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cise definitions. He speaks in bold metaphor, in startling paradox. The West dotes on abstract ethics; Jesus gave men concrete ethics. We should be prepared, therefore, to find many of his sayings relatively true, not exactly true. And yet we must not rush to the opposite extreme, and regard the teachings of Jesus as a series of cryptic utterances, whose meaning is to be laboriously puzzled out. They are brief, epigrammatic, often highly figurative, illuminative, stimulating; "my words," he said, “are spirit and life." To interpret his paradoxes and metaphors as if they were rigid scientific definitions or precise rules of conduct, is to fall into that very rigor of legalism that he reprobated in the Pharisees, in the strongest invective that ever fell from the lips of religious teacher.

More than grammatical exegesis is required to understand ethical precepts of this order, and to understand them as grammarians will often be to miss their meaning altogether. Nothing could be a more wrong-headed principle of interpretation than this suggested by an eminent New Testament critic: "The only legitimate exegesis of the passages is one that assigns to them their obvious literal meaning. Nothing else could have been intended. In no other sense could they have been understood by the original hearers or readers." But the gospels make it plain that the hearers of Jesus often misunderstood "Parallelism” the only poetry known to the Hebrews. It will astonish some to be told that Jesus was poet as well as prophet, but such he was, if we have his words as he spoke them, though all translators and editors have done their best or worst - to conceal this fact from the

English reader.

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1 Orello Cone, "Rich and Poor in the New Testament," p. 214. New York, 1902.

him, because they insisted on this principle of interpretation. Nowhere are sympathetic insight and sound judgment more necessary than in studying the words of Jesus. He himself often intimated as much: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Jesus taught ethics, not an ethic. He did not aim at clothing his precepts with scientific form, or giving them schematic completeness. He speaks a truth here, he tells a parable there, flashes of ethical light into the darkness of men's souls, rather than careful reasonings. We look to him for ideals and inspiration, not for systematic instruction. Yet though unsystematic, his teachings are not a haphazard collection of miscellaneous unrelated sayings; there is an organizing principle to be found in them, without long search or undue ingenuity. The followers of Jesus are under no obligation to do what their Master deliberately declined to do-construct a complete ethical system out of his detached sayings - but his teaching will be better understood by us if we see that there was an order in his ideas, and that his chief sayings stood in a sound logical relation to one another. For, though a concrete thinker, Jesus was not a loose thinker, and he was not content with the Emersonian rule of speaking what is true to the mood of the moment, trusting his sayings somehow to harmonize with each other, and despising consistency as the infirmity of small minds.

One other preliminary word should be said. Religion has to do with man's relation to God; ethics with man's relations to his fellows. Jesus was a teacher, not of ethics alone, but of religion — his ethics were grounded in his religion, were the necessary consequence of his religion. In the mind of Jesus the two appear to have been

inseparable and the follower of Jesus can never consent to their separation. The one thing that was never absent from the thought of Jesus was his consciousness of God; and the one thing that cannot be eliminated from his teaching is the sentiments of dependence, of duty, of gratitude, of devotion toward that Soul of things known to us as the perfection of unity, power, wisdom, love, and law. But while the impossibility of an examination of the ethical teachings of Jesus, in which his religion shall have no part, ought to be apparent to any one who is at all familiar with his words, it is possible to give our main attention to the ethics.


In making an inductive study of the social teaching of Jesus, it is of the first importance to get his own point of view. How did he conceive of his mission? What did he believe that he had come into the world to accomplish?

If we approach the gospels with this question, we shall have little difficulty in finding an answer, for Jesus and the evangelists leave no room for doubt on this point. It becomes clear at once to one who studies his words that the social teaching of Jesus was no by-product, that his ethical precepts were no fortuitous obiter dicta, but that this was rather the essence, the burden of his message to He came to proclaim the Good News; of that we are so often assured as to leave no possibility of doubt that this was the way in which Jesus himself conceived of his mission. His message is still further described as "the Good News of the Kingdom of God," or "the kingdom of Heaven." The proclamation of Jesus was Good News to men, because it was the announcement that the great

hope of the nation was on the verge of fulfilment: the kingdom of God was at hand.

The mission of Jesus is also described as "salvation he proclaimed a divine deliverance of both individuals and society, through the establishment of a new society, the kingdom of God. It was for this work that he was the Anointed of God. There was evidently in his mind no thought of a national restoration, a great political renaissance of Judaism, such as the Jew of his day ardently desired. For to the Jew, the kingdom of God had come to mean a revival of the monarchy by a son of the House of David. The kingdom indeed connoted the ideas of a commonwealth of righteousness, peace, and plenty, but only as a result of the triumph and worldwide rule of Israel. The Messiah was to supplant the emperor as sovereign of the world, and sway the sceptre of the nations from Jerusalem, and the foot of the Jew would be on the neck of the Roman. The current Jewish idea of the kingdom was, in a word, purely political and materialistic.

But to Jesus this was nothing. There were many zealots in Israel, after him, as well as before him, but Jesus declined to be a zealot. The kingdom in his eyes was one in which God should rule and righteousness prevail and good triumph, a kingdom in which the poor in spirit shall come to their own, the meek shall inherit the earth, the merciful obtain mercy, and the peacemakers be called children of God. The Jews expected a political deliverance, Jesus proclaimed a social. They scornfully rejected a kingdom and a Messiah so differing from their preconceptions. And yet if Jesus could have won the Jews to acceptance of his spiritual kingdom of God and a

reorganized society, Jerusalem would have been saved and the Jewish race would have been promoted to the hegemony of the earth. They adhered to their dream of world conquest and world empire at Jerusalem, and their city was lost and their race scattered.

The certainty, confidence, and persistence with which Jesus proclaimed this idea of the kingdom is the most striking fact in his ministry. It is the dominant note of his teaching; it is set forth as the supreme quest of every disciple. And this, the most comprehensive term that we have for the mission of Jesus, marks his teaching as fundamentally a social teaching: for the conception of a kingdom is the conception of a society, ordered by law. But what kind of a society? What did Jesus mean by the kingdom of God? He has told us this plainly in the prayer that he taught to his disciples: it is a kingdom of God, for in it God is to be more fully revealed to his children as their Father; it is God's kingdom, inasmuch as his children are to honor him more fully, because more intelligently, as Father; it is God's kingdom, since in it his will is to prevail completely, as it now prevails in heaven.1

The kingdom is the master-word of Jesus, the root idea of all his teaching; we shall seek in vain to comprehend his ethics, unless we grasp this word and all that it implies. We must first of all see this world reconstituted, as Jesus in imagination saw it, so as to consist of a society of renewed men, men who have experienced the blessedness of a new life a life imparted by God, and hence lived in harmony with God; a life ruled, guided, as God himself is guided, by the law of holy love. It is a king

1 Matt. 7:21; 18: 14; Luke 12:47; 22:42; Mark 3:35.

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