingdom promises.
The promise of the Beatitudes serves as preface to what Robert Tan-
nehill calls "focal instances" or imaginative examples of life in the king-
dom. 7 In Matthew 5 Jesus repeatedly cites a command, radically deepens
its significance, and provides an imagistic amplification of his teaching.
Not only shall we not kill, we shall not be angry. This is what that looks like:
If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember a broken relation-
ship, leave your gift and first be reconciled (Matt. 5:21-24). The focal
instance is as concrete and realistic as everyday life; yet it is extreme and
shocking when compared with ordinary behavior. The focal instance is not
a cut-and-dried law, like the legislation on divorce found in 5:31-32 and in
the other Gospels, from which deductions may be drawn. Rather it oper-

6. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, " ... neither privation nor renunciation, spiritual or
political, isjustified except by the call and promise of Jesus, who alone makes blessed those
whom he calls, and who is in his person the sole ground of their beatitude" (The Cost of
Discipleship, trans. R. H. Fuller [New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. 1963], p. 119, n.).
7. Robert C. Tannehill, "The 'Focal Instance' as a Form of New Testament Speech: A
Study of Matthew 5:39b--42," The Journal of Religion 50 (Oct. 1970), p. 380.

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral Care

ates metaphorically, producing an imaginative shock to the lTIoral imag-

ination and enabling the hearer to see his or her own life in a radically new
way.8 That the Beatitudes should produce a metaphoric effect is not
surprising, for metaphor, with its multiple and contradictory layers of
meaning, is the unit of expressive language most suited to the is/is not/will be
tension characteristic of eschatology in general and the Beatitudes in
When the Beatitudes are reduced to virtues or the maxims of positive
thinking, the rest of the Sermon is lost as well. Then the sayings about
purity, love, generosity, piety, and all the others can no longer be under-
stood as representative portraits of the new community's daily life of
discipleship. Rather, they become new rules, and as rules they eventually
produce the predictable forms of ethical activism, anguish, or security-
depending on the species of self-deception at work in the hearer. So the
reconciliation urged upon litigants as they rush to court (Matt. 5:26-27)
"makes sense" to Christians, for everyone knows that people who go to the
same church or live in the same neighborhood ought to get along. But why
should the Teacher be crucified for reinforcing what everyone already
knows? What if reconciliation and the other behaviors advocated by the
Sermon are not "rules" in the sense of new and more stringent laws, but
are rather ingredient to the Rule of God? In this New Rule we do not do
the law, but what the law ordains is fulfilled in us (cf. Rom. 8:4). We
reconcile with our neighbor, not because we feel better afterward, but
because the court we are rushing toward belongs to God. We seek recon-
ciliation, not merely as an individualistic response to a command, but
because the End toward which we journey will be characterized by the
reconciliation already effected in Jesus Christ. Our ethical behavior, what
we do now, is a downpayment on the perfect peace, harmony, love, purity,
and worship that will characterize the End.
How perverse it is to claim that the Sermon can only be done by
individuals. It is precisely as individuals cut off from the community that
we are bound to fail. For the Sermon portrays a dynamic constellation of
relationships-a kind of radicalized Canterbury Tales-within the pilgrim
community. Because the pilgrims have experienced by faith the assurance

8. Tannehill, "The 'Focal Instance,'" pp. 381-83. Jeremias paraphrases the Sermon as
follows: "And now you should know that this is what life is like when you belong to the new
aeon of God" (The Sermon on the Mount, p. 31). Barth interprets the dictates of the Sermon
on marriage, swearing, anger, etc., to be "incidental and only by way of illustration," for "it
has always proved impossible to construct a picture of the Christian life from these
directions" (CD, II, 2, 688). On the other hand, Robert Grant reminds us that the earliest
Christians received the Sermon "literally as commands to be obeyed" ("The Sermon on the
Mount in Early Christianity," Semeia 12 [1978], 219).

of their destination, they are encouraged by its promise and guided by its
Eschatology and ethics have always had to do with one another,9 but
what is their relationship? In an important work published nearly fifty
years ago, Amos Wilder asserted that eschatology serves as a sanction for
Jesus' ethical teaching. It is, he said, the symbolic "overtone" of the ethical
element that lends motive and significance to Jesus' message of this-
worldly redemption. Wilder's study grades the levels of the sanctions
beginning with the lowest or "formal" sanctions, which are predictions of
rewards and punishments (e.g., Matt. 5:25-26). These sanctions are ul-
timately based on self-interest, for the rewards and punishments not only
stretch into eternity but impinge upon the present messianic times. The
highest or "essential" sanctions derive from the nature, character, or glory
of God ("You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect," Matt. 5:48; cf. Matt. 5: 16).10 We might question the priority of
ethics above eschatology in Wilder's interpretation or suggest that he
inflates the distinction between the formal aspects of literary eschatology
and the essential character of the God who makes promises. Yet Wilder's
inventory of sanctions is a reminder that the church too often employs the
biblical representations of formal sanctions, which feed upon self-interest,
but ignores essential sanctions in the nature of God and God's kingdom.
The result is the suffocating atmosphere of moralism in many Protes-
tant churches. Moralism is comfortable with lists of virtues or suitable
causes, the pursuit of which will stave off unhappiness and issue into
present or future satisfactions. "The Be-Happy Attitudes," to cite a cur-
rent bestseller, promise the reader a sense of personal fulfillment. We are
inoculating the world with a mild form of Christianity, E. Stanley Jones
said, so that it is now all but immune to the real thing. The aim of any such
inoculation is security: not security in Christ but security from Christ and
his terrible freedom. 11
Because the church has overlooked the promise of eschatology, it is left
with the baffling residue of commands which will not work in the world

9. Davies writes, "They may seem uneasily yoked but the conjunction to which we refer
should not be unexpected because, in the Jewish hope for the future, eschatology was never
divorced from the ethical, the Messianic King was to be also a teacher or interpreter of the
Law: the Messiah could be like Moses" (Setting of the Sermon, pp. 424-25, itals. removed).
10. Amos N. Wilder,Eschatology and Ethics in the Teaching ofJesus (New York: Harper and
Brothers, 1939), pp. 47 and 57ff.).
11. Richard Lischer, A Theology of Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981), p. 64.
George Buttrick directly addresses the problem of moralism in his sermon on Matt. 7: 12,
"Is It the Golden Rule?" in The Twentieth Century Pulpit, ed. James W. Cox (Nashville:
Abingdon Press, 1978), pp. 30-35.

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral Care

but whose performance is ominously tied to eternal salvation (cf. Matt.

7:24-27). As a compromise, preachers continue to lash their listeners with
the "principles" of the Sermon, avoiding embarrasing specifics like the
word on divorce, and concentrating on viable issues such as peace and
prayer. Recovering the individual injunctions without appropriating the
eschatological-communal-evangelical complex summarized by the word
"gospel" (Matt. 4:23) is like trying to build the ship in the bottle. It never
works. Our only hope of living as the community of the Sermon is to
acknowledge that we do not retaliate, hate, curse, lust, divorce, swear,
brag, preen, worry, or backbite because it is not in the nature of our God or
our destination that we should be such people. When we as individuals fail
in these instances, we do not snatch up cheap forgiveness, but we do
remember that the ekklesia is larger than the sum of our individual failures
and that it is pointed in a direction that will carry us away from them.
How does one combine eschatology and ethics in the local congregation?
The question sounds ridiculous because we know that the problem is of a
different order than "How can we involve the youth?" or "How can we
improve our music?" One way, of course, the Protestant way, is to preach
the Sermon on the Mount as an indication of the community'S effort to live
out its own identity. This is to set the Sermon into the larger framework of
God's present and coming kingdom. Root out the moralism that urges an
attitude or task but offers no resources in God for its attainment.
Since moralism is not limited to preachers but pervades all strata of
congregational life from the Board of Trustees to the children's Sunday
school class, let the entire congregation become an incubator of the
promise and the demand of the Sermon. For example, is there a gospel-
based method of making a church budget that will exemplify the con-
gregation'S mission without being "anxious about tomorrow"? In my first
parish my predecessor had quietly refused his salary until the con-
gregation met its mission commitments. By the time I arrived, a small,
rural congregation, easily stereotyped as "ingrown," was giving away well
over half its income every year. Are there ways in which the congregation
can refuse to try to serve God and mammon, perhaps by offering both coat
and cloak to a floundering sister church? In such focal instances the
congregation'S enactment of the Sermon will not only teach its members
how to live as faithful disciples, but the congregation itself will become,
without self-advertisement, what Jesus says it is: "the light of the world"
(Matt. 5: 14).
It is somewhat puzzling that Matthew's rendering of the new con-
gregation in the Sermon on the Mount should be ignored by contempo-
rary studies of pastoral care and conversation. If the Sermon presents a
series of case studies of daily life in the kingdom, why does the Sermon
appear only in a few scattered footnotes in the literature of pastoral care?
Over the past few decades pastoral care has focused on individual coun-
seling with little attention given to the corporate dimensions of moral
guidance, cure of souls, and the formation of the congregation. Yet even
when the Sermon on the Mount was governed by an equally individualistic
hermeneutic, there seems to have been little communication between the
privatized demands of the Sermon and the personal liberations wrought
through pastoral counseling, no doubt because the Sermon shakes the
therapeutic foundations upon which pastoral counseling is based.
Every year I lead a seminar in our university's medical center on the
topic of psychiatry and the Christian faith. The discussion inevitably
touches on those elements of Christianity which the psychiatrists consider
most toxic to the mental health of their patients. It occurs to me that most
of their examples are drawn from the Sermon on the Mount. They have
patients who want to be perfect, who feel guilty about anger and embar-
rassed by lust, people who actually believe that Big Brother God knows
what they are thinking. "I grew up in a Lutheran home" (an ominous
opening statement), "and I never heard anything healthy about human
nature, nothing about recreated humanity in Christ, but only don't do this
or don't do that." The Sermon is one more example of "the rules," only in
this case the rules run counter to our essential humanity. The Sermon's
tone violates the moral neutrality necessary for self-acceptance and
change. Its obsession with purity gives free reign to the tyranny of the
super-ego. The main objection to its message is that those who take it too
seriously move away from the median ranges of mental health, our
culture's translation of salvus. Far from a set of helpful guidelines for living
the happy life, the Beatitudes detail the disjunction of blessedness from
happiness, and salvation from health. In a society that celebrates "the
narcissism of similarity" the Sermon disappoints repeatedly.12 What
someone said of the characters in the stories of Flannery O'Connor applies
to the adherents of the Sermon: "You shall know the truth, and the truth
shall make you odd." The psychiatrists have a point. Theirs is no small
indictment to bring against a religious program that so thoroughly dis-
accommodates its adherents for a well-balanced life in a technological and
therapeutic society.
Before we can recover the Sermon on the Mount for pastoral care, we
need to retrieve pastoral care from pastoral counseling and pastoral

12. See Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart (New York: Harper & Row, 1985), p. 72.

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral Care

counseling from its reliance on formal rather than essential sanctions for
its work. In some theories of pastoral care, the Bible is merely a "resource"
for counseling, so long as it is interpreted according to reputable psycho-
therapeutic principles. 13 The church is a "context" for pastoral care, and
more than a few pastoral counselors cite the physical location of their
office in a church building as reason enough for omitting the explicit
language of God from the counseling session. 14 In much of modern
pastoral care God has become a "fiction" or a formal symbolization-in
Wilder's terms, the overtone which lends significance to the therapeutic
task. The essential sanction for pastoral care has become human nature as
it is explicated by various psychological theories. God and church are too
often appended to studies in pastoral care the way "last things" was tacked
on to the end of dogmatics books.
Several pastoral theologians are leading the retrieval of the communal
and moral dimensions of the church's rich tradition of pastoral care. 15
There is now growing criticism of pastoral counseling's uncritical adoption
of psychological models and techniques. William Clebsch and Charles
J aekle have noted, "In our time, the weakness of reconciling as a function
of pastoral care is obvious. There is no place in the structure and rhythm of
the life of modern congregations where a serious discussion concerning
the state of one's soul is expected.,,16 Don Browning reminds us of the
"system of practical moral rationality" that characterized the communities
of Judaism. Although the methods of the scribes and the Pharisees were
criticized and transcended by Jesus, his church's pastoral care presupposes
the tradition of moral casuistry and cannot be understood apart from it. 17
Browning's attention to the original moral context and method of pastoral
care is an important contribution. But Browning does not say where
pastoral care finds its normative meanings so that the church can become

13. For a summary of the relation of biblical study and pastoral counseling see Donald
Capps, Biblical Approaches to Pastoral Counseling (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press,
1981), pp. 18-46.
14. See "The Church as Context" in E. Brooks Holifield, A History of Pastoral Care in
America (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983), pp. 342-48.
15. E.g., William H. Willimon, Worship as Pastoral Care (Nashville: Abingdon Press,
1979); William B. Oglesby, Jr., Biblical Themes for Pastoral Care (Nashville: Abingdon Press,
1980); Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983); John
Patton, Pastoral Counseling, A Ministry of the Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983);
Spiritual Dimensions of Pastoral Care, ed. Gerald L. Borchert and Andrew D. Lester (Phil-
adelphia: The Westminster Press, 1985).
16. William A. Cle bsch and Charles R. J aekle, Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective (New
York: Jason Aronson, 1964, 1983), pp. 65-66.
17. Don S. Browning, The Moral Context of Pastoral Care (Philadelphia: The Westminster
Press, 1976), pp. 122-25.

the "community of moral discourse, inquiry, and action" he wants it to be.
Nor does he say which values are normative or by what criteria they might
be judged normative. 18
Attention to the Sermon on the Mount will create the atmosphere for
moral inquiry, but only the type of moral inquiry sanctioned by the
holiness of God. Browning's analysis of the moral context of pastoral care
does not rely on the primary language of the Christian symbols and
thereby perpetuates the notion that the reality of God, perhaps veiled as
the process of moral inquiry or the inherent goodness of community, has a
legitimate functional equivalent within the church.
Thus our quest for pastoral or congregational uses for the Sermon on
the Mount leads to a fundamental conclusion. The Sermon's authority is
sanctioned by the essential nature of God and is delivered by the only One
capable of mediating that holiness. Jesus says repeatedly, " ... but I say to
you." When for whatever reason we cannot bring the reality, immediacy,
and authority of God to articulation in our pastoral care, counseling, and
conversation, our continued reference to the Sermon on the Mount lapses
into sentimentality.
For many the word "pastoral" does suggest a situational relaxation of
the church's dogma. The "pastoral" approach is accommodating. It ap-
pears to suspend the demands of the Christian faith and to substitute for
them the more widely accepted values of decency and acceptance. Indeed,
this misconception of "pastoral" has obscured for many the pastoral
tendencies of the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount. The
Sermon is a pastoral care document, not in the sense that it sentimentalizes
the promise and demands of the kingdom, but in the sense that it applies
them in concrete situations. It presupposes an intensity of community life
far removed from the anonymity, mobility, and amorphous values of what
Robert Bellah and others calls "the lifestyle enclave.,,19 What often passes
for "tolerance" in the modern congregation is in reality excommunication
through indifference. "Tolerance" cares so little for the other that it will
not endure the pain of confrontation and reconciliation. The Sermon
delivers a form of pastoral care many contemporary Christians would
politely decline.
Yet the care is genuine. The Sermon recognizes the demands the
community's members constantly place upon one another and realistically
appraises the daily opportunities for failure and faithfulness in the Chris-

18. Browning, Moral Context, pp. 95-100. "The minister is interested primarily in
building a moral universe and facilitating right conduct in a community of persons" (p. 99).
19. Bellah, Habits of the Heart, p. 71ff.

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral Care

tian community. The Sermon wants to show that the demands of the
kingdom can work even in difficult situations. It makes provisions for
degrees of anger in Matthew 5:21-26; it permits an exception to the
absolute prohibition of divorce (5:22)-a pastoral concession to reality
easily overlooked in our society; it offers the Lord's Prayer as an alterna-
tive to the complicated demands of conventional piety.2o The Sermon
takes our humanness seriously.
The second misconception of pastoral care is that it is private care
exercised by the professional minister or pastor. Mat~hew is not yet aware
of this subtle form of clericalism. The Sermon seems strangely bereft of a
pastor; yet what it offers can best be characterized as radical pastoral care,
radical because it is an expression of God's holiness and because its chief
actor is not a chosen professional but the people themselves. In the
Sermon is it the whole organism that functions in obedience to the
For the congregation wishing to live by the Sermon the most helpful
suggestion may have less to do with the Sermon's individual features and
more to do with its framework or grid for ministry. Many congregations
have an extensive structure of boards and committees, ranging from the
Board of Proyerties to the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, but no
systematic mechanism for engaging members in pastoral care or for
delivering pastoral care in the congregation or the community. That is the
pastor's business. Most congregations operate with a "trickle down" theory
of pastoral care. Were a congregation to adopt the Sermon on the Mount's
model of pastoral care based on Christians' radical responsibility for one
another-as it is derived from Jesus' mediation of God's holiness-the
congregation's life and ministry would change dramatically. One of the
pastor's most important tasks would be the equipping of "pastors" for the
care of the sick, conflict resolution, education, ethical deliberations,
prayer, and evangelization. Those appointed for such work might not be
the most influential or powerful members in the congregation, but those
with the spiritual maturity and gifts requisite to the pastoral tasks. This
view of pastoral care reflects the Sermon's rational but not legalistic
framework for ministry. Pastoral care in this sense can no longer be
separated from "administration," but now, instead of training Christians
to be committees, the church will train them to be pastors, those who care
for their brothers and sisters in the stress and conflict of daily life.

