The Active Obedience of Christ in Matthew 5:17 and 10:34

Part Two: The two themes of Chapters 5-10

The previous section sought to show that between Matthew 5:17 and 10:34, the use of vocabulary and their local contexts created an inclusio structure with 7:12-29 helping to bridge the gap. In all three pericopes, the pattern of the verses emulated a movement from a statement concerning the Law and the Prophets to a discussion on a differentiation between those who belong to the kingdom and those who are excluded. Matthew 7:12-29 is unique in that it does not use the formulaic introduction of Μὴ νομίσητε. Its position in the middle of the five chapters divides the Sermon on the Mount from the following discussion on the miracles that Jesus preformed in chapters 8-10. The purpose of part 2 is to show that the predominate themes of the Sermon on the Mount and chapters 8-10 enveloped as they are in the literary structure between  5:17-20, 7:12-29, 10:34-42 replicate on large scale the movement from law to division. The first half is a covenantal law document and the second half is concerned with the very thing that divides.

A.     Chapters 5-7

The Sermon on the Mount is framed by the two parts of the undergirding structure in 5:17-20 and 7:12-29. There is a prologue in 5:1-16 commonly called the beatitudes. Following 5:17-20 is a discussion concerning various Mosaic laws and the subsequent internalization of them. In an essay for the American Theological Inquiry, George Law argues for the fact that the inherent structure for the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount follows the basic structure for a Suzerain-Vassal treaty.1)George R. Law, “The Form of the New Covenant in Matthew,” American Theological Inquiry (Online) 5, no. 2 (July 15, 2012), http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001918950&site=ehost-live. Meredith Kline, who is foundational to Law’s work, argues for the fact that the covenantal treaties found in Exodus and Deuteronomy have a structure similar in nature to the Hittite Suzerain-Vassal treaties of the second millennium BC.2)Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy: Studies and Commentary (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012). The following table shows Kenneth Kitchen’s division of the parts of the Mosaic covenantal texts concerning how they break down according to the stylistic form of Suzerain-Vassal treaties combined with Law’s analysis of how the Sermon on the Mount fits within those same categories.3)Kenneth A. Kitchen, “The Fall and Rise of Covenant, Law and Treaty,” Tyndale Bulletin 40, no. 1 (May 1, 1989): 118–35.

Table 2.1 Covenantal Structure of the Old and the New 4)Adapted from Kitchen, 124-125; and Law, 24.

1. PreambleEx 20:1Dt 1:1-5Mt 5:1-2
2. Historical PrologueEx 20:2Dt 1:6-3:29Mt 5:3-16
3.Stipulations
a.       General

b.      Specific

Ex 20:3-17

Ex 21-23, 25-31

Dt 4, 5-11

Dt 12-16

Mt 5:17-6:34

Mt 7:1-12

4. Blessings and CursesLev 26:3-41Dt 28:1-68Mt 7:13-23
5. WitnessesEx 24:4Dt 30-32
6. Deposit of Covenant/epilogueEx 25:16Dt 31:10-26Mt 7:24-27

The point that Law makes is quite valid and the conclusion of his work follows through by briefly examining each element of the Sermon on the Mount with discussion concerning how it fits with the proposed structural elements. If his argument were assumed as correct then the Sermon on the Mount should be seen as setting forth a covenant for the populace of the Kingdom of Heaven. It was stated earlier that the Sermon on the Mount is a fuller expression of Christ’s message that the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near and in its form as a covenant document it encircles, creates, and defines the people of that kingdom (Matt 4:23). As summed up in 7:12, the meat of the content is the Law and the Prophets. The prophetic nature of this and the OT covenant treaties is primarily found in the blessings and cursing material. In the OT, the blessings and curses tended to look forward to not only blessing in the land but also the eschatological blessing. Regarding this covenant, the blessings and curses look forward to the eschatological blessing and final judgment, which according to the George Law is seen in eventual separation of the chaff from the wheat in 7:12-23. The Sermon on the Mount easily fits within the confines of the thematic pattern discussed in the first part of this essay as a statement concerning the Law and Prophets. The question then is whether chapters 8-10 can be described as an exposition concerning division and differentiation.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.George R. Law, “The Form of the New Covenant in Matthew,” American Theological Inquiry (Online) 5, no. 2 (July 15, 2012), http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001918950&site=ehost-live.
2.Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy: Studies and Commentary (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012).
3.Kenneth A. Kitchen, “The Fall and Rise of Covenant, Law and Treaty,” Tyndale Bulletin 40, no. 1 (May 1, 1989): 118–35.
4.Adapted from Kitchen, 124-125; and Law, 24.

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