Manuscript Reveals Revisions in Sermon on the Mount

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 18, 2008

manuscript.jpgEarlier this morning, at a press conference outside of Tel Aviv, a bombshell was dropped on the world of Biblical scholarship. According to Dr. Owen Reese, who is J. T. Holm Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Aberdeen, “theologically significant” portions of the Gospel of Matthew were either edited or inserted by an “over-eager scribe.”

Dr. Reese’s discovery is a manuscript that is “clearly from the late first century.” The manuscript contains portions of Matthew chapters 2-7. Initially, Dr. Reese was excited by his discovery. But that excitement turned to concern as the manuscript challenged his deeply-held convictions.

“The Sermon on the Mount (which is contained in its entirety in the manuscript) has long been my favorite passage,” says Dr. Reese. “You would understand my anxiety, then, if I tell you that this manuscript upsets the way many people understand the Sermon on the Mount, and, therefore, the message of Jesus.”

The discovery, made over a year ago, has been kept secret until Dr. Reese had time to confer with top biblical scholars from around the world. The ecumenical team of scholars has almost unanimously affirmed the age and authenticity of the manuscript.

The research team maintains that “most of the differences are subtle and would be deemed uncontroversial for most people of faith.” The problem, however, is in how this manuscript presents the information contained in Matthew 5:38-48. Here is Dr. Reese’s translation of the manuscript:

You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ And I will add: resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, slap their cheek also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, take their cloak. If anyone forces you to go one mile, make them go two miles. Whoever troubles you, give them what they deserve. Turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ Indeed, love your neighbor and hate your enemy, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the good, and sends rain on the unrighteous. If you love those who hate you, what reward will you get? Be just, therefore, as your heavenly Father is just.

Gone is Jesus’ challenge to “turn the other cheek” or “go the extra mile” or “love your enemy.” In their place are words of wisdom that seem to come from Machiavelli’s the Prince.

Reactions to the press conference have been mixed. Many Christian leaders around the world are upset; some are convinced that this is simply a hoax. Hit hardest are the so-called “historic peace churches” who have placed the Sermon on the Mount at the center of their understanding of Christianity. Dr. William Yoder, President of Ohio Mennonite University, suggests: “For millions of Christians, peace is at the center of the Gospel. This supposed discovery challenges that understanding. To what extent, I’m not sure.”

Surprisingly, many Christian leaders remain calm about the discovery. Rev. Paul Gillmont, National Director of People for Unity in a Better World believes that “even if all of the teachings of Jesus are shown to be a lie, it will not challenge our call for people of faith everywhere to join hands in loving mutual affirmation.”

Pastor Lysa Alumbra, Bishop in the United Congregations of Christ in America agrees: “Jesus is a symbol whose power comes from the way in which he reflects the best of humanity. If Jesus is shown to be some sort of warmonger or ruffian, he will no longer be a powerful symbol for unity and hope. But our cause and our message will continue.”

While some Christian leaders stand firm, others seem strangely encouraged. Dr. Owen Robertson, founder of the American Family Coalition asserts, “this doesn’t change my faith one bit. If anything, the change in language strengthens my resolve for a strong America.”

Rev. Bill Mueller, president of the Fundamentalist Baptist Association, agrees: “Most folks are too politically correct to come out and say it, but I’m going there: this account of Jesus’ teachings makes more sense to me. Finally, the Sermon on the Mount can shed some light on how we are to live in our post-911 world.”

Editor’s Note: This article is a work of satire…don’t worry, there is no such manuscript. ;)¬†

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29 Responses to “Manuscript Reveals Revisions in Sermon on the Mount”

  1. mountainguy on February 18th, 2008 3:52 pm

    hahaha, at last those conservatives found a gospel that fulfills their theology. Thanks God this was a satire.

  2. David Brush on February 18th, 2008 4:10 pm

    that was tight, creepy, but tight.

  3. corey on February 18th, 2008 4:23 pm

    you emergent people are always twisting Scripture to make it say whatever you want… :)

  4. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 18th, 2008 4:53 pm

    mountainguy: To be fair, I rip on liberals too. :)

    Ok. This will be interesting. Most of the satires I’ve written have ended up confusing at least one person who thinks it is real. I wonder if that will happen this time.

  5. Erik on February 18th, 2008 4:55 pm

    I was reading that in Google reader and didn’t see the satire tag. I thought it was legit until the last part. Thank God that was satire.

    Man I love the Sermon on the Mount. Our picture of Jesus could be very different without this defining passage. Luckily, we have 3 other gospels ;)

  6. Rick on February 18th, 2008 6:29 pm

    Didn’t see “satire” either, but the different responses were just stereotypical enough to be wrong. Or right - and tight, that’s a good descriptor, too.

  7. Jordan Peacock on February 18th, 2008 6:31 pm

    It’s not the ‘conservatives’ that were as weird for me as the people who said that who Jesus is/was does not affect their plans of action whatsoever.

    If I could reasonably put together a gospel sans Jesus I would - it would be so much easier to work with. Nevertheless to do so is remove the very heart of the faith. You end up with a shell of behaviour patterns without the strength to live them or the faith to rest on.

  8. Luke on February 18th, 2008 6:47 pm

    That was hilarious. The last two paragraphs are priceless.