20. W. D. Davies compares the pastoral qualities ofM, as opposed to Q, to the Gemara or
commentary on the Talmud (Setting of the Sermon, pp. 387-99).

Yet any congregation may stumble over the Sermon on the Mount
precisely because it does reflect "a system of practical moral rationality"
which seems alien to a religious culture that has grown weary of ration-
alism and is turning to narrative expressions of its faith and identity. We
claim our identity as members of God's new congregation less by delib-
erating the provisions of the Sermon, especially where they are un-
amplified by focal instances, than by telling and retelling the community's
formative stories. We do not embrace the admonition concerning the
laying up of treasures (Matt. 6: 19-21) as readily as its narrative expression
in the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21). We seem to learn less
about God and mammon from Matthew 5:24 than from the parable of the
Shrewd Steward in Luke 16: 1-13. The admonition on the forgoing of
oaths in Matthew 5:24 means little to us until we see what that can look like
in the story of Jesus' silence before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57-64; cf.
27:11-14) and Peter's perjury in the courtyard (Matt. 26:69-75). The
story means even more to us as we sit in the shadows of a Lenten vespers,
hear the passion read, and experience the futility of oath-taking in a world
that is filled with lies.
How can the congregation integrate the Sermon on the Mount into the
story of its own pilgrimage? That integration takes place in the liturgy.
Liturgical actions themselves are often misconceived as special ceremonies
which are unrelated to the rest of life. Yet Baptism is not an episode of
private initiation but an action involving the entire church and one that
will be recalled and renewed daily. Confession is not a formula for
personal remorse but a moment in the ongoing mutual admonition and
absolution of the brothers and sisters. Preaching is not a virtuoso perform-
ance but the language of the church as it engages in the laborious reversal
of Babel and the formation of a new people. Eucharist is not a postscript to
preaching but the symbol and reality of the transformation of all things
through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Doxology is not a hymn to be
sung but a life to be lived. In the liturgy the Sermon on the Mount imparts
its character to the formation of God's people. It is the lyrics to the church's
In most lectionaries a substantial part of the Sermon on the Mount is
read during the Epiphany season. In the Sermon on the Mount the glory
of God begins to shine in the face of Jesus as he manifests the holiness and
authority of the Father. That glory will move, as it were, from mountain to
mountain in the Gospel of Matthew: from the Sermon on the Mount to the
Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17) where his place above Moses is
reiterated, to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 21: 1; 24:3), to Golgotha, and

The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral Care

finally to the Galilean mountain for the culmination of his epiphany (Matt.
28: 16-17). In the church year the Sermon takes its place as one of a series
of stations in the journey. The church also reads Jesus' words on osten-
tatious piety (Matt. 6: 1-6, 16-21) on Ash Wednesday and the Beatitudes
on All Saints' Day, when future and realized aspects of eschatology are
fused as on no other festival day.
In the church's worship the Sermon's Lord's Prayer is a part of every
service. It is the eschatological prayer of the new community, of the
community now conlmitted to live by the promise of the kingdom. Aside
from this prayer, little of the Sermon has gained direct access to the
liturgy. Indirectly, however, its emphasis on holiness, obedience, and
santification is everywhere. In the Lutheran service of Holy Baptism, for
example, the minister charges the parents:
You should, therefore, faithfully bring them [the children] to the services of
God's house, and teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten
Commandments. As they grow in years, you should place in their hands the
Holy Scriptures and provide for their instruction in the Christian faith, that,
living in the covenant of their Baptism and in communion with the church,
they may lead godly lives until the day of Jesus Christ. 21
This liturgy presupposes the kind of community that was nurtured by the
Sermon on the Mount. It presupposes an ordered and intense process of
formation directed by those who are mature in faith, for the purpose of
godly thought and behavior. Such formation is the result of God's cove-
nant of grace which is actualized in the church through Baptism. Its end is
not personal happiness or fulfillment but "the day of Jesus Christ," which
is the same End for which the Sermon on the Mount was given to the

There can be no fitting conclusion to the study of a living eschatological

document. The Sermon belongs to the pilgrim church. The church is not
the context for the Sermon but its agent. Therefore no individual has ever
captured its definitive meaning, for as the expression of God's radical
pastoral care, the Sermon on the Mount can only be "interpreted" as
communities of Christians attempt to live it.

21. The Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publ. House; Philadelphia:
Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978), p. 121.

Expository Articles
Assistant Professor of Theology
Wheeling College

Matthew 5:43-48
OST OF US have trouble loving a perfectionist. He or she has
M . achieved a state of being too rarefied for us. Perfectionism is out of
fashion. We tend to think of it as a sort of psychological illness with
compulsive behavior as its first cousin and "nasty niceness" as its great
Twentieth-century Christians, with our psychologizing tendencies, are
not the first to be troubled by Matthew 5:48, "You, therefore, must be
perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." The verse has always pre-
sented a kind of exegetical knot to biblical scholars. Let us make an effort
to loosen that knot a bit.
To a large extent our understanding of 5:48 will depend upon how we
interpret the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. As with the Sermon, the
context is crucial. Matthew uses 5:48 as a summary for the last of the
Antitheses in the larger section on law in the Sermon (5: 17-48). As the last
of the group, it is placed in a position of importance; the reader will
remember it.
In argumentation, many rhetoric books suggest we place the second-to-
best argument first, the other evidence in the middle, and the best argu-
ment last where it will be remembered. If we apply this rule to this case,
then we must read 5:20, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds
that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of
heaven," and 5 :48 together. In this way we see the section pointing toward
an intensification of the law, with perfection as the highest point of
As Louis Bouyer points out in Introduction to Spirituality (New York:
Desclee Co., 1961), " ... the whole meaning of the law, for Israel, is to
mark the people with the divine seal: 'Be ye holy as I am holy' (Lev. 19:2)."
Bouyer suggests Jesus is carrying the same idea to its extreme form in 5:48
(p. 265). Certainly the word "perfect" (teleioi) is close to the Hebrew
equivalent meaning "without spot" or "without moral blemish." In the
LXX it is used in relation to men like N oah-"a righteous man, blameless
in his generation" (Gen. 6:9).

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Matthew's Greek, however, seems to suggest something more than

absence of moral imperfection. It suggests the "wholeness and single-
minded ness by which God goes about fulfilling purposes and the standard
by which we are called to obey" (Key, Young, et al., Understanding the New
Testament [Englewood Cliffs, N.].: Prentice Hall, 1965], p. 284). "Perfect"
here means complete, whole, full-grown, mature, accomplished, or per-
fect in its kind. It is a word of special significance for Matthew. It is found
in the Synoptic Gospels only in Matthew, and in Matthew only three times,
each as an insertion in parallel materials.
We remember the word most clearly from the story of the rich young
man (19: 16-22). The young man comes to Jesus in search of eternal life.
He has observed all the laws, but Jesus adds one more requirement: "If
you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (19:21). Here
again, "perfect" occurs in the context of law and its intensification, and of
the kingdom. Matthew strengthens the demands of the same story in Mark
(10:21ff.) and Luke (18:22ff.). I think this is done to stress the special
quality that marks Jesus' followers: Their perfection is their discipleship,
the extent to which they follow him:
Both 5:48 and 19:21 occur with the command to love the enemies. Love
of enemies extends the Old Testament law for, historically, the Hebrews
were commanded to love their neighbor, and they tended to view their
neighbor as their compatriots or tribe. Matthew's Jesus constantly extends
who the neighbor is here including even enemies. Perfection in love
contemplates all persons alike from the standpoint of God. God sees
impartially, "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain
on the just and the unjust" (5:45).
In both contexts, Jesus is asking for observable dedication to certain
qualities of conduct. Perfection, as he calls for it, does "not imply complete
sinlessness and full virtue as matters of fact" (Robert Gundry, Matthew: A
Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art [Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans, 1982], p. 388). It implies wholeness of consecration to God.
What I am suggesting is that "perfection" for Matthew is not the condition
of having arrived at some state of being: Perfection has to do with
discipleshi~the seal of those who follow Jesus.
Recall how carefully Matthew has pointed to the difference between
"you"-the followers Jesus addresses-and the Gentiles (oi ethnikoi), the
nations or heathens. "And if you salute only your brethren, what more are
you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (5:47). The
"you (umeis) in verse 48 is emphatic, in contrast with the tax collectors
(telonai) and Gentiles (or the scribes and Pharisees in 5:20).

Matthew frequently sets this new congregation of those who follow Jesus
against the Jews or Gentiles. He has Jesus address the persecuted con-
gregation, "Blessed are you" (5: 11), possibly implying exclusion of "them."
Jesus refers to "their synagogues" and examination before "them and the
Gentiles" (10: 17-18). The Gospel as a whole is interested in showing the
specialness of the community of followers we now call the church. "You"
are the doers of the new interpretation of law Jesus has given. Perfection is
the "more" which distinguishes doers of the teachings of Jesus.
The letter of James supports such an assertion. James is particularly
close to Matthew in his concern for the church; his letter quotes the
Sermon on the Mount twenty-three times and exemplifies Matthew 7: 31,
"N ot everyone who says Lord, Lord .... " James distinguishes between
those who talk discipleship and those who do it.
The letter opens with the recognition that following Jesus will lead to
various trials, but testing will produce steadfastness, and the full effect of
steadfastness is "that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing"
Games 1 :4). Perfect (teleioi) is joined by a coordinate conjunction with
complete (olokleroi). Grammatically, coordinate conjunctions are used to
link ideas of equal value. "Complete," then, is a compound word (holos =
whole, and kleros = lot), which means, in effect, "that which was assigned
by lot or share." You are perfect when, by the trials of following Jesus , you
have regained the entirety of your original endowment!
So we are led back to the law of Moses which came because of the
hardness of heart, "but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19: 8); back
to the Antitheses and intensification, "you have heard it was said .... But I
say to you;" back to the difference between God's original intention which
Jesus comes to reveal and the law which was given because of our "imper-
In Matthew's Gospel the context of perfection is intensification of law
and discipleship. The love commandment forms the basis of its tradition.
It addresses those who have been called to follow Jesus-Jesus who was in
every way as we are, but without sin, blameless before God; Jesus who most
perfectly shows God's original intentions.
Here is perfection in love: Jesus shows us how to be "perfect before the
Lord your God" (Deut. 18: 13, teleios ese enantion kyriou tou theou sou).
"Following Christ and radical fulfillment of the law are the same" (G.
Barth, "Matthew's Understanding of the Law" in Bornkamm, Barth,
Held, Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew [Philadelphia: Westminster
Press, 1963], p. 97). Perfection is wholehearted discipleship.
We who are called to follow Jesus, we who belong to the suffering Son of
Man, and not the tax collectors, the scribes, the Pharisees (whoever they

Expository Articles

may be today), we are called to show the perfection of God's love which
does not limit who the neighbor is, which does not draw lines between the
good and the evil, the just and the unjust. We know it to be from but not of
us when, in our desire to follow after Jesus, we can "do good to" when we
do not "feel good toward" (Robert Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His
Literaty and Theological Art [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub!. Co.,
1982], p. 388). Our perfection begins when, as Paul Tillich translates the
phrase, we begin to "be all-inclusive as [our] heavenly Father is all-
inclusive" (Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions [New York:
Columbia University Press, 1965] pp. 35-36.
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul reminded her that each of
her members was called to lead a worthy life. Christ, he writes, has given
different gifts for the work of ministry "until we all attain to the unity of
the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to
the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4: 13). Markus
Barth's commentary on Ephesians suggests one interpretation of "to
mature manhood" (eis andra teleion) as "into perfect adulthood" (Ephesians:
Translation and Commentary on Chapters 4-6 [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday
and Co., Inc., 1974], pp. 484-96). This is the notion of perfection which, I
believe, Matthew wants to suggest to the church: not that we arrive but that
we continue steadfastly to journey.
Perfection is not a completed state of being; it is not an abstraction. It is
the person of Jesus whom we grow toward and follow after in order to
complete or mature ourselves. Our perfection is, in modern parlance, "in
process." It is the process by which we develop our discipleship; it is the
"following after" which the rich young man found so difficult. We "follow
toward" perfection even as Jesus, by his suffering and dying, by his living
and rising, was perfected.

Professor of Religion
Heidelberg College

Matthew 6:5-15
N OUR LIVES AS CHRISTIANS we often try to follow the principle,
I "Pray as if everything depended on God; work as if everything depended
on you." We respond enthusiastically to this advice because it seems so
comprehensive. It acknowledges fully the importance of God's grace, which

we seek, in one form or another, when we pray. It also takes into account the
importance of our own activity, as the contribution that we ourselves make
when we seek to live as Christians in the world. As the same time, however, we
need to recognize that this principle simply presents two ideas, side by side,
without analyzing or defining the relationship between them. As helpful as it
may be, the advice of "praying and working" becomes a restatement of the
old question concerning the relation between grace and good works.
This same question arises when we analyze the passage before us, Matthew
6: 5-15. We notice in particular that Jesus referred to rewards for the practice
of piety: "your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matt. 6:6; cf. 6: 1,4,
IS). We wonder whether Jesus thought of religion in terms of seeking
rewards, or if not, how he understood the nature and role of rewards. We
also notice that Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer as a model for his followers to use
(Matt. 6:9-13). As we analyze the prayer, we wonder how Jesus related the
themes of God's grace and human activity within the structure of the prayer.
The question of rewards and the structure of the Lord's Prayer both concern
the operation of God's grace and its relation to our own efforts to live as
Christians today.
A central organizing principle that helps us consider these issues is that the
Kingdom of God is a gift which requires the best response that we can make.
The kingdom is a gift which God freely offers in his grace. Jesus assured his
disciples that "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom"
(Luke 12:32). He pointed out that the kingdom is God's to give (cf. Matt.
20: 1-16), and it is more than anyone could earn, even the most righteous (cf.
Luke 17:7-10). Jesus never spoke of building or earning the kingdom; he
always regarded it as a wonderful gift of God's grace. Yet he also emphasized
that people must make the best response they could to receive and appropri-
ate God's gift. They must receive the kingdom with open-hearted trust and
thankfulness (cf. Mark 10: 15), and they must respond to it with unswerving
devotion and loyalty (cf. Luke 9:62). They must regard the kingdom as the
su preme value that transvalues the other commitments of their lives (cf. Matt.
13:44-46), and they must dedicate themselves to doing God's will and
following the teachings of Jesus (cf. Matt. 7:21-27). God offers the kingdom
as a gift, but he expects that people will take the gift seriously and make the
appropriate response.
In New Testament study it was especially Joachim Jeremias who pointed
out that the structure of the Sermon on the Mount itself reflects this
understanding of the relation between God's grace and human response (The
Sermon on the Mount [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963], pp. 30ff.). The
Beatitudes, at the beginning of the Sermon, represent the theme of grace or
gospel, for they are Jesus' promises to his followers that God is freely offering

