Guelich On The Sermon On The Mount: A Critical Review -- By: David Wenham

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 04:2 (Fall 1983)
Article: Guelich On The Sermon On The Mount: A Critical Review
Author: David Wenham


Guelich On The Sermon On The Mount:
A Critical Review

David Wenham

Wycliffe College, Oxford

The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding, by Robert A Guelich. Waco: Word, 1982. Cloth, 451 pp.

This is quite simply the most important full-scale study of the Sermon on the Mount to be written in any language, certainly in the past forty years, and most probably in the last hundred years. It is unsurpassed in the comprehensiveness of its treatment and in its breadth of sympathy, using as it does all the tools of current New Testament research and taking full account of both the concerns of the man in the pew and the detailed discussions of modern scholarship. It sums up the debates of more recent studies with a sure touch, and its own findings are very balanced and most persuasive. Such is the enthusiastic verdict (as quoted by the publishers) of Professor James Dunn on this new book written by the Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago. The Book consists of an introduction that examines the history of the interpretation of the Sermon and that explains the author’s intentions and his view of the Sermon as a whole within Matthew’s gospel. Then the bulk of the book is a systematic commentary on the Sermon, each section of the Sermon being considered under four headings: (a) Translation: the author offers his own translation of the section. (b) Literary Analysis: this consists of a discussion of the form and sources of the section. (c) Notes: this is a detailed verse by verse study of the text. (d) Comments: here the author brings together the findings of the Notes and discusses some general questions arising from these, including occasionally questions to do with modern application.

Inevitably this sort of arrangement under different headings means some repetition. But there are advantages in the arrangement: it is possible for the reader wanting to see Guelich’s main arguments quickly to go to the Comment section and to bypass the more technical Notes; and for the reader who has ploughed through the Notes, it is helpful to find a summary of the main results in the Comment section. Easily the largest amount of space is given over to the Notes, which include a number of excursuses on particular points, e.g. on the matthean use of terms such as “righteousness,” “perfect,” etc.

The book advisedly has the subtitle, A Foundation for Understanding, because, as the author explains in his preface, it is essentially a critical

and historical commentary, not an explanation of the Sermon’s present-day application. Perhaps even the word “historical” could be mislead...

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