THE UNITY AND STRUCTURE OF THE
SERMON ON THE MOUNT
JAMES A. BROOKS
Jesus is often described in the Gospels as a preacher.1 What has be-
come his most famous sermon is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke
6:17-49. The former is usually referred to as the Sermon on the
Mount (note 5:1), the latter as the Sermon on the Plain (note 6:17 KJV).
The following study will be concerned primarily with the unity and
structure of the Matthean sermon, but a necessary preliminary is a
consideration of the interrelationship of the two sermons.
The Interrelationship of the Two Sermons
The relationship of parallel passages is best studied in a synopsis of
the Gospels where the passages are placed side-by-side to facilitate
comparison.2 Space limitations prevent doing that here, but a perspective
can be obtained from the following list based upon Matthew's order.3
1 Matt 4:17; 11:1; Mark 1:14, 38, 39; and Luke 3:18; 4:43, 44; 8:1; 9:6; 20:1. Compare
Matt 11:5 and Luke 4:18; 7:22; 16:16. Actually only the verb “to preach” is used. John's
Gospel never indicates that Jesus preached. It describes him as a teacher, as also the
Synoptics do more often than as a preacher. In the Gospels, however, there is not much
difference between preaching and teaching, unless it is that preaching is always public
and teaching sometimes private.
2 Probably the best for most readers of the Criswell Theological Review is
K. Aland (ed.), Synopsis of the Four Gospels: Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis
Quattuor Evangeliorum, 8th ed. (n.p.: United Bible Societies, 1987), which is available
through the American Bible Society. A different method of presentation may be found
in Horisontal Line Synopsis of the Gospels (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1984).
3 Similar, but less
detailed, lists may be found in D. A
Mount (Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1978) 140; R A Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount (
16 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
Matthew's Parallels in Other Parallels Parallels
Sermon Luke's Sermon in Luke in Mark
5:13 14:34-35a 9:50
5:15 8:16; 11:33 4:21
5:18 (cf. 24:35) 16:17; 21:33 13:31
5:29 (cf. 18:9) 9:47
5:30 (cf. 18:8) 9:43
5:44 6:27-28, 35
6:9-10a, 11-13a 11:2-4
Word, 1982) 34; J. Lambrecht, The Sermon on the Mount (
36-37; and R T. France, Matthew:
Evangelist and Teacher (
Zondervan, 1989) 161.
James A Brooks: UNITY AND STRUCTURE 17
Matthew's Parallels in Other Parallels Parallels
Sermon Luke's Sermon in Luke in Mark
7:2b 6:38c 4:24b
7 :12a 6:31
The most obvious difference in the two accounts is length. Mat-
thew's sermon is about three and a half times as long as Luke's--to be
exact 107 verses vs. 30 verses.4 A second observation is that 23th of
Matthew's verses are paralleled in Luke's sermon mostly in the same
order,5 33 are paralleled elsewhere in Luke, and 50 ˝ have no parallel
in Luke. There is no comparable sermon in Mark--only scattered, sec-
The following cannot be seen in the above list, but if Luke's ser-
mon is taken as the basis of comparison, 23 of his 30 verses are paral-
leled in Matthew's sermon, one is paralleled elsewhere in Matthew,
and six have no parallel in Matthew. Only one-half of a verse is paral-
leled in Mark.
A third observation is that the wording of the parallel passages is
sometimes very close and sometimes quite different, which of course
is true of synoptic relationships in general both in the double or Q
tradition (Matthew and Luke as here) and the triple tradition (Mat-
thew, Mark, and Luke). This cannot be seen above but must be ob-
served in a synopsis, preferably a Greek synopsis. First two examples
4 The introductions and conclusions are not included in the count or in the above list
5 The exceptions are Matt 5:44 // Luke 6:27-28, 35 and Matt 7:12a // Luke 6:31.
18 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
of close--but not exact--agreement and then two of loose agreement
"And why do you look at the "And why do you look at the
speck that is in your brother's speck that is in your brother's
eye, and do not notice the log eye, but do not notice the log
that is in your own eye? Or that is in your own eye? Or
how can you say to your how can you say to your
brother, 'Let me take the brother, 'Brother, let me take
speck out of your eye,' and out the speck that is in your
behold, the log is in your own eye,' when you yourself do
eye. You hypocrite, first take not see the log that is in your
the log out of your own eye, own eye? You hypocrite, first
and then you will see clearly take the log out of your own "
to take the speck out of your eye, and then you will see '
brother's eye." (Matt 7:3-5) clearly to take out the speck
that is in your brother's eye."
