'Not to Abolish, but to Fulfill': The Person of the Preacher and the Claim of the Sermon on the Mount

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The claims of Mt. 5:17–20 are often taken to provide the interpretive key to the
ethical claims of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. The theological issue
at stake here is the determinative relation between Christ’s person and work
and his teaching. This article explores the vital role played by the identity of
Christ as the ‘fulfiller of the law’ and ‘bringer of the Kingdom’ in the exegesis
of the Sermon offered by Eduard Thurneysen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in
their respective works Die Bergpredigt (1936) and Nachfolge (1937).
Both readings assert that the force and nature of the claims of the Sermon
cannot be understood aright apart from constant attention to the difference
made by the fact that Christ is the preacher. Out of this shared conviction,
both theologians advance a reading of the Sermon as ‘the gospel itself’ in the
light of the eschatological identity of Jesus. Such readings of the Sermon,
arising amidst the German Kirchenkampf of the 1930s, represent substantial
contributions to the ‘responsible interpretation’ of the Barmen Declaration
(1934) whose second article states that, ‘As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance
of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same
seriousness is he also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life.’
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-289
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Christian Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


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