I’ve read through most of it and have engaged in several discussions about the book with him and, yes, I may be biased, but I think this will be one of the better resources out there for reading and preaching the Sermon. This book will provide a helpful and comprehensive reading of the Sermon without getting caught in the minutiae of details or the disconnected readings of the Sermon that many books tend to do. Plus, I find Pennington’s writing style highly engaging, which makes for an enjoyable but also profitable read.
Excerpt from the back of the book:
The Sermon on the Mount, one of the most influential portions of the Bible, is the most studied and commented upon portion of the Christian Scriptures. Every Christian generation turns to it for insight and guidance.
In this volume, a recognized expert on the Gospels shows that the Sermon on the Mount offers a clear window into understanding God’s work in Christ. Jonathan Pennington provides a historical, theological, and literary commentary on the Sermon and explains how this text offers insight into God’s plan for human flourishing. As Pennington explores the literary dimensions and theological themes of this famous passage, he situates the Sermon in dialogue with the Jewish and Greek virtue traditions and the philosophical-theological question of human flourishing. He also relates the Sermon’s theological themes to contemporary issues such as ethics, philosophy, and economics.
Often times people think about the Gospels as Sunday School stories about Jesus. Rightly, many read them to find out about Jesus but when it comes to actual doctrine and theology people turn to the epistles.
As I’ve learned over the course of my academic career the Gospels are rich theological narrative that not only point one to the Messiah but also guide us how to live. They do this through both positive and negative examples. When you read, place yourself in the characters shoes, especially that of the disciples and Pharisees. The Gospels are inviting us to take part in the story of Jesus.
Jonathan Pennington, in his book Reading the Gospels Wisely, helpfully provides 9 reasons why we should read and study the Gospels. I’ve summarized them below:
They have been central to the church throughout its history.
Paul and the other NT writers presuppose and build on the story and teachings of Jesus.
The traditions behind the Gospel writings are the earliest access we have to the life of Christ.
We get a more direct sense of the Bible’s storyline.
They offer a concentrated exposure to the biblical emphasis on the coming kingdom of God.
They show different languages or discourses of truth.
They are in many ways a more comprehensive and paradigmatic type of map. Story communicates truth most comprehensively and transformatively.
Encountering Jesus in narrative helps us grow in experiential knowledge.
In the Gospels alone we have a personal, up-front encounter with Jesus.
Jonathan Pennington has some helpful thoughts on allegory and metaphor using the story of the rich young ruler while looking back at past interpretations between the Reformers and the Church Fathers:
Specifically, what I mean is this — Any theological or applicational reading is metaphorical, substituting what is in the text for some idea or truth, reading the events or characters of a story for the purpose of saying something else. In this way, the difference between the Reformers’ reading and the oft-villified allegorical readings of the Fathers is shown to be a difference not of kind but only of form and judgment.
Recently Jonathan Pennington gave a lecture on “Human Flourishing and the Bible”. Ancient philosophy has always asked the question, “What do humans want?” In their each philosopher’s unique way the answer always comes down to “flourishing”. What does the Bible have to say about human flourishing? How does this compare with other ancient philosophies? Pennington addresses this question and explains the differences and nuances of a Christian understanding of human flourishing. Watch the video below.
In a handout for the lecture he provided several helpful resources listed below: