§ 19. The Introduction

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics

by Bruno Bauer

Volume 1



Section Four.

The Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:3 – 7:27


§ 19.

The Introduction

Matthew 5:3-16.

1. The Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:3-15. Luke 6:20-26.

Some keywords in the Beatitudes, with which Jesus, according to Matthew’s account, begins his sermon, contain the assumption that the listeners to whom these words apply are in a depressed state. This speech does not only contain, as Neander, for example, believes *), “the opposition against the fleshly direction of the Jewish spirit, which was expressed in the ideas of the messianic kingdom,” but from the beginning, its macarisms are addressed to those who are already affected by the misfortune of the world, shattered and humiliated, and who face those who possess power and authority as the suffering ones. But these depressed individuals are blessed because the opposition that is currently oppressing them is not permanent, and their reward is eternal. The mourners (V. 4) shall be comforted. The meek (V. 5), namely those who endure their suffering calmly and calmly, and who are not tempted by the worldly pressure, or their abandoned situation, to lose control and despair of the good cause, will possess the earth. The merciful (V. 7) can also be these same depressed people, insofar as they are not led to harshness by the opposition; they have not become roughened by the pressure, do not wish destruction upon the opposition, and instead have compassion for those who seem lost. However, we must admit that this reference to the pressure of the opposition is not even hinted at in this verse. Note well: we mean the pressure of the opposition that the world exerts on the church. In the verse about the peacemakers (V. 9), this reference to the general opposition of the world is also not expressed. If one were to say that the peacemakers are those who do not increase the struggle of the world by throwing themselves into it passionately and impulsively, but rather calm it through kindness and gentleness, one would bring a direction into the verse that is not expressed in the slightest. Just look at how clearly V. 10 expresses the idea of the struggle: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Yes, in the final beatitude, which concludes the whole, the speech is so full in its description of the pressure that the believers experience, that it is clear – now what? – initially – that the speaker, if he wanted to speak about persecutions and sufferings, understood how to make his intention quite clear. “Blessed are you,” it says in V. 11-12, “when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

*) a. a. O. p. 148. 149.


What does Tholuck conclude from this increase in tone, from this greater richness of rhythm with which the speech concludes? Something that the evangelist had as little thought of as it would ever come to the mind of a true connoisseur of style. We read nine Beatitudes in our text, Tholuck only reads seven. But where are the other two? Tholuck cannot account for the holy and significant number seven. “The beatitude in verse 10 is to be thought of as an appendix, of which verse 11, as the structure of the sentence already proves, is to be regarded only as a further elaboration” *).

*) Tholuck, op. cit., p. 111.


It’s strange! The clear, definite, marked, and complete – in short, everything that can only exist as a concluding element in a speech – should be just an attachment. Rather, it is the point, it is the final expression of the matter itself, to which everything that has gone before only relates as a starting point and preliminary stage.

We infer something quite different from the present arrangement of the Beatitudes – and at this conclusion one must probably remain – namely that the final beatitude (v. 11) is not really prepared for in the speech as reported by Matthew, that it presupposes quite different antecedents that lead up to it, and therefore does not stand here in its true context. Whether the merciful and the peacemakers are to be understood as such in relation to the general opposition of the worldly persecutors is by no means indicated. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (v. 6), those who are pure in heart (v. 8), need not necessarily be pressed and persecuted by the world as such, and the spiritually poor (v. 3) can also be the rich, the rulers, and the worldly happy. Nevertheless, the last two beatitudes, which address the persecuted, are supposed to be the concluding expression of the preceding blessings, but in these, except for the second and third (v. 4, 5), nothing suggests the assumption of a worldly pressure.

The lack of coherence is still apparent from another perspective. The first seven beatitudes relate to all who are worthy of the goods of the kingdom of heaven. Even the eighth is still quite general: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But if the persecuted are finally comforted (v. 11, 12) by the fact that the prophets were also persecuted, then the idea of a common fate must be motivated by the fact that they have the same task to fulfill as the prophets. They teach and proclaim the truth like the prophets, so they are the apostles. However, this transition to the apostles is not prepared for when, after seven general beatitudes, immediately before (v. 10), only those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed. Finally, the last beatitude is supposed to be the summary of everything so far and the general expression which is motivated and explained by the details of the preceding beatitudes. Instead, it is something new that enters unexpectedly and takes a direction that suddenly deviates from the one that has been followed so far.


