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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Discourse

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DISCOURSE.—No attempt is here made to discuss in all its bearings the general theme of the discourses of Jesus. His Teaching, Parables, Sermon on the Mount, etc., receive attention in special articles. All that is here undertaken is to mention in some sort of classification all the discourses, and to append a brief outline of their principal characteristics.

i. Classification and Mention.—The difficulties of any attempt at classifying the discourses of our Lord are apparent at a glance. They arise alike from the forms in which the discourses are recorded and from their character and contents. Considering the fact that our Lord did not write anything, or even cause His discourses to be exactly reported; considering, too, the great variety of occasions which called forth His utterances, and His own easy freedom and mastery of method in dealing with these occasions; considering, further, the differences in length, form, contents, and yet the cross-similarities and repetitions which the discourses exhibit, we see at once that a scientific and satisfactory classification is impossible. Yet there are obvious advantages for study in mentioning the discourses in some sort of orderly way. For our purpose it will not be necessary to take account of critical questions concerning the differences between the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptics, or between the Synoptics themselves, or to pay attention to matters of harmony and chronology, though under each grouping the commonly accepted order of events is followed. The classification proposed runs upon the general principle of audiences, and groups the discourses according as they were delivered to (1) individuals, (2) a select few, or (3) the public. Subdivisions will be apparent under these general heads.

1. Interviews with individuals.—Leaving out colloquies with particular persons in presence of others, there are to be mentioned under this head only (1) the discourse with Nicodemus on Regeneration (John 3:1-21), and (2) the discourse with the woman of Samaria on Worship and Salvation (John 4:5-26).

2. Talks with a few.—These may be subdivided as follows: (1) Discourses with others than the disciples. At these we cannot be sure of the absence of disciples, but their presence is not stated or certainly implied, and the words were not specially addressed to them. To this class belong: the discourse on Forgiveness, with the parable of the Two Debtors, given at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50); the beginning of the discourse on Tradition (eating with unwashen hands), though later ‘he called the multitudes,’ ‘and the disciples came unto him’ (Matthew 15:1-20, Mark 7:1-20); the Denunciation of the Pharisees and Lawyers at the house of a chief Pharisee (Luke 11:37-54); the discourse at another Pharisee’s house, where He discussed Modesty, Giving Feasts, and spoke the parable of the Great Feast and Excuses (Luke 14:1-24); finally, the discourse at the house of Zaccbaeus, with the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:1-27).

(2) Discourses with the disciples and others. Here the audience consisted in part of the disciples and in part of others, the presence of both classes being either distinctly stated or clearly implied. As to the numbers present, the circumstances seem to restrict them somewhat, though it is difficult to say just to what extent, and therefore how far these should be regarded as properly public discourses. To this class belong: the discourse on Fasting (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39); the response to objectors on Sabbath Observance (Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5); responses about Following Him (Matthew 8:19-22, Luke 9:57-62); response to the lawyer about Eternal Life, and parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37, cf. Luke 10:23); on Divorce (Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12); response to the Rich Young Ruler, with discourse on the Perils of Wealth and on Forsaking All and Following Him (Matthew 19:6-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30); the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-18); response to the request of certain Greeks, with remarks on His Death and Glory (John 12:30-36). Other discourses of the last Passover week seem to have been given in presence of the crowd, though directly addressed to smaller groups.

(3) Discourses with the disciples alone. These contain some of the most notable of our Lord’s utterances. In some cases others than the Twelve were present, but usually the audience was all, or a portion of, the Apostles. It will not be necessary to observe this distinction in the enumeration. This group of discourses may be subdivided into two kinds. (a) Short occasional discourses: the explanation of the Parable of the Tares, with the short parables that follow (Matthew 13:36-52); the caution against Pharisaic Leaven (Matthew 16:4-12, Mark 8:13-21); remarks about His Church upon Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21); the immediately following discourse on His Death and on Self-Denial (Matthew 16:21-28, Mark 8:31 to Mark 9:1, Luke 9:22-27); talk after the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:9-13, Mark 9:9-13); a second foretelling of His Death and Resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23, Mark 9:30-32, Luke 9:43-45); discourses at the Mission and Return of the Seventy (Luke 10:1-24); teaching as to Prayer, with parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:1-13); parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13); teaching as to Offences, Faith, Service (Luke 17:1-10); third prediction of His Death and Resurrection (Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34); talk about Faith suggested by the Withered Fig-tree (Matthew 21:20-22, Mark 11:20-26); talk following the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet (John 13:12-20); institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:19-20); after the resurrection, talk with the Two Disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:17-27); with the Apostles, Thomas absent (Luke 24:36-49, John 20:19-25); talk with some of the Apostles at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:4-23); the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-19).—(b) Extended discourses. Probably some of those mentioned in the preceding group were longer in reality than in report. But of the longer discourses with the chosen few we have the following: the Mission and Instruction of the Twelve (Matthew 10:1-42, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6); on Humility, Offences, Forgiveness (Matthew 18:1-35, Mark 9:33-50, Luke 9:46-50); discourse on the Mount of Olives on His Second Coming and the Final Judgment (Matthew 24, 25, Mark 13, Luke 21:7-36); the Farewell Discourse and Prayer (John 14-17).

