Translated from the Urdu by Mahmood Ahmad Ashraf
This article provides a commentary of one of Jesusas most famous discourses, Sermon on the Mount, which Christians take much pride in. Indeed even Christians who have abandoned the tenets of Christianity admire its moral teachings. However, at the outset, we shall present the four questions raised by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Founder of Ahmadiyya Community, in his book Fountain of Christianity which was published more than a century ago. Here it should be noted that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas taught that Jesusas was a great and true Prophet of God deserving of utmost respect. Indeed it was out of his love for Jesusas that Hazrat Ahmadas worked tirelessly to disprove many of the tenants of modern day Christianity, which have no link with the true teachings of Jesusas. In this way Hazrat Ahmadas carried out a great service. He strove to disassociate from Jesusas those concepts which he never taught. We hope our Christian friends will, therefore, not take offence to the discourse below and instead consider the arguments provided with an open mind. Returning to the topic under discussion, the questions raised by Hazrat Ahmadas, relating to the Christian notion that the moral teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is matchless, still remain unanswered. The four points raised in the questions are as follows:
– The teaching given in the Sermon is taken from the earlier scriptures.
– The teaching is imperfect and flawed because it only emphasises on one aspect of human ethics, and disregards all others.
– The teacher, whom this teaching is attributed to, himself did not act upon it.
– It cannot be a Divine teaching since it is against the laws of nature that we observe.
– Explaining the first question, the Promised Messiahas says:
“The author of Yanabi-ul-Islam has tried to prove that the Holy Quran has been copied from certain accounts or books, but his effort is nothing compared to the effort made by a learned Jew to determine the authenticity of the Gospels. He has established, in his own estimation, that the moral teachings of the Gospels have been taken from the Jewish scripture Talmud and certain other books of the Israelites, and that this act of plagiary has been so blatant that whole paragraphs have been copied word for word. The scholar has proved that the Gospels are a collection of stolen material, and has gone so far as to prove that the ‘Sermon on the Mount’—in which Christians take such pride—has been copied verbatim from the Talmud. He has shown that the text has also been copied from various other books, and has thus astonished many people. European researchers are also taking a keen interest in this research. I recently came across a book written by a Hindu in which he, too, had tried to prove that the Gospels have been taken from the teachings of Buddha, and he cited Buddha’s moral teachings to establish this point. The story about the devil, who took Jesusas from place to place to tempt him, is also prevalent among the Buddhists. Everyone is, therefore, entitled to believe that the story has been copied in the Gospels with minor alternations. It is an established fact that Jesusas came to India and his grave is to be found, in Srinagar, Kashmir, as I have proved with categorical evidence. And in this context, the detractors are merely a sketch of Buddhism. The evidence in this regard is so overwhelming that it can no longer be concealed.
Another incredible fact is that the ancient book of Yuz Asaf which most English scholars believe to have been published before the birth of Jesusas, and which has been translated in all European countries, is so similar to the Gospels that many of their passages are identical. The parables used by the Gospels are also found word for word in this book.”
With regards to the second question, the Promised Messiahas says:
“The teachings of the Gospels – regardless of whether they have been accused of plagiarism – emphasise only the human faculties of forbearance and forgiveness, and discard the rest. Everyone can understand that nothing which has been given to mankind by Divine Omnipotence is without a purpose, and every human faculty has a function. Just as forgiveness and forbearance is considered a great virtue at certain times and occasions, so is retaliation, revenge and retribution considered a commendable moral quality at other times and on other occasions. Neither forgiveness, nor punishment is always desirable. This is what Allah teaches us in the Holy Qur’an:
“The recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah.” (Ch.26: V.41)
This is the teaching of the Holy Qur’an. The Gospel, on the other hand, teaches unconditional forgiveness at all times, and thus tramples upon all sense of expediency on which the social structure is based. It only emphasises the growth of one branch of a “tree” of human ethics, and completely disregards all the others.
…The only pure and perfect teaching is that of the Holy Qur’an, which nourishes all human faculties. It does not emphasise any one aspect; rather it teaches a judicious exercise of both forgiveness and chastisement.”
In regards to the third question, the Promised Messiahas writes:
“But strangely enough, Jesusas did not act upon his own moral teachings. He cursed the fig tree when he found it to be barren, while he exhorted others to pray. And while he taught others not to call any one a fool, he himself went to the extent of calling the Jewish elders misbegotten, hurling abuses at them in every sermon and calling them foul names. A teacher of morals must first exhibit those moral in himself. Could such flawed teaching, which Jesusas himself did not follow, be from God?”