“Therefore everyone who "Everyone who comes to Me,
hears these words of Mine, and hears My words, and acts
and acts upon them, may be upon them, I will show you
compared to a wise man, who whom he is like: he is like a
built his house upon the rock. man building a house, who
And the rain descended, and dug deep and laid a founda-
the floods came, and the tion upon the rock; and when
winds blew, and burst against a flood rose, the torrent burst
that house; and yet it did not against that house and could
fall, for it had been founded not shake it, because it had
upon the rock. And everyone been well built. But the one
who hears these words of who has heard, and has not
Mine, and does not act upon acted accordingly, is like a
them, will be like a foolish man who built a house upon
man, who built his house the ground without any foun-
upon the sand. And the rain dation; and the torrent burst
descended, and the floods against it and immediately it
came, and the winds blew, collapsed, and the ruin of
and burst against that house; that house was great." (Luke
and it fell, and great was its 6:47-49)
fall." (Matt 7:24-27)
6 Because of the desirability of employing a very literal translation in order best
to represent the Greek text, all Biblical quotations in this study are from the New
American Standard Bible.
James A. Brooks: UNITY AND STRUCTURE 19
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, "Blessed are you who are
for theirs is the kingdom of poor, for yours is the king-
heaven. Blessed are those dom of God. Blessed are you
who mourn, for they shall be who hunger now, for you
comforted. . . . Blessed are shall be satisfied. Blessed are
those who hunger and thirst you who weep now, for you
for righteousness, for they shall laugh. Blessed are you
shall be satisfied Blessed when men hate you, and os-
are you when men cast insults tracize you, and cast insults
at you, and persecute you, and at you, and spurn your name
say all kinds of evil against as evil, for the sake of the
falsely, on account of Me. Son
Rejoice, and be glad, for so day, and leap for joy, for be-
they persecuted the prophets hold your reward is great in
who were before you." (Matt heaven; for in the same way
5: 3-4, 6, 11-12) their fathers used to treat the
prophets." (Luke 6:20b-23)
"Therefore you are to be per- "Be merciful, just as your Fa-
fect, as your heavenly Father ther is merciful." (Luke 6:36)
is perfect." (Matt 7:48)
What conclusions may be drawn from the above about the rela-
tionship of the two sermons? By the nature of the case there are three
possibilities: Matthew was dependent upon Luke; Luke was depen-
dent upon Matthew; and Matthew and Luke were dependent upon a
common source.7 Before one can make a decision about the relation-
ship of the two sermons, however, a decision must be made about syn-
optic relationships in general, i.e., about the synoptic problem, and a
brief survey of the major theories is necessary.
Augustine (d. 430) argued that the Gospels were written in the or-
der in which they are found in modern Bibles.8 More particularly,
Mark is a condensation of Matthew, and Luke used both Matthew and
Mark as his sources.9 This theory dominated until the first half of the
7 A fourth possibility would be an unmediated inspiration of the Holy Spirit so
that the Gospel writers did not need or use sources. One who holds a high view of in-
spiration would not deny the possibility of this, but it is contrary to the fact that God
usually uses human means where available (e.g., to preach the gospel) and to the ex-
plicit statement in Luke 1:1-3 that the author collected sources.
8 This is probably the strongest argument for the theory. The argument is weak-
ened, however, by the fact that the Gospels are found in nine different orders in the an-
tradition (B. M Metzger, The Canon of the
New Testament [
Clarendon, 1987] 296-97). For arguments against the theory, see below.
9 de Consensu Evangelistarum 1.2-3.
20 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
19th century when the full extent of the synoptic problem was first rec-
ognized and began to be studied scientifically. During the 19th century
a host of solutions were proposed, and late in the century one came to
dominate, at least in Protestant circles.10 It is usually referred to as the
two-document hypothesis. It holds that Mark was the first Gospel to be
written and that Matthew and Luke independently used Mark and a
collection of the sayings of Jesus (Q11) as their primary sources.
