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In verses 1 & 2 of the "Sermon on the Mount" it seems as if Jesus has withdrawn from the crowd into a lonely mountain and when the Twelve arrive he teaches them privately:

[Mat 5:1-2 KJV] 1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

However, at the end it sounds like there is a crowd:

[Mat 7:28-29 KJV] 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes.

Who is Jesus addressing?

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Of course Jesus was addressing only His disciples. The question here is, Who are Jesus' disciples? Was it just the 12 or did it include the crowd?. BDAG provides a good basis to begin as it gives two meanings of the word for disciple (Greek "mathetes").

  1. "One who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice". Matt 10:24f, Luke 6:40.
  2. "One who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent". Of John: Matt 9:14a, 11:2 … etc. Of Jesus and his 12 disciples Matt 10:1, 11:1, 28:16 (11 disciples), etc.

Therefore, the reference in Matt 5:1, 2 could be either the 12 disciples or Jesus' pupils more generally in the "crowd" that gathered.

The text of Matt 5:1, 2 does not demand that Jesus only address His 12 disciples and merely allow the crowd to listen. The text simply says that Jesus saw the crown gathering and waited until His 12 disciples were seated around him to begin His message.

Therefore, I believe that Jesus addressed the entire crowd of disciples/pupils generally in this famous sermon. "went up to/in the mountain" (Matt 5:1) does not have to mean that Jesus decided to isolate himself but merely chose a more elevated position from which to speak to the crowd. This appears to better fit with the comment (at sermon's end) in Matt 7:28 that "the crowds were amazed at his teaching".

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  • @ Dr Good answer.+1
    – alb
    Oct 21 '18 at 22:29
  • In verse 2 it says "he opened his mouth and taught them". Who is "them"?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 21 '18 at 22:55
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    "Them" would be the both of the previous antecedents, "crowds" and "disciples". Note that the subject of all the verbs in Matt 5:1, 2 is the unstated or implied "Jesus" (last stated almost a chapter previously) - Greek is not too careful about antecedents.
    – user25930
    Oct 21 '18 at 23:10
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The wording of Matthew 5:1-2 is pregnant with meaning :

Seeing the multitudes ...

  • He went up ... into a mountain ...

  • and when he was set ...

  • his disciples came unto him ...

  • and he opened his mouth ...

  • and taught them ...

I would say it is quite clear that ascension is in view. 'He went up' and 'when we was set' both lead the mind to contemplate an ascended, seated state, that is to say reminiscent of resurrection and ascension.

And 'he opened his mouth' is unusual. Why say it ?

I would suggest that attention is drawn to the idea of 'mouthpiece'. 'He opened his mouth' emphasises the manner of utterance.

Ascended, he speaks still, by a 'mouthpiece' - his apostles or those who follow the word of his apostles.

'Seeing the multitudes' suggests to me that not just the crowd then present are in view. His eye sees further, into the future. He sees beyond to the whole world.

Risen, ascended, he speaks by the apostolic word and what he says he says to every one that would follow him, as a disciple. Every one who would hear his word and follow him and be obedient to that apostolic word - these are to whom he would speak throughout the church age until the end of time.

The multitude will overhear, true. The whole world will, to some extent or other, overhear what he speaks. But not all will follow in obedience, disciplined to his word.

What Jesus speaks in the chapters called 'The Sermon on the Mount' are famous, worldwide. These words went out to the whole world through the ministry of the apostles.

Yes, I would agree that, initially, the twelve were the recipients. But even at the time, also all the disciples received what he had to say. And even at the time, at least some of the multitude may have heard and passed on to the rest of the multitude what was spoken.

But the words addressed, initially and closely to the twelve (and overheard in the immediate proximity by other disciples) reached even then and reach now, in our own generation, around the planet.


Jesus' last words in Matthew convey the same thoughts :

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matthew 28:19 KJV.

It is the twelve (temporarily eleven) who are to go ... and to teach. They will teach what they had received from him (some of it from the mountain).

Those who receive that word and obey it, they shall baptise. And the baptised shall be taught further ... (v20)

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:

So not just the teaching that is sufficient to become a disciple and to be baptised into the body, but all that Jesus gave to the twelve shall be taught to the baptised disciples.

And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

It is He who is doing it all.

They (and those who minister their apostolic word) are his mouthpiece on earth as he directs from heaven.

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  • It was more than just the 11 who were present at Christ's ascension, however
    – warren
    Oct 23 '18 at 15:55
  • @warren It is not so recorded by Matthew : Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Matthew 28:16.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23 '18 at 17:57

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