3. Public addresses.—Of these we may again in a general way distinguish three groups, according to the extent either of the actual discourse or of the form in which we have it. (1) Discourses mentioned with some general description or remark, but with little or no detail of contents. Here we have: the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:14-15); the sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-28); the first preaching tour in Galilee (Matthew 4:23-24, Mark 1:39, Luke 4:44); at Capernaum (Mark 2:1-2; Mark 2:13); the second preaching tour in Galilee (Luke 8:1-3); at Nazareth again (Matthew 13:54-58, Mark 6:1-6); the third preaching tour in Galilee (Matthew 9:35-38, Mark 6:6); a tour alone after sending out the Twelve (Matthew 11:1); teaching and journeying (Luke 13:10; Luke 13:22, cf. Matthew 19:1, Mark 10:1); teaching in the Temple (Mark 11:17 f., Luke 19:47-48; Luke 21:37-38).

(2) Short occasional discourses. Of these there are a great number and variety, spoken sometimes to great multitudes, sometimes to groups, but publicly: on Blasphemy (Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:19-30); on Signs (Matthew 12:38-45); latter part of discourse on Eating with Unwashen Hands, and Traditions (Matthew 15:1-20, Mark 7:1-23); on Signs again (Matthew 16:1-4, Mark 8:11-12); on Demons and Signs again (Luke 11:14-36); on Confession, Worldliness, Watchfulness (Luke 12); on Repentance, with parable of the Barren Fig-tree (Luke 13:1-9); on the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18); on His Messiahship and Relations with the Father (John 10:22-38); Sabbath Healing, parables of Mustard Seed and Leaven (Luke 13:10-21); on the Salvation of the Elect (Luke 13:23-30); Lament over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34-35); on Counting the Cost of Following Him (Luke 14:25-35); reproof of the Pharisees, with parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:14-31); on the Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37); on Prayer, with parables of the Importunate Widow, and of the Pharisee and Publican (Luke 18:1-14); the colloquies with His critics in the Temple, on His Authority, on the Tribute to Caesar, on the Resurrection, on the Great Commandment, on the Son of David (Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 22:46, Mark 11:27 to Mark 12:37, Luke 20); remarks on Belief and Unbelief (John 12:44-50).

(3) Extended discourses. Only a few of the great discourses of our Lord are reported in extenso: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6:17-49)—in a sense public, though addressed primarily to the disciples; discourse at the feast in Jerusalem on His Relations with the Father (John 5:19-47); on John the Baptist and suggested topics (Matthew 11:7-30, Luke 7:24-35); the first great group of parables, the Sower, etc. (Matthew 13:1-53, Mark 4:1-34, Luke 8:4-16); discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Bread of Life (John 6:22-65); colloquy in the Temple on His Mission (John 7, 8); second great group of parables, the Lost Sheep, etc. (Luke 15:1 to Luke 17:10); last public discourse, Denunciation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-39, Mark 12:38-40, Luke 20:45-47).

ii. Some Characteristics.—A survey of the discourses of Jesus presents in a general way some of their characteristics, which may be summarily outlined as follows:

1. Their great variety. (1) Of occasion. (2) Of contents. (3) Of form.

2. Their wonderful charm. (1) Of personality—even in the report: how much more in His presence! (2) Of sympathy. (3) Of manner.

3. Their authority. (1) Consciousness of God. (2) Self-assertion.

4. Their power. (1) ‘Magnetism’—personality, demeanour, tone. (2) Thought—then and evermore.

Literature.—Broadus, Harmony of the Gospels, and Lectures on Jesus of Nazareth; Clark, Harmony of the Gospels; Weiss, Life of Christ; Stier, The Words of Jesus; Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus; Swete, Studies in the Teaching of our Lord; Brown, Exposition of the Discourses and Sayings of our Lord; Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, The Galilean Gospel, With Open Face; Nicoll, Life of Christ; Stalker. I mago Christi.

E. C. Dargan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Discourse'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/d/discourse.html. 1906-1918.

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