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Yeshua in Context » Sermon on the Mount, Teaching of Yeshua » Origin of the Sermon on the Mount

Origin of the Sermon on the Mount

Some people will be bothered by what I say below, an excerpt from chapter 10 of Yeshua in Context. It may seem to some that this theory is monkeying with a straight, truth-telling style of narrative reporting. Many have assumed that the words of Yeshua, as reported by the gospels, are word for word. Perhaps God brought them perfectly to the memory of the evangelists. Perhaps the evangelists memorized everything word for word. Perhaps they took notes. But the problem with these assumptions is that people did not have this kind of “news reporting” expectation. The evangelists don’t assume readers will take their reporting as verbatim, without omissions, without summarizing and shaping. I suspect that the reporting of Yeshua’s words is very close to verbatim in many cases, especially the pithy sayings. But in the case of the Sermon on the Mount, it is not only the issue of word-for-word, but also, did Yeshua give a sermon with these words, only these words, and exactly these words, on only one or two occasions? Consider the evidence. And more importantly, notice how this theory makes the Sermon more important, not less:

Another scholar famous for his work on the Sermon on the Mount is Hans Dieter Betz. He suggests, as do others, that the Sermon on the Mount is not to be thought of as the exact address or outline Yeshua used on one occasion when speaking. A number of factors give evidence that the Sermon on the Mount is an ancient summary of the many things Yeshua taught, compiled by someone after Yeshua’s time (Essays on the Sermon on the Mount). For one thing, there is the fact that the Sermon on the Mount is very similar to Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. Yet comparison of the two stories shows that they are not the same event. And differences between the two show that Yeshua spoke about certain topics repeatedly.

In other words, you can make a pretty good case that the Sermon on the Mount is a sort of summation of the life message of Yeshua prepared after him by his disciples.

And the Beatitudes occupy a very important place in the Sermon on the Mount. They introduce the essential message of Yeshua. They are the epitome of what he stood for.
–from pp. 71-72, Yeshua in Context

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2 Responses to "Origin of the Sermon on the Mount"

  1. Monica Jones says:

    Thank you – this article has been really helpful to me in clarifying my understanding about the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount in general.

    While I was sitting in Quaker meeting this morning, I found myself trying to remember exactly what the Beatitudes are. (And found I could recall most of them, though not always the exact wording.) Then I found myself moved by what I was reciting in my head – and was sure that this must be the very essence of Jesus’ teaching – as Christians down the ages have generally believed. It ‘felt’ that this must be so.

    What threw me was an assertion I recall – from some TV documentary or other on the Gospels, that seemed to suggest, without much explanation, that the Sermon on the Mount never really took place, and that Jesus never spoke the actual words of the Sermon.

    Your suggestion that he might have spoken them (possibly in slightly different versions)on more than one occasion, and that the version we now have is a distillation of that vision and message, makes perfect sense.

    So again – thank you !

    Monica Jones, Gloucestershire UK

    1. yeshuain says:


      Thank you. Your comment perfectly illustrates why some commentary and research on the gospels is important. People are sometimes presented the false choice between a simplistic view of a gospel text or complete disbelief, as if nothing lies between. And once the lightbulb turns on in our heads that the gospels are literary works requiring some deeper thought, we start seeing helpful examples over artistry all through them.

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