The priority of Mark is supported, first, by the length and con-
tents of that Gospel. It is only 60% as long as Matthew and 57% as
long as Luke. About 92% of Mark is paralleled in Matthew, 48% in
Luke, and 95% in Matthew and/or Luke. Mark contains relatively lit-
tle of the teaching and preaching of Jesus and no resurrection appear-
ances.12 Nor does it have such things as the birth narratives, the ,
Sermon on the Mount/Plain, and the parables of the Good Samaritan
and the Prodigal Son. It is very easy to see why Matthew and Luke, if
they were later than Mark, would add these items, but it is difficult to
see why Mark, if he were later than Matthew and/or Luke, would
omit them and at the same time expand their individual accounts
which he retained, as is indeed the case. In fact it is difficult to see
why Mark would ever have been written if its author knew Matthew
alone (the Augustinian hypothesis, above) or Matthew and Luke (the
Griesbach hypothesis, below). Second, the priority of Mark is indi-
cated by the inelegant language in which the Gospel is written. It is
easy to conceive of Matthew and Luke polishing Mark's rough Greek;
it is more difficult to believe that Mark debased the language of his
source(s). Third, Mark contains a number of statements which could
be misunderstood and cause offense--statements about Jesus' emo-
tions and ignorance and the disciples' dullness. Most of these state-
ments either do not appear at all or are without problems in Matthew
and Luke. Again it is understandable that Matthew and Luke would
tone down or omit such statements but not that Mark would create
them if working from earlier source(s). Fourth, Mark contains seven
Aramaic terms as opposed to only one or two in Matthew and none in
Luke. Especially in view of the probability that Mark wrote for Gen-
tile Christians and Matthew for Jewish Christians, this fact and many
other Aramaisms in his Gospel would seem to indicate that he was
10 Until they were freed in 1943, Roman Catholic scholars were required to em-
brace the Augustinian theory, although some modified it considerably.
11 Q is simply the first letter of the German word Quelle which means "source."
12 This statement assumes that Mark 16:9-20 was not a part of the original, as is
recognized by most conservative scholars and most conservative translations (ASV,
NASB, NIV, Berkeley/Modern Language Bible, and Living Bible).
James A Brooks: UNITY AND STRUCTURE 21
nearer to the early, Aramaic sources.13 Fifth, Matthew and Luke
never agree against Mark in the order of their accounts and only
rarely and then only in trivial matters in their wording. The best--al-
though certainly not the only--explanation of this phenomenon is that
Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke independently
used it as a source of information.
If for no other reason than it does not now exist, the evidence for
the use of Q by Matthew and Luke is not as strong as that for their
use of Mark. Nevertheless there are about 250 verses common to these
Gospels but not in Mark for which an explanation is needed. These
verses contain mostly discourse, i.e., the teaching of Jesus, rather than
a narrative of his deeds. The wording is often so close that depen-
dence upon oral tradition appears to be an unsatisfactory explanation.
Of course it is possible that Luke was dependent upon Matthew or
Matthew upon Luke for this material.14 If so, why did the one who
was dependent leave out so much that was so good in his source? And
if Luke were dependent upon Matthew, why has he broken up the or-
derly discourses in Matthew and scattered the material throughout
his Gospel? In the Q tradition Luke places the sayings of Jesus in
different contexts from those of Matthew. Is this likely if he were us-
ing Matthew? It is most significant that in the triple tradition where
Matthew has something not in Mark, Luke does not have the addi-
tional material. This consideration is strong evidence that he did not
use Matthew. The presence of "doublets" in Matthew and Luke also
seems to indicate that they used Mark and another source.15
Certainly there are difficulties with the Q hypothesis, but there
are even greater difficulties with the alternative that Luke was depen-
dent upon Matthew.16 As a result most students of the synoptic
13 Inasmuch as Aramaic was the language of the common people in first-century
guage. Therefore all of his words in the Greek NT are probably a translation. Just as
modern English versions vary considerably from one other, it is probable that the early
translations of Aramaic accounts varied greatly. This is one explanation of the different
versions of the sayings of Jesus.
