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Sermon On the Mount--contradictions




     Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

The claim for Q requires faith.  Who can one tell from a work of fiction if part of it is not fiction, unless one has an independent historical source?  And there is none.  A story will quite naturally have parts that are more realistic than others, have sayings that fulfill the readers expectation of what JC—presuming he is a nice guy—could have said.  But that still leaves the question:  Did he say them?  Even if there was a source of saying like the Gospel of Thomas, one which Mark and John used, that still isn’t strong evidence that those saying were by JC.  Q requires an act of faith.--jk



The Sermon on the Mount (SotM) is viewed by many as the authoritative statement of the Christian belief system. Allegedly given by Jesus, it is said to be a prescription for Christian living2. Consisting of 107 consecutive verses covering chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew3, it is the longest continuous monologue of the New Testament. Only a small part of it, the Beatitudes, is recorded in Luke (6:20-38). Some other SotM verses do appear in Luke, but they are widely scattered throughout the gospel. The writers of the Gospels of Mark and John ignore the sermon altogether as do the Apostles Paul, Peter and John. So what is the source of SotM, and how did it get recorded in Matthew alone in such detail more than fifty years after Jesus allegedly gave it?

The writers of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, although working independently, drew rather heavily from the same two sources, the Gospel of Mark and a hypothetical document called “Q”4 (Quella, German for source). Although Q was lost, it has been reconstructed by way of a careful literary analysis of Matthew and Luke5. Q, thought to have been written soon after Jesus’ death6, appears to have been the primary source for SotM7. But, Q was apparently without narrative form. In the original it appears to have been composed of a series of disconnected sayings thought to be from or about Jesus. However, most of the Q sayings are nothing more than reformulations of Old Testament passages. For example, Thou shalt love thy neighbor (5:43), a Q saying, actually comes from Leviticus 19:18.

SotM was derived primarily from Q, however, the gospel settings are fictional. Because they were writing their gospels as narratives, the writers of Matthew and Luke were compelled to invent a setting for the delivery of the sermon that would be consistent with their story. Each did so within the purview of his own theology. In Matthew 5:1 Jesus goes up the mountain to deliver the sermon in the tradition of Moses on Mt. Sinai. The writer of Luke, on the other hand, has Jesus come down the mountain (6:17) to show him to be a true proletarian - a man of the people. Let us now take a closer look at the sermon while keeping in mind two very pertinent questions, 1) What was Jesus trying to teach his disciples, and 2) Did he always follow those own teachings?

In the first sentence (5:2-3) Jesus proclaims, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Although it never explains what “poor in spirit” means, it can only be assumed that it is a state of general unhappiness or depression. Also, it never explains just how the two, poorness in spirit and the kingdom of heaven, are connected. However, this verse and others like it have been effectively used to pacify and control slaves and women.

Speaking of the poor, there is an interesting passage in Luke (6:24-25) which obviously belongs with SotM, but, oddly enough, is not found in Matthew. It reads, “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger." It is obvious from this and other texts that in the ethics of Jesus no righteous person can be rich or own property. Being well fed and comfortable are mortal sins per se. To posses plenty while others are in want is unChristian. This edict amounts to an outright condemnation of the capitalistic system of economics. It might well have come straight out of the Communist Manifesto.

Jesus declares in 5:5, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Now, according to the record, Jesus was anything but meek. Meek people don’t openly declare themselves to be God (John 10:30) or the son of God (John 10:36) as did Jesus. Also, meek people don’t normally go around creating public scenes as Jesus did in the temple (Matthew 21:12). Maybe the absence of meekness explains why he failed to inherit the earth.

In 5:7 Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Jesus was intolerant to those who disagreed with him. In Matthew 10:33 he says. “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” These are not the words of a merciful person. Maybe that is why he didn’t receive mercy when in Matthew 27:46 he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

In 5:9 Jesus declares, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." But in Matthew 10:34 he says, "Think not that I am come to bring peace on earth. I came not to bring peace, but a sword." So much for peace making. To underscore this statement, in the very next verse Jesus makes a truly reprehensible declaration, "For I come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." This passage is repeated practically verbatim in Luke 12:51-53. It should be noted here that in Proverbs 6:16-19 there is a list of the things God hates, one of which is anyone who sows discord within a family.

In 5:16 Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.” However, in 6:1, still in SotM, he contradicts himself by saying, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them. For otherwise ye have no reward of your Father in heaven.”

