The Sermon on the Mount

Review #1


Dr. John Hoole



Let’s look at the very first verse of the Gospel of Matthew.


         Matthew 1:1


         1  The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.



“The Book of the generations” is a phrase which is peculiar to Matthew.  It is a unique expression, and you won’t find it anywhere else in the New Testament.  If you start going back through the Old Testament, back through Malachi and Zechariah and back through the major prophets and the books of poetry and back to the Pentateuch you will almost come to the conclusion that it is nowhere else in the Bible.


Then all of a sudden, you come to the fifth chapter of Genesis and see:


         “This is the book of the generations of Adam……”  (Genesis 5:1)


There is that expression again.  There are two books:


         •  the book of the generations of Adam, and


         •  the book of the generation of Christ.


How did you get into the family of Adam?  You got in by birth.  You didn’t perform it; in fact, you had nothing to do with it.  But that’s the way you and I got into the family of Adam.        We got there by birth.  But, according to Romans 5:12, “in Adam all die”You could say “Adam’s book is a book of death.”


What a relief it is to turn to the gospel of Matthew and enter a new book, “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”  Unlike the first Adam, Jesus Christ, who in 1 Cor. 15:45 is called the “last Adam”, obeyed God and was therefore able to exercise dominion over His kingdom.


The first Adam was tested in a beautiful garden and failed.  But the Last Adam, Jesus, was tested in a wilderness, and He succeeded.  Because the first Adam was a thief, in that he took that which was not his to take, he was cast out of Paradise.  But the Last Adam turned to a thief on a cross and said, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)


The book of “the generations of Adam” ends with a curse (Malachi 4:6);  But the “book of the generation of Jesus Christ” begins with a series of blessings – called Beatitudes, and ends with the promise “there shall be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3).


The Old Testament was characterized by mount Sinai with its law, its judgment and cursing.  The New Testament is characterized by Mount Zion with its grace, salvation and healing.


The Old Testament law demonstrated man’s desperate need for salvation, and the New Testament offers the Savior – Jesus Christ.  And He is one who brings blessing rather than cursing.


When we read the Bible, or use it in a discussion about some topic, we sometimes treat it as if it were a collection of loose, unclassified gems.  By that, I mean we use a verse here and a verse there, without any reference to its context when we want to make a point regarding some subject.  And that’s not all bad.


The Word of God can provide those concise and quick answers to a multitude of issues.  But if this is all we do, then the Bible becomes a mere source-book of “precious thoughts.”  The “Promise Boxes” that many of us have in our homes serve a great purpose.  They comfort us and bring confidence in the Lord.  But if that is the only means of knowledge of Scriptures we ever get, some important things will be lost from our view.


On the other hand, when you consider the full context in which these verses are found, look at the historical setting……examine the theological and literary factors involved, we find they contribute to an increased understanding of each part of the Bible.


Paul’s writing style was different from Peter or James ---- NOTE: Paul end almost all of his books with some form of “Now may the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all, amen.”


Hebrews is written more like an essay than a personal letter.  It may surprise you to learn that Habakkuk is considered by Jewish people to be one of the most distinguished among its prophets because of his writing style --- “…because of its vigorously animated diction, couched in graphic metaphors.”


There are a number of books in the Bible where we don’t know for sure who the author is – like 1 & 2 Chronicles, or 1 & 2 Kings.


From their literary styles, many theologians believe 2nd  Kings has a different author than 1st Kings.  In fact, 2nd Kings has a lot of similarities to Jeremiah’s writings, which has led to some to believe he was its author -- Except for the last two chapters of 2nd Kings, which speaks of the Babylonian captivity.  We know from Jeremiah’s own writing (Jeremiah 43:1-8) that he fled into Egypt and was not taken into Babylon.


Another writing style, especially in the poetic books, is the use of couplets – sometimes called parallelism.  In Parallelism, one phrase is followed immediately by another that says essentially the same thing but in a more creative, expressive way.


For instance:  Psalm 46:11


         The Lord of hosts is with us;

         The God of Jacob is our refuge.


Or take Psalm  51:2-3


         Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

         And cleanse me from my sin.


         For I acknowledge my transgressions,

         And my sin is ever before me.


In other words, the words, “Cleanse me from my sin” repeats the thought of “wash me thoroughly from my iniquity;” -----  and “My sin is ever before me” repeats the idea found in “I acknowledge my transgression.”


Luke, being a doctor and a well educated man, uses an elevated literary style in both books he wrote.  He uses 266 words (not counting proper names) found nowhere else in the New Testament.