Tholuck does indeed say that “from the parallel with the prophets one cannot conclude that the Savior is only speaking of the apostles. To a certain extent, every Christian enters the hostile world as a prophet.” *) But if the listener were to think about how every Christian is a prophet “to a certain extent,” etc., and were to stray so far into the realm of a remote analogy, then some hint should have been given to him.

The speech continues immediately (v. 13-14): “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.” These are not addressed to the apostles, the same ones who were just comforted with the fate of the prophets (v. 12), according to Tholuck himself **): “These words (v. 13) primarily apply to the apostles, but also to anyone who is filled with the spirit to the extent that the apostles were.” As if the exegete and critic, when it comes to the context of a biblical verse, could play the preacher who can expand a Bible verse for edification and give it a broader application, and not have to ask much more about which subjects the verse originally referred to.

*) a. a.O. p. 115,

**) p. 121


Fritzsche admits that the first blessing for the persecuted applies to all believers and the second (v. 11-12) applies to the apostles. But when he says that the latter is an application to the apostles, the Tert is unaware of this category, since it does not indicate a transition from the general to the specific, without any suggestion that it wants to move on to something new. On the contrary, it speaks as if it is still heading in the same direction that it has taken from the beginning.

It is clear that the Beatitudes have a conclusion and a climax, whose underlying theme – that of suffering – is not only not dominant and not the soul of them, but, apart from lacking unity of thought, they are supposed to converge in a certain direction at the end, which was completely foreign to them up to that point. They lack internal coherence, and the leap to the reference to the apostles is precisely a leap that no one could have thought of in the whole previous direction of the speech. If the evangelist nonetheless thought he was creating a coherent whole, then he could only be mistaken to such an extent if he really had an organic whole before him in a foreign writing, whose keywords, beginning, and end he retained while enriching it with new members that were originally foreign to him, i.e. breaking its symmetry.

The unanimous assertion of all those *) who have spoken on this matter so far would give us cause for concern if the number of voices could be counted. Who would dare to claim that the Beatitudes of Matthew originated from those that we read in the Gospel of Luke, when theologians and critics compete to characterize the low standpoint on which the beatitudes of Luke stand? Even Neander says *) : “The presentation in Luke comes from someone who understood the beatitudes in too narrow and limited a way.” Even Weisse says **) that in Luke “the depth of those sayings – (which he read in the authentic collection of sayings of the apostle Matthew) – is clearly flattened.”

*) Wilke, of course, excepted, a.a.O. p. 685.

*) p. 155-156.

**) II, 31


It does no harm! We know of no law that requires the perfect to be the beginning. But there is a strict, inviolable law that the original is coherent in its structure and contains the seed of the later, more perfect creation. If luck is on its side, the later creation can be just as perfectly rounded as the original, but it cannot do so if it immediately retains the structure of the original, and the confusion of form that then arises reveals it to be a derivative work.

In Luke’s account, we find perfect coherence. There are four beatitudes: the fact that the fourth begins with an increase in tone and a more intense rhythm at a point where the listener or reader still has the preceding passages in their ear and can fully grasp them is already soothing. If, as in Matthew, eight approaches have already been made, and the theme has already been carried out eight times, this advantage is lost, and the listener can no longer have all these iterations of the basic melody present, as must be the case if the final full development of the thought is to make its proper impression. Just listen to a piece of music once, examine an original piece of writing, and see if the final recording and final execution of the theme will come so late, after the impression of the first sentence has been weakened or even blurred by so many new approaches.

In Luke, however, the final sentence also truly carries through the thought that has been expressed in the previous three sentences. It is one thought in all four parts. When it is said at the end (6:22) that blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, insult you, and reject your name as evil, we know that the same people who were just praised and comforted as the poor, hungry, and weeping are being talked about (v. 20-21).