In 5:17-18 Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." In spite of this ringing endorsement Jesus proceeds to either re-interpret or abrogate much of the mosaic law. Examples include John 8:1-11, Mark 2:27 and Mark 7:19. In John, when confronted with a woman caught in the act of adultery he releases her without condemnation. Not only is adultery forbidden (Ex. 20:14), the prescribed punishment is death (Lev. 20:10). In Mark 2:27 Jesus rejects Genesis 31:15 and Exodus 20:8-10 (commandment no. 4), when he declares that the Sabbath day was meant for man not man for the Sabbath. In Mark 7:19 he declares all food clean, thus going counter to the law of kosher in which there is a list of forbidden foods (Lev. 11 and Deut. 14).

In 5:19 Jesus warns, “Whosoever shall break one of the commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” In addition to those cited above, there are other instances where Jesus deliberately broke the law. Perhaps the most familiar is found in John 2:4. Upon being informed by his mother that there is no more wine, Jesus insults her with an insolent and disrespectful reply, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" Here he broke commandment number five, honor thy mother and thy father. In Matthew 21:19 we read, “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon but leaves, and said unto it, ‘Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever.’ Presently the fig tree withered away.” By this unjust action (temper tantrum) Jesus broke the law forbidding the destruction of fruit-bearing trees (Deut. 20:19-20). Mark 5:12-13 tells how he caused the destruction of a large herd of swine. Yet, there is no record of him ever compensating their owner as is required by law (Lev.24:18). Commandment number eight forbids stealing. But in Matthew 21:2-3 Jesus masterminds a horse-stealing scheme. When addressing a crowd Jesus says in Matthew 16:28, "There are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the son of man coming in his kingdom." Didn’t he tell a lie here, thus breaking commandment number nine?

In 5:20 Jesus says to his disciples, “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This endorsement is strange indeed considering that in Matthew 23 he delivers a scathing denunciation of the scribes and the Pharisees labeling them, among other things, a bunch of liars and hypocrites.

In 5:21 and 22 Jesus says, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of Hell fire.” Yet, in Matthew 23:17 & 19 he refers to the Pharisees as fools. He does it again in Luke 11:40. In Luke 24:25 he calls the two men on the road to Emmaus fools. In Luke 12:20 God, who according to the Trinity is also Jesus, addresses the rich farmer as “Thou fool.” In addition to the fool-calling contradiction, this passage and others such as Matthew 25:41 show that Jesus believed in a literal Hell and in sending people, especially dissenters, there for eternity. But, concerning anger, that most destructive of human emotions, Jesus was himself guilty of it to the extent that he offered to kill children. See Revelation 2:20-23.

In 5:29-30 we read, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out; if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell.” Some Christians claim that these words carry a purely symbolic meaning. However, the New Testament clearly supports a literal interpretation. Matthew 19:12 tells of men actually castrating themselves so that they would not be tempted by the flesh. In fact, some naive and credulous Christians have taken this passage literally with truly tragic consequences.

Speaking of Hell, Jesus' views on the subject are indeed interesting. The most heinous act of barbarity and hatred that can possibly be perpetrated on any human being is, according to the Christian religion, to be sent to Hell, that place of eternal torture of the most abhorrent and painful kind. Yet, Jesus, said to be a man of infinite love and compassion, not only endorsed the concept of hell but actually sent people there. Now, Jesus was not unaware of the horrible consequences of his act. In Mark 9:43 he describes Hell as “the fire that never shall be quenched”. In fact, he warns of it on several occasions not the lest of which is the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:22 Jesus tells his followers that to call someone a fool is to be in danger of going to Hell. In Matthew 5:29 and 30 he tells us that it’s better to loose an eye and/or cut off your right hand rather than risk ending up in hell. He repeats these dire warnings in Mark 9:43-47, where he includes amputating a foot. But, after all of that, he banishes the residents of an entire city, Capernaum, to hell simply because they remained unrepentant (Matthew 11:23 and Luke 10:15). In this banishment, he made no exception for children and pregnant women. So, thanks to Jesus they are all still down there burning in Hell where they’ve been for the past 2000 years. That brings up a couple of legitimate questions. Did Jesus forget about his admonition to his followers to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44)? What about that new commandment he issued, “love thy neighbor as thyself”(Matthew 19:19) and all of those other references to love? Was he just kidding? In Luke.12:5 Jesus warns us that more than anything else we should fear the one who has the power to cast us into Hell. Who has such awesome power, you ask? Why, it’s Jesus himself. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus tells us that he, and apparently he alone, holds the keys to Hell. He gave the keys to heaven to Peter (Matthew 16:19). So, in view of his obvious inconsistencies and self contradictions doesn’t that mean that we should fear him most of all?