Then there is the Alphabetic or Acrostic style of writing, also found in some of the poetic books.


Psalm 111, 112 & 119 are acrostic in their entirety.


Psalm 111 and 112 each have only 10 verses but each of the first 8 verses have 2 phrases each and 3 in the last two verses.  That makes 22 phrases, each starting with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.


Psalm 119 has 22 sets of 8 verse, for a total of 176 verses.  Each verse in successive sets of eight begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  First eight verses begin with the letter “aleph.”  The second eight begin with the letter “beth”  The 3rd set with “gimmel”, the 4th with “daleth” and so on.


Several decades ago, when I last taught on Psalm 119, I wrote out the first 8 verses in English using the letter “A” to begin each verse.  I tried to not change the meaning of each original verse.  This is how it turned out.


Psalm 119:1-8 (Paraphrased)


1.  A blessing is on them that are undefiled in the way and who walk in the law of Jehovah.

2.  A blessing is on them that keep his testimonies, and seek Him with their whole heart;

3.  Also on them that do no wickedness, but walk in His ways.

4.  A law hast thou given unto us, that we should diligently keep thy commandments.

5.  Ah! Lord, that my ways were made so direct that I might keep thy statutes!

6.  And then shall I not be confounded, while I have respect unto all thy commandments.

7.  As for me, I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

8.  And I will obey all thy statutes.  Do not forsake me completely.


The entire book of Lamentations (all five chapters) is also in acrostic form.  All but the third chapter have 22 verses – Chapter 3 has 66 verses.  All chapters have 66 phrases.  Each verse in chapters 1, 2, 4, & 5 have three phrases.  All verses in chapter 3 have only one phrase.


I need at this point to make sure that you do not misunderstand me.  Literary style is not as important as what is actually said but it may help us more fully understand what is being said.


The literary style can also be significant in the Sermon on the Mount.  You may remember me saying early in our study of this Sermon that there were some general observations to make about the beatitudes before examining any one of them individually.


The first observation made in that lesson was to understand what the word “beatitude” mean?  And we learned that it meant “Supreme Blessedness;  Exalted Happiness”


The next general thing we needed to notice is that two of the beatitudes promise the same reward.  The first beatitude reads, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The last one says, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


To begin and end with the same expression is often thought to be a writer’s stylistic device called an “inclusion.”  This means that everything bracketed between the two can really be included under the one theme -- in this case, the kingdom of heaven.


On several occasions, I have mentioned that I believe the first 16 verse of chapter 5 constitutes the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.  By saying that, I do not mean to diminish their importance.


For me, this all makes sense, when you keep in mind what we studied in our introduction to this series.




He shows Jesus as the King.  In the very first verse of the Book, he establishes that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of David.  And the Sermon on the Mount is King Jesus’ delineation of how he wants his followers to live.  He wants us to realize what his kingdom is, and how to live as members of it.  And the beatitudes are a description of the character traits of Christ’s followers.


The kingdom of heaven is an important theme in the Gospel of Matthew and we have seen, through a literary device called the “inclusion” (5:3, 10), how that kingdom becomes a central focus of the Beatitudes.


In fact, if you have been here during our discovery of what these verses say to us, we have seen them speak to us in a very forceful way.  What we have studied thus far should provoke each of us to examine ourselves.  It also should have aroused some interest in what follows in the rest of chapters 5, 6 & 7.


Just as there is an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, there is a conclusion.  We find the conclusion beginning in Matthew 7:13 and the verses that follow provide a number of contrasts.


Christ, after giving the main body of the Sermon, instructs His followers to make a choice - a choice between:


                   •  two paths                                    7:13-14

                   •  two trees                                     7:15-20

                   •  two claims                                   7:21-23

                   •  two foundations                           7:24-27


In between the introduction and conclusion is a great body of instruction and application.  It runs from 5:17 to 7:12.  And once again we find the literary device of an inclusion used.


Bracketing the large body of the Sermon on the Mount is another inclusion; i.e., the Law and the Prophets


Matt 5:17  (KJV)


17       Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.


Matt 7:12  (KJV)


12       Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.




This is a common way to refer to the Old Testament Scriptures.  There are a number of phrases in Scripture used to designate the Old Testament.  Here are a few Scriptures using them.


Moses and the Prophets (Only used in the New Testament)


Luke 16:29 NKJV


29     Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'


                   Undoubtedly, the reference to Moses is a reference to the Law.


