Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is the popular name for a sermon attributed to Jesus, as written in Matthew 5-7 . Many Christians consider it to be one of the greatest messages ever delivered, some even going so far as to considering it proof of the divinity of Jesus.
The sermon is portrayed in the book of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7, though it parallels the Sermon on the Plain presented in Luke 6:17-49 as well as some passages from Mark. Scholars are uncertain about the precise origin of the sermon but the parallels between the synoptic gospels as well as non-canonical texts like the Gospel of Thomas have lead many to conclude that the shared material may have come from the hypothetical Q document.
The sermon begins with the beatitudes (a series of claims that many conditions which are discomforting in this life will be rewarded in the life to come), gives insight into Jesus' views on Jewish law and the Ten Commandments, gives instructions on prayer (including what is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer) and general instructions on how to live. These instructions are viewed by many Christians as a manual for living life as a "true Christian" — by following the specific instructions of Jesus.
One key element of Christian theology is that the Bible is divinely inspired or, to some, the literal word of God. A common apologetic claim used to establish the Bible as divine in origin and, therefore, authoritative is that the themes present in the book transcend the wisdom and intelligence of the era in which they were written. Some apologists cite the Sermon on the Mount as an obvious example of the divine nature of Jesus, asserting that one need only read and evaluate the sermon to see that these are the words of an unusually wise being.
While some of the passages in this sermon have been considered sage advice by readers of varying beliefs, the sermon includes many passages which seem to contradict the claim that the author was wise beyond mortal men. Many people have pointed out that rather than being the ultimate instructions for how to live life, the sermon contains several passages that would typically qualify as bad advice and projects some philosophical positions that are typical of the era and not indicative of a wise, transcendent being. A detailed, verse-by-verse look at the message in this sermon follows below.
As a whole, the Sermon on the Mount is, to put it bluntly, a bad sermon. Beyond giving some bad advice, it doesn't have any underlying theme. It is a hodgepodge of bottled wisdom. No section leads into another section, and often the advice within the sections are contradictory (Matthew 5:16 vs. 6:1 , Matthew 6:7 vs. 6:8-13 , Matthew 7:20 vs. 7:21-23 ). Some sections switch justification for the advice midstream: Matthew 6:25-26 suggest you don't need to worry about food because God even looks after the lesser animals, then later in Matthew 6:31-33 the suggestion is that God knows what you need and if you believe you will have them "added unto you". On the whole, the "sermon" is roughly as coherent as just reading all the aphorisms of Poor Richard's Almanac.
According to the two-source hypothesis the Sermon on the Mount is taken from the Q document, and primarily consists of bits taken from an unrelated non-gospel source. If this is the best Christianity can do, it seems rather ironic that it is likely borrowed from a different source.
Any exercise in Biblical criticism is bound to raise objections from believers, as there are many possible interpretations and an individual's understanding may be steeped in nuance and subtlety. In this commentary, we try to present orthodox views, common understandings and direct literal observations that, in our opinion, best reflect the text.
Due to copyright concerns, this analysis quotes the King James Version of the Bible. This seventeenth century text is not always easily understood by the modern reader and there are disputes over the authenticity and accuracy of a number of its passages. These issues lead to other problems, which may be addressed elsewhere. For the purposes of this commentary, we will attempt to clearly and accurately represent the meaning of difficult passage in modern English by appealing to other translations.
- Matthew 5:1-12
- 1And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2And he opened his mouth, and taught them,saying,
- 3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- 4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
- 5Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
- 6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
- 7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
- 8Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
- 9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- 10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Salt and light
- Matthew 5:13-16
- 13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
- 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Jesus and the law
- Matthew 5:17-20
- 17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Murder and lawsuits
- Matthew 5:21-26
- 21Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
- 23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
- 25Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
- Matthew 5:27-30
- 27Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
- 29And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
- Matthew 5:31-32
- 31It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
- Matthew 5:33-37
- 33Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Eye for an eye
- Matthew 5:38-42
- 38Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
- 40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
- 42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Love your enemies
- Matthew 5:43-48
- 43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Do good to please God
- Matthew 6:1-4
- 1Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
- 2Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
- Matthew 6:5-15
- 5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.8Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
- 9After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
- 10Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
- 11Give us this day our daily bread.
- 12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
- 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
- 14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
- Matthew 6:16-18
- 16Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Treasures in heaven
- Matthew 6:19-23
- 19Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
Serving two masters
- Matthew 6:24
- 24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Do not worry
- Matthew 6:25-34
- 25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
- 26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
- 27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
- 28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
- 29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Do not judge others
- Matthew 7:1-6
- 1Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
- 6Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Seek, find and the Golden Rule
- Matthew 7:7-12
- 7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
- 9Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? 12Therefore 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.
Narrow and wide gates
- Matthew 7:13-14
- 13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
- Matthew 7:15-23
- 15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
- 21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Don't build on sand
- Matthew 7:24-29
- 24Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. 28And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.