Early Church Fathers
1 Similabo. The Vulgate, conforming more closely to the Greek, has assimilabitur, "shall be likened."
2 Offenderunt; the Vulgate has irruerunt.
3 The Vulgate, more closely conforming to the Greek, has similis erit.
4 The main purpose of the Sermon on the Mount has been variously stated. Augustin regards it as a perfect code of morals. Tholuck (Die Bergpredigt) calls it "the Magna Charta of the kingdom of heaven." Lange says, "The grand fundamental idea is to present the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven in its relation to that of the Old Testament theocracy." Geikie declares it to be the "formal inauguration of the kingdom of God and the Magna Charta of our faith." Edersheim regards it as presenting "the full delineation of the ideal man of God, of prayer, and of righteousness; in short, of the inward and outward manifestation of discipleship." Meyer (Com. 6th ed. p. 210) says that the aim of Jesus is, as the One who fulfils the Law and the Prophets, to present the moral conditions of participation in the Messianic kingdom. Weiss (Leben Jesu) speaks of it as being "as little an ethical discourse as a new proclamation of law. It is nothing else than an announcement of the kingdom of God, in which is visible everywhere the purpose of Jesus to distinguish between its righteousness and the righteousness revealed in the Old Testament as well as that taught by the teachers of his day."
The Sermon on the Mount is a practical discourse, containing little of what, in the strict sense, may be termed the credenda of Christianity. It is the fullest statement of the nature and obligations of citizenship in God's kingdom. It is noteworthy for its omissions as well as for its contents. No reference is made to a priesthood, a ritual, sacred places, or offerings. There is almost a total absence of all that is sensuous and external. It deals with the motives and affections of the inner man, and so comes into comparison and contrast with the Mosaic law as well as with the Pharisaic ceremonialism of the Lord's Day. The moral grandeur of the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount has been acknowledged by believer and sceptics alike. Renan (Life of Jesus) says, "The Sermon on the Mount will never be surpassed." On the 15th of October, 1852, two weeks before he died, Daniel Webster wrote and signed his name to the following words, containing a testimony to this portion of Scripture, which he also ordered placed upon his tombstone: "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.... My heart has assured me and reassured me that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be a divine reality. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be a merely human production. This belief enters into the very depth of my conscience. The whole history of man proves it" (Curtis, Life of Webster, ii. p. 684).
The relation which the reports of Matthew and Luke (vi. 20-49) sustain to each other is ignored by Augustin here (who, except in rare cases, omits all critical discussion), but is discussed in his Harmony of the Gospels, ii. 19. The agreements are numerous. The differences are striking, and concern the matter, the arrangement, the language, and the setting of the sermon. Matthew has a hundred and seven verses, Luke thirty. Matthew has seven (or eight) beatitudes, Luke but four, and adds four woes which Matthew omits. According to the first evangelist Jesus spoke sitting on a mountain: according to the third evangelist He spoke standing, and in the plain. The views are, (1) Matthew and Luke give accounts of the same discourse (Origen, Chrysostom, Calvin, Tholuck, Meyer, Keil, Schaff, Weiss). (2) They report different sermons spoken at different times (Augustin not positively, Storr, Plumptre). This is not probable, as so much of the matter in both is identical: both begin with the same beatitude, and close with the same parable; and both accounts are followed with the report of the healing of the centurion's servant. (3) The two sermons were delivered in close succession on the summit of the mountain to the disciples, and on the plain to the multitude (Lange). Alford confesses inability to reconcile the discrepancy.
5 Multas turbas. The Vulgate omits multas.
6 The Greek has the definite article. to\ o_roj Some, on this ground, explain the expression to mean "mountain region." According to the Latin tradition of the time of the Crusaders, the exact spot is the Horns of Hattin, which Dean Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, Am. ed. p. 436) and most others adopt. The hill, which is horned like a saddle, is south-west of Capernaum, and commands a good view of the Lake of Galilee. It seems to meet the requirements of the text. Robinson says there are a dozen other hills as eligible as this one. Tholuck enlarges upon the "beautiful temple of nature in which the Lord delivered the sermon." Matthew Henry says, "When the law was given, the Lord came down upon the mountain, now the Lord went up; then He spake in thunder and lightning, now in a still, small voice; then the people were ordered to keep their distance, now they are invited to draw near,-a blessed change!"
