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Now that I’ve got your attention, David Williams has a great post on John Calvin and how he looked at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the parallel account in Luke 6, the Sermon on the Plain.

Apparently, Calvin had no patience–zero–with those who argued that these are two separate intact speeches given by Jesus and faithfully recorded by the Gospel writers. Rather, they were collections of Jesus-sayings that the Gospel writers brought together to “create” a sermon by Jesus.

These “sermons,” Calvin thought, are not sermons given by Jesus in one setting, as the Gospels themselves present them, but literary constructions by the Gospel writers. They are not accounts of an actual sermon, but sayings of Jesus pieced together.

Which happens to align quite nicely with modern Gospel criticism.

David sums it up this way:

The Sermon on the Mount was not a historical event as Lincoln’s Second Inaugural was but rather is a product of Matthew’s editing, piecing together, and remixing clips, quotes, and sound-bytes from all over the place in Jesus’s teaching career into the hit single we have all come to know and love.

Such an assessment is a commonplace of modern historical-critical Biblical scholarship.  But it would be a mistake to chalk such critical assessments up to biblical scholars’ alleged latent atheism, ”methodological naturalism,” or anti-traditionalism, for the great Reformer John Calvin said more or less the same thing in his Commentary on Matthew, Mark and Luke.






The take-away, which is a huge lesson to learn from some contemporary Evangelicals, is that Calvin did not impose onto the Gospels a view of how the Bible ought to work as God’s Word. Rather, Calvin read the Gospel accounts with literary and historical sensitivity, allowing the biblical data to shape his understanding of how the Bible does work.

You can read the entire post here.

If you’re interested in some of Calvin’s other suspect, dangerous, views, check out David’s post where he tells us that Calvin didn’t think the Apostle Peter wrote the New Testament book ascribed to him, Second Peter.

Whose side is Calvin on, anyway? I think we need to keep a sharp eye on this guy. If he isn’t careful, the dominios will start unraveling down the slippery slope, and this wolf in sheep’s clothing will lead the faithful astray.

Oh well, this is what happens when an evangelical faith has pre-Enlightenment roots–their battles were not the battles of modern-day evangelicalism. But that’s a whole other long topic.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.