When in the final words of comfort (v. 23) it says, “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets,” then, as with Matthew, the reference to the apostles also applies to the general comfort intended for all believers. However, it is no longer disruptive here because it was not mentioned as frequently as it was in Matthew, where the reference to the apostles becomes dominant, as in the case of the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Furthermore, in Luke’s speech, there is no printer’s mark to suggest that the mention of the prophets should be understood as referring to the apostles. It only says, “for so their fathers did to the prophets,” who are only a selected part of the people that the entire rest of the masses opposes. But when Matthew says, “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you,” and immediately afterwards, the addressees are compared to the prophets and called the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is clear that only the apostles are meant.

Luke says, “when they hate you, etc., and reject your name as evil.” *)  Matthew puts the keyword “evil” in a different position, saying, **) “when they speak all manner of evil against you.” But how clumsily the addition “lying” follows afterwards! The writer who first wrote down the praise of the suffering, reviled and insulted could not possibly have thought that he had to add that they would be reviled and insulted by liars, so that everyone would know that he was only speaking of innocent sufferers. That went without saying. Only a later writer who saw the work already finished and was no longer fresh with the idea from which it had originated could have thought of adding that superfluous qualifier. *)

*) και εκβαλωσιν το ονομα υμων ως πονηρον

**) και ειπωσιν παν πονηρον ρημα καθ υμων ψευδομενοι

*) The addition is missing in some manuscripts, but it may also be that the inappropriateness of it was felt later, and it was omitted for that reason.


When they cast you out and revile you, it also says in Luke, “for the sake of the Son of Man”: this speech was inserted by Luke according to the nature of the scripture, since in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was only recognized as the Messiah by the disciples late and he himself did not give them further revelations concerning his destiny and messianic mission. Matthew has completely destroyed the type of this scripture, he cannot imagine it any other way than that Jesus always spoke of his messianic destiny from the beginning and pointed to his person: he now lets the Lord say, “if they revile you for my sake.”

One should not look down so condescendingly on the limited standpoint of Luke’s beatitudes because they give the promise to the poor, hungry, and weeping that their suffering will end in the future and that their reward in heaven is great **). It is true that the third Synoptist has given his special preference to the poor and oppressed, and when he speaks of the poor, he means those who are poor in the sense that they lack the goods of this world. But in the present context, he by no means means that the poor, simply because they are poor, are the object of divine favor, but he thinks of them as also those who inwardly toughen themselves in worldly suffering in order to obtain eternal goods, and therefore have to suffer in the world because they strive for heavenly reward. In this lies the peculiar view of the evangelist that he considers suffering and poverty and the striving for heavenly reward as manifestations of one and the same essence.

**) If the Bible and Spinoza were to reclaim their property from the apologetic arguments about the category of reward, i.e., if they deemed it worthwhile, we would not know what they would get back. Probably nothing! For on the one hand, the apologists are so opposed to the idea of reward that they flee to Spinozist principles, which are again so notorious to them that they hold fast to the idea of reward – in short, they have neither one nor the other, neither Bible nor Spinoza. However, when we mention Spinoza, we do him a disservice, for the theologian, as an apologist, cannot even seriously grasp the idea of inner blessedness; he needs the reward again, even if he smuggles it in under a different name. On the other hand, it should be noted briefly that religious consciousness, because it objectifies the inner determinations of the spirit to the external, cannot do without the category of reward and takes it completely seriously. The reward is a consequence of its self-determination, which is completely independent of the latter, set by God and determined by unconditional volition. Therefore, the reward is not again a consequence of the self-determination of the spirit, but it is the purpose, the goal, for the sake of which the religious spirit decides, resolves, and persists in its resolution.


