Those who heard it first: The political implications of the sermon on the mount to Jesus’ Jewish audience
Roger Ewald, L. J. (2013). Those who heard it first: The political implications of the sermon on the mount to Jesus’ Jewish audience (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8465
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8465
This dissertation examines the Sermon on the Mount (in the Gospel of Matthew) from the perspective of politics and peace. It investigates not what Jesus meant, but what his audience heard and were likely to have understood. It does this in order to ascertain the novelty or otherwise of Jesus’ teachings on peace with regard to Jewish thought and political understandings of his time. His audience was primarily Jewish, and the political implications they drew from Jesus’ teachings would have been influenced by established Jewish thought on ethics and governance. This dissertation researches specifically this: how would Jesus’ Jewish listeners have interpreted the peace sayings of the Sermon on the Mount? This dissertation finds that the Jewish intellectual framework within which Jesus’ first audience heard the Sermon on the Mount contained many specific sayings found in Pirkei Avot, and also a history of practice of non-violent action found in Jewish tradition, and that the oral law and the Sermon on the Mount both reflect Jewish ethical ideologies of non-violent resistance. This dissertation argues that, in the Sermon on the Mount, a very Jewish Jesus – a man true to the religio-political views of his day – reaffirms a Jewish ethical form of non-violent resistance. The most important evidence available is the Gospel of Matthew itself, Jewish ethical writings such as Pirkei Avot, other Mishna writings, and writings on the lex talionis. The evidence points to an audience that would have perceived Jesus as teaching non-violence in a context of resistance rather than completely passive submission. The overall finding of this dissertation will be that the writer of Matthew depicts a Jesus who, in style, form, and content, builds on a Jewish ethical foundation to promote non-violent assertion of equality and human dignity in the widely known and oft-cited Sermon on the Mount.
University of Waikato
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- Masters Degree Theses