EXEGESIS OF MATTHEW 5:1-12
Step I (Initial) Acquaintance
A. Comparison of English or other published translations: There is very little difference between the NIV and NSRV. The only significant difference occurs in verse 7 where the NIV uses phrase shows mercy and in verse 9 NIV says that peacemakers shall be called sons of God where the NRSV says children in attempt to make it inclusive. The Message is altogether different and worth reading. Peterson takes the key word in each phrase and gives a specific contemporary interpretation of it. I.E. - such as poor in spirit in verse 3 - he translates to say you're blessed when you are at the end of your rope. Or as in verse 6 he translates hunger and thirst for righteousness to say You're blessed when you've worked up an appetite for God. These are interesting but to a large degree a very minimal interpretation of the text. They are really is a specific application of the beatitudes for a specific purpose. Okay if you want to limit them to one specific thing.
B. Greek/Hebrew Textual Criticism
C. One's Own Rough Translation
How blessed the people who recognize their complete and abject poverty spiritually, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
How blessed the people who mourn their spiritual condition as they would a loved one who has died, for they will be comforted.
How blessed the people who are self-controlled, who have reined in their passions, who are humble, for they will inherit the kingdom of God.
How blessed the people who are hungry and thirsty like a man who has been in the desert for days for righteousness, they will be satisfied.
How blessed the people who act with mercy as if they were in the skin of another person sharing their suffering, for they will receive mercy,
How blessed the people who have a single-minded devotion for God, for they will see God.
How blessed the people who labor to bring God's shalom kingdom to earth, for they will be called sons of God.
How blessed those who suffer for being righteous as described in these beatitudes, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Step II - Disposition
A. Genre - How the text says what it says: This text is a speech given by Jesus from a mountain. It is a sermon of sorts from Jesus. It is not narrative or history. It compares to the same kind of speech of when Moses delivered the 10 commandments. But it is not the kind of speech where a leader is giving commands or giving directions for a specific action like a state of the union address. It is a speech that describes the Blessing of God upon people who possess certain kingdom qualities. It is an active blessing.
B. Personal Interaction - Questions and observations: Are the blessings descriptive or are they pronouncements? What are the meanings of the words in Greek - poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst, righteousness, mercy, pure in heart, peacemakers, sons of God, kingdom of heaven? Unpacking these words would be helpful. Why does Matthew place these at the beginning of his gospel. What is he trying to say about Jesus to his community by placing it near the beginning of his ministry? I'm curious about how the whole Sermon on the Mount came together as a unit. It is doubtful to me that it is a literal record of a specific moment in Jesus ministry. Most likely it is a compilation of teachings that have been packaged and put together. Do the beatitudes serve as a prologue to the Sermon on the Mount? Does the rest of the Sermon on the Mount flesh out what it means. My biggest interest at present rests in trying to understand what righteousness means for Matthew in this text because it appears to me that its meaning is fleshed out by all of the beatitudes. How important of a concept is it for Matthew? Is it a theme that needs to be explored? Am I hungry for righteousness? Do I thirst for it? If you are not hungry and if you are not thirsty how do you create that hunger and thirst for it? Does it come by living into these beatitudes? Every one of the key words in the text could be explored more deeply in this text - a word study would be helpful. I'm interested in knowing what Blessed means in greater detail. What is it like to be blessed? I wonder if I know anyone who is blessed like this. I wonder if it is an either or thing. Where have I experiences this is my life. What does it feel like? Could be the peace we feel inside of knowing that God's kingdom is coming. Is there an irony here - you are blessed but you are persecuted. Seems to be that God is turning it upside down. These beatitudes are a thing of real beauty. How can a person preach all of them in one sermon effectively? I don't really think it is possible. My sense is that these beatitudes do not stand-alone. They are all interlinked and connected. They all define one another. So in this sense how could you isolate one without referring to the others? It appears to me that the first one sets up all of them and they build from there.
C. Organization - Where the elements of "B" are located: Most them located in what Matthew Means by specific words. (Genre, translation, history, hermeneutical Where in the steps are the questions. Questions here are more about translation. Organizing how will we will respond to the questions.
Step III - Composition
A. Immediate Context - preceding/following pericope: This pericope is the first major teaching of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew begins with the birth of Jesus. Next Jesus is baptized. Next Jesus enters the wilderness. Then he begins to teach and heal after his testing. But nothing is said about the content of his preaching. Here he lays it out. For all practical purposes it appears to be the prologue to the Sermon in the Mount that ends at the end of chapter 7. The Sermon on the Mount
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole: The Beatitudes falls in a section that begins in John 3:1 and ends in 7:29. It is a section that deals with the preaching of Jesus. Prior to this section is a section on the origin and infancy of Jesus. Following the unit is a section on the ministry of Jesus in Galilee 8:1-10:42. Following this section is a section where Jesus is questioned and opposition begins to grow 11:1-13:52. It is worth noting that the teaching of Jesus stands at the beginning of his ministry in Matthew.
C. Issues of Authorship: I have little doubt that these beatitudes were spoken by Jesus. They were most likely spoken in Aramaic according to what I've read. But I don't think we can assume they are the literal words of Jesus. There was probably no Sermon on the Mount so to speak as we see it here. I have no doubt that the author took them in the form he received them and edited them for his audience. Most people today do not believe it was written Matthew the tax collector who would have been an eyewitness. They believe a Greek-speaking author who was a Jewish Christian writing to a Jewish audience wrote it.