According to the usual understanding, Luke did not include the spiritual aspects that the Beatitudes have in Matthew either because they were not present in the source he used, or because of the unfavorable circumstances of the audience, etc. However, it can also be shown that Matthew took offense at Luke’s presentation, which he had in front of him, and deliberately elevated the Beatitudes to a spiritual level. The hungry became those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the mourners became the grieving, and the entire speech was enriched with new determinations that drive the thought with irresistible force into the realm of spiritual interests. Only the beginning of the speech, “Blessed are the poor,” could not be easily abandoned by Matthew, at least he had to retain it if he wanted to give the speech he found in Luke. So what does he do to elevate this determination to the spiritual realm? He writes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” This is how this difficult expression came into being, which is so hard to explain, i.e., not to express in a few more general terms, precisely because it does not contain an original concept determination and is not created purely as such from the spirit and its self-awareness. We are infinitely far from denying its deep meaning, and we even think that criticism could best fathom and bring to light its meaning if it dissolved the fancies that have inflated the human spirit, made it proud and unloving towards others. We only say that the meaning that Matthew generated through that simple combination is, despite its infinite depth, that accidental one which we can call the wit of contrast. This play of contrast, if it only brings together opposing words, can indeed evoke a deeper resonance but must also let it fade away in an indeterminate depth.


Luke followed each of the four Beatitudes with a corresponding Woe upon the rich, the full, those who laugh now, and those who are well spoken of by others. This was appropriate because the Beatitudes themselves already formed a contrast by choosing one side of the opposing parties, comforting those who are persecuted, oppressed, and brought to earthly defeat for their love of the Kingdom of Heaven with the promise of their reward in heaven. Would not the tension of the reader remain unsatisfied if the other side of the contrast were not also determined? Luke knew from the Old Testament narrative (Deuteronomy 27) that this must be the case.

Matthew left out the Woes, not as Bengel suggests, because he knew he would count eight Woes later in the Gospel over the Pharisees *), but because he did not create the speech in terms of its structure and could no longer feel the original direction of the speech, nor the gap that arose from leaving out the Woes. Before that, he was too preoccupied with reworking the Beatitudes, and afterward, the connection of his last macarism to the apostles drew him into too narrow a direction for him to have the space and the thought to rework Luke’s Woes and set them in symmetry with his own Beatitudes.

*) Gn. N. T .: conferri ex opposito possunt oeto vae eorumque arüo (!), guae in seribas st pdarisaeo» pronuneiabantur. But then there would have to be at least nine Woes to read in Chapter 23 if they were to be connected with the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. In any case, Matthew also based these Woes on Luke’s scripture.


The final proof that in the writing of Luke the speech can be found in its originality, lies ultimately in the completed coherence that the Beatitudes and Woes have with the following. But I tell you, Jesus continues here after the end of the Woes: love your enemies and do good to those who hate you. Magnificent! This is a depth of connection that can be compared with the depth of individual Beatitudes in Matthew. Actually, only one Beatitude in Matthew has truly infinite value and is clearly developed: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Whether the meek and merciful are blessed because they are in opposition to the external worldly opposition is not indicated at all. But here, with Luke, the depth of thought has come out completely clearly: even if you are pressed and oppressed, suffering under the pressure of the world, I tell you: do not hate the opposition, but love those who persecute you, bless those who curse you (Luke 6:27).

The speech in Luke is a literary product of the evangelist, and the one that Matthew conveys is adapted by him based on the former.

If we were to draw a conclusion from the above according to DeWette’s guidance regarding the origin of the entire Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, what would be said? De Wette, at least, could not reproach us. He says: “This introduction (5:1-16) particularly sets the authenticity of the speech beyond doubt, for it belongs to the most ingenious and meaningful passages in the Gospels.” However, we will not draw the opposite conclusion, but examine the following first. But as for the fame of the meaningful, it has already become certain to us that when Luke and Matthew wrote, the new principle was still creatively working in the spirits.

*) I, 1, 51.