14 The latter has been argued so rarely and unconvincingly that it need not be
15 A doublet consists of two accounts of the same event or saying. According to J. C.
Horae Synopticae (
1968) 80-107, there are 22 of these in Matthew, eleven in Luke, but only one on Mark.
Only four of these appear in Mark and twice each in Matthew and Luke and therefore
support the above claim.
16 It needs to be recognized clearly that there are difficulties with all the theories
of synoptic relationships and that therefore one must deal in terms of probabilities, not
certainties. Probably synoptic relationships are more complex than any of the theories.
22 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
problem have concluded that Matthew and Luke, in addition to using
Mark, independently used a common source called Q. Whether Q was
a single document or several documents is uncertain. It has been
objected that it is unlikely that such an amorphous collection of the
sayings of Jesus even existed, but in 1945 another collection of disor-
ganized and independent sayings, some of which are paralleled in the
Gospels, was discovered in
One theory that was set forth late in the 18th century when the
synoptic problem first began to be studied was that of J. J. Griesbach.17
Soon, however, it fell into disfavor. In recent years, however, it has
been revived by W. R Farmer18 and others. The Griesbach-Farmer-
two-Gospel hypothesis is that Matthew was the first Gospel to have
been written, that Luke was dependent upon Matthew, and that Mark
condensed and conflated both Matthew and Luke. It does have the ad-
vantage of support of part of the ancient tradition,19 something which
the two-document hypothesis cannot claim. It is best able to explain
the minor agreements in wording of Matthew and Luke against Mark,
although there are other ways to explain these. It can also explain the
order of accounts in the Synoptics, but not as well as can the two-doc-
ument hypothesis. Of course it has the advantage of not having to em-
ploy a hypothetical source (Q). But it is not able to explain
satisfactorily why Mark was ever written or why Matthew and Luke
appear to improve upon Mark at various points (above). Furthermore
very little redaction criticism20 has been done of the basis of
Matthean priority, whereas much has been done on the basis of Mar-
conflation are compatible. The latter usually results in a longer, not a
shorter account (e.g., Tatian's Diatessaron).21
recognize. Once they were written there may have been a period of comparison and in-
terchange before their texts began to be stabilized, probably about the middle of the
2nd century when they began to be recognized as Scripture.
17 For a list of Griesbach's works in which he developed the theory, see W. R
Farmer, The Synoptic Problem (New York: Macmillan, 1964) 7, n. 8.
18 Synoptic Problem.
19 Clement of
6.14.5. Clement claimed that the Gospels with genealogies (Matthew and Luke) were
written before those without (Mark and John). Of course the other part of the ancient
tradition is that of Augustine (above), and, although it does support the priority of Mat-
thew, it does not support the order Matthew, Luke, Mark.
20 Redaction criticism attempts to distinguish a writer's sources from his own
composition in order to determine his theological motivations.
21 It should be noted that many of the arguments against the Griesbach hypothesis
apply equally against the Augustinian.
James A. Brooks: UNITY AND STRUCTURE 23
Therefore the most likely view of synoptic relationships in gen-
eral is the traditional, two-document hypothesis that Mark was the
first Gospel and that Matthew and Luke used it and Q as their pri-
mary sources. A study of the relationships of the Sermon on the
Mount and the Sermon on the Plain confirms part of this theory. Inas-
much as there are no significant parallels with Mark, nothing can be
determined about the relationship of Matthew and/or Luke to Mark.
Something can be determined about the relationship of Matthew and
Luke. Because most of Luke's sermon is paralleled in Matthew--most
of it in the same order and in similar wording--it is reasonably cer-
tain that one or the other was dependent upon a written source and
that the two did not independently compose their entire sermons. If
Luke were dependent upon Matthew, it appears most unlikely that he
would have reduced Matthew's sermon to less than a third of its size
to produce his own sermon and then to have scattered about 40% of
the remainder throughout much of his Gospel. It is much more likely
that Matthew and Luke independently used a sermon in Q, that Luke
altered the Q sermon comparatively little, and that Matthew greatly
expanded it with material found elsewhere in Q and material from
The preceding is in keeping with what Matthew appears to have
done elsewhere in his Gospel. The most distinctive feature of Mat-
thew is five large discourse sections, of which the Sermon on the
Mount is the first. None of these appears to be one sermon delivered
on a single occasion but a collection of Jesus' sayings on a subject. The
mere length of the discourses is not a problem. Even the longest, the
Sermon on the Mount, can be read aloud in the average time of a
modem sermon, and ancient sermons were probably much longer.
