Reader Appeal: Pastors, Bible teachers Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: B+ It seems strange that asking a theologian to write a Bible commentary would be considered, well, strange. But in the “academic silo” world we live in, the fact is that theologians don’t typically write commentaries. Professors of biblical studies write commentaries, while theologians write, […]
Found where it in Matthew 7:12, the “Golden Rule” seems an awkward contextual placement. In modern Bibles, it’s lumped in with Matthew 7:7-11, appearing as the final sentence in this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is particularly perplexing because verse 12 in the NIV begins with the word, “So…” (or in more common translations, “Therefore…”) indicating that this Golden Rule is understood to be the natural outcome of what Christ has just said before it. The problem is that verses 7-11 are all about God’s promise of provision in answer to prayer—not about social behavior.
So why the abrupt change of subject? Why go directly from “good gifts” from your heavenly Father to, “do unto others…”?
The confusion, it seems, stems from our modern need for paragraph and subheading breaks. Recall, the gospel of Matthew as originally written in ancient times was not divided into chapters, subchapters, and verses. When this section of Scripture was formatted for more modern eyes, Christ’s Golden Rule was placed in direct context with Matthew 7:7-11 when it likely should have stood on its own as an, albeit short, independent section. (Interestingly, this is how scholars working on the King James Version arranged it.) In that kind of placement, it would have been more obvious what that “Therefore” was there for.
Bible scholar, Craig Evans explains: “Matthew’s therefore may well sum up the whole of the Sermon on the Mount, especially harking back to the thesis statement in Matthew 5:17-20. In Matt 5:17, Jesus declares that he has come ‘to fulfill’ the Law and the Prophets. What follows (in Matt 5:21-7:12) shows how he understands this fulfillment to take place, ending with the Golden Rule, which sums up the whole of the Law.”
Understood in the context of the entire Sermon on the Mount, then, this Golden Rule now makes much more sense here. It was apparently used by Jesus to summarize his whole sermon to this point, and to lead into his concluding illustrations which appear in Matthew 7:13-27.
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