Expository Articles

them his kingdom. The remainder of the Sermon represents primarily the
theme of human activity or law, delineating the kinds of responses that the
followers ofJesus should make to God's gift of the kingdom. The Beatitudes,
Jeremias suggests, govern the remainder of the Sermon, just as in math-
ematics a number before parentheses determines every figure within the
parentheses. This view of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole can help us
understand the specific issues of rewards and prayer that arise from our
passage, Matthew 6:5-15.
The understanding of the Kingdom of God as a gift seems at first to be
inconsistent with Jesus' teaching that God will reward us for activities such as
almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18)-or, in more modern terms,
contribuing to the United Fund, teaching a church school class, or working
for the elusive goals of just peace and peaceful justice. The idea of rewards
does mean that God cares how we live. It is important to him whether we do
right or wrong, good or ill, and in rewarding us he shows that he regards us
seriously as persons. Further aspects of rewards are equally important. As
disciples, we are to do good without thought of reward (Luke 6:35). Because
the kingdom itself always remains a gift of God's grace, it is also important for
us to realize that we do not earn the kingdom or receive a place in it as a
reward. Just as we seek to do God's will as a way of responding to his gift of the
kingdom, so the rewards that we receive are ultimately aspects of the
kingdom itself. Gifts and rewards from God tend to coincide, especially since
rewards, as the parable of the Faithful Servant reminds us (Luke 17:7-10),
are always greater than anything we could hope to earn. Rewards from God
are more "gift" than "reward," and the final reward is the gift of life in God's
If we compare the treatment of "wisdom" in the Book of Proverbs with
Jesus' view of life in the kingdom, we find a very similar understanding of the
relation between gifts and rewards. In Proverbs, wisdom in principle is
available to all, the simple and the foolish as well as the noble and the wise
(Prov. 1:2-6; 8:1-21; 9:1-6). In a similar way, Jesus offered the kingdom to
all who would receive it, even the tax collectors and the sinners. Wisdom must
be sought and appropriated by each individual person (Prov. 2: 1-5); simi-
larly, life in the kingdom requires single-minded dedication from each
disciple. Wisdom offers rewards, which are both material and spiritual (Prov.
3: 1-4, 16; 9: 11; 22:4); Jesus, as we have seen, assured his followers that God
would reward them for their good deeds. Wisdom itself, however, is greater
than the rewards it brings (Prov. 3: 13-15; 8: 10-11). In a similar way, the
kingdom itself is greater than any reward which could be earned. As a last
similarity, we should note that wisdom in the final analysis is a gift (Prov.
2:6--15; 3:5-8), just as the Kingdom of God is a gift of divine grace. These

similarities suggest that Jesus may well have been preserving Old Testament
tradition about "wisdom" when he retained the concept of rewards but
articulated it within the context of the conviction that the Kingdom of God
always remains a gift of God's grace.
If we ask now about the relationship between the themes of God's grace
and human activity in the Lord's Prayer, we find that the form of the prayer
reflects in miniature the structure of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole.
The Beatitudes, at the beginning of the Sermon, are promises and assurances
of God's grace as it is freely offered to the new community of the followers of
Jesus. In a similar way the address "Father" at the beginning of the Lord's
Prayer grants the followers of Jesus the opportunity to enter into a new
relationship with God, closer and more meaningful than any that was
possible before. As assurances of God's redeeming and forgiving grace, the
Beatitudes make the remainder of the Sermon possible, for they enable the
disciples to regard their efforts to obey God's will as responses to his grace
rather than attempts to earn the kingdom as a reward. In a similar way the
address "Father" in the Lord's Prayer makes the remainder of the prayer
possible, for it draws the community of disciples into a new relationship with
God on the basis of which they are able to offer their prayers of intercession
and petition. A third way, finally, in which the Beatitudes correspond to the
address "Father" is that both presuppose an implicit reference to Jesus
himself. As the one who was truly righteous and merciful, pure in heart and
peacemaking, Jesus himself exemplified and realized par excellence the
qualities of discipleship depicted in the Beatitudes. In a similar way Jesus, as
the unique Son of God, addressed God as "Father" and gave the disciples the
privilege of addressing God in the same way, so that through his sonship they
are brought into a new relationship with God as children of their heavenly
Father. These parallels in function and content between the Beatitudes and
the address "Father" make it appropriate that the Lord's Prayer should stand
within the Sermon on the Mount, whatever its original setting may have been
in the ministry of Jesus.
We should also notice that in one important respect the structure of the
Lord's Prayer does differ from that of the Sermon on the Mount as a
whole. The Sermon begins with the theme of grace or gospel, and then it
continues, with only occasional exceptions, with the theme of human
activity or law. Most of the Sermon, therefore, consists of Jesus' teachings,
which represent God's will for the community of disciples. The Lord's
Prayer, in contrast, opens with the theme of grace and then continues with
petitions for further gifts of God's grace, such as the kingdom, daily bread,
or forgiveness. This difference is understandable when we remember that
the Sermon as a whole belongs to the category of teaching or instruction,

Expository Articles

whereas a prayer by its very nature focuses more on God's actions than on
human activity. This observation, in turn, raises the important question to
what extent the Lord's Prayer contains any reference to human activity.
To analyze this issue we may look individually at each of the four major
sections of the prayer-the opening address, the "Thou" petitions (which
refer to God using the word "thy"), the "We" petitions (which refer more
immediately to the disciples, using the words "we, us, our"), and the
closing doxology (praising God and attributing to him "the kingdom and
the power and the glory").
It seems clear that the opening address and the closing doxology refer to
the operations of God's grace rather than to human ethical activity. The
address reflects God's gracious gift, through] esus, that brings the dis-
ciples into their new status as children of their heavenly Father. The
doxology refers to God's sovereign activity as king. It corresponds to the
"seal" of praise with which the] ewish people were accustomed to conclude
their prayers, and it has a rich Old Testatment background in, for exam-
pie, Second Isaiah (cf. Isa. 42: 8, 12; 43: 7, 21; 49: 3). The doxology reflects
human activity in the sense that the disciples respond to God's grace by
praising him. This "doxological" response to God's grace within the
context of prayer is parallel to the ethical response that the disciples are
asked to make in the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole.
Each type of response is appropriate within its own context, as an aspect of
Christian life, but the doxological type of response must be distinguished
from human activity in the more traditional sense of doing "good works"
or obeying the teachings of ] esus.
The question whether the "Thou" petitions refer to human activity
involves the interpretation of the individual petitions. Many people today
would probably understand "hallowed be thy name" and "thy will be
done" as statements of commitment on their part to show their respect for
God and carry out his will by the way they lead their lives. In itself, this kind
of commitment is essential to Christian living. In terms of interpretation,
on the other hand, it would seem that the eighteenth-century critic] ohann
Bengel was correct in arguing that the verbs in all three petitions have the
same force, so that all three are genuine petitions to God rather than
references to human activity. The "Thou" petitions, therefore, most
probably mean that God is being asked to sanctify his name in the world
and carry out his will, just as he is asked to bring his kingdom. If this
interpretation is correct, it means that this section of the prayer refers to
God's grace rather than human activity. It also signifies that the "Thou"
petitions are forms of intercessory prayer, for God is asked to act in a way
that affects, in principle, the entire world. Only after the disciples have

prayed for the world do they turn to their own needs and bring them
before God in the "We" petitions.
The "We" petitions, with one exception, refer to God's actions rather
than human activity. They ask God, as the heavenly Father, to meet the
needs of the community of disciples by providing them with gifts of his
grace, such as daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from evil. The only
reference to human activity occurs in the petition for forgiveness: "and
forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6: 12). In
all probability, this is the only reference to human activity in the entire
Lord's Prayer. It does not mean that we must forgive others so that God
will forgive us. As the parable of the Unmerciful Servant suggests (Matt.
18:23-35),Jesus believed that God freely offers his forgiveness but then
expects that we will respond by showing forgiveness to others. Forgiveness
from God is a gift of God's grace, but we must take the gift seriously and
make the right ethical response if we are to appropriate the gift and
incorporate it into the structure of our own lives. It is significant that the
sole reference to human activity in the Lord's Prayer reflects the same
pattern of thought that we have observed in the Sermon on the Mount as a
whole-God freely offers us his grace and then expects us to make a fitting
response through our own ethical activity. In biblical thought this pattern
can be traced back to the structure of the Sinai covenant, which opens with
the statement of God's grace to Israel in delivering the people from
bondage (Exod. 20:2) and then presents the Ten Commandments as the
covenant stipulations that the people are expected to follow in response to
the grace that God has shown (Exod. 20:3-17). Second Isaiah reflects the
same pattern of thought, in brief poetic form and in reversed order, in the
summons that Yahweh addresses to Israel: "Return to me, for I have
redeemed you" (Isa. 44:22).
In light of this pattern we can understand more clearly the meaning of
the advice, "Pray as if everything depended on God; work as if everything
depended on you. " We pray to God for the inexpressible gifts of his grace,
which only he can give; then we seek to do "good works," not as a way of
earning rewards or earning the kingdom, but as a way of taking God's
grace seriously and making the best ethical response that we are capable of
making to the grace that God has freely offered. In this respect the
Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord's Prayer in particular, invite and
challenge us to perceive the new possibilities of life that God graciously
offers and then respond in a way that combines gratitude to God, concern
for others, and a commitment to obeying God's will as it is formulated in
Jesus' teachings.

Expository Articles

Professor of New Testament Intelpretation
Andover Newton Theological School

Matthew 6:24-34
UR TEXT seems so simple: Trust God; have no anxiety about
O necessities; God will provide. Yet these verses, carefully thought
through, are so full of difficulties that they raise in a striking way the
fundamental problem of the nature of theological language.
For one thing, the logic is unclear. Verse 25 begins with "therefore," but
it goes far beyond the question of money, of which alone verse 24 speaks,
so the conclusion does not necessarily follow. In verse 27 the general
theme of God's providence is transformed into a much more secular bit of
advice: Anxiety is ineffectual, anyway! The metaphor used (the cubit) is
not particularly successful: Who ever thought (or wished) to become more
than two feet taller by worrying about it? Finally, the optimistic tone of the
whole passage turns suddenly in verse 34 to a melancholy observation
about the generally sad state of the cosmos. None of this adds up to
discursive clarity.
Nor are things much better if one probes what is really being said about
money. One does not have to be an ideologue to consider what is said here
about economics naIve: Can we not take money seriously as an economic-
not merely a moral-issue without falling into self-satisfaction, as some
realists have done:
Do not set your heart on your wealth,
nor say, "I have enough!" (Sirach 5: 1)
Again, one need not put Jesus (or Matthew) into Pauline categories to
feel that something like works-righteousness lies perilously close to the
surface in verse 33; yet verses 28-29, taken alone, could be understood as
implying that work itself is quite unnecessary!
Some of this, to be sure, is due to the historical development of the
passage and some to the difficulties all metaphorical theology commonly
gets into. Still a major problem exists: Faith here seems almost to be
identified with naIvete, as if trust in God is roughly equivalent to not
having good sense. Was Joseph, in planning during the seven good years
for the seven lean years to follow, an example of unfaith? Are we, when we
act similarly? How then shall these transparent statements be understood,
since they evidently cannot mean exactly what they say?
To sort some of this out, we begin with the structure of the passage. In
6: 1-7: 12 alms, prayer, fasting, riches, anxiety, judging, and then prayer

again are discussed as "focal instances" of the more general principles
already laid down in the Sermon's introduction (5:3-20) and the Antith-
eses (5:21-48), with their concluding call to perfection (5:48). Within this
larger section, 6:24-34 includes general instruction (v. 25), illustrations
(vs. 26-32), and two conclusions (vs. 33, 34). The specific (and secondary)
application of the well-known proverb in verse 24a ("No one can serve two
masters") is to "Mammon," which is money, often ill-gotten (cf. Luke
16:9,11), a common substitute for trust in God. This metaphorical warn-
ing is then extended in verses 25-34 to all of life's necessities, by the use of
material-some of it proverbial-from Q and elsewhere, which gives a
variety of reasons for not being anxious.
While the general emphasis here is clear enough, the details do not fit
easily. "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" is
obscure in itself, as well as in precise application. (Perhaps: God created
life and the body-will he not then provide for their sustenance?) The
logic-from the greater to the less in verse 25 and from the less to the
greater in verses 26, 28-30-is rabbinic and seems (unlike the Stoic
doctrine of the impersonal generosity of nature) to suggest the Creator's
providential care. Birds and lilies (perhaps the purple anemone?) are not
so much mere examples as natural witnesses to the providence of God (see
esp. v. 30). Yet verse 27 is a foreign body in this argument. Whether the
Greek word is to be translated as "span of life" (properly: "time of life,"
"age") or "physical stature" (which seems to be implied by "cubit") is
unclear but irrelevant. In either case the emphasis has moved completely
away from God's providential care to a thoroughly secular reminder that
some things are beyond our control. (True, anxiety will not make me
taller; but does than mean that work will not make me richer?) And verse
32a points to verse 33, which seems equally foreign to the whole: Trust
God not because some things are more important than food or clothing (v.
25) nor because God will provide life's necessities (v. 32b) but because the
Gentiles wrongly seek (v. 32a) what will be given you if you seek first God's
kingdom (Matthew: and righteousness). Finally, verse 34, cited by Mat-
thew alone, is a rewording of a well-known proverb, connected only by
catchword to the theme of inordinate care. In other words, one must
distinguish sharply between the general thrust of the passage-trust in the
providence of God-and some of the individual phrases, which come
originally from other contexts and fit only partially into the overall argu-
Most of this structure is already given in Q (cf. Luke 12:22-31), but
Matthew has placed the whole in its present position in the Sermon on the
Mount (cf. Luke 6); and he has added the term "righteousness" to "the

Expository Articles

Kingdom of God" in verse 33. Both changes call for comment.

The use of God's "kingdom" in verse 33, almost at the beginning of
Jesus' ministry, shows that (as in 5:20) Matthew is writing for Christians
who already know what Jesus' teaching is about; and he intends by
"therefore" (oun) to connect that generalization with what has gone before
(similarly in 5 :48 and 6:9). The promise of God's providential care, in
other words, is not for everyone (cf. "Gentiles," in v. 32) but for those who
have heeded the demand of 5: 17-20 by putting the will of the Creator
first. It is clearly Matthew's intention to make of these verses an essential
part of Jesus' teaching on the nature and demands of discipleship.
Something of the same is surely intended by his addition of the word
"righteousness" in verse 33. Scholars are divided over the precise use of
the term here. Some would distinguish a traditional apocalyptic or "Paul-
ine" usage (righteousness as God's gift) here and possibly in 5:6, 10 from
an "ethical" use (righteousness as the conduct required of the faithful), as
in 5:20;6: 1 (3: 15 and 21 :32 belong together and could be placed in either
category). In general, however, two things seem to be clear: The righteous-
ness demanded of disciples is a demand of God, the exemplar of such
righteousness; and the verbal/conceptual connections with ,5:20 (also
Matthean!) seem close enough to require the ethical interpretation in our
passage as well. In other words, the demand is rooted in the character and
activity of God, but the ethical demand itself is central. "Faith" that
produces no ethical response is as little faith for Matthew as it is for James
(or, for that matter, Paull). Both of these redactional modifications thus
place our section on "anxiety" within the context of promise and demand
which characterizes all of chapters 5-7.
The larger context of these verses is also Matthew's whole conceptual
world, including both Jewish and early Christian traditions. Pharisaic
Judaism knew, as the Psalms of Solomon show, that the Creator sustains
the Creation:
For if I hunger, unto Thee will I cry, 0
And Thou will give it me.
Birds and fish dost Thou nourish ...
And if they hunger, unto Thee do they
lift up their face (5: 10-12).
The same thought is reflected in the promise of Psalm 37:4, 25 and, of
course, in the stories of both the manna (Exod. 16: 19) and Solomon's
proverbial opulence (II Chron. 9). Even Matthew's language here has a
biblical ring: "Birds of the heaven" and "grass-or plants-of the field."
The Babylonian Talmud includes a saying which is strikingly like verse 34:
"Care not for tomorrow's cares; for you do not know that the day brings
forth; perhaps tomorrow you will not exist, and then you will have cared
for a world no longer yours" (BSanhedrin 100b).
Terms similar to the language of our passage also occur in Luke, not
only in the parallel (12:22-31) but also in 16:9, 11, 13; 12:7, 16-21 and
elsewhere, while Matthew himself has parallels to part of our text in
10:29-31 (sparrows, hairs of one's head) and in the repeated use of "little
faith" (8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20). Many passages from different circles of
early Christianity reflect the motifs of God's overarching sustenance and
care (Phil. 4:6f.; I Pet. 5:7; Rom. 1 :20), coupled with a warning about
excessive concern for money and possessions (Heb. 13:5-6). So if Matthew
has put his special stamp on these materials, he is writing within a widely
understood and accepted moral framework.
That framework is, in fact, even wider than the Jewish and Christian
traditions. Several images and statements in our text reflect a mentality of
univeral wisdom: two masters (v. 24a); the contrast between the life (psyche
and the body (soma) on the one hand, and life's necessities on the other (v.
25b); the divine feeding of birds, who do not farm (v. 26a); the proverb
about the cubit (v. 27); the allusion to Solomon's splendor (v. 29); and the
saying(s) in verse 34, among others. If the original reference was to the
itinerant radicals who made up Jesus' earliest followers, the use of such
wisdom materials inevitably expands the reference to include Christians
(and others) of later generations as well. To be sure, the solemn "But I tell
you" (v. 29) provides a christological base for such wisdom-the Matthean
Jesus is, among other things, a wisdom-teacher-but the intent of this is
clearly to expand the teaching, not to narrow it. Only those are specifically
excluded who too zealously seek (v. 32: epizeteo, NEB: run after!) the things
of creation instead of the Creator.
This, to be sure, is the nub of the problem. What is too zealous? Is not
such a question already an evasion of Matthew's quite explicit language?
The text does not, like Aristotle, suggest moderation in all things; it states
everything absolutely-as fanatics of every day, including our own, have
always insisted.
So we return to the nature of theological language. To state what is at
stake here requires the use of absolutes, but to take the absolutes at face
value robs them of any genuine meaning. This is the paradox with which
the interpreter must live; and it is the paradox of theological language
itself-not only of metaphorical language, which so many in our day are
rightly describing as challenging us at the very edge of understanding, not
merely in our imaginative faculties. Two examples will suffice.
"Live by the day." Fine. That means realistically acknowledging the

Expository Articles

brevity not only of one's own life but perhaps even of human history-
which is certainly one implication of Jesus' eschatological teaching. If that
is its whole meaning, however, any hope for the future, even as God's
future, is misplaced, and what we hope for is not really the Kingdom of
God the Creator. The paradox, in other words, is built into Jesus' teaching.
Similarly, asceticism, especially in those societies which have and use too
much of the world's basic materials, is always an important option. Yet to
absolutize our text as a universal call to a simpler life, even to those with too
much, is to make of Christian discipleship simply a change in life-style,
which it is not. In other words, two dangers exist here: to domesticate a
radical challenge into a mere exhortation to try harder, or to make the
Word of God into a law, thus robbing it not only of its character as the
Word of God but also of its power to change the world for the better. In
diametrically opposed ways, then, our temptation is to trust not in God but
in our own vision of the future, by means of things we can ourselves
control. No muted call to do one's best will ever break out of that double-
bind. In an odd sort of way, in other words, only these paradoxical
absolutes are truly realistic calls to faith.

