Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 98:391 (Jul 41) p. 372
The Sermon on the Mount. By Prof. Martin Dibelius. Scribner’s, New York. 148 pp. $1.50.
Prof. Martin Dibelius, of the University of Heidelberg, delivered the John C. Shaffer Lectures at the Divinity School of Yale University in 1937. The substance of these lectures appears in this volume. The author is internationally known as a writer on New Testament interpretation. The scope of the book is suggested by the contents: Christianity and the Sermon on the Mount; The Character of the Sermon on the Mount; The Old Tradition About the Preaching of Jesus; The Sayings of Jesus; The Jewish Law and the Law of the Kingdom; The Sermon on the Mount and Christ’s Mission; The Sermon on the Mount and the World of Today.
The author’s treatment of the Sermon on the Mount is unique. Though he rates it as the purest of Christian doctrine, he accepts it as the will of God for Christians in abstract form and believes that its application must be with variations according to the progressive development of the world. It seems to be the author’s estimation that human society should be made subject to Christian rules. He places the Sermon on the Mount as foremost above all other instructions given on Christian conduct. Prof. Dibelius’ own statement will disclose his position: ”(1) The Sermon on the Mount is composed of single sayings which Jesus spoke at various occasions to different people. (2) These sayings were connected with each other to form a continuous discourse partly by Matthew, partly by the author of his source. In the source as well as in Matthew they provided a standard for Christian conduct within the Christian communities. Their use in this capacity represents a great change of function. Originally, when they were still isolated sayings, they served as a kind of prophetic sign, they proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, demanding a radically new attitude on the part of man. Combined to form a more or less complete system, the sayings in Matthew no longer proclaim a heavenly Kingdom; they describe a Christian life on earth. (3) The consequence was the alteration of certain sayings. The words of Jesus proclaiming the law of the coming Kingdom were
BSac 98:391 (Jul 41) p. 373
not fully applicable to the earthly conditions of the communities and therefore needed to be adapted to become usable. (4) The Sermon on the Mount is not the only program of Christian conduct in the New Testament. The New Testament contains many other sayings of the same kind, especially the instructions for the disciples, the well-known similes and parables and the admonitions found in the Epistles. But the Sermon on the Mount overshadows all of these and thus has special symbolic value as the great proclamation of the new righteousness.”
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