The Sermon on the Mount is not a sermon

The Sermon on the Mount is not a sermon.

One of the most well-known passages in the New Testament, The Sermon on the Mount, is not a sermon.  Jesus speaks to four disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, while a crowd of people seem to be listening in (Matthew 5:1).  The painting accompanying this post is a little misleading in this regard. In any case, both the content of the sermon and especially the ending reveal that it is intended for all who hear (Matthew 7:28-29).  Jesus often pretends that his teachings are restricted to disciples, which makes little sense, especially since they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer (Mark 4:10-12).

It would be a good idea to read Matthew’s version, chapters 5-7.  Luke has a condensed version, sometimes called the Sermon on the Plain (6:17-49).  I’m going to stick to Matthew.  Remember that the Sermon contains both the beatitudes (blessings) as well as the Lord’s Prayer.  Some people think it is the clearest and most concise statement of Christianity, so much so that it could stand alone.

It’s important to remember that Jesus is not a Christian talking to other Christians.  He is a Jew talking to other Jews.  Christianity wouldn’t be around for another thirty years.  One thing this means is that the Sermon on the Mount is not Jesus talking.  It’s Matthew, writing about 50 years after the death of Jesus.  And Matthew has an agenda: to show that Jesus comes to fulfill Torah, not to sweep it away.  Or at least this is the diplomatic message of Matthew.  What he actually says is different.

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Where does belief in God come from?

Where does belief in God come from?

Psychological interpretations of God generally fail, turning God into some sort of psychic crutch.  Sigmund Freud argued that God is a based on the childish idea of a powerful and protective father (The Future of an Illusion).  D. W. Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst working a generation after Freud, approached the question of God from a different direction, asking where he was located.  If God were just an external being, he would lack emotional meaning and resonance.  This is the God of a petrified religion, composed of a list of do’s and  don’ts, a religion in which ritual has become sleepwalking.    

But if God were just an internal reality, he would be no more than our fantasy.  The God who feels real, the God who excites us (and God should be exciting) is the God whom we discover because we help to make him real. 

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