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SWBTS Journal examines most famous sermon of all time

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The latest issue of the Southwestern Journal of Theology examines the Sermon on the Mount, its use in preaching and its application in Christian ethics. The journal is a publication of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Issue editor Mark Taylor, who also serves as assistant professor of New Testament at Southwestern, writes that contributors to the journal all accepted the “daunting challenge of saying something fresh, stimulating and practical about this significant portion of Jesus’ teaching.” Noted authors Craig Blomberg, Daryl Charles, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty members Sheri Klouda and Jim Wicker and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary faculty member Kendell Easley contributed articles to the project.

The journal displays “a good variety and balance of approaches to the Sermon on the Mount” and would be useful for both clergy and laymen, Taylor said.

Blomberg, who is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Theological Seminary, contributes an article on the Beatitudes, calling some of the verses in Jesus’ discourse “the most abused” in history. For example, Blomberg writes that “turning the other cheek” has been misunderstood:

“A slap on the right cheek (5:39b) by characteristically right-handed people would not be the blow of an aggressor but the backhanded slap of a superior — a characteristically Jewish form of insulting someone deemed to be inferior. Jesus’ command in essence declares, ‘Don’t trade insults,’ not ‘submit yourself to physical abuse’!”

Charles, who serves as professor of Christian ethics at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., tackles Jesus’ use of the phrase, “Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets.” He writes:

“The declaration by Jesus … is intended to negate and replace a false supposition, a popular caricature. It guides interpretation of the material that follows in two fundamental ways: it formally establishes the direction of Jesus’ teaching and it validates Jesus’ authority in the eyes of both critics and disciples. In the assertions that follow, Jesus draws upon his distinctively Jewish and apocalyptic imagery to underscore the binding force of this ethical standard.”

That ethical standard for the new covenant is the old Law, without which there is no righteousness, Charles writes. Thus, in Matthew 5 Jesus discusses the Law’s “outworking, its expression, and hence, its continued validity.”

Applying the principles of the Sermon on the Mount is made easier by the inclusion of preaching outlines constructed by Wicker, associate professor of New Testament at Southwestern.

“A preacher’s dream text, the Sermon on the Mount, practically preaches itself,” Wicker writes. “This sublime sermon bursts with object lessons, humor, hyperbole, proverbs, paradox, symbolism, and high prose. It plumbs the depths of ethics, philosophy, and theology, yet with much practical application. A delight to read, it reflects ethos and pathos, covering a wide range of passions and emotions, but it is also both convicting and challenging. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount stirs the spirit and can shake the reader into obedience to God — or else the heart is truly hard.”

Klouda, assistant professor of Old Testament languages at Southwestern, applies her linguistic skills to a discussion of the use of the Old Testament in Matthew 5:17-48, specifically assessing the hermeneutical strategies of Michael Fishbane. Easley, who serves as professor of New Testament at Mid-America Seminary in Memphis, Tenn., examines the notions of religion and duty in the Sermon on the Mount, and how, if they are properly applied, they help the disciple grow in the Christian faith.

The issue of the Southwestern Journal of Theology is available for $12 through Editorial Assistant, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, TX 76122 or call (817) 923-1921, ext. 2820. A one-year subscription to the journal is $31.

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  • Gregory Tomlin