Exegesis of Matthew 5:1-12


Step I - (Initial) Acquaintance

A. Comparison of English or other published translations

NRSV CEV Peterson

poor in spirit who depend only on him end of your rope

who mourn who grieve lost what is most dear

meek humble content w/just who you are

hunger and thirst for r. Want to obey him appetite for God

more than to eat or drink

merciful merciful when you care

pure in heart hearts are pure inside world put right

peacemakers who make peace show how to cooperate instead

of compete or fight

persecuted for r. sake who are treated badly commitment to God provokes

for doing right persecution

B. Greek/Hebrew Textual Criticism

4 those who mourn now - first hand of Sinaiaticus

C. One's Own Rough Translation

1 And seeing the crowds, he went up into the mountains, and sitting him, approached to him his disciples.

2 And opening his mouth, he taught them, saying:

3 Blessed the poor in spirit (or The blessed ones are the poor in spirit or Happy are the . . .) for of them is the kingdom of the heavens.

4 The blessed ones are the mourning ones, for they shall be comforted.

(Or The happy ones are the ones who mourn . . .)

5 The blessed ones are the gentle (humble, considerate, unassuming), for they shall inherit the earth.

6 The blessed ones are the hungering and righteous thirsting ones, for they shall be satisfied.

7 The blessed ones are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 The blessed ones are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 The blessed ones are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 The blessed ones are the ones having been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for of them is the kingdom of the heavens.

11 Blessed are y'all when they reproach you and persecute and say all evil against you, lying, for the sake of me.

12 Y'all rejoice and be glad, for your reward is much in the heavens, for thus they persecuted the prophets before you.

Step II - Disposition

A. Genre - How the text says what it says

These are "sayings of Jesus". These verses are short, catchy, and highly parallel in structure. They could even be considered poetry. They sound like Psalm 1. In fact, they are singable.

B. Personal Interaction - Questions and observations

What does it mean to be blessed?

What is poor in spirit? Could it be, as the liberation theologian's suggest, to have the spirit of a poor person? Even then, what is a poor person's spirit like and why would God want a kingdom full of such people?

Or is the kingdom of heaven like the spirit of a poor person?

What is the connection between meekness and gaining the earth? Is the earth meant to be a desirable thing?

If the ones thirsting for righteousness will be satisfied, when will this be and how?

How does purity of heart lead one to see God? What is purity of heart?

What is righteousness for Jesus?

What will be the nature of our reward and when will it come?

C. Organization - Where the elements of "B" are located

Step III - Composition

A. Immediate Context - preceding/following pericope

Before - John the Baptist, temptation -in which Jesus only quotes Deut., begins to preach - but says only what John the Baptist has said, calls his disciples, teaches, preaches, and heals.

This is the first extended teaching we are given in Matthew.

After - three chapters of teaching and commentary on the law

B. Organization of the Compositional Whole

This is at the beginning of Jesus' first teachings. Perhaps it is significant that he begins with blessings, or good news.

C. Issues of Authorship

This is Teaching 1 of Jesus and it sounds like Psalm 1. The author seems to know Hebrew scripture. The author is also comfortable reporting Jesus' preferential option for the poor and suffering.

Step IV - Context

A. Primitive Christianity

Why does Matthew have poor in spirit while Luke has simply poor?

1 Cor. 1.27 the foolishness of God is wiser than our wisdom?

James 2.5 poor in the world, rich in faith and heirs of kingdom

2.13 no mercy for those who show no mercy

3.18 righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace

Romans 4.13 righteousness of faith, not law

John 6.35 whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst

!Hebrews 12.14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness without which no one will see the Lord

B. Old Testament and Judaism - teachers sat to teach.

Ps 33.19 the eye of the Lord is on those who hope in his steadfast love.

Is 57.15 I dwell with those who are humble and contrite in spirit

Is 61.1 to bring good news to the oppressed, broken-hearted, captives

Is 61.2 to comfort all who mourn

Ps 37.11 the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

Dt 4.38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves

Ps 107.5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted, they cried to the Lord, and he delivered them

Pr 14.21 happy are those who are kind to the poor

Pr 17.5 Those who mock the poor insult their Maker

Ps 24.4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, etc., they will receive blessing from the Lord

Pr 10.11 the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life

Hos 2.1 Say to your brother, "My people," and your sister "Pitied."

C. Hellenistic World

Lists of virtues

Step V - Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

B. Smooth Translation

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

Step VI - Contemporary Address

A. Description of Audience

B. Intended Goals for the Address

C. Address