MaJ·or Book Reviews
The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction, by NORMAN K. GOTTWALD. Fortress
Press, Philadelphia, 1985. 702 pp. $34.95. Reviewed by J. GERALD JANZEN,
professor of Old Testament, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH WROTE that "every author, as far as he is great and at the
same time original, has had the task of creating the taste by which he is to be
enjoyed." One measure of the stature of Norman K. Gottwald's earlier tome, The
Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 B.C.E.
(Orbis, 1979) [hereafter TYJ, is the impatience with which its readers have awaited
the volume here under review. Shorter by about a third while covering much
more ground, The Hebrew Bible [hereafter HB] nevertheless achieves a thorough
and comprehensive presentation of Israel's traditions down to the first century
B.C.E. Within its own terms, and as a sequel to TY, HB must be acclaimed a
resounding success. It is written in a style which to a considerable degree has
strained out the knots and clots of sociological jargon because of which TY, unless
ingested slowly, gave heartburn. The wealth of data is at all times presented and
interpreted by a clear integrative vision. That vision, for all its ideological forth-
rightness, displays an undertone of humility, an openness to dialogue which
promises to save Gottwald's materialism, and his dialectical-conflictual model of
social relations, from hardening into what (after Paul Valliere, Holy War and
Pentecostal Peace) one might call Heroic War-eternal and irreducible conflict
between static unreconcilable factions. This openness is illustrated by the differ-
ence between the subtitles of TY and HB: The rubric of the first is purely
sociological, but the second is socio-literary. In the end the literary is absorbed into
the social, but this is understandable given Gottwald's commitment to materialist
exegesis of text and of world. In time, the contents of the literary Trojan horse
may subvert the materialism.
Part I, "The Text in Its Contexts," deals with three introductory matters: a brief
but lucid resume of the history of the study of the Hebrew Bible (Chap. 1); a
presentation of the material and social world in which the Hebrew Bible arose
(Chap. 2); and an overview of the literary history of the Hebrew Bible, both in its
formation and in its after-history (Chap. 3). The meat of the volume comes in
Parts II-IV, titled respectively: II, "Intertribal Confederacy: Israel's Revolution-
ary Beginnings" (Chaps. 4-6); III, "Monarchy: Israel's Counterrevolutionary
Establishment" (Chaps. 7-9); and IV, "Home Rule Under Great Empires: Israel's
Colonial Recovery" (Chaps. 10-12). The text is generously illustrated by 24 maps,
29 tables, 12 charts, and two excellent bibliographies, in all an extraordinarily
successful execution of this standard feature of the introduction genre.
The volume concludes with a well-focused discussion of "The Interplay of
Text, Concept, and Setting in the Hebrew Bible." By placing this discussion at the

Major Book Reviews

end of the book rather than in Chapter 1, Gottwald may be taken to emphasize
that the issues implied in this interplay remain open. It is these issues that I wish
now to address.
To begin with: Is HB in fact an introduction to the Hebrew Bible? Or is it rather,
following TY, an introduction to the history of Israelite society, an Israel suc-
cessively liberated, co-opted and colonialized? Agreed, the biblical texts gain in
pith and point when read with appreciation for their material-social contexts of
production; and they acquire enlarged pith and freshly focused point when read
relative to material-social contexts of reception. The question is whether texts
mediate directly between two such worldly contexts, or whether texts may have a
thickness of their 'own into which one must first enter, a thickness constituted by
their capacity to construct an alternate material-social world imaginally. If the
latter is in any sense the case, then an introduction to such texts should help the
reader to enter the world constructed by the text and not just the world out of
which the text arose. The issue may be illustrated by reference to The Road to
Xanadu, John Livingston Lowe's classic study of the sources and influences behind
Coleridge's great poem "Kubla Khan." Invaluable in its own right, Lowe's book is
in fact the road to Kubla Khan; the road to Xanadu is found within the poem
through an apt reading of the poem itself. Gottwald of course has objected to such
a move. Because of "the socially embedded nature of the subject matter in biblical
texts," and because of "our position as socially situated and conditioned believers
and theologians," he writes, "what we can no longer do in good conscience is to
isolate the religious factors from the total social setting as though, once the
historical and social 'accidents' are noted as 'background,' we are free to move on
to the self-contained religious essentials" ("The Theological Task after The Tribes
of Yahweh," in Gottwald, ed., The Bible and Liberation [Orbis, 1983], p. 192 [here-
after BL]). The objection must be refused, precisely because of the above-
mentioned double embeddedness. The attractiveness of space-labs to scientists
and manufacturers is that in them chemical and other reactions may occur in a
manner enabled by the freedom of the materials from their usual gravitational
embeddedness. Religious symbols have their greatest value when entered into for
their capacity to neutralize momentarily the "gravitational" forces of our material-
social context. This value, of course, is value for our material-social existence.
In BL, Gottwald has reproduced a lengthy quotation from the last chapter of
TY, a chapter titled "The Key to Israel's Religion: Idealism or Historical Culture
Materialism." This quotation reads in part, " ... religion is the function of social
relations rooted in cultural-material forms of life .... The uniqueness of the
Israelite religious perception lay in its discovery through social struggle that the
concrete conditions of human existence are modifiable rather than immutable
conditions" (BL, p. 195; TY, p. 701). Change occurs through social struggle;
religious perception arises through participation in that struggle; and religion
with its symbol systems is the function of this struggle and this perception. As he
states elsewhere in TY, religious symbols are servo-mechanisms whereby social
groups transact their business more efficiently.

Such an understanding of symbols might go somewhat toward a sensitive
reading of symbol-systems in communities gearing themselves largely to the
material cycles of nature and solidly-entrenched social systems. For such symbol-
systems arise by processes as necessary as the natural cycles and as coercive as the
social systems, which they identify, replicate, legitimate, and reinforce. But what
such a materialist approach does not explain is how people get the idea (sic) that
things could be different. Nor does it explain how some symbol-systems can
kindle, in habituated and routinized hearts and minds, ideas of an alternate
worldly reality and empower commitment and action or at least hope toward such
an alternative. In other words, materialist exegesis may be more or less at home in
myths of unchanging reality; but it is alien to the biblical epic symbolism for which
reality displays features of both regularity and change, both necessity and free-
dom, conceived purposively and morally.
The issue may be pressed further with the aid of a comment in Thorkild
Jacobsen's great study of Mesopotamian religion, The Treasures of Darkness (Yale,
1976). Jacobsen himself is extremely sensitive to material and social contexts of
the generation of symbols, and a master at reconstructing such contexts from the
religious texts of Mesopotamia. Also, he warns of the danger of disembodied
interpretation of metaphors isolated from their local settings. However, he adds,
"it is equally easy to o'verweight the human nature of the religious metaphor and
forget that its purpose is to point beyond itself and the world from which it was
taken .... The whole purpose of the metaphor is a leap from [the literal] level, and
a religious metaphor is not truly understood until it is experienced as a means of
suggesting the Numinous" (p. 5). Such a "leap," into the gravity-free zone of the
metaphor or symbol, enables the symbol to point beyond its material-social
vehicle. The materialist refusal to make that leap constitutes a curious form of
literalism as deleterious as that of fundamentalism.
To my recollection, only once in HB does Gottwald venture the leap. With the
unexpectedness and unlikeliness of an aria from Handel's Messiah in the middle of
Bertolt Brecht's Three Penny Opera, the following sentence appears in the middle
of the discussion of Amos: "From what sources did Amos draw the moral and
intellectual energy single-handedly to proclaim the total rejection of Israel by
Yahweh? First and foremost must have been his overwhelming encounter with
God." Ifwe may take this statement at face value (Gottwald does not typically work
in modes of irony), then Amos' religious vision was not a function solely of "social
relations rooted in cultural-material forms of life" but also of his encounter with
the Holy. Similarly, texts may arise not solely as earth-functions, but also through
imaginative processes in which God may have a share.
To acknowledge this systematically and to adopt its consequences method-
ologically, Gottwald needs to reexamine the materialist metaphysics which under-
lies his sociological methodology. That he can refer positively not only to Marx
and Freud, but also to Kant and Hegel (BL, p. 196), shows that he is not in
principle inhibited by the metaphysical veto widespread in liberationist circles.
Yet a century-old metaphysics revised sociologically is implicitly a new meta-

Major Book Reviews

physics. It is high time that the conflictual relation between materialist and idealist
modes of thought (for materialism too is a mode of thought) be abandoned, in
favor of a dipolar metaphysics within which both material and ideal factors are
given full explanatory and transformative power concerning the world. Such a
metaphysics is already available to us, a century (and a cultural-linguistic tra-
dition) closer to us than that of Kant and Hegel. With it, we could speak of Amos'
encounter with God without betraying our materialist concerns or remaining
imprisoned within them.


Matthew as Story, by JACK DEAN KINGSBURY. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1986. 149
pp. n.p. Reviewed by DENNIS DULING, professor of religion, Canis ius College.
IN THIS WORK Kingsbury, one of America's leading Matthean scholars, has risked
exploring some well-known territory with a new compass. Having already con-
tributed distinctive redaction-critical and composition-critical positions on Mat-
thew, he takes the further step, as have Rhoads and Michie on Mark and
Culpepper on John, to read the First Gospel through the lenses of modern literary
criticism, primarily Seymour Chatman's Story and Discourse. With respect to
format, the book opens with an introductory chapter which analyzes Matthew
from the perspective of Chatman's literary theory. This is followed by three
chapters on Matthew's "plot." Then come three chapters, one each on the Son of
man, the disciples, and Matthew's community. A final chapter contains brief
concluding remarks. In addition to these eight chapters, there is a Preface, a
Selected Bibliography, and an Index of Matthean passages.
Chapter 1, "Understanding Matthew: A Literary-Critical Approach," presents
an overview of Matthew from Chatman's perspective. For Chatman, a "narrative
text" has a beginning, middle, and end and can be analyzed as "story" and
"discourse." The "story" is "what" is told, whereas the "discourse" is the way the
story is told. Kingsbury takes the First Gospel to be his "narrative text" and
Matthew's "story" to be the life of Jesus from his birth to his death and resur-
The first way to understand the "story," according to Chatman, is to analyze the
"plot." Matthew's "plot," says Kingsbury, is centered on conflicts with evil powers
and human adversaries. The most important of these conflicts is with "Israel,"
which consists primarily of the Jewish leaders and secondarily of the Jewish
crowds. Kingsbury draws on his well-known theory that Matthew should be
divided into three parts based on the temporal phrase "from that time on" (4: 17;
16:21). Part 1(1:1-4:16) presents Jesus, Part II (4:17-16:20) tells how the major
conflict builds when Israel rejects Jesus' ministry, and Part III (16:21-28:20)
intensifies the conflict when Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23)
and the leaders are joined by crowds (26:47-56). The conflict is finally resolved by
Jesus' death and resurrection, which solidifies the exclusion of "Israel" from the

kingdom (cf. 4: 17 by anticipation). A subsidiary, fundamentally different, but
parallel conflict occurs between Jesus and the disciples, but it is resolved by their
final inclusion in the kingdom (28: 16-20).
A second way to understand the "story," according to Chatman, is to analyze the
"characters." Characters may be either "shown" by their actions or "told," that is,
described. Matthew's characters, says Kingsbury, are usually "shown," and they
can also vary according to "traits." Correspondingly, Kingsbury likewise discusses
"settings" - place, time, social circumstances - which "set the character off."
In addition to "story," Chatman analyzes "discourse," that is, the "way" a story is
told, written, directed, or performed. He also discusses "point of view," that is, the
various perspectives which can be taken by a character, the narrator, or the
"implied author." What is Matthew's "discourse"? Kingsbury terms the real author
the "first evangelist," and argues that both "narrator" and "implied author" may
be designated as "Matthew," since the narrator is but the reliable voice of the
implied author. The "point of view" of the narrator is both "omnipresent," or able
to move about in time and space, and "omniscient," or able to give the reader
"inside" information. Kingsbury furthermore analyzes three other dimensions of
"point of view" - evaluative, phraseological, psychological- based on the studies
of Uspensky and Lanser.
Having laid the theoretical foundations in Chapter 1, Kingsbury analyzes the
plot in more depth. In Chapter 2, "The Presentation of Jesus (1: 1-4: 16)," Jesus is
put forth not only as the "Davidic Messianic King," but also - "primarily and
normatively" - as the "Son of God." This designation, as the baptism shows
(3: 17), is God's own "evaluative point of view."
In Chapter 3, "The Ministry of Jesus to Israel and Israel's Repudiation of Jesus
(4: 17-16:20)," Kingsbury expands on the growing conflict between Jesus and
Israel through Jesus' preaching, teaching, and healing (4:23; 9:35; 10: 1). Here,
the crowds - contrast Peter's (God's) "point of view" in his confession (16: 16)-
wonder and speculate about Jesus' identity and look upon him wrongly as a mere
prophet (16: 13-14).
In Chapter 4, "The Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and His Suffering, Death,
and Resurrection (16:21-28:20)," God's evaluative point of view is reaffirmed in
the transfiguration (17:5) and the parable of the Wicked Tenants (21 :37). It is also
contrasted with that of the disciples, who now begin to misunderstand the
meaning of suffering discipleship (16:21, 24). In Jerusalem, the crowds continue
to misconstrue Jesus as a mere prophet (21: 11, 46). They also confess him as the
Son of David which, while correct, is not correctly perceived by them and finally
falls short (22:41-46). The leaders' "evaluative point of view" is that Jesus
blasphemes, aligns himself with Satan, sees himself to be above the law and
tradition, opposes their ethics, and undermines their authority. The supreme
irony in Matthew's "plot" is this: The leaders' attempt to carry out God's will by
charging Jesus with a crime, thus leading to his death and resurrection, does in
fact conform to God's "evaluative point of view" but in a way not intended by

Major Book Reviews

In Chapter 5, Kingsbury claims that Jesus' self-designation "the Son of man"

does not identify him for the characters in the story, that is, explain for them "who
he is." Instead, it is a "public title" and describes Jesus as "the man" who is
presently active, suffers, and will be vindicated (p. 98). Kingsbury suggests that
the best way to deal with "the Son of man" in English is to substitute for it, each
time it occurs, the phrase "this man." If one asks who "the Son of man" is, the
answer is that he is the Son of God (16: 13, 16).
In Chapter 6, Kingsbury treats the story of the disciples in Matthew, and in
Chapter 7 he focuses on the community of Matthew. He opines that the "implied
readers" of Matthew's story might serve as an approximate index of the social,
economic, and religious life of the original readers. These, he argues, were
Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles at home perhaps in Antioch of Syria around
A.D. 85 or 90. They were prosperous, in conflict with Jewish and gentile commu-
nities, and had developed a relatively high level of community organization.
In his brief "Concluding Remarks" (Chap. 8), Kingsbury summarizes his
analysis and contends that just as the disciples finally arrive at a mature under-
standing of Jesus at the end of Matthew's story, so does the implied reader.
Indeed, "it is apparent that the first evangelist, who wrote this story, would also
have wanted the real reader to understand it and to act on it" (p. 136).
Kingsbury'S book is not heavily theoretical. The advantage is that it is less
burdened by literary terms and ideas; the possible disadvantage is that those not
grounded in Chatman's "narratology" might be occasionally adrift. At the same
time, frequent references to "implied reader," "evaluative point of view," and the
like reinforce the literary dimensions of the analysis, but they are also occasionally
With regard to more important matters of content, one might argue from the
perspective of both plot and characterization that the leaders and the Jewish
crowds should be more sharply differentiated. In 12:23, for example, the crowds
seem to function as "foils" for the Pharisees (v. 24: "but," de). Also, if their
estimation of Jesus as "prophet" and Son of David is insufficient, there needs to be
a better way to relate thisjudgment to Kingsbury'S views thatJesus is paradoxically
an "itinerant radical" and the "Davidic Messiah-King." Specialists on Matthew
who build on Bacon's theory of Prologue, Epilogue, and alternating discourses
and narratives will obviously think that Kingsbury'S analysis has not allowed
enough room for the verbal quality of Jesus in the great discourses, which
certainly "shows" his character as teacher. Also, the "this man" interpretation of
the Son of Man, which is very enlightening, will not, for some exegetes, do justice
to the cosmic-apocalyptic and ecclesiastical dimensions of that Christology.
In the final analysis, however, these points of taste and interpretation should
not overshadow the special contribution of this book, namely, the literary-critical
approach to Matthew. It is sometimes objected that this approach does not take
seriously either the historical information in the Gospels or the conclusions of
historical research. In Kingsbury'S case such an objection is unfounded. He has
built much of his study on his previous research, some of which has had historical
impulses, and his final chapter is concerned with "the community of Christians for
which the story was originally written" (p. 120). Such observations can, of course,
cut both ways; a purist "new critic" might object that his historical interests have
blunted his literary criticism. I, for one, welcome the attempt to correlate intrinsic
analysis with extrinsic analysis.
Again, it is sometimes objected that the gospel genre is ancient, unique, and not
designed to entertain, but functions as religious propaganda and/or apologetic.
Therefore, methods for analyzing modern, imaginative narrative fiction simply
do not apply. It is important not to gloss over these objections. But if an inter-
preter is to engage in literary criticism, one option is to explore modern analysis of
narrative, at least until more adequate ancient critical tools are unearthed. It is, of
course, important to keep in mind the crucial differences. When Kingsbury states
that the implied author and the narrator are usually the same in Matthew, and
that the implied author might serve as an index of the real author, I understand
him to be making observations which take into account the nonfictional character
of the gospel genre, but without abandoning all that literary criticism has to teach.
In addition, his final comment about the first Evangelist's wanting the reader to
act on his story is clearly a comment about the real author's theological intentions.
Again, objections to such synthesizing might be raised from the literary-critical
side, but it must be admitted that the dominant approach is literary. As such,
Kingsbury's study, like all such studies, becomes a contribution to the refinement
of working tools for gospel narratives.
Kingsbury's new book is classic Kingsbury: carefully laid out, closely argued,
and authoritatively presented. It is an important book on Matthew, and a prelude
for more to come. Not only will it serve students and informed lay readers well,
but also, to pick up the opening metaphor, it contributes to the change in
Matthew's map in such a way that other explorers will need to consult it before
travelling further.


