Sermon on the Mount, Seventh

I want to press on with the next requirement in the sermon because it gives us the next example of biblical requirements:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37

That next example is requirements that seem silly. Don’t swear? One of the judges did swear to offer as a burnt offering the first thing that came up to him upon his return from a battle if God would let him win. The first thing to come up was his daughter. See Judges 11. Also weird.

So, Jesus tells us 1) Do Not Hate 2) Do Not Lust 3) Do Not Get Divorced & 4)Do Not Take Oaths.

One way to handle these dictates is to consider some more serious than others. The less serious ones are easier to disregard, particularly because they are so tied to cultural context. Another way to do it is to say that there is an essence in these teachings, more fundamental truths if you will, that is what we really need to follow. In some sense, isn’t that what Jesus is saying with the entire sermon?

Of course, Jesus is providing an interpretation of the essence of the Torah, and now I’m suggesting we look for the essence of Jesus’ teachings. But, we have to do something, right? Or as Christians, should we not take oaths?

3 replies on “Sermon on the Mount, Seventh”

Unsteady ground. This is an exercise is filtering received wisdom through the prism of our culture.

The question you raise, and what I believe the answers you will come to, support my thesis that what we think of as Christian morals and teachings are derived from secular morality and not the other way around. You’re building the foundation right before us.

I may very well be building a foundation to show the irrelevance of Christianity. It is in the nature of personal growth and asking question you don’t know the answer to that you may run into an unexpected, or even unwanted result. I can’t help it.

We’ve done this before, but I wonder if we can do it in a more abstract way. What is a good test to determine whether a influence is a Christian influence or a secular influence?

Surely, Christian influence is not limited to the text of the Bible. I think influences that developed out of Church tradition are fairly attributed as a Christian influence, but not everything a Christian does is a Christian influence.

Hellenistic cultures had values that differed from those of the Semitic cultures from which Judaism Christianity arose. Are those values, secular morality? What about the values & traditions of the Babylonians that were adopted by the Hebrews before writing down the Old Testament?

The easiest answer is to say Christianity’s influence is only that which may be directly derived from the Scripture. But like most easy answers, I think it is wrong.

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