Ten [More] Tidbits from the Sermon on the Mount

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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