Digest of terms

Sermon on the Mount

chapters 5-7 of Matthew's gospel, in which Jesus' teaching takes the form of a series of commendations and stories. The commendations or blessings are given to individuals for qualities, which might go unremarked in a national honours list. The examples and stories are invitations to enter into a new way of living and being, such as corresponds with the Kingdom of God or God's new political order. The mountain setting is often seen as pointing up a parallel with Mount Sinai where the commandments were given to Moses; now a greater than Moses is presented as calling for an internal response to the outward demands of legal specification.

The Sermon contains controversial teachings such as the injunctions to turn the other cheek and to love one's enemies, taken by some as a prescription for pacifism. Christian supporters of just war thinking dispute this. The Sermon forbids divorce except for adultery - and only divorce by men is envisaged. Liberal Christians have veered away from this. In short, the Sermon is one thing, its numerous mutually contradictory interpretations another.

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