Book Review: Sermon on the Mount
Author: Scot McKnight
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310327134
I have appreciated the scholarship of Scot McKnight for many years and really connect with his writing style, so when I first heard Scot was going to be part of the editorial team of this new commentary series, I was excited about the prospects. I’ve only had the opportunity to check out the first couple of installments for this series, but my wait is being rewarded. So far, I think this is a very promising commentary set; it doesn’t rehash old conversations, but seems to build on and build out from them. This volume, The Sermon on the Mount, is a fine example of “building on and building out.” More on this point later, but first a few technical details about the series.
Several things about this commentary series make it a new favorite of mine. First, I really like the format. Zondervan has employed a three-stage outline to assist the reader through reading God’s Story. The first stage, or section one, encourages the reader to “Listen to the Story.” Zondervan explains it as follows: “Listen to the Story” includes the complete New International Version text with references to other texts at work in each passage encouraging the reader to hear it within the Bible’s grand story.” Section two, “Explain the Story” is described as exploring and illuminating each text as embedded in its canonical and historical setting. Finally, section three, seeks to impart practical application through “Living the Story.”
The formatting of the book itself is similar to that of other commentaries, whereas a short passage of text (usually a single unit of thought) is taken and expounded. In the case of The Story of God Commentary, the workflow is as illustrated above. While the writing is not highly technical and can be digested by the non-academic reader, there are theological and philosophical terms used that the layperson may not be familiar with; nonetheless, it is my opinion the book is accessible to the layperson and equally challenging to the academic. Both books I have reviewed (Sermon on the Mount and Philippians by Lynn H. Cohick), are well documented. There are extensive footnotes listing resources as well as expanded explanations of terms or references from the author as necessary. There is a thoughtful inclusion of Scripture, Subject, and Author indices at the end of the book. My only criticism regarding documentation of resources is the neglect of including a comprehensive bibliography. As mentioned, there are footnoted sources that meet this need, but it would be nice to have these sources in a single section.
My personal likes are still in the discovery stage as I make my way through the commentary, but I can list a few things that are putting big smiles on my face. First, I’m in agreement with the perspective with which McKnight writes and draws conclusions. Much of this perspective is outlined in the introduction (which is brilliant in my opinion). Additionally, the framework for this discussion on the SOTM is clearly established in a handful of quotes (found on opposite of page one) and the resource list provided for those “preaching or teaching the sermon” (p.18). Second, and likely most important to me, is the position that the Sermon is the expression of God’s Kingdom expectation for us today. Not only is it an example of how we are to live, today, but it is a promise of empowerment that enables us to live according to the Kingdom mandates set forth in this Sermon. I appreciate the gentle, patient, and meticulous teaching style of Dr. McKnight as he expounds on these details through the commentary.
There is much to glean in this commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. There are more technical and clinical versions available, and I think they should be employed as well, but this work should be well-considered and regarded as a major companion piece to any serious study of the SOTM. The research and resource lists included in this volume are worth its inclusion alone.