  9. wezlo on February 18th, 2008 7:11 pm

    Wow, that would give the onion a run for it’s money.

  10. Jason Barr on February 18th, 2008 7:50 pm

    Is the accompanying image the Ryland papyrus, p52?

  11. mountainguy on February 18th, 2008 8:07 pm

    Well, both conservatives and liberals support capitalism.


  12. mountainguy on February 18th, 2008 8:08 pm

    Well, both conservatives and liberals support capitalism (actually known as neoliberalism)


  13. Ryan Georgioff on February 18th, 2008 8:28 pm

    That had me at first. I was seriously reeling. Good play, sir. Genuinely terrific satire.

  14. tripp fuller on February 18th, 2008 9:41 pm


  15. ryan on February 18th, 2008 10:10 pm

    Wow… on one hand i think you are a jerk for not putting the “satire” tag in bigger letters. On the other hand I think you are a genius for this hilarious satire.

  16. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 12:23 am

    It is indeed p52! Good eye.

  17. Jason Barr on February 19th, 2008 1:34 am

    We read from an image of it in my Greek class, so I thought I recognized it. That was pretty cool, but not nearly as cool as when we got to go to London and actually read from Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus in their display case (we were already in England at the time, so it’s not like we flew across the ocean just to read from the two manuscripts).

  18. Jason Barr on February 19th, 2008 1:35 am

    Err, by the way, nice job with the satire - I thought it did a good job of highlighting problems with some styles of both conservatives and liberals.

  19. Jerry Ebner on February 19th, 2008 8:02 am

    Is this story very credible or not?

    Is there a real news source for this at all.

    Is this just somebody’s idea of a joke?

    Please send to me reliable credible news sourses.

    Thanks, Jerry Ebner

  20. Jonathan Brink on February 19th, 2008 6:22 pm

    Mark, I would remember that not everyone reads this on your site. Google Reader as example does not display “satire”. Undiscerning readers may get pretty scared, as did Jerry. I actually didn’t take it as satire until today when I read it on your blog. It’s the fine line of satire.

  21. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 6:36 pm

    I get it, Jonathan. But if someone has Jesus Manifesto in their RSS feed, you’d think they’d eventually realize that there is a 1/10 chance that it is satire. If I write “SATIRE” in bold letters at the top of every post, it will take away the power that satire has…that you don’t know it is satire until the end, or until you reflect upon it.

    I suppose, I could write “by the way…this was a work of satire” at the end of each post. That would be a middle ground, I suppose.

    Does anyone else have an opinion on this?

  22. Ryan Georgioff on February 19th, 2008 10:33 pm

    Yeah I would encourage you to add that it is a work of satire at the end.

  23. Jordan Peacock on February 20th, 2008 1:32 am

    I use Google reader as well; a small trailer would be wise. Without it I would not be surprised to one day see some poor undiscerning news source running with one of our satirical pieces. It has happened before, just not to JM.

  24. Michael Cline on February 20th, 2008 7:05 am

    It’s either some sort of tag line, or you are going to see some video on you tube trying to disclaim your Christianity. :) pick your poison

  25. Jonathan Brink on February 20th, 2008 10:52 am

    Mark, I love satire and think you write it well. But satire is a typically, but not always, based on making fun of something that is absurd in general. This post skirted those lines. It didn’t appear to make fun of something. Although several people found the last two paragraphs funny.

    I actually spent an entire day thinking about this, which was a great exercise, because I didn’t get that it was satire.

    Regardless, I think you’ll find a good solution.

  26. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 20th, 2008 11:19 am

    Thanks Jonathan.

    Regarding the “satire-ishness” of this article. The satire all hinges in the responses at the end. I’m exploiting the stereotypes of liberals and conservatives by making liberals ambivalent to the discovery and making conservatives happy about it.

    I guess my level of skepticism is so naturally high that I always assume my works of satire are easily distinguishable as such. I think I’ll end each work of satire with an editor’s note.

  27. Converse: Jesus Manifesto « Simple Divinity on February 26th, 2008 2:52 pm

    […] 26, 2008 The editor at Jesus Manifesto¬†posts a wonderful bit of satire in a blog article this past week.¬† I would recommend anyone to […]

  28. SKS on February 28th, 2008 8:02 pm

    Hi. Nicely done.
    I didn’t see that this was a satire until reading the comments - but it didn’t matter. Obviously false.
    Even if some ancient text was found recording this, it should be clear that the ancient chronicler would be misquoting to suit his own purpose - Because, the message is so completely inconsistent with all other texts & and any other record describing Jesus’ life and teaching. Or any wise teaching.
    The ‘message’ in the satire is what all too many people slip into anyway - hardly requires anyone to teach it.
    Is the next “manuscript” going to have Jesus passing by the nasty crowd with the adulturess, and saying to them: “ok, you who has the most sins, throw the first stone!?”
    Uh, God sends his Son to create a new covenant with humanity (or just an extraordinary human teacher), who says … “if someone pushes you, push the bugger back harder.” Don’t think so.

  29. Monk-in-Training on March 6th, 2008 8:18 pm

    I loved how you gored the ox of the conservatives and liberals with the same message. Very good.

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