Olshausen is a bit more forceful in his approach. “If one were to consider the more detailed presentation of Matthew as an elaboration of the shorter discourse of the Lord,” he says **), “this view would undoubtedly be refuted by the peculiarity of the sentences that Matthew alone has; a subsequent elaboration of the thought would be less original and profound.” Olshausen, it seems, only wants to dispute the view that the discourse in Matthew is a subsequent elaboration that Jesus himself gave to the shorter discourse that Luke relates. We will not mention the obvious fact that Jesus may have understood how to shed completely new light on a topic he had already addressed earlier. Instead, we will ascribe to the more terrifying view, to which we have come, the view that Olshausen disputes. So, later in the community, an already earlier planned topic could not be further elaborated upon, even more deeply? Especially during a time when the principle was still working in its first force and was busy spreading its richness? In the historical development of a principle and its self-awareness, the deeper always follows later. The deeper, as far as it is truly deeper, can then also be more original in the sense that it is drawn deeper from the eternal source of the spirit than the earlier view.

**) I, 206.


Of course, Olshausen had to add apologetically: “In the shortened form of Luke, nothing essential is missing.” We just don’t understand why the apologist still speaks of the depth in the presentation of Matthew and what purpose that talk should serve if there is no essential difference.

Ah! The criticism frees us from such pain, from such involuntary lies! Don’t say we speak like the Pharisee! No, we speak as human beings who feel themselves again as human beings and breathe free air after being bound by the letter for millennia and played with the chains like slaves! Free means: moral!


2. The Salt of the Earth.

Matth. 5, 13. Luk. 14, 34. 3S. Mark, 9, 50.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says in Matthew, “but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Augustine attempted to connect this saying with the preceding one. He explains it as follows *): “If you, from whom the people are to receive seasoning, lose the kingdom of heaven for fear of temporal persecutions, where will people come from who will heal you of this error?” But in vain! The preceding thought of the persecutions is not in the slightest degree brought into this new saying; and if one is to think of persecutions, one must rather assume that salt can become tasteless in happy, peaceful times. Moreover, the image becomes forced, painful, and even ridiculous when the words “with what shall it be salted” are supposed to be the salt itself as the subject, so that the thought would be that if the salt loses its power, there is no way to strengthen it again. Those addressed, however, are only relevant in their relation to the world: if you lose the power of salt: with what will the world be salted then?

*) Augustine on the Sermon on the Mount, Book I, 16.


The basis for this saying can be found in Luke Ch. 14, 34-35. Here Jesus says: “Salt is a beautiful thing, but if salt loses its flavor *), with what shall it be seasoned? It is neither useful on the land nor in the manure heap; it is thrown out **).” But even here this saying stands in no appropriate context. Jesus travels around with many people following him; he turns around and speaks to them (14:25-26): “If anyone comes to me and does not give up everything (v. 27), he cannot be my disciple.” This idea is taken up again in verse 33 with the same conclusion, “Whoever does not give up everything cannot be my disciple,” from which the saying about salt immediately follows in verse 34. But what relationship can there be between these two statements? Salt is the corrosive force and as such has a relationship to others, while giving up one’s own possessions only concerns the personal relationship of the individual to the kingdom of heaven. De Wette explains the connection as follows ***): “Disciples who are not capable of such renunciation do not correspond to their calling to instruct and improve others.” However, neither before, when the demands made of the true disciples were discussed, was it in such a way that speaking of their giving instruction and improvement to others was mentioned; rather, only what they had to do for their own person to gain the kingdom of heaven and become worthy followers of Jesus was discussed. Moreover, on the other hand, the idea of renunciation is again excluded in the saying about salt, and in the image of salt, it is not even contained at all. The saying about salt, “Salt is a beautiful thing,” already stands without connection to the preceding words through this beginning.

*) εαν δε το αλας μωρανθη in Luke as in Matthew

**) εξω βαλλουσιν αυτο Matthäus has expressed this more gracefully by connecting it with the preceding phrase: “it is good for nothing.” ουδεν ισχυει ετι ει μη βληθηναι εξω

***) ibid. 1, 2, 77


But Matthew found a connection here: he sees that just now what is the duty of those who want to be Jesus’ disciples was being discussed, so he concludes that the power of salt is also essential to true disciples, and by taking the disciples in the narrower sense in which they are the apostles, the saying that we read in his writing arises.