The Law and the Testimony (Only in the Old Tstament)


Psalms 19:7 NKJV


7       The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;


Isaiah 8:16 NKJV


16     Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples.


The Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms (Only said by Christ)


Luke 24:44 NKJV


44     Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."


In every division of the Old Testament scriptures, the Law always refers to the five books of Moses known as the Pentateuch:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  However, there are different answers to what books are considered the prophets.  For instance, in our English Bible, the prophets are the last 17 Books of the Old Testament.  That would be Isaiah through Malachi – the first 5 called major prophets, the last 12 minor prophets.


When we think of the Law being the first 5 books – the books of Moses, and the prophets as the last 17 as the prophets – we still have 17 books unaccounted.  Most Bible teachers call the twelve books from Joshua through Esther as books of History.  And the five books from Job through Song of Solomon are often called the books of Wisdom or Poetry.


However, this does not explain the various arrangement of the Old Testament as described in New Testament Scripture.  The reason is quite simple.  The Hebrew scriptures, although they contain the same books as our English Bible, were divided differently than they are in our English Bible.


The Hebrew Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) contains 24 books, while our English Bible contains 39 for the same material.  They are also divided and arranged differently.  The five books of the Law are at the beginning of all arrangements.  Apart from this, there is a different order of books in the Hebrew Bible compared to the English Bible.


All books where we have a 1st and 2nd are combined in the Hebrew Bible.  Ezra and Nehemiah are combined into one book.  And the 12 minor prophets are combined into one book.


Additionally, whereas we have Malachi as the book that ends the Old Testament, the Tanakh ends with the combined 1st and 2nd Chronicles.  There are a number of other differences with regard to the order in which we find the books.


As we read earlier, Christ refers to three sections in Luke 24:44.  Let’s read it again.


Luke 24:44 NKJV


44     Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."


The Hebrews actually did divide the Tanakh into three section.  The Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Ketuvim in Hebrew, Hagiographa in Greek).  It is thought by most scholars that Jesus was referring to the Writings, by using Psalms, the first and most prominent of eleven books (scrolls).


Additionally, the Prophets and Writings contain sub-groups.


         Prophets:  Former and Latter prophets


         Writings:  Poetic, Five scrolls, Historical


I suppose the question could be raised as to whether or not the New Testament references to the law and the prophets left out this last division.  I don’t believe it did.  Since anyone used by God to write a portion of sacred scripture was considered a prophet, a reference to the law and the prophets was a shortened reference to the entire O.T..


I think Jesus Himself alludes to this in Luke 24.  When Christ was talking to the two me on the road to Emmaus, this is written in verse 27.


Luke 24:27 NKJV


27     And beginning at Moses and ALL the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.


Notice the words “ALL” the Prophets.  Later in His conversation with these two men, in verse 44, he announced what He had told them.


Luke 24:44 NKJV


44     Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."


Both expressions refer to he entire Old Testament scripture.


Now, why have I taken you into this investigation of the Old Testament Scripture.  We possibly should have expected this emphasis on the Old Testament from our reading of the introduction - the first 16 verse.  for in them Jesus says that those who practice the norms of the kingdom and therefore bear witness to the kingdom will not only enjoy a great reward in heaven but will find themselves aligned with the prophets -- having the same rewards as the prophets.


Again, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is admonishing his followers to be different.  We are to live a different life – a life whose attributes are depicted in the Beatitudes.


Up to this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has spoken of two primary issues:


       1.      What should be the character traits of his followers.


       2.      How we should influence the rest of the world through bearing fruit of good works.


He now proceeds to define further this character and these good works in terms of righteousness.  He has already twice mentioned the important part of righteousness in our lives.  He first mentions that righteousness is that for which his disciples are to hunger and thirst (vs. 6) -- and also that it is on account of righteousness that they will suffer (vs. 10).  Now Jesus makes a huge statement of comparing his followers to those who, in those days, were thought to be the most righteous of all people -- the Pharisees.


And He makes this more personal, if that be possible, than anything He has said to this point.  He began His Sermon with beatitudes in the third person – “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”.  He continued in the second person – “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.”


Now he changes to the authoritative first person and uses for the first time what becomes an oft repeated phrase in his ministry.  He uses the dogmatic phrases: 


                   “I say to you (vs. 18)”

                   “I tell you (vs. 20)”.


So in studying the rest of chapter 5, we need to recognize two things:


           1.      First, we are entering the great body of the Sermon

2,      Second, Jesus is taking pains to relate his teaching to the Old Testament---- while at the same time making a distinction between his teachings and the Jewish traditions taught by their elders.