The discourse on judgmentalism was a portion of the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. It directly followed the discourse on ostentation. The discourse is fairly brief, and begins by condemning those who would judge others, arguing that they too would be judged. Specifically, the Greek term usually translated as judge also refers to condemnation, and hence the text states that those who condemn others would be condemned. The sermon on the plain also makes a similar argument, and many scholars feel that it derives from the Q document. A few commentators, like R. T. France, claim that when Matthew describes God carrying out an action the narrative shifts to the passive voice, and that Matthew's use of the passive voice implies that God is the judge and condemner. On the other hand, most commentators suggest, like Fowler, that it refers to people being judged by each other, though a few individuals have suggested that it is merely warning about excessive self-criticism, turning the usual interpretation on its head - from don't judge to don't judge yourself.
Many conservative Protestant Christians believe that not all forms of judging are being condemned, and feel it quite acceptable to censor heretics, particularly as a wide array of judging is presented favourably elsewhere in the New Testament; Morris, for example, feels it is only an attack on hasty and unfair judgement, or against hypocrisy. Some Anabaptist groups even argued that this is an attack on all judicial authority, instead believing that there should be radical egalitarianism. The argument also had an important impact on the development of monasticism, whereby monks convicted of the severest crimes would merely be placed in solitary confinement in the hope that they repented, and ascetics viewed it as supporting their stance that it is better to withdraw from the world than judge it.
The discourse also argues that what you mete out is meted back to you. A slight variation on this wording was a popular phrase in mediaeval and renaissance England, and measure for measure even became the title of one of Shakespeare's plays, though in modern times an equivalent paraphrase - you reap what you sow - is far more popular. While most people interpret this as advocating tolerance and understanding, conservative groups have come to view this interpretation as excessively liberal, and instead, commentators like Luz interpret it merely a re-iteration of the prior command not to judge.
Matthew goes on to describe Jesus as illustrating the principles by a metaphorical hyperbole, in which it is pointed out that it would be ridiculous to help someone remove a splinter or a piece of sawdust from their eye, if you yourself had an entire log in yours and hadn't first tried to solve your own flaw. Some regard this metaphor as an attack on hypocrisy, condemning those with major flaws for attacking the minor flaws in others. Hill argues that this metaphor is meant ironically, that since it is improbable for one to ever remove their own flaws completely, there will never be a point at which one can justify judging others - much like the famed let him who is without sin cast the first stone in the Gospel of John.
- Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
- Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
- Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. trans. Wilhlem C. Linss. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1989.
- Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992.
- Patte, Daniel. The Gospel According to Matthew: A Structural Commentary on Matthew's Faith.
- Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
Discourse on judgmentalism
The Birds of Heaven
in the Sermon on the Mount
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Discourse on the Two Ways
in the Sermon on the Mount