Between the exposition of the idea of the necessity of renunciation, Luke has inserted another thought (V. 28-32), namely that one must take counsel with oneself before every undertaking. Whoever wants to build a tower first calculates the cost and whether he can pay for it from his wealth. The king who wants to fight another estimates his power beforehand to see if it is sufficient for the undertaking. But if this idea is to prove the necessity of renunciation – V. 28 γὰρ, V. 33 ουτως ουν – then it is not clear where the proving power could lie. Once it is written, however, there must be coherence for the apologist. “For which of you (V. 28), if he wants to build a tower, does not first calculate the cost to see if he can carry out the matter?” This “for” says de Wette*, “refers to the previous invitation to consider whether one feels capable of such a following.” But there was not only no mention of such deliberation and consideration before, but it was excluded when it was said that everyone must renounce the dearest thing if he wants to be Jesus’ disciple.

*) Same source.

So the proving transition from the idea that one must consider important undertakings to the necessity of renunciation is neither proving nor a real transition at all, but only a blind one. Luke does not even take up that first idea again in the transition; he does not say, “So now let each one consider what he must do and how far his strength reaches, etc.,” but he could not have made the transition better. For at the beginning, when the demands on the true disciples were discussed (V. 26-27), not a word was said about the necessity of deliberation, and afterwards, in the figurative speech about the estimation of the costs of an undertaking and one’s own means, it was not mentioned again that one must renounce all property.


If it becomes certain from this confusion that Luke has combined thoughts here that he did not create himself, but found, it is not excluded that he proceeded freely and independently in the elaboration. He created the occasion for this whole discourse himself, that Jesus is wandering around and looking back at the crowd of people following him, from the beginning of the speech: “Whoever comes to me.” But he also, regarding what concerns us here first, developed the saying of the salt that he found in the scripture of Mark from his own resources.

He borrowed it from the scripture of Mark: he retained the same beginning: “a beautiful thing is salt” – καλον το αλας –; he also continues in the same construction: “but if the salt” – εαν δε το αλας – “should become foolish,” while Mark writes: “should become saltless.” Mark goes on to write: “With what will you season?” – εν τινι αρτυσετε *); Luke says: “With what should it be seasoned?” – εν τινι αρτυθησεται, for which Matthew has written: “should be salted” – ἁλισθήσεται, retaining the expression that Mark had used earlier (9:49).

*) The common text reads Mark 9:50 εν τινι αυτο αρτυσετε; In no way did Mark write this object αυτο, so that he would give the impression that he was saying: with what would you season it, namely the salt? He says too specifically in v. 49 that salt serves to season the offering, but the believer should also be an offering that is prepared by salt. So he can only mean that if the salt loses its power, there is no longer anything with which to season the offering, the individual himself. It is even probable, based on the authority of respected manuscripts, that Mark had already written the passive αρτυθησεται.


If we now ask whether the statement in Mark’s account is in proper context, we must answer in the negative. Jesus speaks to the Twelve and rebukes them because they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. The meaning of the rebuke cannot yet be examined here: enough, Jesus puts a child in their midst with the words, “Whoever receives one of these little children receives me, and whoever receives me receives not me but him who sent me.” After this (9:42), having indicated the great guilt of anyone who would cause one of the little ones who believe in him to stumble, the speech suddenly jumps to the offense (v. 43) that each one finds in his own person, and Jesus commands that if anyone finds that one of his members causes him to stumble, he should remove it from himself before he is thrown with the offensive member into the eternal fire. For, the speech continues, by connecting with the keyword “fire,” “Everyone will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (v. 49-50).

We can immediately omit, namely disregard, a part of this speech, namely the final conclusion, “be at peace with one another,” if we want to discuss the context of the speech. Mark wrote the words, he wrote them to bring the speech back to its occasion—the disciples’ argument with each other. But any question of whether this exhortation is connected with the statement about salt and the members of the body that one should remove if they cause offense would be superfluous since it is so clear that Mark added the exhortation only at the end to return to the beginning.


