Revisiting the Sermon on the Mount : some major Issues

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Without disregarding the value of a diachronic approach, priority is given to a synchronic understanding of the Sermon on the Mount in its present form. Emphasis on diachronics, or even a shuttling between the diachronic and the synchronic, tends to cloud the holistic message that the Sermon was intended to convey to its real-world Syriac audience. The situation of that audience and its bearing on the content of the Sermon on the Mount are discussed. Compositional and thematic aspects of the Sermon are highlighted, such as its position within the macro-structure of Matthew, the author’s predilection for triads, the inner structure and theme of the Sermon. It is proposed that the basic theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the very special identity of Jesus’s end-time community and that its main purpose is the shaping and affirming of that identity. Contrary to the normal view that there are presently nine beatitudes, stylistic as well as contentual considerations indicate that the so-called ninth beatitude is in reality an actualising and personalising amplification of the eighth. Aspects of the antitheses such as their significance, the Jesus of the antitheses, and, finally, the Lord’s Prayer also receive attention.