Preaching, by FRED B. CRADDOCK. Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1985. 224 pp. $16.95.
Reviewed by RICHARD LISCHER, associate professor of homiletics, The Divinity
School, Duke University.
IN THE INTRODUCTION TO HIS TEXTBOOK Craddock worries that "the day of textbooks is
now past" (p. 13), which is only partially true. Many are writing comprehensive books
on preaching, but since H. Grady Davis' Design for Preaching (1958) none has
established preeminence in the field of homiletics. Davis' day has now passed, and
Craddock's book is its likely successor.
The dangers of the textbook genre are well documented. The homiletics text may
present a creative method so peculiar to the author that it cannot be used by anyone
else. By attempting to treat everything, it may treat nothing in depth, making critical
conversation with other authors and methods impossible. By supplying many
teachir;t.g examples for the student, the textbook's attention to particulars makes it

Major Book Reviews

vulnerable to obsolescence.
In Preaching Craddock avoids most of these pitfalls. He averts idiosyncrasy by
rounding out his advocacy of inductive preaching (in As One Without Authority, 1971)
with a more inclusive approach to method. He avoids a lengthy theological debate by
moderating his earlier, near-exclusive interest in the listener in Overhearing the Gospel
(1978) and ignoring the controversial thesis of that book. This book traces many of
the traditional topics of homiletics, including the theology of preaching, the minis-
ter's life of study, the evaluation of the listener, the interpretation of the text, and the
formation, language, and delivery of the sermon. Preaching does not lapse into a
survey because the author selects what he considers the most significant dimensions
of preaching, namely, interpretation and form, for thorough discussion, while giving
only summary attention to its less controverted aspects. For example, he does not
develop the place of the Holy Spirit in preaching or the character of the one who
preaches, topics richly treated in the Middle Ages but now largely ignored. Nor does
he draw on the various theories and collections of data used by those, like Hans van
der Geest and Donald Capps, who join preaching to pastoral care. There is little in
Preaching on the sermon's character as a liturgical act and nothing on its relation to
the sacrament, leading me to surmise that this work may find its most appreciative
audience-though by no means its only one-in the free church tradition. Although
the author stresses the importance of "memory" in preaching, by which he means an
appreciation of the heritage of biblical interpretation (p. 157£'), this textbook con-
tains so little of the history and terminology of homiletics that it appears to lack a
memory of its own tradition. The present book is not only free of older homiletical
advice and lore, which is a great relief, but it is remarkably spare in its use of
examples, illustrations, sermons, footnotes, and bibliography, which, depending on
the audience, mayor may not be an advantage. Beginning students are pleased and
encouraged by the book's format. It is my guess that the experienced pastor may
want more directed reading.
The author proceeds from his own thorough and sophisticated grounding in
Bible, hermeneutics, and theology but does not belabor scholarly arguments. The
result is a book that is disarming in its simplicity and tone. After any possible lacunae
have been noted, one must add that it offers the most comprehensive rationale for
preaching of any of the available textbooks.
One of Craddock's scholarly trademarks is his bridge-building between the Bible
and preaching. As professor of Preaching and New Testament at Candler School of
Theology, he has contributed more than most to the revival of biblical preaching in
this country. The more that students read of Craddock, the less likely will they dare
preach on an idea or a topic unrelated to a text! Preaching does what no other
homiletics textbook does: It effortlessly incorporates the assumptions and methods
of critical scholarship into the task of sermon preparation. The author's discussion of
exegesis-for-preaching in Chapter 6 is a valuable and non-technical guide that
should be required reading for students and practicing ministers.
Not only has Craddock reduced the threatening aspects of exegesis, he has also
helped demystify hermeneutics. In his treatment, interpretation is not a puzzle but

an awareness. Interpretation begins with the preacher's awareness of the needs of
the audience (pp. 85ff.). The choice of the listener as starting point, though given no
explicit theological rationale, accords with Craddock's analogical approach to
preaching. There is a theology of the Word in Preaching, but it is far from Barthian.
The Word is always swaddled in the mundane, "for somewhere on the spectrum
between opaque and transparent, the revelation of God in Jesus occurs" (p. 56).
Throughout his work Craddock stresses the need for "recognition," the audience's
recognition of what it already knows about itself and God, in order for preaching to
be effective (e.g., pp. 160-61). This approach is suggestive of what might be called
"preaching from below," a method that exploits the depths of experience in order to
confirm what in another vocabulary is called revelation. Some will be frustrated by
the allusive language of Craddock's theology of preaching, and some may wish for a
more explicit exposition of the gospel as the transforming power that creates its own
hermeneutic as it goes, but students report a sense of refreshment in this discussion
of the Word whose validity does not depend on touching every theological base from
Barth to Tillich to Gutierrez.
The most valuable section of the book is Part III, "Shaping the Message into a
Sermon," in which the author takes on the nemesis of every homiletics textbook:
form. Like Davis, he begins by reviewing the formal qualities to be sought in the
sermon: its unity, memory, movement, and others; but unlike Davis, Craddock never
isolates form from the text's meaning and purpose. Especially helpful is his section on
"Identification," in which he reminds us of what Aristotle knew long ago, namely,
that specificity is the route to the universal. Yet Craddock also knows that as good as it
is to see, details can smother. Aristotle said as much when he defined imitation in
generic rather than "photographic" terms (Poetics, 9).
When Craddock describes the actual process of arriving at a sermon, he separates
the exegetical work that culminates in the discovery of the text's message from the
homiletical task of shaping that message into a sermon. The older homiletics,
however, invariably forced the message into one of several prefabricated patterns-
homiletics' version of the commonplaces. Craddock calls this procedure "Selecting a
Form," and he cites several advantages of such a system, chiefly its convenience (pp.
176-77). Yet the patterns were often chosen without reference to the meaning or the
form of the text. Augustine first noticed the incongruity between the biblical message
and the rhetorical tools available to its communication and urged the Bible itself as a
rhetorical handbook for preachers. Craddock honors this tradition and keeps
company with moderns like Joseph Sittler and Amos Wilder who have taught us to
allow the language of Scripture to in-form contemporary preaching and discourse.
On a couple of points Craddock's attention to biblical form does not go far enough
to satisfy contemporary homiletical theories. Against those who favor an exclusively
literary or phenomenological approach to interpretation, Craddock insists that a text
can be summarized into a simple statement of theme and that such a reduction is
essential to the organization of a sermon. No text can be appropriated all at once or in
its entirety. Against those who tend toward a fundamentalism of form, Craddock
asserts that the sermon form need not duplicate the form of the text. Rather the
sermon should not violate the spirit of the form of the text, for example, by

Major Book Reviews

transforming a beatitude into a strategy or a doxology into a moral. On both issues, it

seems to me, Craddock wisely adopts a commonsense approach and thereby re-
moves the burden of unworkable theories from the shoulders of the preacher and
In place of selecting a form, Craddock suggests "Creating a Form." Here the
reader catches intimations of the radical freedom of preaching, and here those
looking for formulas will be disappointed. Although the form of the text may suggest
a clue to the form of the sermon (here Craddock gives several examples), it is the
theological burden of the text (though he does not use the term) and the situation of
the audience that determines the shape of the sermon. Such an approach to
preaching requires close meditation on the Scriptures and implies great depth of
pastoral awareness. A premeditated concern with form only interferes with the
mediation of the gospel in a particular rhetorical situation. As a preacher I find this
bold and exhilarating; as a teacher of preachers I am faced with anxious questions
which are answerable, finally, by the freedom of the gospel itself. But students as well
as practitioners must be so confronted. Craddock's rhetoric of preaching may
constitute his clearest theological statement.
In a real sense the author's homiletical style is the best illustration of his textbook.
Those who know Fred Craddock the preacher will derive the greatest benefit from
his Preaching. Both are well worth knowing.


Revelation and Theology: The Gospel as Narrated Promise, by RONALD F. THIEMANN.
University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 1985. 198 pp. $23.95. Reviewed
by RALPH HJELM. professor of philosophy, University of Maine.
No LESS THAN ANY OTHER FORM OF CRITICAL THINKING, the history of theology has been
marked by preoccupations that have frequently covered serious vulnerabilities.
Thiemann argues that this is eminently clear in the rich and complex modern
debate over the doctrine of revelation. His claim is that the debate in general and
influential expressions of the doctrine in particular are flawed by what he calls "an
epistemological foundationalism." This, he insists, has made influential modern
discussions of revelation incapable of providing a theoretical justification for "an
account of God's identifiability" requisite to the belief in God's gracious pre-
venience. This problem which the book explicates is not merely what is exposed in
such great collisions of recent interpretations of revelation as the debate between
Barth and Brunner in 1934 but is the end product of an accumulated episte-
mological and apologetic preoccupation that stems from the Enlightenment itself.
Writing with a fine appreciation of the Reformation motif of divine sovereignty
and prevenience as his point of departure, Thiemann goes on to claim that
perpetuating what he considers to be the fragile Lockean claim that revelation is a
special epistemological category and a support for an extraordinary form of

causality is an egregious error. It jeopardizes the coherence of theology itself as he
views it. This Enlightenment foundationalism has nurtured the development of
various modern theological refinements from Schleiermacher to the present,
each attempting to demonstrate a kind of human accessibility to God's revelation
without allowing knowledge of God's nature. Even though Locke's episte-
mological interpretation of revelation has been radically refined in various forms
of the empiricist and rationalist spirit, we still attempt theologically to prove
doctrines of revelation by utilizing philosophical affirmations or human experi-
ences as foundational. And so the preoccupation regarding the nature of revela-
tion continues, and so theological strategies that attempt to justify it continue to be
epistemological and causal.
In penetrating critiques of some contemporary perspectives that continue this
approach to the doctrine of revelation, Thiemann examines in considerable detail
the neo-Kantian position of Gordon Kaufman. For Kaufman, theology has no
access to the divine identity or the divine prevenience and so becomes essentially
constructive, a discipline rooted in human imagination, providing at best doctri-
nal concepts which humanize and provide an essential orientation to life. In the
same critical vein, he discusses foundationalists such as David Kelsey and Charles
Wood, whose views of revelation are functional insofar as they are determined by
construals of biblical texts which shape and transform Christian identity. These
views, like Kaufman's, make revelation and prevenience extensions of some
feature of the human experience, tradition, or vision.
Thiemann's own analysis clearly turns on his repeated claim that "the doctrine
of revelation I seek to defend is not a foundational epistemology theory but an
account which traces the internal logic of a set of Christian convictions (emphasis
added) concerning God's identity and reality" (p. 70). Despite his adept support of
this perspective by philosophical and linguistic analyses and allusions (some of
which are essential to his argument and some not), for him a doctrine of revelation
and prevenience is not defensible by what he considers the extrinsic claims of
religious experience or epistemological judgments. By meticulous argument, the
first three chapters of this book present a clear restatement of this Reformation
vision of God's prevenience as radically discontinuous with the post-
Enlightenment understanding of human religious history comprehended in the
subtleties of the putative human experience of transcendence, the clarifying
resources of culture, or rigorous epistemological analyses.
The final four chapters present a nonfoundational view of theology and the
way it can be used to defend a belief in God's prevenience and a non-
epistemological doctrine of revelation. Having argued against the Enlightenment
process of the'ological foundationalism and its modern expression, these chapters
develop a case for a descriptive theology (in contrast to explanatory, not in contrast
to normative) which puts forward an expression of belief in God's prevenience
through the dynamics of biblical narrative, or what Thiemann calls "narrated
promise." He calls it "narrated" because its intelligibility is not borne out in
philosophical hermeneutical analysis but "within the web of supporting belief and

Major Book Reviews

practices" (p. 99) such as stories, homilies, and liturgy. It is "pmmise" because it
"breaks the 'cooperating framework' inherent in all causal conceptions of the
divine-human relation" (p. 110). Predictably, Thiemann sustains his thesis of the
"Christian aptness" of nonfoundational theology of prevenience and narrated
promise by his analysis of a Gospel scriptural narrative, the Gospel of Matthew.
Disclaiming that by this analysis he is imposing on Scripture a theological scheme,
he views Matthew as a remarkable narrative, personally specifying Emmanuel as
God's prevenient and gracious promise, cumulatively rendering "an account of
God's identifiability" (p. 153) the center of a Christian doctrine of revelation.
Critical comments on a book of this high order will certainly be vigorous.
Philosophical theologians generally will call attention to its lack of apologetic
intention, as will phenomenologists and hermeneuts. Yet the author clearly
intends it to be essentially an argument in the kerygmatic tradition. Throughout,
Thiemann considers theology a descriptive discipline in the Reformation mode.
Those whose religious rootage is not here will be tempted to fault this argument
for its criticism of post-Enlightenment theology, probably most of all in its
concluding judgment of Schleiermacher. But this reaction to Thiemann's book
cannot be based on the claim that it is obscurantist, because it is a carefully crafted
essay, precise in expression, and clearly informed by historical theology. Given its
intention, perspective, and structure, we have here a clear and cogent theological
argument. It should be widely read and closely analyzed not only because it is a
fascinating and persuasive statement on the possibility and necessity of a theology
that is determined by the neglected doctrine of prevenience, but because it
exposes a modern preoccupation with revelation as a species of epistemology that
arguably covers a theological vulnerability.

Shorter Reviews and Notices
• Problems of Biblical Theology in the upon the work of Dutch scholars, and
Twentieth Century, by HENNING GRAF in his lengthy excursus, "Israel and the
REVENTLOW. Fortress Press, Philadel- Church."
phia, 1986. 188 pp. n.p. (paper). The reader should be alerted that the
genre of this book, like its predecessor,
is status quaestionis. As such, it succeeds
sequel to Problems of Old Testament Theol-
as. an excellent bibliographic resource,
ogy in the Twentieth Century (English,
wIth relatively few omissions, and it will
1985). It is not primarily an attempt to
place the reader in a good position to
evaluate the more recent scholarly de-
do further study. It does not attempt
bate over the viability of doing biblical
fresh proposals in any conscientious
theolog~, although this topic is briefly
fashion, and Reventlow only obliquely
treated III the final section (Chap. III)
sets forth his own position on the prob-
of the book (pp. 145-78). Rather, it
lems he reviews. The final chapter is
furthers the work of the first volume by
basically a survey of recent German
thoroughly canvassing the various at-
approaches to biblical theology (Gese,
tempts of this century to assess "the
Stuhlmacher, Schmid, Luck). To the
theological significance of the Old Tes-
extent to which the reader feels in-
tament and its relationship to the New"
clined toward seeing probable solutions
(p. 1).
emerging from the Continent, Revent-
To this end, the author describes the
low's final review will prove valuable.
resurgence of interest in biblical theol-
Questions of canon, sociology, and the
ogy as represented in the Anglo-Saxon
broader hermeneutical debates could
movement of the same name (Chap. I).
have received more detailed analysis.
But the bulk of the book (pp. 10-144) is
But even with this caveat, both this and
a bibliographic-intensive survey of
Reventlow's earlier work put the gen-
ways in which the relationship between
eral reader in an excellent position to
Old and New Testaments have been
construct the basic issues facing biblical
conceived, given the climate of modern
theology in the future.
historical-critical analysis. Salvation-
history, typology, sensus plenior, and CHRISTOPHER R. SEITZ
promise/fulfillment are analyzed as
Lutheran Theological Seminary
approaches offering a solution to the
problem of relating the two Testa-
ments. Much of this ground is familiar,
but it is helpful to have the vast re-
sou.rce material collated and succinctly
r~vIewed. Fresh perspectives are pro-
vIded for the reader in Reventlow's
treatment of "The Superiority of the
Old Testament," which draws chiefly

