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A READER'S JOURNAL, Volume 1

The Sermon on the Mount
by
Carl G. Vaught
A Theological Interpretation
Published by SUNY Press in 1986
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002



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This beautiful book by a philosophy professor who is the son of a Baptist minister is a sermon on a sermon the most famous sermon of all time (in the Christian world certainly).

Several months ago, I read the Sermon on the Mount from beginning to end for the first time. I was astounded to find the whole of Christian theology ensconced within its verses. With just those few pages of the bible in hand, one could teach and learn Christianity from scratch ( and probably become a better Christian than most who come by their religion in more conventional fashions). That reading so impressed me that I was led to order this book from SUNY to gather someone else's impressions of the famous sermon.

Vaught stresses in this book the essential unity of the sermon which helps him to tie together the otherwise fragmented interpretations that other have brought to the analysis of these famous verses. His knowledge of the Greek language helps him to explain the original meanings of the scribe who wrote the passages, e.g. , he explains how in Greek the use of present tense refers to an action which is continually happening. Thus, "seek and you shall " translates in "keep on seeking and finding will be the logical, inevitable consequence." (Future tense, "shall find," refers to inevitability.) These fragmented interpretations are helpful, if a bit pedantic and tedious. (Makes one wonder: if the Bible had been written in English, would it be clearer? Or conversely: the advantage of the bible being written in a foreign language- it forces us to examine meanings otherwise hidden in the syntax and semantics of the language.)

Vaught's forte, however, is his ability to show the unity and progression of the sermon through the verses. This is especially true of his treatment of the first eight beatitudes in an early chapter of the book. His exegesis on these beatitudes is worth the price of the book.

In this book you shall find, if you but keep on seeking.



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