7 Ps. xxxvi. 6.
8 Chrysostom, Euthymius, etc., see in the expression the implication that Christ also taught by works. Tholuck, with many modern commentators, finds in it a reference to "loud and solemn utterance."
9 Eccles. i. 14.
10 Ps. cxlviii. 8.
11 I Cor. viii. 1.
12 Ps. cxi. 10.
13 Ecclus. x. 13.
14 Not the intellectually poor (Fritzsche), nor the poor in worldly goods, as we might gather from Luke (vi. 20). Roman-Catholic commentators have found here support for the doctrine of voluntary poverty (Cornelius à Lapide, Maldonatus, etc.). The Emperor Julian, in allusion to this passage and others like it, said he would only confiscate the goods of Christians, that they might enter as the poor into the kingdom of heaven (Lett. xliii.). Some (Olearius, Michaelis, Paulus) have joined "in spirit" with "blessed." Augustin explains the passage of those who are not elated or proud, taking "spirit" in an evil sense. In another place he says, "Blessed are the poor in their own spirit, rich in God's Spirit, for every man who follows his own spirit is proud." He then compares him who subdues his own spirit to one living in a valley which is filled with water from the hills (En. in Ps. cxli. 4). The most explain of those who are conscious of spiritual need (Matt. xi. 28), and are ready to be filled with the gospel riches, as opposed to the spiritually proud, the just who need no repentance (Tholuck, Meyer, Lange, etc.). "Many are poor in the world, but high in spirit; poor and proud, murmuring and complaining, and blaming their lot. Laodicea was poor in spirituals, and yet rich in spirit; so well increased with goods as to have need of nothing. Paul was rich in spirituals, excelling most in gifts and graces and yet poor in spirit; the least of the apostles, and less than the least of all saints" (M. Henry).
15 Hereditate possidebunt. Vulgate omits hereditate. The passage is quoted almost literally in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, iii. 7.
16 Ps. cxlii. 5.
17 Rom. xii. 21.
18 The order in which Augustin places this Beatitude is followed in Cod. D, and approved by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Neander, and others (not Westcott and Hort). The meek not only bear provocation, but quietly submit to God's dealings, and comply with His designs. The temporal possession promised is one of the few temporal promises in the New Testament. The inheritance of the earth is referred to "earthly good and possessions," by Chrysostom, Euthymius, Luther, etc.; to conquest of the world by the kingdom of God, by Neander, to the actual kingdom on this earth, first in its millennial then in its blessed state, by Alford; typically to the Messiah kingdom, by Meyer; to the land of the living beyond the heavens by Gregory of Nyssa. "Humility and meekness have been proved to be a conquering principle in the world's history" (Tholuck).
19 Lugentes. Greek, penqou=ntej. The Vulgate, qui lugent, which Augustin follows, p. 7.
20 The mourning is a mourning over sins of their own and others (Chrysostom, etc.); too restricted, as is also Augustin's explanation. Spiritual mourning in general (Ambrose, Jerome, Tholuck, etc.) sorrow according to God (2 Cor. vii. 10). We are helped to the meaning by comparing the woe on those that laugh (Luke vi. 22); that is, upon those who are satisfied with earthly things, and avoid the seriousness of repentance.
21 John iv. 34, 14.
22 Ipsorum miserabitur; closer to the Greek than the Vulgate ipsi misericordiam consequentur. The same thought that underlies the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer, as Augustin also says, Retract. I. xix. 3.