The question now remains as to how the speech about salt relates to what came before it. According to Mark’s account, there should be a very close connection when he makes the transition with the word “for” –  γὰρ.  Just before this, the eternal fire of hell was mentioned and the saying about salt begins with the words: “For every one will be salted with fire.” If we really relate the two, as they appear to be related, the sense that arises could be: for every one of the condemned must be salted with fire, as if it were a sacrifice offered to divine justice, just as according to the law (Lev. 2:13) every sacrifice is seasoned with salt. However, the abstract, perpetual torment of hell cannot be compared to salt, which cleanses, refreshes, strengthens and invigorates. The condemned cannot be said, without further ado, to be a sacrifice for God, and if they were really the subject, they would have to have been mentioned earlier – which is not the case – they would have to have already been mentioned as these subjects, and then the evangelist would necessarily have to say, to keep the speech focused on them: each one of them.

Perhaps a connection will emerge if we understand “every one” as it must be understood, namely as raising these thoughts to universality and incorporating the subjects of whom there was already talk before. Verse 43-48 spoke of those who overcome the offense they feel in themselves, thus attaining eternal salvation through pain and care *): they are the ones who, by fire, that is, by this self-denial pain, escape the hellfire. However, then the saying itself would bypass the immediate context where hellfire was mentioned or rather jump over it and with “for”, which must be linked to the next thing, connect to a more distant saying.

*) For example, Fritzsche on Mark, p. 403: “to be prepared for the happiness of eternal life by means of tribulation”.


So now arises the last possible explanation that includes both the reference to the hellfire and to the suffering of those who voluntarily overcome temptation. “Because of the general sinfulness of humanity,” says Olshausen *), “each one must be salted with fire, whether they voluntarily engage in self-denial and serious purification from sin or whether they are involuntarily led to punishment.” But even so, a healthy connection is still not established: for even if it were possible to compare the inner struggle with temptations to fire, in one sentence, “for everyone must be salted with fire,” two very different fires are combined as if they were one and the same. The fires of hell are not purifying because they are eternal, while the fire of self-denial refreshes and renews. Indeed, if it is said that everyone must be salted with fire, then it refers to the fire that refreshes and purifies like salt and makes the one who is purified by it pleasing to God like an offering that is made pleasing to God only by salt. And yet, with “for,” it is intended to be connected to the mention of the hellfire, that is, the connection that the transition word intends is not present.

*) I, 565. de Wette agrees with him in 1, 2, 166.

But the whole saying about salt divides itself into two parts, in which salt is used as a metaphor for spiritual qualities with essentially different meanings. The first sentence is unclear enough when the necessity of purification through self-denial is taught by mixing two metaphors, “salted with fire.” But if it is immediately followed by, “a beautiful thing is salt, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? Have salt in yourselves,” then the metaphor has become completely different, and the two halves of the saying fall apart without connection. De Wette wants to reunite them, but the bond he applies is not suitable. According to his explanation, in the second half of the saying, salt is wisdom, and this “concept of the salt of wisdom” should already “play a role” when the necessity of being salted is mentioned before (v. 49) *). However, it cannot play a role, and it should not play a role because salt is never a metaphor for the purposeful wisdom, but always for the stimulating and exciting power of the mind. Furthermore, the salt with which everyone should be salted (v. 49) is – one must accept the expression as it is written – the fire of self-denial, and the being salted refers to the temptations that one finds in oneself and overcomes in the fire of testing – in short, it is an inner process that arises from the occasion of temptations and is the struggle of the spirit with itself. On the other hand, the salt whose corrosive power is discussed in the second half of the saying is not possessed by everyone, cannot be possessed by everyone because it is the stimulating power of particular personalities that influence others and, like salt, awaken and refresh their life force.

*) 1, 2, 166.


Already Luke has omitted the first unclear half of the saying when he borrowed the second half from the Gospel of Mark. Matthew, who does not hesitate to include the same saying twice in his Gospel, that is, if he has borrowed it once from Luke, he writes it again from the Gospel of Mark when he finds it here in another place and is just in the process of incorporating it into his work, acted differently this time: when he comes to the account of the dispute among the disciples over rank in the Gospel of Mark and is just copying the passage on the sin of the eye, etc., which he had already included in an earlier part of his Gospel, he takes great care not to copy any further. This saying about salt is still too vividly in his memory, he knows how much he struggled with its ambiguity and how much effort it took him to present it clearly and to bring out its underlying meaning. Matthew had worked hard, but also with much success, when he reworked this saying into a word to the disciples and an admonition that they should always remember their purpose to be the salt of the earth.


