The Sermon on the Mount*, a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching, is often quoted as the epitome of Jesus’ moral teaching. Christians reference the Sermon on the Mount when challenged to present evidence of Jesus moral teachings.
The Truth Is…
Just as the ten commandments failed to prohibit the most heinous of acts, so too did Jesus. Jesus failed to prohibit the immoral acts of slavery, kidnapping, torture, and rape. Thank God, between Confucius and Hammurabi, most of those atrocities are prohibited. Maybe that’s why Jesus failed to even mention them. He certainly was aware of prior moral teachings because he got all of his moral pronouncements from moral teachers that proceeded him. Morality was around long before Jesus.
- Code of Hammurabi,(ca. 1790 BC)
- Confucius (551–478 BC)
- Cuneiform law
- Law tablets – ancient Near East legal tablets:
- Laws of Eshnunna,
- Code of Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (ca. 2050 BC), the
- Laws of Eshnunna (ca. 1930 BC)
- Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1870 BC).
- Code of the Nesilim.
- Hittite laws (ca. 1650-1100 BC).
- Assyrian laws,
- Mosaic Law / Ten Commandments.
See this list of moral codes for even more moral teachings that preceded Jesus
Confucius (September 28, 551 BCE – 479 BCE).
No other person in the history of the world has exerted a greater influence on a larger number of people over a longer period of time than has Confucius.
He wanted his disciples to think deeply for themselves and relentlessly study the outside world, mostly through the old scriptures and by relating the moral problems of the present to past political events.
In times of division, chaos, and endless wars between feudal states, he wanted to restore the Mandate of Heaven that could unify the “world” all under Heaven and bestow peace and prosperity on the people.
(So interesting – he wanted ALL the world to live peacefully; unlike the God of the Old Testament).
The principles found in the Six Commandments* can be found in Confucius’s sayings.
- Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.
- To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.
- What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.
- To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.
* We say six commandments because four of the commandments deal with honoring god. Only six deal with morality.
Cuneiform law refers to any of the legal codes written in cuneiform script, that were developed and used throughout the ancient Middle East among the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Elamites, Hurrians, Kassites, and Hittites. The Code of Hammurabi is the most well-known of the cuneiform laws, but there were a number of precursor laws.
Although they were written in several different cities and kingdoms, these early laws have a number of formulas in common. Most contain both an epilogue and a prologue, which usually explain the purpose of composing the laws, invoke divine authority, and command the reader to abide by them. They are always imposed or ‘enacted’ in the name of a ruler, be it a prince or king, and show no sign of being the result of legislative bodies.
If anyone steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
If anyone commits a robbery and is caught, he shall be put to death.
*Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount includes some of the best known teachings of Jesus such as the Beatitudes, and the widely recited Lord’s Prayer. To most believers in Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship. For example, in Matthew 5:3-9 we read…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Have love for those who are against you, and make prayer for those who are cruel to you”;