In 5:32 Jesus says, “Whosoever shall put away (divorce) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Here again Jesus contradicts the law of Moses which he has sworn to uphold. According to Deut. 24:1-4 divorce is permitted, and a divorced woman is allowed to remarry. It is interesting to note that Jesus’ teachings concerning divorce are for the most part ignored by Christians. Also, the stated exception, fornication, makes no sense because in this case it is synonymous with adultery, a capital crime (Leviticus 20:10). Since adulterators automatically receive a death sentence, doesn't that make divorce unnecessary? For more on this subject see the section titled "Divorce" in New Testament Forgeries on this web site.

In 5:33-37 Jesus forbids the taking of oaths8. Such a prohibition contradicts traditional Jewish practice. Oath taking is common throughout the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch. In Acts 18:18 it is recorded that the Apostle Paul took an oath.

In 5:38-42 Jesus forbids retaliation of any kind. Yet, in Matthew 26:24 he retaliated against Judas with the curse, "It would have been better for that man had he never been born." In Matthew 10:33 he threatens retaliation against those who deny him. In verse 39 Jesus tell his followers not to resist evil. If it is wrong to resist evil , why did he himself cast out devils, heal the sick and denounce the scribes and the Pharisees as fools and hypocrites?

Love is said to be one of the principle themes of SotM. In 5:43-44 Jesus says, “Ye have heard it said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” However, in Revelation 2:21-23 Jesus expresses what amounts to a pathological hatred for Jezebel, a woman whom he never knew personally. He obviously perceives her to be an enemy. In fact, his hatred for her is so intense that he vows not only to kill her but to kill her children. Also, in contradiction are Matthew 10:34-35 and Luke 12:49-53, the hateful passages referred to above in response to Matthew 5:9.

In Luke 19:11-27, the parable of the ten pounds, held up as a lesson in diligence, hard work, and good business sense, Jesus tell of an unidentified nobleman's order to slaughter without mercy all who oppose his rule. By not adding his condemnation to this tyrant's cruel order, Jesus, in effect, endorses it. The absence of any rebuke of the dastardly, greed-consumed nobleman can only be interpreted as passive affirmation, i.e., it was just business as usual. Suffice it to say that here Jesus missed a wonderful opportunity to teach kindness, tolerance, love and justice by condemning the cruel nobleman instead of the slave whose only crime was that his investment didn't pan out profitably.

The infamous institution of human slavery was widely practiced throughout the eastern Mediterranean world of Jesus' day. It is, in fact, openly condoned in the Bible with no apologies offered. So, Let us consider Jesus' attitude toward this most unloving of institutions? Although he never mentions slavery in SotM, in Matthew 8:5-13 we are told how Jesus healed the Roman centurion's slave while (v10) heaping praise on the centurion for his exemplary faithfulness. Why didn't Jesus seize this opportunity to openly condemn slavery and forbid it? To the contrary, in Matthew 10:24-25 Jesus openly endorses slavery with one of the most astounding pro-slavery statements in the entire Bible - - "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor the slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the slave like his master." If this isn't an open endorsement of slavery then please tell me what is?

In 5:48 Jesus issues a directive which cannot be taken seriously. Here he says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

In 6:7 Jesus says, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking". This admonition is followed by the famous "Lord's Prayer," perhaps the most universally repeated prayer in the history of religion.

In 6:9-13 there is recorded the revered Lord's Prayer. The question is, "What is the true origin of this most hallowed, and most often repeated, Christian prayers?" Was it actually spoken by a real Jesus or is it just another late Christian interpolation? The Lord's Prayer appears only in Matthew and Luke and they do not agree with each other in those two renditions. It is obvious that both Matthew and Luke had Mark in front of them when they wrote and Mark contains no version of the Lord's Prayer. Beyond a dependence on Mark, Matthew and Luke appear to have had a second source from which they quote. This may have been the lost, but recently reconstructed, collection of Jesus sayings referred to as the Q document. It is in this material common to both Matthew and Luke that the Lord's Prayer appears. If the Q hypothesis is correct, it might represent an earlier source of material that Mark simply did not know. If the Q hypothesis is wrong, then the Lord's Prayer must be a creation of the writer of Matthew.

In 6:25-26 Jesus says, “Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” This pronouncement is contradicted in 1 Timothy 5:8. There it says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”

In 7:1 Jesus says, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Therefore, no Christian can ever sit in judgment, not even in a court of law. Concerning judging, we learn in John 5:22 that God abdicates all responsibility for judging. He turns it over to Jesus. But Jesus emphatically says in John 8:15, “I judge no man.” Again in John 12:47 he says, “For I came not to judge the world.” Jesus also told his disciples not to judge (Luke 6:37). Who then is responsible for judging? You are, according to 7:6. Such a sweeping generality as Matthew 7:1 stands as corrupting and cowardly. Should we turn off our powers of critical thinking just because one may criticize us?  

