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The Hard Sayings of Jesus

Teaching Calendar | Bible Research Tools | Listing of the Hard Sayings | Topical Listing of Hard Sayings
The Hard Sayings of Jesus by F.F.Bruce | VPC Curriculum archive

Very Tentative Schedule: Please give me feedback. This is simply a "straw man" so that I can start to develop the permanent calendar.
Thanks, norm.herr@csun.edu

Date Topic Teacher (bold indicates confirmed)
1/14 Introduction Joe Morgan
1/21 Introduction to Literary Devices
used in Scripture
Norm Herr
1/28 Introduction to Literary Devices
used in Scripture
Norm Herr
2/4 Christian Lifestyle
6 Saltless Salt 37
57 The Cursing of the Fig Tree 208
60 Render to Caesar 214
7 The Old Is Better 40
8 One jot or One Tittle Shall in No Wise Pass 42
Bruce Mateko
2/11 Christian Lifestyle
6 Saltless Salt 37
57 The Cursing of the Fig Tree 208
60 Render to Caesar 214
7 The Old Is Better 40
8 One jot or One Tittle Shall in No Wise Pass 42
Bruce Mateko
2/18
Spiritual Warfare
28 Violence and the Kingdom 115
30 Casting Fire on Earth 122
31 How I Am Constrained Until It Is Accomplished! 125
32 Not Peace but a Sword 130
33 The Fall of Satan 133
36 Get behind Me, Satan! 146
67 Let Him Who Has No Sword Buy One 240

 

Bob Gray
2/25
Discipleship
37 Taking Up the Cross 150
Giving Up all you Own
Norm Herr
3/4
Discipleship
37 Taking Up the Cross 150
Giving Up all you Own
Norm Herr
3/11 Discipleship
40 The Son of Man Has Nowhere to Lay His Head 159
46 Sell What You Have 174
39 For or Against 157
41 Let the Dead Bury Their Dead 161
42 Looking Back 164
56 The Wedding Garment 206
20 Pearls before Swine 86
24 Go Nowhere among the Gentiles 104
Norm Herr
3/18 Discipleship
40 The Son of Man Has Nowhere to Lay His Head 159
46 Sell What You Have 174
39 For or Against 157
41 Let the Dead Bury Their Dead 161
42 Looking Back 164
56 The Wedding Garment 206
20 Pearls before Swine 86
24 Go Nowhere among the Gentiles 104
Norm Herr
3/25 ? Bob Gray
4/1 John 6
John 6:44-54
This Is My Body... This Is My Blood 236
Brian Zagnoli
4/8
John 6
John 6:44-54
This Is My Body... This Is My Blood 236
Brian Zagnoli
4/15 EASTER SUNDAY  
4/22 Faith & Unbelief Joe Morgan

Topical Listing of the Hard Sayings of Jesus

I have tried to arrange the hard sayings according to similar topics. I am sure that I have not done an adequate job, and there are better ways to group the, so please feel free to suggest your own groupings. I encourage you to find a theme and then study and teach on the topics relative to that theme. I bought two copies of G.F. Bruce's book, so please let me know if you would like to borrow it. Please send me notes that you would like posted on the web.

Communion
1 Eating the Flesh and Drinking the Blood of the Son of Man 21 (Zagnoli)
66 This Is My Body... This Is My Blood 236 (Zagnoli)

Sabbath
4 The Sabbath for Man 32

Forgiveness
2 The Son of Man Forgiving Sins 26
3 Not the Righteous but Sinners 29
18 If You Do Not Forgive Your Brother 77

Death
5 Not Dead but Sleeping 35
51 The Great Gulf 189

Christ Paid the Penalty
70 Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? 248
68 Why Are You Here? 243

Christian Lifestyle
6 Saltless Salt 37 (Mateko)
57 The Cursing of the Fig Tree 208 (Mateko)
60 Render to Caesar 214 (Mateko)
7 The Old Is Better 40 (Mateko)
8 One jot or One Tittle Shall in No Wise Pass 42 (Mateko)

Commitment/Discipleship
29 Hating One's Parents 119
40 The Son of Man Has Nowhere to Lay His Head 159
37 Taking Up the Cross 150
46 Sell What You Have 174
39 For or Against 157
41 Let the Dead Bury Their Dead 161
42 Looking Back 164
56 The Wedding Garment 206
20 Pearls before Swine 86
24 Go Nowhere among the Gentiles 104

