Episode: If Jesus said, “pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” shouldn’t all Christian men be cyclopsed? If he literally said, “Do not swear an oath,” can Christians no longer testify in court? The steep ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount forces more questions than it answers. Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington of Southern Seminary talks with Dru Johnson about how we should read the Sermon on the Mount and what it teaches.
In this episode of OnScript, Pennington shares insights from his new book on the Sermon, portraying a new-and-very-old vision of its teaching that engages the Jewish and Hellenistic worlds of virtue.
About the book: (From the publisher’s website) “The Sermon on the Mount, one of the most influential portions of the Bible, is the most studied and commented upon portion of the Christian Scriptures. Every Christian generation turns to it for insight and guidance.
In this volume, a recognized expert on the Gospels shows that the Sermon on the Mount offers a clear window into understanding God’s work in Christ. Jonathan Pennington provides a historical, theological, and literary commentary on the Sermon and explains how this text offers insight into God’s plan for human flourishing. As Pennington explores the literary dimensions and theological themes of this famous passage, he situates the Sermon in dialogue with the Jewish and Greek virtue traditions and the philosophical-theological question of human flourishing. He also relates the Sermon’s theological themes to contemporary issues such as ethics, philosophy, and economics.”
About the author: Jonathan T. Pennington is currently Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (USA). He attained a B.A. in History from Northern Illinois University, a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Chicago), and a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where he wrote a thesis entitled “Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew” under the supervision of Professors Richard Bauckham and Philip Esler. During his time at TEDS he also served for five years as the Associate Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Mt. Morris in northern Illinois. (adapted from jonathanpennington.com/about/)
He has written and contributed to several books on the New Testament, including Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (Baker Academic, 2009) and his widely used Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Baker Academic, 2012).
OnScript Quip: By considering the Torah’s instruction that aims at Israel’s flourishing, Pennington offers a refreshing vista of the Sermon, which is neither individualistic, nor merely Hebraic in nature. Pennington gets us to look again at well-worn passages and consider how the Sermon, particularly situated in Matthew, means to call Israel and Gentiles to something beyond “rules to follow.” There’s plenty to chew on here, technically and personally.
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