The Sermon on the Mount is the best-known and most frequently studied repository of Jesus’ teachings. Amid the considerable erudition expended on the Sermon, however, Jack R. Lundbom argues that scholars have deflected or disregarded the main thrust of the sermon, which he characterizes as a mandate to holy living and a “greater righteousness.” Through careful attention to the structure of Matthew’s Gospel and the place of the Sermon on the Mount within it and judicious comparisons with Jewish and rabbinic literature, Lundbom elucidates Jesus’ message and its continuity with Israel’s prophetic heritage and Jewish teaching. Appealing to Christian commentators, Lundbom brings its most important themes to life for the contemporary reader, seeking always to understand what the “greater righteousness” to which Jesus summons us might mean for today.
“In the verse here, the Greek word τέλειός means ‘perfect’ in the sense of ‘whole, complete, fully constituted’ (cf. LXX Deut. 18:13); it means essentially the same as Hebrew תמים, meaning ‘perfect, whole, complete, unblemished, blameless’ (Deut. 32:4 in relation to God; Exod. 12:5 in relation to sacrificial lambs). Noah (Gen. 6:9), Abraham (Gen. 17:1), and Job (Job 1:1) were all ‘blameless,’ and Israel too was called to be ‘blameless’ before God (Deut. 18:13; Josh. 24:14). None of these texts comes close to implying moral perfection, which would not have entered the mind of any ancient Israelite teacher, or any Jewish teacher of a later time.” (Page 58)
“Jesus is talking about hypocrisy, which is spelled out in vv. 2–5 and is given larger treatment in chapter 23. He is talking about people who pounce upon others yet have in themselves the same or a similar problem that is infinitely greater.” (Page 68)
“The ‘poor in spirit’ are lowly people in society, poor, yes, but at the same time dispirited, disheartened, and without much hope. Such are typically exploited by the rich. In the thinking of ancient people, economic poverty cannot be separated from the psychological or spiritual condition that goes along with it. Exploitation making one poor contributes to the weakened spirit of that person.” (Page 96)
“Especially noteworthy in this structure is the balancing of ‘blessings’ and ‘woes.’14 This has to be intentional, and it is what makes Matthew’s Gospel into a ‘new covenant document, about which more will be said in the following chapter.” (Page 11)