Is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) the same event as the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6)? Scholars are divided.
Luke locates his sermon on a plain (Luke 6:17). Matthew locates his sermon on a mountain (Matthew 5:1). Because of that detail alone, some scholars think these are different events.
But others note that the sermons are not identical. There is significant overlap (see chart below), but they don’t have the exact same material. Basically, Luke includes less material than Matthew.
They would argue that Jesus gave this sermon many times, the way a politician gives a campaign speech or a conference speaker repeats a motivational speech. He may not repeat it word for word each time, but he teaches the same ideas in various settings to various different crowds.
Is the geographic detail enough to separate the events? The word that’s translated “plain” (πεδινός Strong’s G3977) is only used once in the New Testament. It basically means level ground
It’s unclear what Luke intends. Jesus could be on the level ground at the top of a hill. Or he could be on the top of a hill overlooking a flat field. Or he could be in a place of mountainous terrain and found a level place where he could easily preach. The language alone cannot definitively separate Luke’s event from Matthew’s.
- Both of Matthew and Luke introduce their sermons by talking of the large crowds following Jesus for healing (Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 6:18).
- Both mention the disciples as distinct from the crowds (Matthew 5:1; Luke 6:20).
- Both start with the beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12; Luke 6:20-230;).
- Both end with the saying that those who heed his words are like those who build on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49).
- In between they have the same 3 sections in the same order, but Matthew gives more detail.
I think it makes sense to see the two sermons as the same event. But if they are not the same event, they are at least drawing from the same body of teaching.
Therefore, I think we can use Matthew to help us understand Luke and we can use Luke to help us understand Matthew.
|Language||Sermon on the Plain||Sermon on the Mount|
|Audience||Luke 6:17-19||Matthew 4:23-25|
|Introduction||Luke 6:20||Matthew 5:1-2|
|Beatitudes||Luke 6:20-26||Matthew 5:3-12|
|Love of enemy||Luke 6:27-36||Matthew 5:38-47|
|Golden Rule||Luke 6:31||Matthew 7:12|
|Judge not||Luke 6:37-38||Matthew 7:1-2|
|The blind guide||Luke 6:39||(Matthew 15:14)|
|Teacher & disciple||Luke 6:40||(Matthew 10:24)|
|Speck & log||Luke 6:41-42||Matthew 7:3-5|
|Tree and its fruit||Luke 6:43-45||Matthew 7:16-20|
|Lord, Lord||Luke 6:46||Matthew 7:21|
|House on the rock||Luke 6:47-49||Matthew 7:24-27|