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.

Luz further supports these parallels by observing (Luz 2007, 173):

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 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.

References

Luz, Ulrich. 2007. Matthew 1-7. Hermeneia: A Critical And Historical Commentary On The Bible. Edited by Helmut Koester. Translated by James E. Crouch. Minneapolis:Augsburg Fortress.