Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/426

This page needs to be proofread.


BEATITUDES


870


BEATITUDES


thority of Socin and Benzinger). This mountain, ris- ing above the hills that skirt the lake, is the only height to the west that can be seen from its shores. It consists of a low ridge about one-quarter of a mile long, extending east and west, and rising at each extremity into a cone or horn. The eastern horn, which is the taller, is only sixty feet above the ridge. Between the horns lies an uneven plat- form which could easily accommodate the crowd that followed Jesus; but it is believed that the spot on which the discourse was given is lower down, on a level place on the southern side of the mountain, corresponding with St. Luke's description (roiriu ireSifoO), vi, 17, which may mean a level place, as well as a "plain". From the eastern slope of the hill there is a beautiful view, to the east, of the lake with the Jolan (Gaulanitis) mountains be- yond, to the south the plateau of Ard el-Hammc and Mt. Tabor, and to the north the snowy height of Mt. Hermon. The tradition that there was a \illage on the mountain top, if true (the only proof being the remains of a wall which served as defence to a camp), might lend point to the reference in the sermon to the city which was seated on a hill and could not be hid (Matt., v, 14); and the beautiful flowers that abound there might include the un- identified •'lilies of tlie field" (vi, 28). Bishop Le Camus (Notre Voyage aux Pays Bibhques, II, pp. 220-222) thought he never saw elsewhere and never imagined so lovely a variety and harmony in the beauty of flowers; other travellers are scarcely so enthusiastic, but all agree the spot has a charm of its own. The Horns of Hattin are mentioned by a feeble and late tradition as the site of the second multiplication of loaves. The Jews of the locality point out here also the tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses. During the Crusades the plain below was the scene of the battle in which Saladin dealt the death-blow to French power in Palestine (3-4 July, 1187).

The tradition regarding the scene of the Sermon on the Mount, though usually received with a certain degree of favour by Scriptural scholars, apparently does not go back beyond the crusaders. St. Jerome, the best informed man of his day on points of this nature, knew of no such tradition and merely con- jectured that tlie scene was on Mt. Tabor or some other high mountain of Galilee (Comm. in Ev. S. Matt, in Cap. v). The Gospels, in fact, afford but little help in determining the site. Matt., v, 1, lo- cates the sermon on the mountain (t6 Spos), and Luke, vi, 12, uses the same expression for the spot from which Our Lord descended before He preached on the "level place", vi, 17. The expression most naturally "suggests that the sermon had long been traditionally connected with a mountain and seems to mean the mountain on which the sermon was delivered" (.\llen, St. Matthew, New York, 1907). Some scholars even see in the definite article the indication of a particular mountain which the Evangelists suppose known to the reader; but pop- ular curiosity concerning the scene of particular Gospel events is a growth of later date. Some in- terpret it as "the mountain that was at hand". Others refuse to see in the mountain a reference to any particular mountain at all, but interpret the word as meaning "the tableland, the mountainous district". T6 6pos is used in this sense in the Sep- tuagint translation of Gen., xix, 17, 19, 30, xxxi, 23, 2.5, xxxvi, 8, 9. and appears to have the same meaning in Matt., xiv, 23, xv, 29, Mark, vi, 46, Luke, ix, 28, John, vi, 3. Possibly the word is to be thus inter- preted here also, but St. Luke more probably refers (vi, 12) to a particular mountain on which Our Lord spent the night in prayer and from which He de- scended to the level place or tableland to preach the discourse.


.\ccording to another opinion recently put forth by certain critics, the mountain is purely ideal in Matthew, while in Luke a plain is the place on which the Beatitudes were spoken. The author of the First Gospel, in the opinion of Loisy (Le Discours sur la Montague) " desires to have for the publication of the New Law, a setting analogous to that which is described in Exodus (xx, 18-22) for the Old Law. The mountain of Matthew is the Sinai of the Gospel where Jesus speaks as prince of the kingdom of God and shows Himself greater than Moses. . . . To seek an exact geographical determination here is no more expedient than in the case of the mountain of the temptation", which was purely ideal, being represented as high enough to afford a view of all the kingdoms of the world. There is most probably an element of truth in this opinion; nearly all the Fathers seek a symbolic meaning in the mountain (v. St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea.Ioc. cit.) and are probably right in attributing it to Matthew. But his account and that of St. Luke have too matter-of- fact an air to allow us to believe that either intended the mountain to be regarded as purely ideal. Mat- thew believed, then, that the New Law, just as the Old, was really given on a mountain. We are assuming here, of cour.se, that the Sermon on the Mount was a genuine discourse by Our Lord, not a mere rearrangement of His sayings matle by Matthew.

If we seek to determine the particular mountain to which the Evangelists allude, we cannot advance with anything like certainty beyond the ancient opinion of St. Jerome (Comm. in Ev. Matt.) that the events before and after the discourse show that it was given on some moimtain of Galilee. It is not unlikely that the locality was not far distant from Capharnaum, into which Our Lord entered after finishing His discourse (Matt., viii, 5; Luke, vii, 1); but the Evangelists do not say how soon after the discourse He entered Capharnaum. We know from their literary methods that it may have been a day, a week, or even more, for they had little interest in the chronological sequence of events, and the attempt to press details of this sort only results in intermi- nable contradictions. Besides, the site of Cap- harnaum itself is uncertain. Neither Evangelist gives us a hint as to what vicinity Jesus set out from to ascend the mountain, except that it was some- where in Galilee; how then can the mountain be determined? It is true many (e. g. Stanley) assume it must have been from the lakeside or its neighbour- hood; but no word in the Gospels warrants the assumption, though it is the most likely one.

In favour of Kam Hattin, it is said, is the fact that it is accessible from all sides, which is thought to be demanded by the narratives of Matthew (iv, 25, V, 1) and Luke (vi, 17). But this argument, al- though it is accepted by Dean Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, London, 1883, p. 369) who is usually quite rigorous in requiring proof, has little force, since the multitude did not flock to the mountain from all sides, but, according to Matthew, at least, first gathered tosether and followed Jesus up the mountainside. (Cf. iv, 25, v, 1, with vii^ 28, where the multitude, not merely the disciples, are found on the spot where the sermon was delivered.) There is little but negative evidence in favour of Karn Hattin; Edersheira (Life and Times of Jesus, New York, 1896) says there are several reasons which make it unsuitable, but gives none. It is near the scenes of Our Lord's greatest activity and fulfils all the requirements of the narrative. We must add. however, that so great an authority as Robinson (Bibhcal Researches in Palestine, III, 487) says there are a number of hills to the west of the lake equally as suitable as Kam Hattin; but this hardly gives its proper force to the word, the mountain.