Matthew had 3 chapters devoted to Jesus and his preaching on the mount or hill. This Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus that emphasize his moral teaching, the first of his 5 discourses. early in the ministry of Jesus. Luke had something similar in his sermon on the plain. This sermon is the longest continuous section of Jesus speaking in the New Testament, containing the central tenets of Christian discipleship. Thus, it had become the most widely quoted and best known of the teachings of Jesus, with the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. These Jesus sayings echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion with acts of mercy, providing both temporal and spiritual benefits. Jesus also used many metaphors in his sermon. He reinterpreted the Ten Commandments, particularly about lying, killing and adultery. The teachings of this sermon have been a key element of Christian ethics with its demanding high moral standards. Christians were to be perfect with a Christian righteousness. There have been many different interpretations of this demanding ethical life. Was this only for clergy and monks? Is it only an impossible ideal? Should we take this literally? Is this only an interim ethic or a future ethic? Is this the basis of the social gospel and Christian existentialism? What value do these ideals have for our lives today?
The Jesus Seminar was a group of about 150 critical Biblical scholars founded in 1985 by Robert Funk (1926-2005). Although never formally disbanded, the seminar effectively ceased functioning in 2006. Their goal was to reconstruct the historical Jesus and find out what exactly Jesus said. The result was that they portrayed Jesus as an itinerant Hellenistic Jewish sage, a faith-healer, who preached a gospel of liberation from injustice. However, they believed that Jesus did not hold an apocalyptic worldview, as indicated in the canonical writings. The methods and conclusions of the Jesus Seminar came under very harsh criticism by some biblical scholars, historians, and clergy. However, this Jesus Seminar produced a significant number of publications for over 20 years, especially articles about the Gospel of Thomas.