The Sermon on the Mount: “A More Excellent Way”
Class Member Reading: Matthew 5
Scripture Chain: Matthew 5:48 ; Ether 12:27 ; Moroni 10:32–33; D&C 76:68–70
Other Reading: Luke 6; 3 Nephi 12-15
The Sermon on the Mount has been seen as Jesus’ guide to living–but then why does his advice seem so extreme, even harmful to implement? What does he mean by “be perfect”, and how do we get there? This episode shares insights from the literary, historical, and linguistic contexts to illuminate Jesus’ vital and challenging words.
Jenny and Benjamin join the class.
You can access the Annotated Reading here (or PDF).
You can access the Lesson Notes here (or PDF).
Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount
Claremont Mormon Studies Conference: “Community, Authority, Identity”
Thanks to Jim Henderson for audio post production and to Marshall McDonald for the bumper music!
Keep up the good work. I enjoy the podcast.
One thing that I read lately that has really affected my view of the sermon on the mount is the translation of the word blessed. I read this passage from Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes.
Do you have any thoughts on the matter? I really think that having this understanding of what the term blessed means changes the interpretation in a positive way.
“The Greeks had a word for the feeling one has when one is happy: makarios. It is a feeling of contentment, when one knows one’s place in the world and is satisfied with that place. If your life has been fortunate, you should feel makarios. We use idioms in English to try to approximate this experience. We’ll say, “My life has really come together,” or “I’m in a happy place,” or “Life has been good to me.” We are not really discussing the details of our life; we are trying to describe a feeling we have. Happy sounds trite, so we avoid it. Actually, we are makarios.
In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that if you are a peacemaker, then you are makarios. Since English doesn’t have a word for this feeling, translators have struggled to find one. What do you call it when you feel happy, content, balanced, harmonious and fortunate? Well, translators have concluded, you are blessed. Thus our English translations say, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). Unfortunately, this introduces another problem. The English language prefers clear subjects for its verbs. So the missing puzzle piece in the Beatitudes is, How is one blessed? What goes without saying in our culture is that God blesses people. Consequently, we often interpret this verse to mean, “If you are a peacemaker, then God will bless you.” But this isn’t what Jesus meant. Jesus meant, “If you are peacemaker, then you are in a happy place.” It just doesn’t work well in English. Alas, here is the bigger problem: maybe the reason we North Americans struggle to find makarios in our personal lives is because we don’t have a word in our native language to denote it.”
Jared Anderson says:
Love these comments, Matt! “Content” is a pretty good word. Another reason modern translations have “blessed” is because the Latin Vulgate rendered the Hebrew/Greek “Happy” as “Beatus”