Explaining the fourth question, the Promised Messiahas says:
“In truth, the Holy Qur’an is a reflection of the Divine law of nature, which we witness all around us. It stands to reason that there should be harmony between God’s word and action. The action of God, as we see in this world must necessarily be the basis for the word of God contained in His True Book—not that His Action should point to one thing and his word to another. With regard to His action, we observe that forgiveness is by no means the rule, and that he also inflicts upon the wrongdoers various kinds of punishments, which have been mentioned in earlier scriptures as well. Our God is not only Forbearing, but He is also most severe in His wrath. The true book therefore, is the one which conforms to His law of nature, and the true Divine Word is that which does not contradict His action. We have never observed God to be continually forbearing and forgiving towards His creatures and never punishing them. Even today God has warned the wicked people through me and has told a powerful and terrible earthquake which will destroy them; and the plague has not yet subsided either. Do you not remember what happened to the people of Noahas and what befell the nation of Lotas. Do understand that the essence of the Shariah is ‘takhallaqu bi akhlaqi Allah’, which means to adopt the attributes of the Exalted and Glorious God. This is the highest perfection a soul can attain. The desire to acquire morals greater than God’s, is sheer blasphemy, and amounts to an attack on His Holy attributes.”
Was the moral teaching of Jesus Christas original or had it existed before him?
The Founder of Ahmadiyya Community raised this question more than hundred years ago at a time when the research in this particular subject was at its initial phase. However, within the last hundred years it has been established that the moral teaching given by Jesusas was a part of earlier religions.
Mr Geddes Maegrgor on page 34 of his book The Bible in Making writes:
“His ethical teaching was in no way radically different from the loftiest traditions of the Judaism into which he was born. This is plain from a careful reading of the Old Testament itself; the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls corroborate the already well established fact that as an ethical teacher Jesus gave his hearers a message which, however powerfully presented and convincingly demonstrated, was not so distinctive as to be accounted a novel. In his ethical teaching, Jesus was in many ways highly conservative. True, he emphasised certain elements in the now rich Jewish tradition and disapproved certain tendencies in his development, but this would be true of any teacher worth listening to.”
The late Rev. Charles Francis Potter, a well-known religious figure in the USA, writes in his book The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed:
“Moreover, it is extremely embarrassing to read the best part of Sermon on the Mount. For instance in the Enochan and other similar Essene writing such as Jubilees, the Psalm of Solomon, and the Testament of the twelve Patriarchs, when we have found actual pre-Christian manuscripts of them in cave 4.”
Arthur S. Peake, about the nine blessings mentioned in the beginning of the Sermon on The Mount, writes in his commentary:
“These nine sayings…….have analogies in Old Testament.”
Peake’s commentary, regarding the style of these sayings, states:
“The form ‘blessed are……..…’ is well known from the Old Testament especially the Psalms and the Wisdom literature.”
In fact we do not even need any of the above-mentioned quotes to prove that this teaching had existed before Jesusas and that it was taken from the Old Testament for it is clearly admitted in the Sermon itself that this is not a new teaching. It is very interesting to note that this admission is immediately followed by the Golden Rule, which Christians believe, is exclusively found in the New Testament. It reads:
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
The moderate commentator like Arthur S-Peake too, regarding this Golden Rule states:
“The Golden Rule: In negative form the thought is widely found in Jewish and pagan sources. This loftier positive form we owe to Jesus.”
Alas! This moderate commentator missed the very next line.
“For this is the law and the prophets.”
It proves that Jesus Christas has admitted that this moral teaching especially the Golden Rule is found in the earlier scriptures. Therefore, taking pride in the Sermon on the Mount and declaring it unparalleled is futile.
The gospel of Matthew reports the well-known Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christas most of which is also reported by the Gospel of Luke. Reverend Dummellow admits that these verses of Matthew and Luke are reporting the same event. He says:
“This sermon is so similar to the Sermon reported by St. Luke (Lk. 6:20) that it is best to regard them as identically the same.”
However, he is aware of the fact that both the evangelists differ with each other with respect to the place of where the Sermon was delivered. He says:
“St. Matthew has given us the Sermon as delivered at one place and St. Luke as delivered at another.”