Humility
53 The Rate for the job? 195
54 The First Will Be Last 199
44 The Elder Brother 169

Wealth
46 Sell What You Have 174
48 The Camel and the Eye of a Needle 180
49 Serving God and Mammon 184
47 Give for Alms What Is Within 178
50 Using Unrighteous Mammon to Make Friends 186
60 Render to Caesar 214

Seriousness of Sin/Repentance
11 Plucking Out the Right Eye 54
13 Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's Sake 63
9 "You Fool!" Merits Hell Fire 49
62 You Brood of Vipers 221
19 Lead Us Not into Temptation 81

Marriage/Purity/ Oaths
10 Adultery in the Heart 52
12 Divorce and Remarriage 56
14 Do Not Swear at All 66

Love for Enemies
15 Turning the Other Cheek 68
16 Love Your Enemies 72
17 You Must Be Perfect 74

Faith
58 Faith That Removes Mountains 210
52 Will the Son of Man Find Faith on Earth? 192
26 Let the Children First Be Fed 110

Eschatology
63 This Generation Will Not Pass Away 225
64 There the Eagles Will Be Gathered Together 231
38 The Kingdom Coming with Power 153
69 You Will See the Son of Man 245
25 You Will Not Have Gone through All the Towns of Israel 107

Spiritual Warfare
28 Violence and the Kingdom 115
30 Casting Fire on Earth 122
31 How I Am Constrained Until It Is Accomplished! 125
32 Not Peace but a Sword 130
33 The Fall of Satan 133
36 Get behind Me, Satan! 146
67 Let Him Who Has No Sword Buy One 240

Election/Salvation/God’s Sovereignty
23 Seeing and Not Perceiving 99
55 Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen 202
65 I Do Not Know You 233
51 The Great Gulf 189
21 The Sin against the Holy Spirit 88
27 Who Is Greater Than John the Baptist? 112
35 You Are Peter 139

Trinity/Nature of God
34 The Father and the Son 136
45 Why Do You Call Me Good? 172
59 Neither Will I Tell You 212
61 Call No Man Your Father 218
43 1 Will Warn You Whom to Fear 166
22 No Sign 94

 


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Listing of the Hard Sayings of Jesus
and associated chapters in the book by F.F. Bruce.
 
1 Eating the Flesh and Drinking the Blood of the Son of Man 21
2 The Son of Man Forgiving Sins 26
3 Not the Righteous but Sinners 29
4 The Sabbath for Man 32
5 Not Dead but Sleeping 35
6 Saltless Salt 37
7 The Old Is Better 40
8 One jot or One Tittle Shall in No Wise Pass 42
9 "You Fool!" Merits Hell Fire 49
10 Adultery in the Heart 52
11 Plucking Out the Right Eye 54
12 Divorce and Remarriage 56
13 Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's Sake 63
14 Do Not Swear at All 66
15 Turning the Other Cheek 68
16 Love Your Enemies 72
17 You Must Be Perfect 74
18 If You Do Not Forgive Your Brother 77
19 Lead Us Not into Temptation 81
20 Pearls before Swine 86
21 The Sin against the Holy Spirit 88
22 No Sign 94
23 Seeing and Not Perceiving 99
24 Go Nowhere among the Gentiles 104
25 You Will Not Have Gone through All the Towns of Israel 107
26 Let the Children First Be Fed 110
27 Who Is Greater Than John the Baptist? 112
28 Violence and the Kingdom 115
29 Hating One's Parents 119
30 Casting Fire on Earth 122
31 How I Am Constrained Until It Is Accomplished! 125
32 Not Peace but a Sword 130
33 The Fall of Satan 133
34 The Father and the Son 136
35 You Are Peter 139
36 Get behind Me, Satan! 146
37 Taking Up the Cross 150
38 The Kingdom Coming with Power 153
39 For or Against 157
40 The Son of Man Has Nowhere to Lay His Head 159
41 Let the Dead Bury Their Dead 161
42 Looking Back 164
43 1 Will Warn You Whom to Fear 166
44 The Elder Brother 169
45 Why Do You Call Me Good? 172
46 Sell What You Have 174
47 Give for Alms What Is Within 178
48 The Camel and the Eye of a Needle 180
49 Serving God and Mammon 184
50 Using Unrighteous Mammon to Make Friends 186
51 The Great Gulf 189
52 Will the Son of Man Find Faith on Earth? 192
53 The Rate for the job? 195
54 The First Will Be Last 199
55 Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen 202
56 The Wedding Garment 206
57 The Cursing of the Fig Tree 208
58 Faith That Removes Mountains 210
59 Neither Will I Tell You 212
60 Render to Caesar 214
61 Call No Man Your Father 218
62 You Brood of Vipers 221
63 This Generation Will Not Pass Away 225
64 There the Eagles Will Be Gathered Together 231
65 1 Do Not Know You 233
66 This Is My Body... This Is My Blood 236
67 Let Him Who Has No Sword Buy One 240
68 Why Are You Here? 243
69 You Will See the Son of Man 245
70 Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? 248

