Book Notice: The Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel

Charles Nathan Ridlehoover. The Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. The Library of New Testament Studies 616. London: T&T Clark, 2019. 256 pages. $115.00 (hardcover).

Generations of scholars have identified points of contact between the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) and the Lord’s Prayer within it (6:9–13). In The Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, Charles Nathan Ridlehoover—who teaches at North Raleigh Christian Academy and adjunctively at Columbia Biblical Seminary in South Carolina—aims to demonstrate the degree of lexical and thematic correlation between these two units of text. He compares the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew with the same tradition in the Gospel of Luke (11:2–4), suggesting that Matthew intentionally arranged the Prayer as the centerpoint of the Sermon on the Mount. His methodology thus includes both redaction and rhetorical criticism.

Ridlehoover views the Sermon on the Mount as structured by way of a series of inclusios (literary parallels that function as brackets around a particular unit of text). At the center of the Sermon body, he argues, is Jesus’s teaching on prayer in 6:5–15. Here, the Lord’s Prayer takes center stage, and the prayer itself also features a series of inclusios. Ridlehoover notes the relationship between God’s name/kingdom and temptation/evil one (6:9c–10a and 6:13) and between the petitions for God’s will and for forgiveness (6:10b and 6:12). At the center of the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sermon, stands the disciples’ request for daily bread.

Ridlehoover offers two chapters comparing the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew with its form in Luke. In “The Matthean Petitions: An Examination of the Father, Will, and Evil Petitions” (ch. 4), he notes lexical and thematic links between Jesus’s reference to the Father in heaven (6:9), God’s will being done on earth as in heaven (6:10b–c), protection from evil (6:13b), and Jesus’s teaching in the wider Sermon. By placing the Lord’s Prayer at the center of the Sermon, Matthew uses the Sermon to explain how the requests might be put into practice; at the same time, he uses the Lord’s Prayer to show his readers how they might receive the ability to practice Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon. In chapter 5, “Matthew’s ‘Slightly’ Different Petition: An Examination of the Kingdom, Bread, and Forgiveness Petitions,” Ridlehoover suggests that Matthew altered phrases common to Luke 11:2–4 in order to add lexical and thematic coherence with the Sermon on the Mount.

Ridlehoover’s analysis of the relationship between the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount will most likely not be the last word. Some may demur from his connections between petitions in the Prayer and Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon. While it is true that interpreters can often display too much optimism in identifying thematic connections in texts, Ridlehoover’s use of rhetorical criticism identifies a coherent structure of the Sermon and the Prayer, providing an objective framework for the more subjective task of detecting thematic links. His thesis that the petition for daily bread sits at the center of the Prayer and the Sermon is both theoretically sound and pastorally robust.

CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Todd R. Chipman, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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