Matthew 5:21-26 is the first of six antitheses in the Sermon on the Mount. It is perhaps known best for the way in which Jesus raises the bar by prohibiting not just murder, but the anger that lies behind murder (5:21-22). In this way Jesus shows that righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees (5:20) goes beyond action to the disposition of the heart. As attractive as this reading is, it fails to explain why Jesus also introduces insults in verse 22 (“whoever says ‘idiot!’”; “whoever says ‘fool!’”) alongside anger. This paper offers a very different reading of 5:21-22, which makes possible a coherent reading of the first antithesis (5:21-26). In doing so it resolves a number of longstanding interpretive difficulties.
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About the Speaker
Dr Richard Neville is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Laidlaw College’s Christchurch campus. This paper is part of a larger research project, investigating interpersonal forgiveness in the Bible.
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As a part of Laidlaw’s commitment to relevant, gospel-centred, innovative research, the School of Theology faculty gather each month for a research seminar. The seminars are built around a simple format – one academic presentation followed by critical interaction. Anyone is welcome to join us – this could include postgrad students, researchers from other institutions, or any others looking to hear and interact with cutting edge theological and biblical research.
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