Sermon on the Mount, sources section

Geza Vermes and the Sermon on the Mount

During the 20th Century many scholars believed the Sermon to be a collection of discrete sayings, which was only compiled into its current form at a relatively late date. They therefore sought to identify the genre of each saying and address the question of whether it originated with the historical Jesus. These early analyses reached some disturbing conclusions, in part because of their failure to properly address the issue of cultural context. Although he was still working with the (now somewhat outdated) idea of the Sermon as a collection of individual sayings, the work of Geza Vermes went a long way toward redressing the failings of earlier studies. Vermes, through his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, was well placed to understand the cultural context of 1st Century Palestine, but there are still places where his conclusions are open to challenge.

This page provides a summary of Geza Vermes’ conclusions, as presented in The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (2004, 419-436), concerning the genre of the Sermon on the Mount’s individual sayings and whether they originated with Jesus. Individual page and point references are given in parenthesis against each passage. Vermes view on each section is summarised in the text, the passage reference being visually highlighted to reflect this, as follows:

Links to the relevant sections of the Main Commentary (MC) are included, flaws or difficulties with this analysis are dealt with in the notes there. Overall, Vermes’ approach represents a step in the right direction, but appears, in the light of further analysis, still too pessimistic concerning whether certain sayings originated with Jesus. Where this is the case, links to  further discussion of the passage are provided.

Following codes are used to indicate the genre recognised by Vermes (Vermes 2004, 419-436).