In 7:7-8 Jesus makes another false promise when he says, presumable with a straight face, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.". This statement stands in direct contradiction to 7:14 where Jesus warns, "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

In 7:12 Jesus invokes the golden rule. See also Luke 6:31. However, in Matthew 15:4 and Mark 7:10 he utters these frightful words, “He that curseth his father or mother, let him die the death.” In Matthew 8:21, repeated in Luke 9:59, Jesus denied a disciple's request for permission to go and bury his father. See also Matthew 10:35. In Matthew 26:24 instead of forgiving Judas he curses him. Although he may have preached it, Jesus obviously did not practice the golden rule.

Many Christians labor under the false impression that the "Golden Rule" is a Jesus original. Five hundred years before the alleged time of Christ, Confusius taught, "What you do not like when done to yourself do not do to others." Centuries before the Christian era, Pittacus, Thales, Sextus, Isocrates and Aristotle taught the same9 .

In 7:15 Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Could he possibly be referring to himself here?

In 7:17 we read, “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” If this passage is referring to Christianity and the tree represents the church, the Christian church can only be seen as a corrupt tree producing evil fruit. How else can one justify the fractious history of the church with its sponsorship of genocide, crusades, inquisitions, witch burnings, pogroms, pedophiles and other injustices in which many people including innocent women and children were tortured, killed or forcefully converted in the name of Jesus?

There are a number of biblical references which clearly indicate that Jesus viewed hypocrisy as a serious character flaw deserving of scorn and ridicule. In fact, he often used the term "hypocrite" to express his contempt for those persons, particularly the scribes and the Pharisees, whose behavior he often found objectionable. (See Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, 7:4-5; 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 29; Luke 12:1, 56; 13:15.) We are also given to understand that Jesus was perfect in all that he said and did. (See John 1:1, 14-15, 18; 8:28-29; 10:30; Hebrews 5:7-9; 7:28.) It would not be unreasonable, therefore, to expect Jesus to remain completely free of any imperfections such as flaws of character and to neither demonstrate nor advocate anything which could possibly be construed as hypocrisy. Surprisingly, however, the Bible presents several situations which clearly indicate that Jesus was not nearly so perfect as was claimed or did he always practice that which he preached. An objective analysis of SotM shows Jesus to be the biggest hypocrite of them all. .

In evaluating SotM, however, we must keep in mind that in the last few decades of the first century, when the gospels were written, Christianity was in its formative stages. It was an obscure sect within Judaism struggling to survive. The earliest Christians lived for the most part in small, isolated communistic societies where their contacts were almost exclusively with each other. They had intentionally cut themselves off from main stream Judaism in hopeful anticipation of the promised second coming. In those days Christians were little more than defenseless outcasts who had renounced the world and taken refuge in egalitarianism and poverty in much the same way as had their predecessors, the Essenes. Outside of these tight-knit Christian communes there lay in wait a dangerously hostile world. In such a setting the early Christians were often subjected to the most outrageous verbal and physical abuse. Had they responded in kind, there is no question but that they would have been slaughtered without mercy. Their only defense lay in an attitude of passive non-resistance. Parts of SotM seem to be an attempt to deal with that problem. Consider, for example, the following selected verses:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you (5:11).

Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (5:39).

And if any man will take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also (5:40).

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain (5:41).

Should we assume, however, that the Christians intended to continue to observe these noble principles of passivism once they attained political power, we should be in serious error. Upon becoming the dominant religion of the Roman empire, the Christian church immediately implemented a ruthless policy of retaliation and suppression against its opponents, both real and imagined. Almost overnight the persecuted became the persecutors; the vanquished became the victors. Instead of practicing that which they had always preached - forgiveness, non-violence, mercy, love, etc. - the Christian church, no doubt heady with its new found power, went on to become one of the most ruthless and aggressive persecutors of all time. In that regard, one is reminded of Lord Acton’s famous observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power to corrupts absolutely.”


1 Compiled by Louis W. Cable. Sources include Jesus and the Gospels by Randel Helms, The Sermon on the Mount by Samuel Golding, Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker and The story of Christian Origins by M. A. Larson.

2 Justin Martyr (100-165), Dialogue with Trypho X.

3 All biblical citations are from the Gospel of Matthew unless otherwise indicated.

4 Funk, Robert W. And Roy W. Hoover, The Five Gospels, p. 14.

5 Mack, Burton L., The Lost Gospel, The Book of Q, p. 4.

6 Ibid, Appendix A, Early Christian Literature.

7 Funk, Robert W. and Roy W. Hoover, The Five Gospels, pages 139-159

8 The words “oath” and “vow” are used interchangeably throughout the Bible.

9 Remsberg, John E., The Christ, Prometheus Books, page 312, no. 587.

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