Hard Sayings of Jesus, by F.F. Bruce
You can order a copy from a local Christian Bookstore, Christian Book Distributors, or Amazon.com

Introduction to " Hard Sayings of Jesus"
by F.F. Bruce

Many of those who listened to Jesus during his public ministry found some of his sayings 'hard', and said so. Many of those who read his sayings today, or hear them read in church, also find them hard, but do not always think it fitting to say so.

Our Lord's sayings were all of a piece with his actions and with his way of life in general. The fewer preconceptions we bring from outside to the reading of the Gospels, the more clearly shall we see him as he really was. It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination - an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offence right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety. He spoke of God in terms of intimacy which sounded like blasphemy. He seemed to enjoy the most questionable company. He set out with open eyes on a road which, in the view of 'sensible people, was bound to lead to disaster.

But in those who were not put off by him he created a passionate love and allegiance which death could not destroy. They knew that in him they had found the way of acceptance, peace of conscience, life that was life indeed. More than that: in him they came to know God himself in a new way; here was the life of God being lived out in a real human life, and communicating itself through him to them. And there are many people today who meet Jesus, not in Galilee and Judaea but in the gospel record, and become similarly aware of his powerful attractiveness, entering into the same experience as those who made a positive response to him when he was on earth.

One reason for the complaint that Jesus's sayings were hard was that he made his hearers think. For some people thinking is a difficult and uncomfortable exercise, especially when it involves the critical reappraisal of firmly held prejudices and convictions, or the challenging of the current consensus of opinion. Any utterance, therefore, which invites them to engage in this kind of thinking is a hard saying. Many of Jesus's sayings were hard in this sense. They suggested that it would be good to reconsider things that every reasonable person accepted. In a world where the race was to the swift and the battle to the strong, where the prizes of life went to the pushers and the go-getters, it was preposterous to congratulate the unassertive types and tell them that they would inherit the earth or, better still, possess the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps the beatitudes were, and are, the hardest of Jesus's sayings.

For the Western world today the hardness of many of Jesus's sayings is all the greater because we live in a different culture from that in which they were uttered, and speak a different language from his. He appears to have spoken Aramaic for the most part, but with few exceptions his Aramaic words have not been preserved. His words have come down to us in a translation, and that translation - the Greek of the Gospels - has to be retranslated into our own language. But when the linguistic problems have been resolved as far as possible and we are confronted by his words in what is called a 'dynamically equivalent' version - that is, a version which aims at producing the same effect in us as the original words produced in their first hearers - the removal of one sort of difficulty may result in the raising of another.

For to us there are two kinds of hard saying: there are some which are hard to understand and there are some which are only too easy to understand. When sayings of Jesus which are hard in the former sense are explained in dynamically equivalent terms, then they are likely to become hard in the latter sense. Mark Twain spoke for many when he said that the things in the Bible that bothered him were not those that he did not understand but those that he did understand. This is particularly true of the sayings of Jesus. The better we

Introduction

understand them, the harder they are to take. (Perhaps, similarly, this is why some religious people show such hostility to modern versions of the Bible: these versions make the meaning plain, and the plain meaning is unacceptable.)

If the following pages explain the hard sayings of Jesus in such a way as to make them more acceptable, less challenging, then the probability is that the explanation is wrong. Jesus did not go about mouthing pious platitudes; had he done so, he would not have made as many enemies as he did. 'The common people heard him gladly', we are told - more gladly, at any rate, than members of the religious establishment did - but even among the common people many were disillusioned when he turned out not to be the kind of leader they hoped he would be.

