Scot McKnight, The Story of God Bible Commentary: Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013). (Amazon.com)

McKnight, SERMON ON THE MOUNT
McKnight, SERMON ON THE MOUNT

This volume is part of The Story God Bible Commentary from Zondervan. While most commentaries are on a single book of the Bible, or a large portion of a book, this one is only on the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. According to McKnight, “The Sermon on the Mount is the moral portrait of Jesus’ own people. Because this portrait doesn’t square with the church, this Sermon turns from instruction to indictment (p. 1).” He echoes the complaint leveled by Pinchas Lapide that the history of interpretation for the Sermon has been an effort to domesticate it. This had lad to several erroneous reinterpretations according to McKnight:

(1) The Sermon has been presented as a “ramped up” Law of Moses with the sole purpose of showing Jesus’ followers “how wretchedly sinful they are”.

(2) The Sermon has been privatized making it about how one should do personal religion.

(3) The Sermon has been presented as the ideal for the super-spiritual, but not average Christians.

(4) The Sermon has been seen as proceeded by a “gospel” of “personal salvation and grace”  so that the Sermon can only be understood in light of “a theology of grace” (this point is similar to the first; these points are on pp. 1-2).

McKnight challenges readers to avoid these interpretations urging readers to embrace the central theme of his commentary: “letting the demand of Jesus, expressed over and over in the Sermon as imperatives and commands, stand in its rhetorical ruggedness (p. 3).”

According to McKnight the Sermon is “the greatest moral document of all time.” He sets in within the framework of “moral theory” comparing it to virtue ethics, the categorical imperative, and utilitarian ethics (pp. 3-6). For McKnight the Sermon doesn’t fit neatly into these theories, but instead Jesus’ ethics are “messianic, ecclesial, pneumatic” (pp. 7-14).

After giving some preliminary remarks, mostly about authorship, and providing a list of resources for those teaching the Sermon, McKnight dives into his commentary. The commentary is twenty-three chapters long at 258 pp. (pp. 19-277). There is a Scripture, Subject, and Author Index in the back. As is characteristic of this series of commentaries the text is read (“Listen to the Story”), interpreted (“Explain the Story”), then applied (“Live the Story”). Anyone can read this. No knowledge of the Greek NT is necessary. It is an ideal volume for pastors, Sunday School teachers, or anyone wanting to work their way through the Sermon over a period of several weeks.

This book was received from Zondervan in exchange for a bias-free review.

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