According to Matthew, the Sermon was delivered at one time and on one particular mountain but Arthur S. Peak writes in his commentary:
“Attempts to locate the mountain or the exact time are useless in view of the fact that the Sermon is a collection of material, not a discourse spoken in one place at one time.”
The editors of Interpreters’ Bible also admit that not all the Sermon on the Mount was delivered at one place and on one occasion. They say:
“Jesus would not have given all this teaching on a single occasion. The Sermon is made up of aphorisms, maxims and illustrations which were remembered and treasured out of many discourses.”
Let us now look at the Sermon, as reported by Matthew and Luke, in its entirety. Matthew’s account consists of 107 verses whilst Luke details the account in 30 verses. A significant difference in the number of verses, surely cannot be ignored. We shall determine whether it is something deliberate or accidental. It is worth noting that Luke has omitted from his Gospel what Matthew has written about The Torah in chapter 5 verses 17-20. Matthew relates that Jesusas said:
“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
It is also worth noting that according to Matthew even the smallest injunction of the Torah is binding. He affirms that observing the law is righteousness and that every Christian should obey it even more so than scribes and Pharisees. On the contrary, Luke omitted the relevant sentences form the Sermon. He did not like them because by his time the teachings of Christianity had been corrupted.
The second part Luke has omitted from the Sermon is concerning the teaching of suppressing one’ anger which is reported by Matthew in chapter 5 verse 21-26. In fact, Jesus Christas is intensifying the law in these verses. Jewish scholars and Jurists would adopt this method which they used to call ‘fence’. In order to intensify, they would add another commandment to an injunction of the Law. For instance, Judaic Law prohibits buying and selling on Sabbath but allows keeping money in one’s pocket. However, a Jewish teacher would advise them not to have money in their pocket lest they disobey the law. This is exactly what Jesusas did by saying:
“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 everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.”
The phrase, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old”has led some to derive that Jesusas hadcancelled the Judaic law. In that case, can a Christian kill anyone without restraint because “You shall not kill”has also been abrogated? In fact, Jesus Christas never cancelled the Judaic law rather he further emphasised and intensified the law. But Luke has omitted those words for they clearly support the Judaic law.
For the same reason, Luke has also omitted Matthew chapter 5 verses 27-30 in which Jesusas, following the Jewish scholars, is intensifying the commandment of Judaic law against adultery.
Furthermore, Matthew has reported the teaching about divorce in chapter 5 verses 31-32. Again, it is worth noting that it is exactly in accordance with the teaching of one of the two top Jewish scholars i.e. Hellel and Shammai. It reads:
“It was also said, ‘whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
The teaching that Matthew has attributed to Jesus Christas is exactly according to the teachings of the Old Testament, which says:
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house.”
Hillel and Shammai, the Jewish teachers, have given different interpretations of the word indecency. Hillel is of the view that any evil deed could be called indecency but Shammai says that by this it means adultery only. Therefore, according to Matthew, Jesus Christas has accepted the interpretation given by Shammai and discarded that of Hillel.
It is worth noting that Luke has completely omitted these sentences from the Sermon on the Mount for they verify that Jesusas followed Judaic law and preferred Shammai over Hillel who observed the Law more strictly.
At another place, Luke has cited a saying of Jesus Christas concerning the subject of divorce yet in a very clever way. He writes: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
If a Christian according to the edict of Jesusas in the Gospel of Matthew finds his wife adulterous and divorces her then he himself commits adultery according to the edict of Jesusas which is given in the Gospel of Luke. In fact, even if he divorces his wife because he had witnessed her committing the crime openly and repeatedly and then marries another woman; still according to Luke, he is adulterous.
Luke has also omitted from the Sermon the teaching about oaths that Matthew has reported. Obviously, this teaching is a part of the law and to Matthew the law is mandatory but Luke deems it a curse as declared by Paul. Therefore, he has omitted the sayings of Jesusas regarding oaths.
He has retained the teaching of Jesus Christas about retribution but that is due to a misconception on his part and instead, perceiving it is a denial of the Law. A careful study would, however reveal that it was in fact the intensification of the law rather than a denial.
Luke does not mention the teaching about charity that Matthew has reported. To Luke its not something suitable to mention as it is one of the injunctions of the Law. Again, Matthew has given the directions of Jesusas about fasting but Luke has omitted them simply because as a disciple of Paul he wants to get rid of the Law.
