Studies in Christian Ethics 22 (3):275-289 (2009)

The claims of Mt. 5:17—20 are often taken to provide the interpretive key to the ethical claims of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. The theological issue at stake here is the determinative relation between Christ's person and work and his teaching. This article explores the vital role played by the identity of Christ as the `fulfiller of the law' and `bringer of the Kingdom' in the exegesis of the Sermon offered by Eduard Thurneysen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in their respective works Die Bergpredigt (1936) and Nachfolge (1937). Both readings assert that the force and nature of the claims of the Sermon cannot be understood aright apart from constant attention to the difference made by the fact that Christ is the preacher. Out of this shared conviction, both theologians advance a reading of the Sermon as `the gospel itself' in the light of the eschatological identity of Jesus. Such readings of the Sermon, arising amidst the German Kirchenkampf of the 1930s, represent substantial contributions to the `responsible interpretation' of the Barmen Declaration (1934) whose second article states that, `As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same seriousness is he also God's mighty claim upon our whole life.'
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DOI 10.1177/0953946809106233
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