Jesus’ most famous sermon, recorded in Matthew chapters five through seven, is often quoted. However, there is much diversity among its various interpretations. The reasons for this variety are many and complex. Still, I believe that a better grasp of the historical background of the Sermon can help us to sift through the different approaches to its interpretation.
Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate, called the Holy Land pilgrimage “the Fifth Gospel.” It is read as you walk the Land. Without doubt, a journey to the Land of the Bible is one of the most significant experience of a Christian’s life.
The Hebrew word translated “teach” is the verb shanan which means “say again” or “repeat.” Moses is telling the parents of the Israelite children that they need to “repeat” the words of the Torah in many different contexts and situations—when sitting, when walking, when lying down and when rising up. What I learned from this text is that repetition with variety is the key to learning. In other words, people will learn best when their lessons are repeated.
Although the Bible doesn’t record any words from the mouth of Joseph, his life is an example of the life we should lead. Joseph was a man of simple faith and instant obedience to God.
One key to a proper understanding of the nativity of Jesus is the translation of the word usually rendered “inn.” This brings to mind the modern motel or the ancient caravansary where travelers could stay while traveling along the road. But the Greek word kataluma is best rendered “guest room” and refers to a special room for guests in the family home.