DMin Course - PW 813

New Testament Exegesis and Sermon Design

Exegesis Notes - Matthew 5.1-12




A. Comparison of texts: Some translations (Phillips, et al) use the word "happy" while RSV uses "blessed." In the Greek, makarioi (makarioi) could also be rendered, "fortunate," "lucky," or even, "congratulations." It's perhaps difficult to settle on a consensus translation because varied meanings and origins. However, some commentators also state that "blessed" may be the best suited for our purposes, and that is talking about what it means to be in relationship with God, which is obviously an underlying theme in the gospels.

B. Textual Criticism: This pericope parallels Luke's more brief sermon that took place on a plain, not a mountain. He shares in common a five-part discourse: blessings (Mt 5.1-2 & Lk 6.20-26); love of enemies (Mt. 5.38-48 & Lk 6.27-36); judging others (Mt 7.1-5 & Lk 6.37-42); trees and their fruits (Mt 7.15-20 & Lk 6.43-45); and parable of the builders (Mt 7.24-27 & Lk 6.46-49). This shared structure was provided by Q, which Matthew and Luke both used.

Several points of syntax are helpful when looking at this text. Beginning in verse 3, makarioi (blessed) is an adjective used predicatively though it precedes the noun it modifies. Blessed describes the various nouns - the poor, the mourners, the meek, etc.

In verse 12, he uses a substantive ablative with a preposition, They persecuted the prophets who were before you (pro umwn). This gives an idea of separation. There is a gap between the origins and the present.

C. Rough Translation of Text:

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them saying these things: 3 "Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are you gentle mourners, for you will be comforted. 5 Blessed are you who are meek, for you will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are you who long to be filled with righteousness, for you will be full. 7 Blessed are you who show compassion and forgiveness, for you will receive the same. 8 Blessed are you when your motives are pure, for you will see God clearly. 9 Blessed are you when you work for peace and wholeness, for you will be recognized as those belonging to God. 10 Blessed are you when you suffer for doing good, for you will be a part of God's realm. 11 Blessed are you when others bring harm to you for my sake, 12 be glad and content, for your reward in heaven is great, for you will be experiencing the plight of prophets before you."


A. Genre: The genre of this discourse in Matthew is debated. He appears to be using protasis-apodosis which a series of condition/result clauses ("if you do this, then that will result"). This passage serves as the frontispiece in Matthew's gospel. This text has been called several things, "The Great Instruction," The Sermon on the Mountain" , The Great Sermon," or Luke's version, "The Sermon on the Plain."

B. Personal Interaction/Questions & Observations: Did Jesus mean for this discourse to be for all followers of all time, or was it a specific instruction for his circle of disciples. The setting lends itself to a rabbinical style teaching - Jesus sits and they gather around him as he teaches. And then what is the intent of the teaching? There are varied views on this. Some argue that it provides a "code of ethics" or sorts not just for the disciples then, but for all followers of all times. Others would say that the teachings are impossible for humans to adhere to, thus rendering us under God's lordship and saving mercy. Still others hold that this teaching is an "interim ethic"with eschatological meaning and effect. That is, it's not an enduring moral code, but an opportunity to live righteously until the eschaton.

C. Organization: Jesus does not present a totally new approach for being in covenant relationship as God's people. Rather, and as the following pericope reveal, Jesus introduces a new way of living in the covenant. By this new ethic and living, Jesus claims that the law then is not dismissed, but seen through new lens, the lens of the gospel. In essence, Jesus is preaching the gospel.


A. Immediate Context - preceding/following pericope: The previous pericope tells of Jesus' ministry in Galilee which included teaching in the synagogue, preaching, healing (disease/illness, possession, epileptics, paralytics), and answering questions of complaints. Through this ministry his popularity spread throughout the regions of Galilee, Jerusalem, Judea, the Decapolis, and the Transjordan. The following pericope is the whole of the Sermon in chapters 6 & 7, where he addresses several issues pertaining to the law and the role of disciples. His teaching "made a deep impression on the people, because he taught them with authority, unlike their own scribes." (7.28-29)

B. Organization of the whole: The Beatitudes begin Jesus' teaching after the ministry in Galilee. It's almost a de-breifing of sorts about what he has just done. This first part, 5.1-12, serves as an introduction to the rest of the sermon. In these verses Jesus sets the stage for the life of a disciple. As it relates to the ministry he had just been involved with, he now tells his followers that to such is the realm of God most present. They reveal not so much a code of life lived in God's realm, but they describe what life under his lordship is like. It's a reversal of sorts as evidenced by his ministry. He touched those whom no one else would, and yet these are the ones that God's realm and blessings are present.

C. Issues of Authorship: Matthew presents this sermon in a typical rabbinic fashion - Jesus sits as his followers gather around as he speaks and teaches them. Apparently this was already a part of his ministry in Galilee as he visited the synagogues.


A. Primitive Christianity: This contrasts with Luke's record of Jesus' proclaiming in Nazareth (Luke 4.16-30). Also as stated above, this parallels Luke shorter version of the sermon on the plain which both borrowed elements from Q.

B. Old Testament and Judaism: Some believe that this part of Matthew contains typologies of Moses or Joshua. However, I think Matthew is merely drawing from the Hebrew scriptures because of his grasp and knowledge of it. He is confident of the messianic fulfillments in Jesus of Nazareth and his audience would also be aware of these sources and motivations.

C. Hellenistic World: The people and issues mentioned in the Sermon reveal how Jesus is an iconclast. He goes against the conventional wisdom of religious and political culture of his era. He doesn't introduce a new law, but he introduces a new way of viewing humanity in light of the conventional wisdom. This affects both the religious and political structures and challenges both. The opening of the sermon sets the stage as to who the recipients of the realm of God are. The rest of the sermon deal with issues that affect the life of the disciple in the conventional world that is counter to the realm of God.


A. Summary of salient features: What is key here for me is the nature of this opening part of the sermon. Jesus unpacks what his ministry is about, who are its recipients, and what that means in the realm of God. It's a paradoxical presentation of not the ethics of living in the realm of God, but it's a description of what it is indeed like.

B. Smooth Translation: This opening discourse is like doing the investigation first (the ministry in Galilee) and then revealing the hypotheses (the sermon). This text then provides us with a reminder for all who live as disciples of Jesus the Christ as to what the nature that life is about.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge: The Sermon is about the good news of God made know in and through Jesus the Christ. Where God's presence and blessings reside are in those who others neglect. It's almost a continuation of the birth and visitation narratives, i.e., God's continues to be manifested in the unlikely places, and in unlikely persons. After having ministered to the sick, paralytic, and possessed Jesus then tells his followers the nature of his mission. Those whose lives are exhibited by those things that conventional wisdom would say are of no value, Jesus says that they are in fact the ones in whom God's "blessings" and presence abide.


A. Description of audience: Doctor of Ministry class, both on campus and on website.

B. Intended goals for the Address: Gain feedback from other class members about sermon based on three elements of critique: 1). affirmation. 2.) clarification & questions. 3.) difficulties and/or points of departure.

C. Address