The problem with the idea that the discourses were originally one
sermon or one teaching session is the variety of the material in all of
them. Such variety is tolerable in a written compilation but not in an
oral account. There is nothing improbable or immoral about such top-
ical, as opposed to chronological, arrangement. It in no way questions
the authenticity of any of the teaching attributed to Jesus.22
It is likely therefore that Q contained an account of a famous ser-
mon of Jesus about the blessedness of the godly person and about
22 Carson (Sermon on the Mount, 143-45) argues that Jesus preached the same ser-
mon on different occasions, lengthening or shortening it and adapting it in other ways
depending upon the hearers and situation. Matthew reports one version of a sermon;
sis of representing "a full-fledged teach-in” which "undoubtedly. . .went on for hours,
with Jesus preaching the equivalent of many of our sermons” (143). He repeats this ex-
planation in his commentary Matthew: The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (ed.
24 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
virtues to be pursued and vices to be avoided in order to enjoy such
blessedness. Luke reproduced this sermon with comparatively few al-
terations. The most likely Lukan addition is the woes of 6:24-26. It is
possible that he may have omitted a little of what is in Matthew and
that both Matthew and Luke may have omitted a little of the Q ser-
mon, but there is no way to determine this. Matthew, however, greatly
expanded the sermon by adding material found elsewhere in Q and
perhaps also in other sources.
The Unity of Matthew's Sermon
If most of the previous conclusions are correct, the matter of the
unity of Matthew's sennon may be treated briefly. Everything de-
pends upon what one means by "unity." If "unity" means a single ser-
mon preached on one occasion by Jesus, Matthew 5-7 is not a unity.
If, however, the word "unity" may be applied to a carefully arranged
and edited compilation of Jesus' teaching on a particular subject, the
Sermon on the Mount is a unity. There is no indication of interpola-
tions by later editors. The only problem is to determine a dominating
theme and a clear structure which constitute unity. The former will
be done in the remainder of this section, the latter in the final section.
Theme is tied up with purpose. What purpose did Matthew have
in bringing together various sayings of Jesus in his first discourse sec-
tion? There has been no shortage of theories. The most important are
conveniently summarized by Carson.23 Lutheran interpreters have
tended to understand the sermon as an exposition of the law to show
people their need of grace. Neither grace nor law, however, dominate
the sermon. Classical liberalism saw in the sermon an ethic for all peo-
ple of all ages. Nevertheless much of the discourse is irrelevant to those
who are not already disciples of Jesus. Many contemporary liberals see
in the sermon nothing more than the ethical standards of Matthew's
own church. This view denies that most of the teaching goes back to
Jesus and that Jesus intended his teaching to have continuing validity.
himself from time to time as every preacher and teacher does, and therefore the expla-
nation is possible. It is not probable, however, as it ignores the likelihood that both re-
ports of the sermon are highly condensed It is not likely that two versions of the same
sermon would have been remembered and kept distinct in the tradition. One may occa-
sionally explain the different accounts of Jesus' teaching by conjecturing that he said
similar but not identical things on different occasions, but if one does this very often the
explanations become absurd.
23 Sermon on the Mount, 151-57; and Matthew, 126-27.
James A. Brooks: UNITY AND STRUCTURE 25
The Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition applies every element of the ser-
mon to all Christians of all ages in such a way as to justify pacifism and
withdrawal from secular society and to depreciate public prayer. No
portion of Scripture should be made absolute in such a way as to elimi-
nate interpretation and individual application. Existentialism finds in
the sermon as well as the Bible generally merely a summons to "au-
thentic" existence. There is some truth in the view as far as it goes, but
it fails to reckon with the specific ethical requirements of the discourse.
