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Social and Cognitive Perspectives on the Sermon on the Mount

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Social and Cognitive Perspectives on the Sermon on the Mount offers fresh readings of themes and individual sayings in the Sermon on the Mount (SM) using socio-cognitive approaches. Because these approaches are invested in patterns of human cognition and social mechanisms, the resulting collection highlights the persistent appeal and persuasiveness of the SM: from innate moral drives, to the biology of emotion and risk-taking, to the formation and obliteration of in-group/out-group distinctions. Through these theories the authors show why—even across cultures and history—the SM continues to grip both individual minds and groups of people in order to shape moral communities.

Classical historical-critical readings interpret the sermon according to the conventions of literature, seeking a relationship to other texts and ideas. By contrast our volume explores the SM not so much for the logical and historical relationships to other literary traditions, but also—and perhaps more importantly—for the ways it stimulates emotional, biologically, culturally habituated, evolutionarily preconditioned, and socially sanctioned characteristics of humans. In short, the volume shines a light on the action-inducing properties of the text.

The volume will introduce a broader group of scholars, students, and clergy to the relevance of social scientific and cognitive studies for interpretation of the Bible, by applying these approaches to possibly the most read and discussed text in the Bible.

Published: Sep 1, 2020


Section Chapter Authors
The Contribution of Social and Cognitive Perspectives to the Interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount Rikard Roitto, Colleen Shantz, Petri Luomanen
Part 1: Action Induction and Character Formation
1. Altruism and Prosocial Ideals in the Sermon: Working Alongside Human Nature and Cognition Thomas Kazen
2. Light in the Body and Mind in the Text: Making Sense of Matt 6:12-23 Colleen Shantz
3. 'Whoever is Kind to the poor Lends to the Lord, and will be Repaid in Full' (Prov 19:17): Patterns of Indirect Reciprocity in the Book of Proverbs and in the Sermon on the Mount Anne Katrine Gudme
4. Ritual Acts in the Sermon on the Mount Rodney Werline
Part 2: Shaping Perception
5. Accepting Risk for the Greater Good: How the SM Changes its Audience's Perception of Risk Rikard Roitto
6. Emotional Repression and Physical Mutilation? The Cognitive and Behavioural Impact of Exaggeration in the Sermon on the Mount Thomas Kazen
7. Parables in the Sermon on the Mount: A Cognitive and Rhetorical Perspective Lauri Thuren
8. Is there a Reason to Worry? A Pragma-Dialectical Analysis of Matthew 6: 25-34 Niilo Lahti
Part 3: Formation of Communities
9. Remembering the Sermon in the Mountains of France Alicia Batten
10. Hypocrites and the Pure in Heart: Religion as an Evolved Strategy for In-Group Formation John Teehan
11. The Genre and Social Function of Beatitudes: Insights from a Comparison of Matthew and 4QBeatitudes Elisa Uusimaki