Problems in Literal Interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount Part I -- By: James F. Rand

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 112:445 (Jan 1955)
Article: Problems in Literal Interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount Part I
Author: James F. Rand

Problems in Literal Interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount
Part I

James F. Rand

The Sermon on the Mount presents God’s standards for Israel’s entrance into the long anticipated Messianic kingdom and the rules for conduct of life which will obtain during that age.

Most premillennial and dispensational Bible students agree on this analysis of the content of Matthew 57. However, the very unity of acceptance of this interpretation of the sermon by these Bible scholars makes surprising their almost universal neglect of the problems inherent in such an interpretation. Admittedly, the Sermon on the Mount is not the easiest portion of God’s Word to interpret even when one has what he considers to be the correct key to its interpretation. There are many problems which need to be faced. But most of those who have written exegetical studies of this extended passage seem to shrink from these problems and to turn instead to analyses of the sermon which stress the application of its spiritual principles to believers of this age.

Such attempts while productive of great spiritual blessing do not meet the problems of the literal interpretation of this portion of God’s Word to Israel and the Messianic kingdom. Indeed some decry such as exclusive interpretation, maintaining that it must be applied not only to Israel but also to the church. Even such a one as A. C. Gaebelein takes such a stand. He assails as a false interpretation “that one, which makes the sermon on the mount exclusively Jewish.”1 Such statements are caused by evident confusion in the mind of the writer of the basic hermeneutical difference between interpretation and application. To make application of the words of Scripture is to take the teaching which is developed from a normal, literal interpretation of the words and to derive from this literal interpretation a

practical or spiritual application which may be put to use in the life of the interpreter or in the lives of those to whom he will divulge the application he has discovered. To illustrate, consider the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites. The interpretation is that this is a fact of history. An application is that it speaks of our redemption by the power of God. It is axiomatic that there can be only one interpretation but many applications.

It is to be regretted that few have attempted a consistent, Biblically-sound exegesis of these important chapters based on the premillennial, dispensational interpretation of the Scriptures. Such an interpretation is needed to give further insight into th...

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