Shorter Reviews and Notices

• Genesis 12-36, by CLAUS WESTERMANN. Joseph in a theological perspective that

Translated by JOHN J. SCULLION. casts its interpretive light on every pas-
Augsburg Publishing House, Minne- sage in the text. Westermann does not
apolis, 1985. 603 pp. n. p. fail those who study to prepare for
preaching and teaching in the church!
• Genesis 37-50, by CLAUS WESTERMANN. After the introductions come exhaus-
Translated by JOHN J. SCULLION. tive, and sometimes exhausting, ex-
Augsburg Publishing House, Minne- egeses of each passage containing full
apolis, 1986. 269 pp. n. p. bibliographies, an annotated tra~sla­
tion, a discussion of form and settmg,
THESE TWO VOLUMES complete the trans-
explanation of the text by verses, and a
lation of Westermann's enormous com-
concluding section on "purpose and
mentary on Genesis, 1501 pages in all.
thrust." It is impossible in a short re-
The first volume was reviewed in this
view even to catalog Westermann's po-
Journal in 1977. The original appeared
sitions on the most important questions
in the German series Biblischer Kommen-
that arise in the critical interpretation
tar beginning in 1974. That the transla-
of these chapters. In this reviewer's
tion is complete and published in 1986
opinion the exegesis is maintained
is a compliment to the translator and
throughout at a quality seldom reached
the publisher. This work is the first
by most scholars.
"large scale commentary" written on
This is not a commentary for every-
Genesis since Hermann Gunkel's
one. It cannot be fully exploited with~
classic of 1922. For those prepared to
out access to the Hebrew text. The vo-
exploit this comprehensive treatment
luminous bibliographies are irrelevant
of the first book of the Bible, this now
to all except the most advanced scholar.
completed set is the commentary. West-
The endless dialogue with the field,
ermann has been the contemporary
carried on with references to the works
scholar who has carried on Gunkel's
of others in almost every sentence, in a
form-critical tradition in the most in-
way typical of major German commen-
tensive and useful way, concentrating
taries, assumes a great deal of the user.
himself, as Gunkel did, on Psalms and
But for those with preparation and in-
Genesis. He is a superb exegete and a
terest the commentary is unsurpassed.
stimulating theologian. The combina-
The translation professes to be "lit-
tion makes an interpretation of quality
eral." It is wooden. The style is stilted.
and usefulness.
There are sentences so opaque that the
Volume II begins with the Introduc-
reviewer had to return to the original to
tion to chapters 12-50 and contains
learn what was being said. One won-
the commentary on chapters 12 - 36,
ders why the translator chose this kind
the cycle of stories about Abraham,
of literalism.
Isaac, and Jacob. Volume III intro-
duces the Joseph story and contains the J AMES LUTHER MAYS
comment on 37-50. These two intro-
Union Theological Seminary in Virginia
ductions are, to risk an exaggeration,
worth the price of the volumes. They
put the stories about the patriarchs and

• Understanding the Word: Essays in Westermann, and Howard Clark Kee.
H01wTofBernhard W. Anderson, edited Many of us younger students of
by JAMES T. BUTLER, EDGAR W. Scripture have long been grateful to
CONRAD, and BEN C. OLLENBURGER. Anderson because his Understanding the
JSOT Press, Sheffield, 1985. 389 pp. Old Testament was our college introduc-
$37.50 tion to the challenge of the Old Testa-
ment. We have continued to learn from
his writings over the years. With Under-
a Festsch1'ift to Professor Anderson, are
standing the Word we have another rea-
characterized by their technical exper-
son to be grateful to him-that his ca-
tise and by the diversity of their subject
reer has served as the stimulus for so
matter. Many of the contributors have
many talented and diverse dialogue
chosen topics developed in dialogue
partners to provide such a valuable and
with Anderson's work. The breadth of
stimulating resource as this book.
issues addressed in this volume is itself
witness to Bernhard Anderson's many JOHN M. BRACKE
contributions to biblical scholarship.
Eden Theological Seminm)
Scholars and serious biblical students
should find ample stimulation in these
eighteen essays. Several of them will
become important additions to semi-
• Wisdom and the Hebrew Epic: Ben
nary and graduate study syllabi. Let me
Sira's Hymn in Praise of the Fathers, by
briefly mention a few to encourage that
BURTON L. MACK. The University of
they all be read: Walter Brueggemann
Chicago Press, Chicago and Lon-
("Imagination as a Mode of Fidelity")
don, 1985. 263 pp. $25.00.
uses the Book of Deuteronomy to illus-
trate the interface between Israel's lit- THIS ORIGINAL AND BRILLIANT STUDY is
erary imagination and social construc- much more than an analysis of Sirach's
tion; George W. Coats ("Lot: A Foil in famous hymn (Sir. 44-50). It is a glob-
the Abraham Saga") examines the role al interpretation of Hebrew wisdom,
of Lot in the Abraham narratives and with particular emphasis on Ben Sira's
suggests the implications of Lot's role contribution. To this end there is first
for understanding the theology of the an analytical survey of the seven
Yahwist; Murray L. Newman ("Rahab chapters-an original treatment of the
and the Conquest") uses sociological pattern of characterization, themes,
analysis to study the story of Rahab and structure of the presentation of
o osh. 2) and to suggest the diverse Israel's heroes. While the hymn reflects
functions of this story in Israel's his- its own peculiar reading of the Hebrew
tory; J. Christiaan Beker explores the epic (especially the P tradition), it is
uses of Habakkuk 2:4 and Genesis 15:6 inspired by the Hellenistic encomium.
in the Book of Romans as a model for But it is more than this. It is an epic
biblical theology. Other contributors with mythic function. Here Mack pro-
include Roland E. Murphy, Katharine poses a view of Old Testament wisdom
Doob Sakenfeld, Paul D. Hanson, Phyl- as the key to his interpretation of Sirach
lis Trible, Walther Zimmerli, Claus 44-50. Specifically this is the wisdom

Shorter Reviews and Notices

Representing the best in modern scholarship

Now a complete eight-volume series, the Library of Early Christianity explores
the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts in which the New Testament and early
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Two new
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myth (as reconstituted by Mack), which IF YOU WANT STUDENTS who are being
attempted to deal with the social crisis introduced to the New Testament to
caused by the Exile. Wisdom now be- take the historical and cultural back-
comes a divine figure which gives order ground of early Christianity seriously,
to (even creates) the world by entering this is the supplementary text to use.
into it and issuing her call (Mack never Commendably brief, it is refreshing
elaborates on her feminine character). without filling. The book is well-
He reads chapters 44-50 in the light of conceived, thoroughly researched,
the wisdom myth of Sirach 24 (cf. Provo written to be read, and interesting. The
8) and singles out four moves: creation, focus of each of the five chapters deals
quest, location, and exaltation. These with the conventional topics: political
correspond to four parts of 44-50: the setting, forms of religious expression
order of covenants, conquest and his- (Jewish sects, Hellenistic philosophical
tory, restoration and cult, and the cli- schools), institutions (temple, syn-
max (glorification of Simon in chap. agogue, polis, kingship), the ancient
50). Thus history has been interpreted interpretation of Scripture (Philo,
by wisdom ("glory" in 44-50 is the Qumran, the rabbis), and a concluding
counterpart to "wisdom"). Ben Sira's chapter on demons and holy men deal-
hymn is a "mythic charter for Second ing with ancient world views that
Temple Judaism" (p. 84). shaped the perspectives ofJudaism and
This brief summary is necessarily un- early Christianity. There are two fea-
fair to the complexity of Mack's recon- tures of this little handbook which I
struction of Sirach's sapiential view of particularly appreciate. First, the in-
history. It fails to convey Mack's cre- formation packed into the book is re-
ative analysis of Ben Sira's thought in a liable. Roetzel has obviously worked on
period when Old Testament tradition each topic in depth with the result that
and Hellenistic ideas came together. many traditional (but wrong) views
He expects learned criticism or "test- typically included in introductory New
ing" (p. 178), and I have misgivings Testament texts are either consigned to
about the reconstruction. Yet his mod- the dustbin or appropriately qualified.
esty and provocative suggestions are Second, in conventional texts historical
impressive. This is a challenging inter- and cultural background material is
pretation of late Hebrew wisdom that rarely integrated with the study of the
deserves respect and merits full dis- New Testament itself. Roetzel con-
cussion from scholars. stantly moves back and forth between
various aspects of the setting of early
Christianity and the New Testament
Duke University Divinity School texts themselves, underscoring again
and again the necessity of under-
standing the world in which the litera-
ture of the New Testament arose. The
• The World That Shaped the New Tes- book gets four stars.
tament, by CALVIN J. ROETZEL. John
Knox Press, Atlanta, 1985. 120 pp. DAVID E. AUNE
n.p. (paper). Saint Xavier College

Shorter Reviews and Notices

. . . . 1\.VS

~~ JamesA .
.u ~ Sanders is Profes-
sor of Intertestamenlul

~~ )0- and Biblical Studies at the
~~ School of Theology at Claremont
and Professor of Religion at Claremont
Graduate School.


STORY TO "A welcome contribution to
SACRED TEXT the continuing inquiry into the
Canon as Paradigm fonnality of biblical authority."
- Catholic Biblical Quarterly
This essential reader in paper 85.95
" canonical hermeneutics"
traces Sanders' twenty-five
year pilgrimage to under- GOD HAS A
stand the Bible as canon. STORY TOO
cloth 818.95 (1987)
Sermons in Context
"Seasoned students and
preachers will find this a re-
CANON AND freshing homiletical water-
COMMUNITY hole." - Homiletic
A Guide to Canonical paper 87.95
"An exciting development
that must engage students of
the Bible at all levels and in all
contexts." - Choice
paper 84.50

• Christ in Community, by JEROME H. short in both. On the one hand he
N EYREY, S.J. Michael Glazier, Inc., writes ostensibly for the sophisticated
Wilmington, 1985. 295 pp. $12.95 layperson in the church, but his work
(paper). presumes a breadth of critical scholarly
expertise lacking to most laypersons.
On the other hand he writes for the
the New Testament portraits of Jesus
scholarly community, but his work fails
and then hypothesizes that such diver-
to marshal and fully develop the critical
sity may be largely accounted for by the
dimensions of his suggestions. Perhaps
various experiential horizons of the
the greatest weakness of this work is a
early Christian communities. For Ney-
strong tendency to state the conclusions
rey the Christology of the New Tes-
as initial hypotheses which, to no one's
tament is essentially a record of the
surprise, are then "clearly" found in the
early church's ideas and perceptions of
materials carefully selected and ar-
Christ from within its own diverse cul-
ranged for analysis. This is not to say
tural Sitze im Leben, so that these diverse
that the book is a total loss. There is
Christologies provide a window into
much to stimulate interest, some intri-
the sociology of the church rather than
guing hypotheses, some unusual angles
into the historical Jesus. In fact, the
of insight, some unique combinations
possibility of data from the historical
of data which suggest whole new ways
Jesus is never considered as a potential
of looking at some of the New T es-
check or corrective to ecclesiastical
tament material. One only wishes these
could have been fully developed. In
In the first part of the book, N eyrey
spite of its weaknesses, or perhaps be-
distills the four Gospels into a series of
cause of them, the scholarly community
what he calls "catchbasins" to collect
will find this book a thought-provoking
various stages of the church's portrait
intersection with the contemporary
of Jesus (Mission and Membership,
flow of critical biblical studies.
Understanding of the Old Testament,
Eschatology, Ethics, Group Self- M. ROBERT MULHOLLAND, JR.
Understanding), after which he pro-
Asbury Theological Seminary
poses to examine the experience and
Christology of the various Christian
groups who have produced the Gos-
pels' portrait of Jesus. The second part
• Essays on the Sermon on the Mount, by
of the book examines two Pauline por-
HANS DIETER BETZ. Fortress Press,
traits of Jesus (I Cor. 1:18-25; Phil.
Philadelphia, 1985. 170 pp. $27.95.
2: 6-11) in an attempt to show how
Paul's portraits were shaped by the sit- THIS VOLUME is not a full-scale commen-
uation of the churches to which he was tary on the Sermon on the Mount, but
writing. The third part gives a very rather a group of essays written as pre-
cursory summary of the Christology of paratory studies for such a commen-
Ephesians and Colossians. tary, to appear in the Hermeneia series.
Neyrey seems to have attempted to The positive contributions are those
do two things at once and has fallen one would expect of Betz. First, Betz

Shorter Reviews and Notices

shares with us his vast knowledge of present reviewer must confess that he
Greco-Roman literature and makes remains unconvinced of this pivotal
some intriguing comparisons: for ex- point. There is simply too much Mat-
ample, the Sermon on the Mount might thean vocabulary, style, and theology in
be compared to the literary genre of the the Sermon on the Mount to allow for a
philosophical epitome, such as is found totally pre-Matthean document. Con-
in the Enchiridion of Epictetus and the versely, the Sermon on the Mount fits
Kyriai Doxai of Epicurus. At the same too neatly into the overall pattern of the
time, Jewish parallels are not ignored: Gospel to be a foreign body. The weak-
contacts with Jewish wisdom-traditions ness of Betz's approach is especially
are obvious. Indeed, the Sermon on the striking in the treatment of 5: 17-20.
Mount sees Jesus as the teacher of the Eyebrows will be raised over Betz's res-
right interpretation of the Law; Jesus is urrection of the idea that "least" in 5: 19
presented as an orthodox teacher refers to Paul. More to the point, what-
within the range of acceptable Jewish ever the prehistory of the Sermon on
VIews. the Mount, it is now an integral part of
This leads into Betz's second con- Matthew's Gospel, the concrete docu-
tribution, which consists in a pro- ment in front of us. An exegete treating
vocative thesis underlying all the essays. the Sermon on the Mount cannot do his
According to Betz, the Sermon on the job adequately if he does not explain
Mount is, in its entirety, a pre-Matthean how the Sermon on the Mount was
document written by Jewish Christians incorporated into this larger whole and
of the mid-first century, perhaps in what it means there. Of course, one
Jerusalem. It propounds a view ofJesus must remember that these essays are
and his teachings notably different preliminary. One must await the Her-
from that of PauloI' the evangelists. meneia commentary before a final
These Jewish Christians see themselves judgment can be made.
as still part of Judaism, yet they are
conscious of tensions with the mother-
religion. Thus, feeling that they are the Catholic Univenity
"true Judaism," they are in conflict with
both the Pharisees and gentile Chris-
tianity. The theology of the Sermon on • Discipleship in the New Testament, edi-
the Mount is not that of Matthew, who ted and with an Introduction by
is open to a world-church of Jews and FERNANDO F. SEGOVIA. Fortress Press,
Gentiles. In contrast, the Christian
Philadelphia, 1985. 213 pp. $16.95
preaching of the death and resur-
rection of Jesus plays no role in the
Sermon on the Mount. If this preach- THIS COLLECTION OF PAPERS delivered at a
ing was known to the community of the symposium at Marquette University
Sermon on the Mount, it had been re- seeks to reexamine discipleship in the
jected. There is no explicit Christology New Testament in the light of recent
or soteriology based on Christology. scholarship. Four of the papers deal
It is this second contribution that will specifically with the teacher-disciple re-
no doubt arouse much debate. The lationship. Werner Kelber argues that

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Shorter Reviews and Notices

Outstanding Academic
B00ks I9&:~ ----
Nationally-known experts POLITICS IS NOT OF HAGGAI AND
look bey0-'.1~ the symp- EVERYTHING MALACHI
toms of CrISIS to focus on A TheoloJical Perspec- New International
those ex,Periences in our tive on F3..1th and Commentary
past which continue to . Politics on the Old Testament
mfluence the formation of H. M. Kuitert Pieter A. Verhoef
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A BURNING AND A DIJ11~d~yon ''This book is unique in its
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Mark's Gospel anchors the mystery of These papers raise important and
the kingdom in the life of the earthly sometimes controversial points. While
Jesus rather than in the sayings of the they do not set out to give a compre-
living Lord and that its picture of the hensive account of the New Testament
disciples as outsiders rather than as in- presentations of discipleship, they
siders is consistent with that tendency. show the importance and complexity of
Richard Edwards claims that Matthew's the subject and the need for further
Gospel contrasts the ambivalence of the investigation.
disciples with the stability of Jesus and
depicts discipleship as a relationship
never completed but requiring dedi- Emory University
cation and denial. Charles Talbert
stresses the complexity of the notion of
discipleship in Luke-Acts; it includes
• Not Like the Gentiles: Marriage Rules in
both mission and formation and com-
the Letters of Paul, by O. LARRY
bines an emphasis on the importance of
life in this world with a stress on the
80. Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1985.
experience of the numinous. Fernando
150 pp. $1l.95 (paper).
Segovia argues that the portrayal of the
disciples in the Fourth Gospel is evi-
• Pauline Autobiography: Toward a New
dence of the Johannine community's
Understanding, by GEORGE LYONS.
antagonism towards the "world."
SBL DISS. SERIES, VOL. 73. Scholars
The remaining five papers examine
Press, Atlanta, 1985. 273 pp. $15.50
the broader theme of discipleship as a
way of life. They select particular pas-
sages as keys to the understanding of HAPPILY, THE SBL'S DISSERTATION SERIES
discipleship in each writing. The ex- CONTINUES to disseminate the fresh in-
hortations in Philippians, according to sights of up-and-coming scholars to the
William Kurz, revolve around the epis- learned world. Here are two recent dis-
tle's emphasis on the imitation of Christ sertations that make their own unique
and the imitation of Paul. Robert Wild contributions to Pauline studies.
discusses the imitation of God in Ephe- Yarbrough's dissertation investigates
sians and its relationship to Philo and the underlying reasons for Paul's in-
Middle Platonism. Elisabeth Schussler structions to his converts on marriage
Fiorenza claims that Revelation 14: 1-5 and sexual morality. At the same time,
has not only a poetic-evocative charac- he hopes to make a significant con-
ter which opens up a variety of mean- tribution to our understanding of Pau-
ings but also a rhetorical function line ethics as a whole.
which responds to a particular situation Starting with a survey of contempo-
of persecution. Luke Johnson chooses rary Jewish and Greco-Roman tra-
James 4:4 as an example of the epistle's ditions on marriage and sexual morali-
distinctive way of looking at dis- ty, Yarbrough then focuses on Paul's
cipleship. I Peter 2:21 is the vantage own treatment of these concerns in I
point from which John Elliott ap- Thessalonians 4:3-8 and I Corinthians
proaches the theme in that epistle. 7. In terms of content, he finds little
Shorter Reviews and Notices

NEW A new addition to~ -a, bestselling series!