Therefore, we can safely conclude that according to the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, abiding by the Law is part and parcel of the teaching of Jesusas. The New Testament clearly shows that Jesus Christas and his disciples strictly followed Judaic law. Peter, Jacob, the brother of Jesus Christas, and the disciples from Jerusalem offered strong opposition when Paul tried to cancel the Law after the crucifixion of Jesusas.
The true disciples of Jesus Christas refuted Paul’s ideology completely. Paul then propagated his new ideas outside Palestine among Gentiles who were not addressed by Jesus Christas and the Church later adopted them.
The difference between Matthew and Luke regarding the Sermon on the Mount is so striking that even Christian commentators have failed to conceal it. Matthew declares the Judaic law mandatory. On the contrary, Luke wants to abolish it. In his attempt to resolve this difference Rev. Dum Mellow writes:
“This section is appropriate in St. Matthew’s Jewish Gospel. St. Luke’s sermon, being for gentle readers, has nothing similar, and in his whole gospel there is only one parallel. (Lk. 16:17)
In one aspect Christ attitude to the law was conservative. He regarded Christianity as continuous with, and in a sense identical with the religion of the law and the Prophets. He could even repeat the current teaching of the rabbis that the law was eternal, and that not a jot or tittle could be taken from it. He severely rebuked such of his disciples as should presume to despise or undervalue the smallest part of the Old Testament.”
Having understood it Rev. Dum Mellow should have frankly admitted that he no longer believes in Christianity rather he has embraced Paulism.
The editors of Peak’s Commentary on the Bible also had to admit that Matthew has reinforced the Judaic Law. His commentary on verses 21-48 of chapter 5 reads as follows.
“In this light the thesis which now follow appear to be examples of the sharpening of the Law, its restoration in its ultimate radicality. Here is not a new Law and not a new Moses but a Messianic intensification producing the true righteousness which belongs to the kingdom.”
Alas! Christian church followed Paul and instead of the intensification of the law, they stopped practicing it. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesusas had greatly emphasised to observe the Judaic law but the church disagrees, and although it doesn’t categorically say it but no longer considers the law applicable and virtually abrogates the law. The authors of Interpreter’s Bible have also noticed this disagreement between Jesusas and the church but failed to resolve it. They say:
“The saying, like 23: 1-3, seem to teach a complete acceptance of the old religion, while the other in other passages the new and old are sharply contrasted; see e.g. 11: 12-13 (Luke 16:16) 15:11 (Luke 13:10-17) Mark 3:1-6. The same apparent contradiction is found even in the Sermon for Jesusas sweeps aside the law of the oaths.” (V.SS.33-37)
In fact, Jesusas did not sweep aside the law; instead he taught about oaths that Essene would give as mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“Could Jesus have spoken VSS. 18-19 if he made radical changes in the Sabbath and purity laws? Scholars are not agreed regarding his attitude to the written and oral law.”
Had the Christian commentators sought guidance from the Holy Qur’an they would have easily resolved the issue. Jesusas considered the teaching of Mosesas to be Divine and completely adhered to the Law of Mosesas. What he firmly rejected were the heresies of Pharisees and Scribes. Arthur S. Peak writes in his commentary:
“Jesus was never accused of destroying the moral teaching of the prophets and here he deals only with the law. He declares that his mission is to preserve it by recalling its depth of meaning, by carrying it forward to which it has been designed to bring about the kingdom of god.”
Having discussed the Sermon on the Mount in principal, we study some of its verses in detail.
Matthew chapter 5 verse 5 is as follows:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Readers should compare it with Psalms chapter 37 verse 11, which is given below:
“But the meek shall possess the land,”
A cursory look is enough to identify that both the aforementioned verses are relating to the same subject.
We request Christians, who do not find any verse in the New Testament supporting the godhead of Jesusas yet claim him to be the son of god, to study both the Old Testament and New Testament carefully to realise that the phrase “Son of God” is used not only for Jesusas but for others as well. For instance, the Old Testament regarding the Israelites states:
“You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Sons of the living God.”
In Matthew chapter 5 verse 13, the metaphor of salt is used for the disciples. The editors of Interpreters Bible write:
“The Old Testament and ancient secular writers employ the metaphor of salt to refer to what is most useful.”
Matthew chapter 5 verses 17-20 prove beyond any doubt that the church and present day Christians have completely renounced the teaching of Jesus Christas. It is evident from the above-mentioned verses that the Judaic law is mandatory. It states:
“Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
In fact, the entire New Testament proves that Jesus Christas and his disciples fully abided by the Judaic law during his lifetime.
