Ulrich Luz' outline, making the Lord’s Prayer central
In 2007 the Hermeneia series published published (in translation) the major modern commentary on Matthew’s Gospel from Ulrich Luz, Professor of New Testament at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Within it Luz proposes a structure for the Sermon on the Mount that centers on the Lord’s Prayer.
In his analysis of the Sermon on the Mount, Luz notes that the topical progression of Matt 4:23-25 appears again, in inverted form, in Matt 8:1-9:35 ( 2007, 165). This, he suggests, forms a ring like structure that is continued into the Sermon itself and from which the Sermon takes its form (Luz 2007, 172-3).
Although Luz might not agree, as he sees the Sermon as the product of the early church community, what he refers to as a ‘ring’ appears to be a beautiful example of the familiar Jewish poetic device of chiasmus. The structure of the Sermon, as suggested by Luz (Luz 2007, 173), may therefore be summarised in that form, as shown below.
- A1, Situation, Matt 5:1-2
- B1, Introduction, Matt 5:3-16 (Beatitudes and persecution)
- C1, Law and prophets, Matt 5:17-20 (Fulfilling the Law)
- D1, The antitheses, Matt 5:21-48 (Surpassing the Law)
- E1, Righteousness before God, Matt 6.1-6 (Almsgiving and prayer)
- F1, Prayer words, Matt 6:7-8 (Not heaping up empty words)
- G, The Lord’s Prayer, Matt 6:9-13
- F2, Prayer words, Matt 6:14-15 (The need for forgiveness)
- E2, Righteousness before God, Matt 6:16-18 (Hypocritical fasting)
- D2, On possessions, judging and asking, Matt 6:19-7:11 (Trust in the Father)
- C2, Law and prophets, Matt 7:12 (The Golden Rule)
- B2, Conclusion, Matt 7.13-27 (Contrasting parables)
- A2, Response of the audience, Matt 7:28-8:1
Luz further supports these parallels by observing (Luz 2007, 173):
- “kingdom of heaven” is repeated twice at Matt 5:3, 10 and twice in Matt 7:21 [sic, only once in 7:21, second reference is to father in heaven];
- Use of the third person in Matt 5:3-10 parallels use of the third person in Matt 7:21-27;
- Use of the second person in Matt 5:11-16 parallels use of the second person in Matt 7:13-20;
- In the Nestle-Aland text both D1 (the antitheses, as delimited by Luz) and D2 (on possessions, judging and asking) comprise 56 lines.
This proposed structure remains rather weak in levels B, D and F. However, it could be strengthened by noting the emphasis on choosing the way
of righteousness within B1 (see commentary on the Beatitudes) and B2 (e.g.
Matt 7:13-14). Moreover, F1 (not heaping up empty words) seems more sensibly a continuation of E1, the advice of which is then
exemplified in the Lord’s Prayer, which includes F2’s petition for forgiveness. Thus the entire of level F seems redundant and somewhat
contrived to achieve a convenient sevenfold nesting, which may be better achieved by recognising that the Lord’s Prayer (section G) is itself a
tiny chiasmus that follows the general layout of the Sermon as suggested in the main
outline (see notes on Matt 6:9-15).
Recognising this chiasmus and placing the Lord’s Prayer centrally makes considerable sense. Luz’ structure and the one adopted here would
therefore seem to overlay one another quite neatly, providing a dual witness to the sense that the Sermon always has been a coherent unit.
Around the sermon, suggests Luz, the author provides a similar ‘ring’ like arrangement of topics (Luz 2007, 165).
- A1, Matt 4:23 - Jesus going about teaching and healing sickness
- B1, Matt 4:24 - bringing the sick who were suffering, the demon possessed, all being healed
- C1, Matt 4:25 - large crowds following
- D1, Matt 5:1 - reference to teaching
- E, Sermon on the Mount
- D2, Matt 7:28-29 - reference to teaching
- C2, Matt 8:1 - large crowds following
- B2, Matt 8:16 - bringing the sick who were suffering, the demon possessed, all being healed
- A2, Matt 9:35 - Jesus going about teaching and healing sickness
A1 to C1 (Matt 4:23-25) are perhaps best seen as an introductory summary of the events subsequently described in C2-A2 (Matt
8:1-9:35), included to facilitate the pattern and deliver certain theological points (see Chapter
27 of The Emmaus View), rather than as a narrative description of a period of ministry preceding the Sermon.