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distinction between the instructions Lyons concludes, in sharp contrast to
that Paul gives and those current in the existing approaches, that Paul here
contem porary society. The basic presents his "autobiography" as a
difference lies in motivation: Christians paradigm of the gospel of Christian
are exhorted to observe Paul's instruc- freedom which he wants his readers to
tions as a way of pleasing their God, reaffirm before they completely apos-
maintaining their Christian identity vis- tatize from the faith. So, as deliberative
a-vis the outside world, and safe- parenesis, Galatians aims at persuading
guarding the good order of their Chris- the readers to pursue a course of ac-
tian communities. tion.
Though not dramatic, Yarbrough's Finally, Lyons turns to First Thessa-
is the solid kind of results one would lonians and argues that here, too, Paul's
expect from careful doctoral research. autobiographical statements function
His work provides a valuable exegetical parenetically to remind his converts of
and theological resource for those who the Christian ethical values they share,
want to explore this knotty area of especially as they are embodied in his
Paul's teaching on marriage and sexual example. Thus, First Thessalonians is
morality. epideictic parenesis intended to praise
In his dissertation, Lyons sets out "to the readers for persisting in the Chris-
redress the scholarly neglect of Paul's tian way and to encourage them to con-
autobiographical remarks and to rec- tinue to do so.
tify the general misunderstanding of Lyon's conclusions are highly pro-
them in reply to the literary question, vocative, for they challenge commonly
"What are the functions of such re- accepted exegetical methodology and
marks?" To accomplish this, he con- its results, especially in relation to Gala-
centrates primarily on Galatians and tians and First Thessalonians. Anyone
First Thessalonians. undertaking serious study of these two
Lyons begins with a survey of ancient letters will need to reckon with this
"autobiography" (not a clearly defined dissertation. It sheds much initial light
literary genre) and concludes that Paul on the function of Pauline "auto-
employs autobiographical statements biography" and offers alternative in-
according to the rhetorical conventions terpretations of Galatians and First
of his time. Next, Lyons challenges the Thessalonians as well.
widely held assumption that Paul's re-
marks about his past are usually apolo-
getic and thus designed to defend him- Blackstone Presbyterian Church
self against the charges of "opponents."
In this regard, Lyons also attacks the
commonly used exegetical method of
"mirror reading," that is, detecting op- • Ephesians and Colossians, by WALTER
ponents' attacks behind Paul's asser- F. TAYLOR, JR. and JOHN H. P.
tions about himself, especially as it is REUMANN. AUGSBURG COMMENTARY
applied to the interpretation of Gala- ON THE NEW TESTAMENT. Augsburg
tians. Publishing House, Minneapolis,
After analyzing Galatians himself, 1985.175 pp. n.p. (paper).
Shorter Reviews and Notices

The Philosophic Tradition
of Pastoral Care
Focusing on Paul's methods of "pastoral
care," Malherbe sheds light on Paul's SOCIAL SETTING OF
understanding of his own task and the
nature of the Christian community at Thes-
Essay on Corinth
salonica which he founded, shaped and
nurtured. $8.95 paper
Was $19.95 cloth, Now $8.95 cloth
TESTAMENT CHURCH Philemon and the Sociology of
Paul's Narrative World
A Study in Paul and Acts
"His book is most important because of its
In this provocative survey of the Book of
methodological innovations, but it also
Acts and the letters of Paul, Professor
provides new perspectives on Philemon."
Achtemeier illuminates Paul's relationship
-Robert C. Tannehill $24.95 cloth
with the authorities in the early church at
Jerusalem and revises our understanding
of the unity of the New Testament church. PSYCHOLOGICAL
$7.95 paper ASPECTS OF
ACTS (Hermeneia) Allowing psychological perspectives to
HANS CONZELMANN enrich his exegesis of key Pauline texts,
Sensitive to the Greco-Roman background Gerd Theissen has provided a substantial
of the era and offering a wealth of refer- contribution to our understanding of
ences to ancient literature, Hans Conzel- how faith gives birth to and
mann presents an invaluable study of the enriches Christian life.
text of Acts. $37.95 cloth $34.95 cloth


The Literary Genre of the
Acts of the Apostles
Pervo shows how Luke presented "an
edifying message in entertaining garb"
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THIS AUGSBURG SERIES OF COMMENTARIES ciples to provide an "apostolic pres-
has been designed "for laypeople, stu- ence" in their contemporary (gentile
dents, and pastors." It is consciously a Christian) church.
church commentary in its writing and Both commentaries make a maxi-
editing as well as in its intended read- mum use of cross references to the Old
ership. The present volume is ample and New Testaments, compiling in
testimony to the series' clarity of inten- many cases complete indexes of word
tion as well as to its sound and effective usage or theological themes. This pro-
achievement. vision should encourage the student to
It is understandable that the com- use primary resources. The authors
mentary of the two authors shares supply notes from Qumran and Gnos-
largely the same major characteristics. tic sources along with aids in recogniz-
Although a select bibliography of lead- ing early forms (hymns, catechism,
ing commentaries (in English and baptismal liturgy, "indicative/impera-
German) is provided for each letter, the tive" epistle structure, etc.). The em-
commentary proper rarely cites par- phasis throughout, however, is the-
ticular scholars with respect to a rather ological, with explicit care at certain
full treatment of alternate interpreta- points to relate issues (e.g., views on
tions; the burden of proof is ordinarily slavery and women) to a modern
briefly and effectively carried by state- understanding. Inclusive language is
ments of the respective cases. The large evident even in pronouns for the un-
hypotheses of Goodspeed, Kirby, and known authors.
Martin are exceptions. The RSV text is used unless other-
The range of critical questions in- wise noted. Excellent use is made of
cludes text variants, the contrast be- other modern versions (esp. by Reu-
tween Paul's use of particular Greek mann) to illustrate interpretative op-
words and that of the deutero-Paulines, tions. "Literal translation," including
Greek syntax (e.g., the tense of par- etymology, is also used.
ticiples), and the like. The wonder is The work is altogether admirable,
that all of this is carried with remark- but readers would probably under-
able economy, clarity, and pertinence stand "doxological" language better if
to a point of interpretation. Technical the Greek word were not transliterated
terminology is used sparsely but clearly doksa (p. 60).
and to advantage.
Both writers give careful treatment
to the introductory questions, espe- Louisville PTesb)'teTian Theological
cially that of authorship. Although it is Seminary
not impossible that Paul wrote Ephe-
sians, it is not likely (Taylor). Col-
ossians' author is probably not Paul but
a follower (Reumann, tentatively; in his • Unmasking the PoweTS: The Invisible
comments, however, he ordinarily re- Forces That Determine Human Exis-
fers to Paul as the writer). The impulse tence, by WALTER WINK. Fortress
for the pseudonymous writing of both Press, Philadelphia, 1986. 227 pp.
epistles was the desire of Pauline dis- $12.95.
Shorter Reviews and Notices



The poor in james' epistle emerge in this
reading as a reality to be encountered. "A
superb introduction both to the book of
james and to the sociological study of the
New Testament." -THOMAS HANKS,
Seminario Bfblico Latinoamericana
417-8 $8.95 paper
CHRISTOLOGY OF PAUL Utopia or Program for Action?
Vol. III Jesus of Nazareth by PI NCHAS LAPI DE
Yesterday and Today "Pinchas Lapide joins a handful of jewish
by JUAN LUIS SEGUNDO scholars courageous enough to reclaim
the jewishness of jesus. The importance
"Segundo's exploration of Romans is pro-
of this endeavor cannot be overesti-
vocative and exciting. Paul's apparently
mated .... " -MARC ELLIS, Institute for
'apolitical' approach is shown to be extra-
Justice and Peace
ordinarily relevant to our times."
248-5 $9.95 paper
- DAVID SKIDMORE, University of York
221-3 $14.95 paper
Political and Social Hermeneutics
jesus emerges in this valuable study as a
Jew who not only proclaimed the reign of
An outstanding collection of previously in- God in a unique way but was also a symbol
accessible readings that deal with the Bible of hope for the poor and oppressed of his
from political and social perspectives, in- time. "It shows how the categories of
cluding authors such as Brueggemann, social criticism require a rereading of the
Fiorenza, Malina, Mesters, Schottroff, and New Testament."
Theissen. "A major scholarly contribution." -WALTER BRUEGGEMANN, Eden Theological
-America Seminary
044-X $18.95 paper 255-8 $9.95 paper

At bookstores / write for catalog

ORBIS BOOKS Dept. BP, Maryknoll, NY 10545
Call toll free: 1-800-258-5838 In NY call 914-941-7590 x477

THIS BOOK IS THE SECOND VOLUME of a archetypal reality, a vIsIonary or
planned trilogy. The thesis under- imaginal presence or event experi-
girding the trilogy is "that the New enced within" (p. 25).
Testament's 'principalities and powers' This is a very unusual book, one
is a generic category referring to the which begins with New Testament data
determining forces of physical, psychic, and rapidly moves to the fields of depth
and social existence" (p. 4). In Un- psychology, politics, world religion, sci-
masking the Powers, Wink undertakes a ence, and personal experience. But be-
critique of the materialism which cause he employs so many disciplines,
dominates our day in order to show Wink does not really control his subject
how much we are determined by the matter, and his explanations seem to
forces within ourselves, our social waver between a theological and a
structures, and our world. psychological definition of the powers.
The New Testament names these One has the sense that he is trying to
forces "angels," "demons," "gods," and solve a basically theological and meta-
"elemental spirits," and understands physical question with the wrong tools.
them as autonomous beings set be- By the end of the book, I was not com-
tween heaven and earth. Since, accord- pletely sure what Wink understands by
ing to Wink, our age no longer believes angels, demons, and gods.
in the reality of such beings, it is unable This book may be of some interest to
to name the powers and forces which pastors seeking to explain the reality of
determine it. Thus Wink sets himself demons and angels to their con-
the task of unmasking these powers. gregations, but it will not answer their
The reader who seeks a theological most fundamental questions.
apologia for the existence of angels and
demons as traditionally understood,
however, will bejust as disappointed as St. John's Seminary
the reader who expects a total de-
mythologizing of these New Testament
categories. Wink does not propose the
• The God of Jesus Christ, by W ALTER
existence of beings "up there" and "out
KASPER. Crossroad, New York, 1986.
there" called angels and demons.
404 pp. $16.95 (paper).
Rather, he understands angels and
demons as the "interiority" and "spirit- KASPER INITIATES his study of God with
uality" of persons, institutions, nations, an overview of the character of modern
and things, asserting that he does not atheism. He then goes on to explore
intend a mere reductionism. For ex- how the message about God delivered
ample, when speaking of the angels of by Jesus Christ and the development of
nature, Wink says that angel can be "the the trinitarian doxology-theology
code name for the numinous interiority might be construed as providing a
of created things" (p. 169). Of Satan he sound response to this atheism.
writes, "Satan is the real interim·ity of a Kasper's analysis of modern atheism
society that idolatrously pursues its own en- provides graduate students and dis-
hancement as the highest good. . . . The cerning pastors with a whirlwind tour
Satan of the Bible is more akin to an of the philosophic, scientific, and lin-
Shorter Reviews and Notices

Centuries Old-Newly Available

A New Translation with Edited by James H. Charlesworth
Annotations and Introductions by Hailed as an "instant classic" (Old
Bentley Layton
Testament Abstracts) and a "'must-
To be published in June, this vol- have' volume for every student of
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Bible and the beliefs of the early
Christians. $35.00

guistic problems associated with God- tical message of salvation and (b) dem-
talk. While his analysis centers around a onstrates the existential truth that God
critical use of Aquinas and Rahner, he thrives on a full self-donation quite
artfully provides crisp summaries and apart from the cosmos, he defends the
terse evaluations of a wide range of relevant soteriology implied by the trin-
secondary dialogue partners (e.g., itarian doctrine. With an internal con-
Nietzsche, Marx, Barth, Pannenberg, sistency, therefore, Kasper closes his
Wittgenstein, Gadamer). volume by insisting that the trinitarian
Given this fine point of departure, formulation preserves the hidden
Kasper then turns his attention to the character of God-for-us without get-
message of God provided by Jesus ting lost in some abstract information
Christ. Initially, he takes up Jesus' no- about the private life of God.
tion of God as Father promising the The merit of Kasper's study is that he
Kingdom and situates this within a methodologically avoids the traditional
broad analysis of the nature of "father- Catholic fascination with the abstract
hood" and of "evil." Then he launches characterization of God in favor of ex-
into a protracted analysis of the con- ploring the God-for-us and the God-
fession of Jesus' equality with God. with-us in history. Furthermore, since
While overtly acknowledging contem- he integrates something of the Re-
porary New Testament research and formers' emphasis upon the radical
offering a token nod to intertesta- centrality of Christ within his Catholic
mental and rabbinic Judaism, he all too emphasis upon philosophical analysis,
easily loses sight of a proper Jewish this study may stimulate interfaith ex-
estimate of Jesus in order to arrive at changes. In any case, Kasper's deter-
the divinity implied in the intimate dis- mination to link his ecclesial-
closure of the Son revealing his Father. mindedness with a scientific thorough-
His presentation of the Church ness and openness to the issues of our
Fathers, moreover, betrays a one-sided time will gain the applause of all con-
emphasis upon the God who embraces cerned.
suffering for our sake while neglecting
the divine Wisdom which brings heal-
ing and enlightenment into the human The Athenaeum of Ohio
domain. More importantly, however,
his christological discussion only mar-
ginally acknowledges his intention to
• The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr: Select-
address modern atheism.
ed Essays and Addresses, edited by
After offering a brief theology of the
divinity of the Spirit based upon the
versity Press, New Haven, 1986. 264
activity of this Spirit revealing the
pp. $19.95.
Father in the hearts and minds of
Christians, Kasper, in the third and THIS BOOK IS ACOLLECTION of previously
final section retraces the emergence of published but currently unavailable
the church's trinitarian theology- writings by Reinhold Niebuhr. It spans
doxology. Insisting that the trinitarian a period from 1943 to 1967 and com-
formulation (a) recapitulates the prac- municates the vitality of Niebuhr's

Shorter Reviews and Notices


Crossing Over Into God Revised and Enlarged
Countryman reads the Gospel of John in Danker's new Proclamation Commen-
terms of mystical theology and argues that tary is the most up-to-date introduction to
John "is guiding, perhaps at times impel- the thought and structure of Luke's Gospel.
ling, the reader along a path that leads from combining major contributions of philolog-
conversion to mystical enlightenment and ical, historical, and literary-critical studies.
union." $9.95 paper $7.95 paper


Narrative Mode and INTERPRETERS
Theological Claim Edited by ELDON J. EPP and
"This penetrating and powerful study of This authoritative reference work provides
how to read John's Gospel shows how a masterful overview of the major accom-
the form is integral to the theological mean- plishments in all areas of New Testament
ing ... the finest study of irony in the New studies since the J 940's. $24.95 cloth
Testament that I have seen."
- WILLIAM A. BEARDSLEE $9.95 paper