The phrase, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old……………but I say” has led some Christians to assume that Jesusas had abolished the Judaic law. If so, then one will have to admit that on one hand Jesusas declares the Law mandatory and on the other abolishes it in the same speech. It reminds us of a verse of the Holy Qur’an, which has laid down a guiding principle.
“Had it been from any one other than Allah they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
The words “You have heard that it was said to the men of old……………..but I say”do not cancel the Judaic law rather in line with the practice of the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus Christas, was in fact intensifying the law. Jewish teachers have termed this method as Fencing. A failure to accept this explanation will leave no choice but to admit that Jesusas, God forbid, had cancelled the following injunctions of the law.
Do not kill.
Do not commit adultery.
Give your wife a certificate of divorce if you divorce her.
Do not swear falsely.
Love your neighbour.
The sentence“You have heard that it was said to the men of old”is used before all these commandments, which are followed by the word “But I say to you.”
The verses 43-48 of the Sermon on the Mount given in Matthew chapter five completely rejects the Christian doctrine of atonement, or at least the arguments presented by the clergy in India and Pakistan in support of it. They usually prove the need of atonement by saying that out of mercy, God wanted to pardon the penalty issued against the sinful souls but the dictates of justice required them to be punished. Now, God cannot forgive unless the sinful is punished. Therefore, God resolved this apparent conflict between two of his attributes by putting His son on the cross, who carried the burden of all the sins committed by humans. Having satisfied the dictates of justice, God had no reservation to pardon the sinful out of His mercy. In this way, they argue that the requirements of justice and those of mercy were fulfilled. In fact, this theory denies both justice as well as the mercy of God. It is no mercy to punish the innocent and it is no justice to let the guilty go unpunished.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust……………………….You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The above-mentioned verses clearly states that God can show mercy without meting out punishment to anyone. He causes the sun to shine upon the evildoers as well as the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Therefore, try to acquire these Divine attributes if you want to be the Son of God. On the contrary, the belief of atonement is based on the presumption that God cannot pardon without dispensing punishment because it is against justice to let the crime go unpunished. That is why God crucified his son Jesusas. Nevertheless, the verses mentioned-above prove very clearly that God can show mercy even to the wicked without punishing them for their crime. These verses exhort to acquire the attributes of God to show mercy to both good and evil.
The doctrine of atonement is a common belief among three main sects of Christians, which are further divided into innumerable number of sects with many differences. The above-mentioned verses of Matthew completely refute this common belief of atonement.
One of the injunctions given in the verses is “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’” Jewish scholars raise an objection to it that their books never instruct to hate the enemy. Christian commentators, whose adherence to their religion is confirmed, have to admit the validity of this objection although not openly. Matthew Blake says in Peaks Commentary on the Bible:
“Mt. 5: 38-41 and 7:12 ‘You shall love your neighbour’ is found in Law 19:18 and belongs to the core of Jewish Catechism… the negative counterpart about hating ones enemies has puzzled Jewish and Christian scholars alike. It cannot be found as a quotation, nor can it be considered as a fair interpretation of Jewish ethics of the time………..”
The editors of Interpreters’ Bible presented their view in the same style.
“Jewish commentators correctly point out that the Law never commanded the Jew to hate the enemy but the Old Testament represents many different stages of religious development…..”
Reverend Dum Mellow has expressed his opinion in a similar way:
“The maxim ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour is found in Law. (19:18)’ The words ‘thou shalt hate thine enemy’ are nowhere found in Pentateuch which indeed contains isolated texts of an opposite tendency, e.g. Ex 23:4 Nevertheless, our Lords words are fair general description of a code while allowed the law of retaliation…………….”
There is another point worth noting in the verses under discussion.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
The New Testament frequently calls people, who make an effort to acquire Divine attributes, as the Son of God as mentioned above. However, when the Christian church uses the same words with reference to Jesus Christas they are instead presented as evidence of his godhead.
1. Fountain of Christianity, pp. 8-17.
2. The Bible in Making, p. 34.
3. The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed, p. 75.
4. Matthew, Chapter 5 Verses 17-20.
5. Matthew, Chapter 5 Verses 21, 22
6. Matthew, Chapter 5 Verses 31, 32.
7. Deuteronomy, Chapter 24 verse 1.
8. Luke, Chapter 16 verse 19.
9. Peaks commentary: Matthew chapter 5 verse 17.
10. Hosea, Chapter 1 verse 10.
11. Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Nisa, Verse 83.