23 Mundi corde; the Vulgate, mundo corde.
24 Wisd. i. 1.
25 "Pure in heart." "Ceremonial purity does not suffice" (Bengel). The singleness of heart which has God's will for its aim, and follows integrity with our fellow-men (Tholuck). "Shall see God:" the most infinite communion with God (Tholuck). The promise is fulfilled even here (Lange, Alford, Schaff, etc.). It concerns only the beatific vision in the spiritual body (Meyer). Not a felicity to the impure to see God (Henry). Comp. 1 John iii. 2,Rev. xxii. 4, etc.. Augustin has a brilliant description of the future vision of God in City of God (this series, vol. ii. pp. 507-509).
26 Luke ii. 14.
27 The "peacemakers" not only establish peace within themselves as Augustin, encouraged by the Latin word, explains, but diffuse peace around about them,-heal the alienations and discords of others, and bring about reconciliations in the world; not merely peaceful, but peacemakers. "In most kingdoms those stand highest who make war: in the Messiah's kingdom the crowning beatitude respects those who make peace." The expressions will be remembered, "peace of God" (Phil. iv. 7); "peace of Christ" (Col. iii. 15); "God of peace" (Rom. xv. 33), etc. "If the peacemakers are blessed, woe to the peacebreakers!" (M. Henry).
28 "In the eighth beatitude the other seven are only summed up under the idea of the righteousness of the kingdom in its relation to those who persecute it; while the ninth is a description of the eighth, with reference to the relation in which these righteous persons stand to Christ" (Lange).
29 Rom. viii. 35.
30 Isa. xi. 2, 3.
31 Rom. xi. 20.
32 Augustin follows the Septuagint, which has "piety" instead of "the fear of the Lord" in the last clause of Isa. xi. 2.
33 Isa. lxiv. 4 and 1 Cor. ii. 9.
34 This is guarded against misconstruction in the Retract. I. xix. 1.
35 Multa; Vulgate, copiosa.
36 Anima ecclesiastica.
37 Ps. xlv. 13.
38 Rom. v. 3-5.
39 Hab. ii. 4 and Rom. i. 17.
40 Rom. xiii. 10.
41 Col. i. 24.
43 Malum dicere.
44 Verum. The Vulgate more literally hasbene.
45 John viii. 48.
46 The Vulgate, following the Greek, has bonus,-good man.
47 Chap. vii. 12.
48 "It is not the suffering but the cause, that makes men martyrs." For, says Augustin in another place (En. in Ps. xxxiv. 23), if the suffering made the martyr, every mine would be full of martyrs, every chain drag them, every one beheaded with the sword be crowned. They who suffer for righteousness' sake, suffer for Christ's sake.
49 Gen. iii. 19.
50 Phil. iii. 20.
51 "A warning against pride" (Schaff).
52 Infatuatum fuerit; Vulgate, evanuerit.
53 Others follow Augustin in regarding the connection of this verse and the next with the preceding one as very close. All the more must they refuse to yield to persecution, as they have a function in the world which is well represented by salt and light (Weizsäcker, Meyer, etc.). The function of salt is to preserve and to season. With it Elisha healed the unwholesome water (2 Kings ii. 21). The use of salt in the sacrifices is, no doubt, alluded to (Tholuck). It becomes savourless. Dr. Thomson says (Land and Book, ii. 43), "It is a well-known fact that the salt in this country (gathered from the marshes in dry weather), when in contact with the ground, or exposed to air and sun, does become insipid and useless." The disciples are appointed to communicate the truth and moral grace, before spoken of in the Beatitudes, to counteract the error and corruption m the earth. "Earth" not to be confined to "society as then existing, the definite form the world then presented" (Lange), but to mankind in general, as Augustin below. "Wherewith shall it be salted" does not imply that those who have once fallen cannot be reclaimed (Alford). The comment of Grotius is good: "Ipsi emendare alios debebent, non autem exspectare ut ab aliis ipsi emendarentur" ("They ought to improve others, not expect to be themselves improved by others").
54 Lumen, also used for a luminary; Vulgate, lux. In a lower and derivative sense are the disciples "the light," etc. (Alford), deriving their light-giving quality from Him who is the "Light of the world" (John viii. 12), so that they become "lights in the world" (Phil. ii. 15). Augustin (Sermon, ccclxxx.): Johannes lumen illuminatum, Christus lumen illuminans.