Albert Schweitzer described the sermon as an interim ethic for the
brief period between its proclamation and the expected end of the
world. Of course the world did not end as Jesus supposedly expected,
and therefore the sermon has little continuing validity. Nineteen centu-
ries of history have proved, however, that the sermon does have lasting
validity. Some evangelicals describe the sermon as an intensification of
the law, but this makes too much of 5:17-20 and ignores other passages.
Classical dispensationalism conceives of the sermon as an ethic for 1he
millennial kingdom and therefore of minimal relevance for the church
age. Why, however, would a code of law be needed during the millen-
nium when at least most of the participants are perfected saints?
If none of the above adequately describes the purpose and/or
theme of the Sermon on the Mount, what is it? One should note that it
follows closely after the programmatic statements that Jesus went
about proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of heaven (4:17, 23). The
term "kingdom of heaven" appears six times and the word "kingdom"
alone three times at strategic places in the sermon. The sermon is
therefore a description of the virtues which should characterize those
who belong to the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is the reign of
God in the lives of people in Jesus' day, during the apostolic era, and
in every age since those times. The sermon deals with the personal
life of those who belong to the kingdom. Other aspects of their life
are dealt with in other discourses, e.g., mission in chapter 10. Those
who belong to the kingdom could be described simply as disciples-a
term which appears at the beginning of the sermon (5:1). Therefore
the sermon has a consistent theme, and this theme constitutes part of
its unity. Another part is supplied by its structure.
The Structure of Matthew's Sermon
There are almost as many outlines of the Sermon on the Mount
as there are commentaries on it. This essay, however, must be limited
to scholarly studies which seek to determine the structure intended
by the author himself. Still further it will be limited to what its writer
26 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
considers to be the most important study on the subject: Dale C. Alli-
son, Jr., "The Structure of the Sermon on the Mount.”24
Allison begins by surveying and criticizing previous studies of
structure: that of Farrer who views the remainder of the sermon as a
commentary on the Beatitudes; that of Davies who thinks that the ser-
mon is based upon the three pillars of Simeon the Just; those of
Grundmann, Schweizer, Bornkamm, Gundry, and perhaps Lambrecht
who find the organizing principle in the Lord's Prayer; and those of a
number of other scholars which cannot be summarized here simply
and briefly.25 Allison then proceeds to set forth his own proposal.26
The most important element in Allison's analysis of the structure
is the presence of numerous triads, something he finds in the other
Matthean discourses as well.27 Many of these can be seen in the fol-
lowing abbreviated description of Allison's structure.
There is clearly an introduction and conclusion which consist of
4:23-5:2 and 7:28-8:1 respectively and which correspond to each other.
Note the correspondences: "great crowds followed him" (4:25 and 8:1);
the crowds (5:1 and 7:28); the mountain (5:1 and 8:1); "going up" (5:1)
and "going down" (8:1); "teaching" (5:2 and 7:28); and, "opening his
mouth" (5:2) and "when Jesus finished these words" (7:28).
The sermon proper therefore just as clearly consists of 5:3-7:27. It
also has opening and concluding sections which correspond: the nine
(3 x 3) Beatitudes in 5:3-12 and the three warnings in 7:13-27.
The core of the sermon therefore consists of 5:13-7:12 and deals
with the task of the people of God in the world. It has a heading or in-
troductory summary (5:13-16) which provides a transition from the
blessedness of the future (5:12-13) to the demands of the present
(5:17-7:12). Then 5:17-7:12 clearly divides into Jesus and the Torah
(5:17-48), the Christian cult (6:1-18), and social issues (6:19-7:12). Matt
5:17, however, is more than an introduction to the section on the To-
rah; it is also an introduction to 5:17-7:12 and corresponds to the con-
cluding summary in 7:12.
The section on Jesus and the Torah (5:17-48) begins with a state-
ment of general principles (5:17-20) and then contains two triads of
antitheses: 5:21-32 on murder (5:21-26), adultery (5:27-30), and divorce
24 JBL 100 (1987) 423-45. A much briefer account of the structure may be found in
W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gos-
pel According to Saint Matthew, 3 projected vols.. The International Critical Commen-
tary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988-) 1:61-64.
