[XTalk] What is the best way to handle the Sermon on the Mount historically?
- What is the best way to handle the Sermon on the Mount historically?
1. Split up the sermon (and its Lukan counterpart) into small pieces,
to assign them to places all round the Mediterranean world and times
all through the first century, and to credit the evangelists with
complete originality in arranging or even inventing the material.
2. Meier splits it up by assigning authenticity to the core beatitudes
in Q (1994:322-23), an argument when is strongly dependent on the
existence of Q. McNicol has provided a reconstruction that shows how
Luke may have excerpted Matthew's sermon. (1996:103-104). Meier splits
the other material into M beatitudes, he writes, "It may be that these
Q and M lists represent but two surviving examples of various lists of
beatitudes that circulated in the early church and were attributed to
3. Allison depends on much of this material for properly understanding
Jesus as millenarian prophet. (1998:47-8, 62-3, 67-8, 123, 127-8, 205).
I realize Allison understands Matthew has derived 8/9 of them from his
sources, with number 8 being a creation by Matthew, with only 3 going
back to Jesus.
4. It seems logical to accept all 9 of the beatitudes as coming from
tradition by Matthew. It is obvious that Matthew has been redactionally
involved (3 and 6). There is no reason to create a beatitude that
repeats what was said earlier. Matthew's vocabulary "righteousness"
doesn't preclude reception from tradition. It seems to me that to
restrict the authentic sayings as only the three is: too prohibitive
and assumes to know more than we can know. (See Hagner 90) Wright
points out that, "It is rather, as it stands, a challenge to Israel to
be Israel. This provides a plausible historical context from which the
5. Now, I am not interested in simply affirming a traditional view of
the sermon but my question is, with the different ways of looking at
the evidence for the information, can we speak authoritatively about
the Q core being authentic and thereby chopping up the sermon, or is it
better to understand the sermon as an foundational part of Jesus'
eschatological message concerning Israel being Israel (Wright: 1996:
288), and allow for the possibility that Luke used Matthew and thus
eliminating the need for Q and the chopping up of the sermon?