Exegesis: Matthew 5:1-12


Step 1 Acquaintance

A. Comparison of translations: The Message, Eugene Peterson

You're blessed when..at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

...You feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You're content with who you are, no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners fo everything that can't be bought.

You've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

When you care. At the moment of being care-full, you find yourself cared for.

You get your inside world, your mind and heart, put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

When your commitment to God provokes persecution. It drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

NEB How blest..those who know they are poor; ...to see right prevail; whose hearts are pure

B. Textual criticism

C. Rough translation

Lucky, the strugglers to stay afloat: theirs is the whole firmament!

Lucky, the sad, comfort is theirs!

Lucky the broken, they will embrace the creation.

Lucky, those who truly long to be good, they're going to be filled.

Lucky those who show kindness, they shall be shown kindness.

Lucky the good-hearted: God-they'll lay eyes on Him!

Lucky those who bring peace: they'll be declared God's kids!

Lucky the persecuted for good causes: the universe is theirs1

Step II Disposition

A. Genre: A series of unarguable pronouncements, but delivered poetically, with symmetry: imagine a world!

B. Personal interaction:

This is not a program for improvement, nor a call to action. It is simply a description. There is nothing to be done about it. We can only listen. Who these people are, we cannot say. Maybe our response is to look around and try to name a few people who fit these. Or simply say, "Oh, okay. So that's the way it is". Acceptance of it is a better response than to try to "produce" it.

Step III. Composition

A. Immediate context-preceding/following pericope":

A section of supreme importance for Matthew, Jesus' first extended pronouncement of his ministry after baptism, temptation, and call of disciples. Followed by the rest of "Sermon on the Mount", other central teachings.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole:

C. Issues of Authorship

Step IV Context

A. Primitive Christianity

Gospel of the persecuted and disinherited?

B. OT and Judaism: "The Lord hears the cry of the poor".Isaiah 5:1-2; Ps.72; Ps. 24:4;

C. Hellenistic world.

Step V.

A. Summary of Salient features

Jesus' pronouncing of blessings is a strong clue to his true authority.

B.Smooth translation

God is befriending the poor: he's giving them the kingdom!

God is befriending the sad: he's comforting them!

God is befriending the tender: he's making them his partners!

God is befriending the those working for a better world: he's working for a better world too!

God is befriending those who show understanding of others: he's showing understanding too!

God is befriending the bighearted: they can see what he's up to!

God is befriending the ones who try to bring people back together: they are his true heirs!

God is blessing those who suffer for truth-telling: he's giving them the kingdom!

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

This is a bit like trying to "explain" a poem. Once you begin to dissect it, the life may go out of it. Hmm.

Step VI Contemporary Address

A. Description of Audience

B Intended goals

I want to somehow communicate the radical nature of the beatitudes without turning them into a moral lesson or domesticating them, but still make them, if not accessible, at least not so alien as to seem irrelevant.