25 Allison, "Structure," 424-29.
26 Ibid., 429-45.
27 Ibid.. 438-40.
James A Brooks: UNITY AND STRUCTURE 27
(5:31-32); and 5:33-48 on swearing (5:33-37), turning the other cheek
(5:38-42), and loving enemies (5:43-48).28
The section on the Christian cult (6:1-18) consists of a statement
of general principle (6:1) and three areas of specific instruction on
almsgiving (6:2-4), prayer (6:5-15), and fasting (6:16-18). The second
can be further subdivided using additional triads.
Unlike some other scholars, Allison does not find the section on
social issues (6:19-7:12) to be without discernible structure. It consists
of sections on God and mammon (6:19-34), and one's neighbor (7:1-12),
each of which contains first a triad consisting of exhortation and two
parables and then a concluding encouragement.
As indicated above, the golden rule in 7:12 does more than close
the section on one's neighbor (7:1-12) and/or the larger section on so-
cial issues (6:19-7:12); it also closes the entire central section (5:17-7:12).
It summarizes the law and the prophets and therefore corresponds to
the introductory statement in 5:17 about the continuing validity of the
law and the prophets.
How should one evaluate Allison's analysis of structure? It is cer-
tainly a careful and thorough study of the subject, perhaps the best
that has ever been made. It is certainly correct to recognize the prom-
inence of triads. There is no doubt that Matthew had a fondness for
grouping things by threes. This would naturally aid the memory in
learning the material. It is one thing, however, to recognize the prom-
inence of triads; it is another to claim that their use determines the
structure. Some of them are forced, e.g., exhortation, parable, and sec-
ond parable m both 6:19-24 and 7:1-12 (exhortation and parables are
not parallel). There are too many instances in Allison's analysis where
there are two divisions rather than three. It is doubtful therefore
whether the recognition of triads is the key which unlocks the struc-
ture of the sermon.
In view of the widespread disagreement about the structure and
the problems with all analyses, one cannot help but wonder if Mat-
thew himself employed a rigid structure. If he did, it still has not
been discovered even after 19 centuries of searching. On the other
hand, the sermon certainly is not a miscellaneous collection of the
sayings of Jesus without any structure at all. There is some topical
28 Allison's justifications for two triads of antitheses rather than merely six antith-
eses are the word "against in v 33, the presence in the first three but absence in the last
three of the word "that” following "but I say unto you,” the presence of “you have heard
that it was said to the men of old” at the beginning of the first and fourth, and the de-
scription of legal ordinances in the first three but the use of imperative verbs in the last
three ("Structure,” 432-33).
28 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
arrangement and some arrangement in groups of threes, resulting in
a coherent discourse which is easy to read and follow and a unity
which commends itself to most readers.
Because the author himself did not impose a fixed structure upon
the sermon, modern readers therefore may adopt any outline which is
helpful, as long as it is realized that it is not the only possible one.
The present writer submits the following for consideration. Of course
many of the items could be further subdivided.
Introduction: the setting of the sermon (5:1-2)
1. The blessedness of disciples (5:3-12)
2. The character of disciples (5:13-16)
3. The new law for disciples (5:17-48)
Introduction: Jesus' attitude toward the law (5:17-20)
(1) About murder (5:21-26)
(2) About adultery (5:27-30)
(3) About divorce (5:31-32)
(4) About oaths (5:33-37)
(5) About retaliation (5:38-42)
(6) About love of enemies (5:43-48)
4. The practice of piety by disciples (6:1-18)
Introduction: the evil of ostentation (6:1)
(1) By almsgiving (6:2-4)
(2) By prayer (6:5-15)
(3) By fasting (6:16-18)
5. The avoidance of materialism by disciples (6:19-34)
6. Warnings to disciples (7:1-27)
(1) Against judging (7:1-5)
(2) Against sacrilege (7:6)
(3) Against failure to pray (7:7-12)
(4) Against worldliness (7:13-14)
(5) Against false teachers (7:15-23)
(6) Against hearing but not acting upon the word (7:24-27)
Conclusion: the effect upon the hearers (7:28-29)
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