It remains to be asked how Mark came to a confusion of presentation in this instance, which is otherwise so rare in his writing. Either he was dependent on foreign literary works that he could not fit properly into his plan, or he had not yet been able to fully master and reconcile the echoes that presented themselves to him while working on this speech. We opt for the latter. The self-overcoming of the believer seemed to him to be a sacrifice that was true and pleasing to God, and the pain of testing naturally corresponds to fire, the feeling of the penetrating and corrosive power that is inherent in the will in self-denial to salt, and this combination reminded him of the legal requirement (Lev. 2:13) that every offering be seasoned with salt. Once he was occupied with the idea of salt, he praised the corrosive, refreshing power of the spirit, whose counterpart it is, and put into the Lord’s mouth the exhortation that the disciples should guard the salt that was indispensable to them. And he added that they should keep peace among themselves so that the occasion of this speech would not be forgotten.


3. The Light of the World.

Matt. 5:11-16. Mark 1, Luke 8:16, 11:33.

“You are the light of the world,” says the Lord to the disciples (Matt. 5), and after briefly alluding to the same idea in another image – the city on a hill that cannot be hidden – he develops the idea under the image of light, stating that their effectiveness must and will have an influence on the world. To think or want otherwise would be just as absurd as imagining people would put a light under a basket instead of on a lampstand.


The conclusion of this passage (verse 16) is disturbing, as it says: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” The salt and light metaphor of the disciples is indeed meant to have an impact on others, but a person’s behavior and good works do not have this immediate relation to others. Rather, the person who leads such a life is concerned with their own purely personal relationship. The evangelist has expanded a thought that was originally meant to move in a particular direction at the end.

The image of the light that is not put under a basket or under a bed, but on a lampstand, is first found in this brief passage in Mark (4:21), then with the addition “so that those who come in may see the light” in Luke (8:16), and Matthew has only slightly changed this addition when he says, “and it gives light to all in the house.” Both Mark and Luke have the Lord speaking this parable just after interpreting the parable of the sower for the disciples. It must therefore have been intended to insinuate to the disciples *), that they should make use of their abilities when hearing the parables. However, before we have critically examined the pragmatism of the Synoptics, which is linked to the interpretation of the parable of the sower, in its entire extent, we can already note here that Mark and Luke were not particularly fortunate in their use of the image of the light. Luke even emphasizes the inappropriateness of the image, which must be inherent in this context, when he says: “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.”

*) as Wilke also explains on page 327.


Correct! The light that is put on a lampstand shines not only for the one who lights it, but for all who are in the house or enter it. Mareus was misled by an indefinite allusion to put the proverb in an inappropriate place, while Matthew, with his tact, omitted it in this place where Jesus explains the parable of the sower. But he cleverly applied it to indicate the necessary position of the disciples in the world. Finally, he was particularly successful in strengthening the image in its relationship to the illuminating power of the disciples by adding that the mountain city could not escape the view. It must be seen; so the disciples must let their light shine, and it is their inner, unstoppable purpose to shine as the light of the world.

Luke also used the proverb once again in the context where some demanded a sign (Ch. 11:16), but Jesus rejected this demand when the crowds later became more dense, and reminded them that the Queen of the South and the Ninevites, who believed without a sign, would put this superstitious generation to shame (V.29-32). Therefore, if immediately afterward (V.33) the parable of the light and lampstand is mentioned, the only possible interpretation is that Jesus speaks of his mission to shine everywhere. It may be that the Evangelist had a similar allusion in mind, but it is certain that this parable was spoken by Jesus to encourage others not to hide their light. The context is missing here just as much as later when the Evangelist, carried away by the keyword “light,” adds the saying about the inner light (V.34-36), a saying that we find again in another place in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.


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