Apart from the one archetypal hard saying with which our collection starts, all the sayings treated here come from the synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John has hard sayings in plenty, but they have a character of their own, and to deal with them would call for another volume of the same dimensions as this.

The view of the interrelatedness of the synoptic Gospels taken in this work does not greatly affect the exposition of the hard sayings, but it will be as well to state briefly here what that view is. It is that the Gospel of Mark provided Matthew and Luke with one of their major sources; that Matthew and Luke shared another common source, an arrangement of sayings of Jesus set in a brief narrative framework (not unlike the arrangement of the prophetic books of the Old Testament); and that each of the synoptic evangelists had access also to sources of information not used by the others. I It helps at times to see how one evangelist understood his predecessor by recasting or amplifying his wording.

Some of the sayings appear in different contexts in different Gospels. On this it is often said that Jesus must not be thought incapable of repeating himself. This is freely conceded: he may well have used a pithy saying on a variety of occasions. There is no reason to suppose that he said 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear, or 'Many are called, but few are chosen', once only. But there are occasions when a saying, indicated by

comparative study to have been spoken in one particular set of circumstances, is assigned to different contexts by different evangelists or different sources. There are other principles of arrangement than the purely chronological: one writer may group a number of sayings together because they deal with the same subject-matter or have the same literary form; another, because they have a common keyword (like the sayings about fire and salt in Mark 9:43-50).

Where there is reason to think that an evangelist has placed a saying in a topical rather than a chronological setting, it can be interesting to try to decide what its chronological setting in the ministry of Jesus probably was. For example, it has been suggested that the saying 'You are Peter, which Matthew (alone of the synoptic evangelists) includes in the report of Jesus's interchange with the disciples at Caesarea Philippi (see p. 139), may have belonged chronologically to another occasion, such as Jesus's appearance to Peter in resurrection. Even more speculative is the interpretation of some of the sayings as words of Jesus spoken not during his public ministry but later, through the mouth of a prophet in the early church. It has been thought best in this work not to engage in such speculation but to treat the sayings primarily in the contexts provided for them by the evangelists.

Again, this does not seem to be the place for an enquiry into the question whether the sayings examined are authentic sayings of Jesus or not. To help students in answering such a question some scholars have formulated 'criteria of authenticity' for application to the sayings recorded in the Gospels. One scholar, who attached great importance to these criteria, told me a few years ago that he had concluded that among all the sayings ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels, only six, or at most eight, could be accepted as undoubtedly his. The reader of this work will realise that it is written from a less skeptical viewpoint than that. Let this be said, however: the fact that a saying is hard is no ground for suspecting that Jesus did not say it. On the contrary, the harder it is, the more likely it is to be genuine.

in 1901, contained a long and important entry on 'Gospels' by a Swiss scholar, P. W. Schmiedel. In the course of this he listed a number of sayings of Jesus and other passages which, to his mind, ran so much counter to the conception of Jesus which quickly became conventional in the Church that no one could be thought to have invented them. He therefore regarded their authenticity as beyond dispute and proposed to treat them as 'the foundation-pillars for a truly scientific life of Jesus. Several of them will come up for inspection in the following pages for, whether in Schmiedel's sense or otherwise, they are certainly hard sayings.

The biblical version most frequently quoted in this work is the Revised Standard Version. It is for the most part in the wording of the Authorized (King James) Version that the sayings studied have acquired the status of 'hard sayings', and the RSV wording is sufficiently close to that of the AV to retain the same element of 'hardness'. A version like the New English Bible sometimes removes one hardness to replace it by another. In the interpretation of the sayings quoted I am, of course, indebted to many other interpreters. Some acknowledgment of my indebtedness is made in the following pages. There is one interpreter, however, to whom I am conscious of a special debt: that is the late Professor T. W. Manson, particularly in respect of his two works The Teaching of JesUS2 and The Sayings of Jesus.3 From the latter of these works I take leave to borrow words which will supply a fitting conclusion to this introduction:

It will simplify the discussion if we admit the truth at the outset: that the teaching of Jesus is difficult and unacceptable because it runs counter to those elements in human nature which the twentieth century has in common with the first - such things as laziness, greed, the love of pleasure, the instinct to hit back and the like. The teaching as a whole shows that Jesus was well aware of this and recognised that here and nowhere else lay the obstacle that had to be surmounted.4

 

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