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Cover image: “The Sermon On the Mount” by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
Matthew 5 and Luke 6 contain different accounts of likely two separate but related discourses by Jesus. The following details may help inform our own comparative study of the two accounts.
Location: Matthew 5:1 – “up into a mountain” (GR: oros – hill, mountain) versus Luke 6:17 – “in the plain” (GR: pedinos – level place).
The Beatitudes: Matthew’s language is passive, while Luke is active and personal, and contains time referents like “now” and “in that day” (Lk. 6:21, 23). Perhaps Matthew’s list suggests a linear flow in the arc of conversion (“poor in spirit,” “mourn,” and “meek” potentially pointing to the redemptive repentance required to see and act to enter the kingdom, where “hungering and thirsting,” “merciful,” and “pure in heart” may describe a post-baptismal early discipleship period of growth and blessing, while the last three suggest the maturing Saint’s experience of becoming a “peacemaker,” being “persecuted,” and transforming into “salt” and “light” for others.
Topographical: On the mount location overlooking the sea Jesus refers to sand (Mt. 7:26 GR: am’mos), while in the plain He speaks of earth (Lk. 6:49 GR: ge),and digging down through it to the bedrock.
Chronology: Luke’s sermon appears to be later in Jesus’ ministry than Matthew’s; e.g. Luke 6:46 is presented as an accusation for those who already pursued such a path, whereas Matthew presents it as a future potential. Also, see Luke 6:39, ‘He spoke a parable to them. “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit?”’ (translation: World English Bible), and Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (translation: World English Bible), these parallel later teachings in Matthew (with no equivalents in the Sermon on the Mount) cf. Matt 15:14 and Matt 10:24-25 respectively.
Content: Luke’s woe’s (6:24-26) are unique, as is the beautiful and bountiful promise of Luke 6:38a, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you” (translation: World English Bible).
One scholar has offered this analysis below detailing and tracking how Luke’s account of the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ contains only those few unique or parallel materials noted above in comparison to Matthew’s account of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ which is much longer (spanning Mt. 5-7).
- Luke 6:20-21 takes Matt 5:6 and inserts it in the middle of Matt 5:3-4
- Luke 6:22-23 is in the same order as Matt 5:11-12
- Luke 6:27-28, 29-30 reverses the order of Matt 5:39-42, 44
- Luke 6:31 completely relocates Matt 7:12
- Luke 6:32-35 reverses the order of Matt 5:45, 46-48
- Luke 6:37-8, 41-42 is in the same order as Matt 7:1-2, 3-5
- Luke 6:43-45 takes Matt 7:16 and inserts it in the middle of Matt 7:17-18
- Luke 6:46, 47-49 parallels Matt 7:21, 24-27
This suggests a Matthew to Luke derivation, or perhaps that the Sermon on the Mount was “like [a] template” (see Robert I. Kirby; http://www.sermononthemount.org.uk/Bible/Luke6v20_49.html) If this is accurate, it would have some interesting implications on 3 Nephi’s account of the Savior’s ‘Sermon at the Bountiful Temple’ and what we might expect to find in the various accounts of His visits to other bodies of the scattered Israel (see 3 Nephi 15:11-24, 3 Ne. 16:1-4; also 2 Ne. 29:7-14)
All this rich textual analysis aside, Come Follow Me began our historic church-supported, home-centered gospel study with a lesson on “We Are Responsible for Our Own Learning.” In the spirit of that invitation from the Lord through President Russell M. Nelson and those called to serve with him, I would like to share one study aid that has been truly helpful in my own scriptural studies. It should become (if it is not already) a go-to aid for individual and family doctrinal discovery.
The LDS Scripture Citation Index is a free app (android or apple) and a free web interface (https://scriptures.byu.edu/) that allows the reader to see when a given passage of scripture (a verse, or even a block of verses) has been referenced and/or quoted in the general conferences and major addresses of Church leaders dating back to Joseph Smith.
How many times have we been reading in scripture and wondered what it means? Perhaps someone has suggested (or “wrested”?) a meaning for a scripture passage in holy writ that leaves us wondering if that is a correct (or even an appropriate) reading/meaning? The Scripture Citation Index will not answer those questions definitively, but it will help the sincere reader know what General Officers of the Lord’s Church have said to the general membership about a given scriptural passage. As such, it also reveals when a verse or verses have yet been left uninterpreted or unapplied by the Lord’s servants – which is also important information for the disciple of Christ.
One of the variances between the sermons recorded in Matthew and the Luke is the different phrasing of Jesus’ injunction to “Be ye therefore _______, as your Father also is ________” (Luke 6:36). The far more recognized Matthew account features the word/concept “perfect” (Matt. 5:48) whereas Luke’s account contains “merciful.” Using the LDS Scripture Citation Index – by tapping into Luke 6 using the far-left pane (the far-left pane brings up the scripture text), we find several that verse 36 has been cited five times in the general addresses to the Church.
Seeing a modern Apostle in the list invited my first look and I found this helpful commentary given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. His insight is not only doctrinally interesting, but personally comforting and inspiring. And, without the LDS SCI’s aid Elder Holland’s teaching would likely have been otherwise very difficult to find.
Tapping into another of the citations of Luke 6:36 we find another significant teaching from Elder Marion D. Hanks, who’s title for his address points to the beautiful and compelling invitation of the Savior to “be ye merciful.”
As striving disciples, we are always best served to ask some form of “what wouldst Thou have me to do?” Perhaps this tool will become (or is already) a portal to the Prophet’s own use of and teaching about these precious scriptures as we study in our homes and share and learn from them together at Church.
For me, understanding the Lord’s most famous sermon continues to be a life-long pursuit as it offers up such whole-souled requirements in Jesus’ words to that I “be merciful” and I “be perfect!” In this greatest of quests, I am comforted by Nephi’s reminder that “the Lord giveth no commandments … save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7).