Step IV - Context
A. Primitive Christianity: Luke has a version of his own in Luke 6:20-23. They are shorter and fewer in number. It is clear from comparing them to Matthew that he spiritualizes them. Like on poor in spirit. Matthew is referring to a person who is poor spiritually. Luke is referring to a person who is physically poor. This could have been used as a prep class in early church for Baptism.
B. Old Testament and Judaism: There is an attempt her to make Jesus the new Moses. Huge parallels to Moses in the giving of the 10 Commandments. Psalm 107.
C. Hellenistic World
Step V - Distillation
A. Summary of Salient Features: Attempt here to understand some of the words used here by referring to a couple of commentaries. Actually did this step before I did my rough translation. Vs. 3 blessed=makarios- they do not state some future condition. They proclaim a present condition for people who are poor in spirit or merciful. Not saying then if you are this way you will get this. Saying instead if you are this way then you are blessed. They are not simple statements they are exclamations. They are statements of what is now. Not something that the Christian will get but something that the Christian has now. This is a joy that comes from God. Why using word happiness is not good in this text. Because happiness contains the root word hap which means chance. Therefore happiness is something that is determined by the varied circumstances of life (Barclay). Should be translated blessed then. Not you will be blessed if you are poor in spirit but instead The Poor in Spirit are blessed. This whole thing seems imply a type of blessing that is not dependent at all upon our life's circumstances. In the Greek the word are is not present. So should read blessed the poor in spirit. This is covenant language. This strong theological language. You with God -in relationship with God - in one relationship with another. God blesses.
Vs. 3 Poor=Ptochos -Desperately Poor living in abject poverty. Connected to the root ptossein-to crouch or cower. (I think this is the head pin on the whole thing. Everything swings from this first one.
Vs. 4 mourn=deep sorrow as if you were morning someone who were dead. Said to be same word used in Septuagint where Jacob is mourning because he thinks that Joseph is dead. I think the word here does not apply to personal grief over loss but rather to the deep sorrow for our spiritual conditions. Seems to be a follow up to me to the first beatitude. It is to mourn the spiritual condition of God's people and there lot.
Vs. 5 Meek=praus - seems to mean the correct balance between too much anger and too little anger. Seems to not mean person who lets other people walk all over them but rather someone who has a great deal of self-control. Also in Greek refers to an animal who has been domesticated - who has been reined in. Probably refers here to every impulse and instinct reined in and used with restraint. Also here could be a third meaning in the Greek - humility. Peterson in the message completely blows it here. In many ways this is another way of describing the person who is poor in spirit.
Vs.6 Hunger and Thirst=Language here is not what you feel in-between meals but the kind of hunger that you have when you have been without food for days - like a man wandering in the desert. Implying here an intense hunger and thirst for
dikaiosne =righteousness (I wonder here what this exactly refers to here for Matthew. Probably an important word for him I would guess.
Vs 7 Mercy=eleemon according to the New Interpreters Bible it is not talking about attitudes but about concrete actions. Would argue that true mercy comes from all of the above: recognizing ones on spiritual poverty; feeling deeply sorrowful for that condition, being humble and self-controlled and hungering for doing right. Barclay says that it is connected to a Hebrew word Chesedh which means to literally get into the skin of the other person until we can feel what they feel and see what they see. Sympathy= from two Greek words which means together with - and to experience or suffer.
Vs. 8 pure=katharos - unmixed, unalloyed, means single minded devotion - undivided loyalty of heart - not purity like from sexual sins or lust or anger - Like the Shema - the great commandment - means undivided heart - can't serve two masters.
Vs. 9 peacemakers= ( wonder if this this word has same origin in greek as epiphany though I doubt it) like the Biblical concept of shalom. This word here implies action in the way Matthew uses it. Not people who don't cause trouble or who are peaceful but actually people who work for shalom in the world. Shalom referring to the coming of the kingdom of God. Wonder here if this peacemaking has any relationship to Jesus' preaching on the kingdom of God.
Vs. 10 suffering for the sake of dikaiosne - which could be defined as poverty of spirit, meekness, mourning, thirsting for righteousness, for being merciful, making peace. Could argue that all of these beatitudes describe what righteousness means. They appear to all be linked. (Barclay on Matthew and New Interpreters Bible used extensively here).
Righteousness could be defined here as both personal and justice. Could say righteousness is acknowledging poverty of spirit and your need for God, Could say that it is mourning your spiritual condition, could say that it is being self controlled, could say that it is having a hunger for it, could say that it is being merciful, could say that it is having single minded devotion to God, could say that it is working for shalom, could say that it is the willingness to put your life on the line for the kingdom of God. I've asked well how do you get it. If you think you have it you don't. All Jesus says is that we must be hungry for it. Not supposed to try to get it. But just supposed to live out the principles of the kingdom. Text says that God makes us righteous - he says that we are satisfied.
B. Smooth Translation
C. Hermeneutical Bridge I think of bad things when I think of word righteousness. Jerry Falwell, Pastor who burns Harry Potter Books, Church Lady on Sat Nigh Live. Haughty people who think they have cornered the market on God. Think of Mayor in movie Chocolat. Haughty, finger pointing, cornered market on God. But that is self-righteousness. Kind Jesus condemns in 5:20 when he says our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. Diff kind of Righteousness Jesus is referring too here. Going to define it and discuss our hunger for it.
Step VI - Contemporary Address
A. Description of Audience
B. Intended Goals for the Address