Below is the video we showed this morning at Hampton UMC. It went along with the first part of my sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s scripture on the Beatitudes was technically from Luke’s less well-known “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke 6.
Bible scholars throughout history have wondered whether the sermon in Luke represents an abbreviated account of the same sermon in Matthew 5-7—in which case the “level place” that Luke describes could be a level place on the mountain itself—or merely a similar sermon that Jesus preached on another occasion. On the one hand, I think it hardly matters; on the other hand, why is so hard to imagine that Jesus preached the same basic sermon more than once and tailored it to a different audience? It would be hard to believe that he didn’t do that—and frequently!
Not that it matters, as I said. And as for the video, he would have preached either sermon in the same general area.
Last week, I was reading N.T. Wright’s commentary on the Sermon in his recent book After You Believe. Unless you’ve been to a mainline Protestant seminary, you might fail to appreciate his complaint about many contemporary New Testament scholars who write as if the main subject of the four gospels isn’t Jesus so much as the individual gospel writers: how they tailor, modify, or even invent out of whole cloth the events of Jesus’ ministry and words to fit the demands of their individual communities or audiences. (Trust me, scholars do this all the time.) And they think they’ve said quite a lot when they speculate about what was going on, not in the life and ministry of Jesus and his disciples, but the communities to which the four Evangelists wrote. It’s all very postmodern.
Wright accuses these scholars of sophistry. I had to look the word up, but it’s a damning accusation. Their obsessive scholarly interest in the context in which the gospels were written obscures the fact that while none of the four writers had access to transcripts or video of the events they describe, we have no reason to doubt that the four gospels paint a reasonably accurate picture of Jesus’ life and ministry—in general, this is what he said and did, and when. That being the case, much contemporary scholarship is an exercise in missing the point.
Whatever… That’s my soapbox, probably not yours. Here’s the video. Please enjoy!