A Structural Commentary on
Matthew's Faith
This major, original literary commentary ex-
amines the faith Matthew expresses
in his 'Gospel and identifies Matthew's
strategy of expressing this faith.
$ J 9.95 paper

thinking as well as his spirited literary of Niebuhr in our own time, we must
style. The volume is certain to take its remember what he never forgot, that
place alongside other notable col- the gospel speaks different words to
lections of Niebuhr's work, but it is different times, and even different
distinguished by its more forthrightly words to different participants in the
theological rather than political bent. same times" (pp. xx). All of us are in-
Many of the essays explore themes debted to Brown for this rich collection
that are central to Niebuhr's thinking. and its genuine contribution to the re-
An article on "Love and Law in Protes- sources for theology, ethics, and minis-
tantism and Catholicism" analyzes typi- try in a new generation.
cally Roman Catholic, Reformation,
and liberal Protestant resolutions of
that theme and illustrates the freedom Union Theological Seminary in Virginia
with which Niebuhr treats the tradition
in his own attempt to hold love and law
in tension. Here, Niebuhr distances • Broken Lights and Mended Lives: The-
himself from Calvin even as he dis-
ology and Common Life in the Early
tinguishes his own position from Mar-
Church, by ROWAN A. GREER. The
tin D'Arcy's "catholic" synthesis oflove,
Pennsylvania State University Press,
law, and nature as well as Emil Brun-
University Park, 1986. 237 pp.
ner's "Lutheran" restriction of love to
uniquely personal relations. Another
essay on "Coherence, Incoherence and INVESTIGATIONS OF THE PATRISTIC PERIOD
Christian Faith" exhibits Niebuhr's have traditionally been either exclu-
persistent concern with apologetics as sively theological or entirely sociologi-
well as the sharp distinction between cal in their approach. Recently, how-
the world of nature and the world of ever, increasing attention has been
history that is basic to his theology. A given to the interplay of both the-
number of sermons drive home Nie- ological and social factors in the forma-
buhr's profoundly dialectical ap- tion of the ancient church. In Broken
preciation for the wisdom of the cross, Lights and Mended Lives Greer has imag-
the fragmentation of human life, and inatively demonstrated not only the
the ambiguities of history. The book vitality of this interplay but, more spe-
concludes with a moving article entitled cifically, the shaping power of theology
"A View of Life from the Sidelines" in upon the common life of early
which Niebuhr reflects upon his Christians.
changed attitudes and perspectives fol- Greer argues persuasively that the
lowing his stroke in 1952. theology of the early church had a
Robert McAfee Brown has written a double purpose. First, it was intended
fine introduction which identifies ma- to express the ideal of a new humanity
jor elements in the style and content of which had been revealed in Christ. Al-
Niebuhr's contributions. He also cau- though the fathers recognized that the
tions against too easy conservative- church's vision of this ideal was only
reactionary appropriations of Nie- fragmentary, they believed that even
buhr's thinking. "To make honest use these partial insights had the power of
Shorter Reviews and Notices

transforming human life. From the the range of theological views on the
"broken lights" could come "mended new humanity directly shaped the
lives." Accordingly, the second purpose range of ethical views on the Christian
of theology was so to shape and heal life. Greer seeks no neat correspon-
lives that they might conform to the dences, but he does make a convincing
ideal revealed in Christ. case that the ways in which early Chris-
Inevitably, because of the frag- tians understood the revelation of God
mentary character of the church's in Christ specifically affected the pat-
vision, both the ideal of the new hu- terns of their engagement with each
manity and its practical expression in other and with the broader social or-
Christian behavior were subject to a der.
wide range of interpretations. What The book is a delight to read. Greer
Greer attempts to establish is that the helps us to probe the theological visions
considerable diversity in belief and of such giants as Irenaeus, Gregory of
practice was not at all random but that Nyssa, and Augustine and to see how


A Literary and Theological Commentary on 1 &2 Corinthians
Here is a concise, one-volume commentary on the Corinthian letters. In a depar-
ture from the approach used by traditional commentaries, the focus is on both
what is said and how it is said, in relation to Paul's thought as a whole.
216pp, $17.95

A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel
"An important work ... the mature insights of a major interpreter of Luke-Acts. "-Interpretation
"A first-rate guide to the Gospel of Luke. "-Biblical Theology Bulletin 246pp, pbk, $11.95
At your bookstore, or call toll-free 1-800-638-3030


L-..-_ _ _ _ 370 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017 _ _ _ _~
their teachings have informed the Moltmann maintains that creation/
church's modes of interaction with the nature is the house or home in which
family, the society, and the govern- the divine Spirit dwells, and thus "God
ment. His mastery of historical and in creation" is an ecological doctrine
theological detail illuminates ancient and the appropriate point of departure
yet perennial issues of Christian expe- for a non-mechanistic and holistic phi-
nence. losophy of nature. According to Molt-
mann's trinitarian vision of God, to be-
lieve that God is the Creator and that
Union Theological Seminar)1 in Virginia the world is God's creation is to believe
that God is immanent in the world and
the world in God. This belief defeats
the modern attitudes of domination
and exploitation of nature along with
the corresponding false monotheism
which sees creation as a mere object in
relation to an absolutely transcendent
• God in Creation: A New Theology of divine subject. Moreover, this belief
Creation and the Spirit of God, by could lead to the reconciliation and
JORGEN MOLTMANN. Harper & Row, peace with nature that the present eco-
San Francisco, 1985. 365 pp. logical crisis requires.
$25.95. Throughout the text it is emphasized
that creation's goal and completion is
IN 1980 J urgen Moltmann published a God's eternal sabbath. Thus, another
social doctrine of the Trinity entitled of Moltmann's significant accomplish-
The Trinity and the Kingdom of God. This
ments is his inextricable bonding of a
was the first of a proposed five-volume doctrine of creation with a doctrine of
series which is collectively termed
the sabbath. The social doctrine of the
"Messianic Theology." Now the second Trinity, the ecological doctrine of cre-
volume, which Moltmann calls "the
ation, and a well-developed doctrine of
corres ponding ecological doctrine of
the sabbath are given a compelling and
creation," is available under the title
intriguing systematic unity.
God in Creation.
God in Creation belongs on the list of
Moltmann's central question is this:
required readings in the areas of trini-
"Faced as we are with the progressive
tarian theology, pneumatology, ecol-
industrial exploitation of nature and its
ogy, and, of course, messianic theology.
irreparable destruction, what does it
mean to say that we believe in God the THEO WALKER
Creator, and in this world as his cre-
Perkins School of Theology
ation?" Moltmann believes that in or- Southern Methodist University
der to address the ecological problem
adequately one must also speak of the
indwelling Spirit of God. Recalling that
the word "ecology" derives from the
Greek doctrine of the house (oikos),

Shorter Reviews and Notices

University Microfilms International

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Books Received
ADELS, JILL. The Wisdom of the Saints (Oxford) 233 pp. $16.95.
ARMSTRONG, A. H., ed., Classical Mediterranean Spirituality. WORLD SPIRITUALITY, VOL. 15
(Crossroad) 517 pp. $49.50.
ASHTON, JOHN, ed., The Interpretation ofJohn. ISSUES IN RELIGION AND THEOLOGY 9 (Fortress/
SPCK) 182 pp. n. p. paper.
BAYER, CHARLES, A Guide to Liberation Theology (CBP) 176 pp. $12.95 paper.
BENNETr, GORDON, Acting Out Faith (CBP) 192 pp. $10.95 paper.
BOGDAN, RADU, ed., Belief' Form, Content and Function (Clarendon) 186 pp. $42.00.
BONHOEFI-'ER, DIETRICH, Meditating on the Word. Ed. and trans. by DAVID GRACIE (Cowley) 154
pp. $6.95 paper.
BRASWELL, GEORGE, Understanding Sectarian Groups in America (Broadman) 382 pp. n. p. paper.
BRUEGGEMANN, WALTER, Hope Within History Uohn Knox) 128 pp. $8.95 paper.
CADY, SUSAN, MARIAN RO_NAN, and HAL TAUSSIG, Sophia: The Future of Feminist Spirituality
(Harper & Row) 103 pp. $14.95.
CALLAWAY, MARY, Sing, 0 Barren One. SBL DISS. SERIES 91 (Scholars) 157 pp. $8.95 paper.
CALVIN, JOHN, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 ed. Trans. and annotated by F. L.
BATrLES. BIBLIOTHECA CALVINIANA, VOL. 1 (Eerdmans) 396 pp. $25.00.
CHILTON, BRUCE, Targumic Approaches to the Gospels. STUDIES IN JUDAISM (Univ. Press of
America) 188 pp. $12.25 paper.
CHURCHILL, ROBERT, Lest We Forget (Com. for the Historian of the Orthodox Pres. Church)
135 pp. $4.95 paper.
CLARKE, RITA-Lou, Pastoral Care of Battered Women (Westminster) 131 pp. $7.95 paper.
COPE, LAMAR, Faith for a New Day: The New View of the Gospel ofJohn (CBP) 127 pp. $8.95
Cox, JAMES, ed., The Minister's Manual (Harper & Row) 387 pp. $14.95.
DAWSEY, JAMES, The Lukan Voice (Mercer Univ.) 198 pp. $19.50.
DENNISON, CHARLES, ed., The Orthodox Presbyterian Church 1936-1986 (Com. forthe Historian
of the Orthodox Pres. Church) 357 pp. $21.00.
DENNISON, CHARLES and RICHARD GAMBLE, eds., Pressing Toward the Mark (Com. for the
Historian of the Orthodox Pres. Church) 489 pp. $19.95.
DEYTON, EDWARD, Speaking of Love: Kierkegaard's Plan for Faith (Univ. Press of America) 114
pp. $9.25 paper.
DILLEN BERGER, JOHN, A Theology of Artistic Sensibilities (Crossroad) 280 pp. $22.50.
HISTORY 01-' CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, VOL. 1 (Eerdmans) 363 pp. $14.95 paper.
FARLEY, MARGARET. Personal Commitments (Harper & Row) 148 pp. $13.95.
Fox, EVERE1T, trans. with commentary and notes, Now These Are the Names: A New English
Rendition of the Book of Exodus (Schocken) 230 pp. $16.95.
GREEN, HAROLD, The Eternal We (Loyola Univ.) 327 pp. $15.95.
GUTHRIE, SHIRLEY, Diversity in Faith-Unity in Christ (Westminster) 144 pp. $10.95 paper.
HAAG, ERNST and FRANK-LoTHAR HOSSFELD, hrsg., Freude an der Weisung des Herrn.
STUTfGARTER BIBLISCHE BEITRA.GE 13 (Katholisches Bibelwerk) 533 pp. DM 39,00 paper.
HARRINGTON, WILFRID, Jesus and Paul (Glazier) 207 pp. $8.95 paper.
HAVENER, IVAN, Q: The Sayings ofJesus. GOOD NEWS STUDIES 19 (Glazier) 176 pp. $8.95 paper.
HAWKINS, PETER, ed., Civitas: Religious Interpretations of the City. SCHOLARS PRESS STUDIES\NTHE
HUMANITIES (Scholars) 133 pp. $20.95.
HIEBERT, THEODORE, God of My Victory. HARVARD SEMITIC MONOGRAPHS 38 (Scholars) 205 pp.

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JERGER, GUNTER, "Evangelium des Alten Testaments." STU'lTGARTER BIBLlSCHE BEI"rRAGE 14

(Katholisches Bibelwerk) 469 pp. DM 39,00 paper.
jEwETr, ROBERT, The Thessalonian Correspondence. FOUNDATIONS & FACETS: N.T. (Fortress) 240
pp. n.p.
jOBLlNG, DAVID, The Sense of Biblical Narratives. jSOT SuPP. SERIES 39 QSOT) 153 pp. $8.95
KEMMER, ALFONS, The Creed in the Gospels (Paulist) 134 pp. $7.95 paper.
KILEY, MARK, Colossians as Pseudepigraphy. THE BIBLlCAL SEMINAR QSOT) 148 pp. $11.95
KRAMER, KENNETH, World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religions (Paulist) 298 pp.
$12.95 paper.
AUFLAGE (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) 382 pp. DM 48,00 paper.
LATHROP, GORDON and GAIL RAMSHAW-SCHMIDT, eds., Lectionmy for the Christian People: Cycle A
of the Roman, Episcopal, Lutheran Lectionaries (Pueblo) 265 pp. $15.00.
man) 154 pp. n.p.
LEON-DUFOUR, XAVIER, Life and Death in the New Testament, Trans. by T. PRENDERGAST (Harper
& Row) 316 pp. $20.95.
Louw, JOHANNES, Sociolinguistics and Communication. UBS MONOGR. SERIES No.1 (U nited Bible
Society) 146 pp. $5.95 paper.
L'HEUREUX, CONRAD, Life Journey and the Old Testament (Paulist) 171 pp. $8.95 paper.
LUECKE, DAVID and SAMUEL SOUTHARD, Pastoral Administration (Word) 207 pp. n.p.
LUNDEEN, JOEL, ed., Luther's Works: Index, Vol. 55 (Fortress) 462 pp. n.p.
McKIM, DONALD, ed., How Karl Barth Changed My Mind (Eerdmans) 186 pp. $9.95 paper.
MACQUARRIE, JOHN, Theology, Church and Ministry (Crossroad) 211 pp. $19.95.
MAGEE, BRYAN, Modern British Philosophy (Oxford Univ.) 287 pp. $9.95 paper.
MALBON, ELlZABETH, Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark (Harper & Row) 212 pp.
MILDENBERGER, FRIEDRICH, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions (Fortress) 257 pp. n.p.
MILLS, DOUGLAS, A Daily Lectionary (Upper Room) 137 pp. n.p. paper.
MITCHELL, TIMOTHY, David Hume's Anti-Theistic Views (Univ. Press of America) 161 pp.
$11.25 paper.
MORGAN, PETER, Story Weaving: Using Stories to Transform YOU1' Congregation (CBP) 136 pp.
$8.95 paper.
O'BRIEN, PETER and DAVID PETERSON, eds., God Who Is Rich in Mercy: Essays Presented toDr. D. B.
Knox (Baker) 422 pp. n.p.
O'DONOGHUE, NOEL, Aristocracy of Soul: Patrick of I1'eland. THE WAY OF THE CHRISTIAN M YSTlCS,
VOL. 1 (Glazier) 131 pp. $7.95 paper.
PAUL, ROBERT, The Assembly of the Lord (T. & T. Clark) 609 pp. n.p.
PHILLlPS, LEE, Breaking Silence Before the Lord: Worship Prayers (Baker) 144 pp. $5.95 paper.
PREMINGER, ALEX and EDWARD GREENSTEIN, eds., The Hebrew Bible in Literary Criticism. A
RAMSAY, WILLlAM, Four Modern Prophets Qohn Knox) 106 pp. $6.95 paper.
RENDSBURG, GARY, The Redaction of Genesis (Eisenbrauns) 129 pp. $12.50.
SANDERsoN,juDITH,AnExodus Scroll From Qumran. HARVARD SEMITIC STUDIES 30 (Scholars) 358
pp. $20.95.
SCHr\HTr, JOHN, Isaiah and His Interpreters (Paulist) 137 pp. $8.95 paper.
SCHRAMM, TIM and KATHRIN LOWENSTEIN, UnmorcLZische Heiden (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)
204 pp. DM 28,00 paper.
SHEEHAN, THOMAS, The Fint Coming (Random House) 287 pp. $18.95.
STUMtvlE, WAYNE, ed., Bible and Mission. MISSION IN THE USA SERIES (Augsburg) 206 pp. n.p.

TANNEHILL, ROBERT, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts. Vol. 1: The Gospel According to Luke.
FOUNDATIONS & FACETS: N.T. (Fortress) 334 pp. n.p.
THOMPSON, WILLIAM, Paul and His Message of Life's journey (Paulist) 151 pp. $9.95 paper.
TULLOCK, JOHN, The Old Testament Story, 2nd ed. (Prentice-Hall) 391 pp. $26.85.
VAN DER LEEUW, G., Religion in Essence and Manifestation (Princeton Univ.) 727 pp. $12.50
VILLA-VICENCIO, CHARLES, Between Christ and Caesar: Classic and Contempormy Texts on Church
and State (Eerdmans) 269 pp. $16.95 paper.
WHITE,JOHN,LightfromAncientLetters. FOUNDATIONS & FACETS: N.T. (Fortress) 238 pp. n.p.
WOLFF, HANS, Obadiahandjonah: A Commentmy. Trans. by M. KOHL (Augsburg) 191 pp. n.p.

"You must meet
A.D. Mattson, this one-
of-a-kind churchman."
Glenn C. Stone

revealing light on the spiri-

tual growth of the Augus-
tana church into a vital
force for the Kingdom of
God on Earth.
Part III of the book is a
"The book not only is in- complete reprint of Matt-
valuable as an historical son's Social Responsibility
study, but also notes the of Cbristians, his Knubel-
continuing promise of a Miller Foundation Lectures.
thinker like Mattson for
helping us to confront Conrad Bergendoff says
one-of-a-kind churchman. in the Foreword:
some of the same issues Gregory Jackson has tied
today." "In some ways, 'A.D.' was
together the threads of a representative of a pio-
Stanley Hauerwas A.D.'s life into an appeal-
The Divinity School, neer period in our church,
ing tapestry." not the period of peopling
Duke University Glenn C. Stone new lands and cities, but
"Mattson was maverick, Editor, Lutheran Forum of a period of transition in
pioneer, controversialist,
someone who seemed a
lonely figure in his time

This account of A.D. Matt-
which the church faces a
new world. It is a world of
son's pioneering struggle social turmoil, troubled
yet one whose advocacies
to awaken the social con- consciences, of lip service
later seem to have won
sciousness of the church to traditional religion but
out. Jackson did original
brings an important mes- life service to modern
research ... and presents a
sage for today. Based on idolatry. On this frontier
convincing portrait of
incisive research which in- he was a fearless explorer
cluded previously unpub- and faithful pastor. For
Martin E. Marty
lished material from Matt- years to come the church
The Divinity School,
son's files and letters, the will recognize the fruits of
The Univ. of Chicago
book throws fresh and his ministry."
"Mattson's work, skillfully
analyzed in this book, is
important for Lutherans Published by the Augustana Historical Society in cooperation with
The Lutheran School of Theology at ChICago.
and non-Lutherans, alike."
The Impact of Alvin Daniel Mattson Upon
Director, The Center on the Social Consciousness
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::\ ~ ...l. EPISTLES OF JOHN
~~~ ~~~ Two new JUDITH LIEU
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