The Beatitudes

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The Beatitudes with a Digital Imagination

Contents
Beatitudes in Matthew
Beatitudes in Luke
Lutheran Analysis
Textual Criticism
    First
    Second
    Third
    Fourth
    Fifth
    Sixth
    Seventh
    Eighth

Matthew 5:1–12 NRSV

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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Luke 6:20–26 NRSV

“Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now,

for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now,

for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now,

for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

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Analysis of the Beatitudes from a Lutheran perspective.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase "poor in spirit" is a difficult one to understand. It does not actually mean what many would ascribe to it. 

Some people hold tightly to their spirit. They want control over their lives and the lives, to the extent they can, of the people around them. These people are chained by their own spirit, although they might think of themselves as rich in spirit. They resist God's Spirit.

The poor in spirit are those who humble themselves before God and do not resist God's Spirit, because God's Spirit is so much more than anything they could have on their own.

You do not need to do a thing to receive God's Spirit, in fact, you MUST do nothing, you must not resist God's Spirit, you must not try to hold tight to yours, just be open to God's Spirit and it will be there.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Narcissists and egoists do not really mourn, they are self-centered. People who mourn are other-centered. They recognize the loss when anyone dies, young or old, tall or short, good or evil, all is loss. So they mourn, they are humble and open to God's presence and spirit.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Meek here is similar to "poor in spirit". Here we begin to see how the Beatitudes build upon one another. The meek are humble, they are open to God, they do not hold tightly to their own spirit, and they are other-centered, they mourn.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Anyone who is other-centered, who mourns, will always want others to be happy and healthy, they want equality, goodness, they want everyone to be open to God's Spirit so they may receive the the gift of the Spirit from God. Here again, we see a continued building, for if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will be poor in spirit, you will mourn, and you will be meek.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Then you will understand mercy and want to be merciful, for mercy reduces pain and increases happiness.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

When you hold tight to your own Spirit and, thereby resist and close yourself to God's Spirit, you will hold evil in your heart, because the human spirit is broken and both good and evil, while God's Spirit is Good. When you hold tight to yourself, you cannot be pure because it is the Holy Spirit that purifies your heart.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The rest continue to build upon the first, one who is poor in spirit, who mourns, who is meek, thirsts for righteousness, is merciful, and has a pure heart open to the Holy Spirit, such a person will be a peacemaker, for anything else will cause them pain. They will often be persecuted, because war is big business and evil people profit highly from war. They seek to stop the peacemakers for that will kill their profit. These people are the ones who do not humble themselves before God and are not open to God's Spirit.

The war makers will revile and persecute the peacemakers because the peacemakers threaten the profits of the war makers.


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The following textual criticism comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia. They apply to the Matthean version.

First beatitude

The word poor seems to represent an Aramaic 'ányâ (Hebrew 'anî), bent down, afflicted, miserable, poor; while meek is rather a synonym from the same root, 'ánwan (Hebrew 'ánaw), bending oneself down, humble, meek, gentle. Some scholars would attach to the former word also the sense of humility; others think of "beggars before God" humbly acknowledging their need of Divine help. But the opposition of "rich" (Luke 6:24) points especially to the common and obvious meaning, which, however, ought not to be confined to economical need and distress, but may comprehend the whole of the painful condition of the poor: their low estate, their social dependence, their defenseless exposure to injustice from the rich and the mighty. Besides the Lord's blessing, the promise of the heavenly kingdom is not bestowed on the actual external condition of such poverty. The blessed ones are the poor "in spirit", who by their free will are ready to bear for God's sake this painful and humble condition, even though at present they be actually rich and happy; while on the other hand, the really poor man may fall short of this poverty "in spirit".

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Second beatitude

The "mourning" in the Second Beatitude is in Luke (6:25)opposed to laughter and similar frivolous worldly joy. Motives of mourning are not to be drawn from the miseries of a life of poverty, abjection, and subjection, which are the very blessings of verse 3, but rather from those miseries from which the pious man is suffering in himself and in others, and most of all the tremendous might of evil throughout the world. To such mourners the Lord Jesus carries the comfort of the heavenly kingdom, "the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25) foretold by the prophets, and especially by the Book of Consolation of Isaias (11-16). Even the later Jews knew the Messiah by the name of Menahhem, Consoler. These three blessings, poverty, abjection, and subjection are a commendation of what nowadays are called the passive virtuesabstinence and endurance, and the Eighth Beatitude (verse 10) leads us back again to the teaching.

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Third beatitude

Inasmuch as poverty is a state of humble subjection, the "poor in spirit", come near to the "meek", the subject of the third blessing. The anawim, they who humbly and meekly bend themselves down before God and man, shall "inherit the land" and possess their inheritance in peace. This is a phrase taken from Psalm 36:11, where it refers to the Promised Land of Israel, but here in the words of Christ, it is of course but a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritual realm of the Messiah. Not a few interpreters, however, understand "the earth". But they overlook the original meaning of Psalm 36:11, and unless, by a far-fetched expedient, they take the earth also to be a symbol of the Messianic kingdom, it will be hard to explain the possession of the earth in a satisfactory way.

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Fourth beatitude

The others, however, demand a more active behavior. First of all, "hunger and thirst" after justice: a strong and continuous desire of progress in religious and moral perfection, the reward of which will be the very fulfillment of the desire, the continuous growth in holiness.

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Fifth beatitude

From this interior desire a further step should be taken to acting to the works of "mercy", corporal and spiritual. Through these the merciful will obtain the Divine mercy of the Messianic kingdom, in this life and in the final judgment. The wonderful fertility of the Church in works and institutions of corporal and spiritual mercy of every kind shows the prophetical sense, not to say the creative power, of this simple word of the Divine Teacher.

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Sixth beatitude

According to biblical terminology, "cleanness of heart" (verse 8) cannot exclusively be found in interior chastity, nor even, as many scholars propose, in a general purity of conscience, as opposed to the Levitical, or legal, purity required by the Scribes and Pharisees. At least the proper place of such a blessing does not seem to be between mercy (verse 7) and peacemaking (verse 9), nor after the apparently more far-reaching virtue of hunger and thirst after justice. But frequently in the Old and New Testaments(Genesis 20:5Job 33:3Psalms 23:4 (24:4) and 72:1 (73:1)1 Timothy 1:52 Timothy 2:22) the "pure heart" is the simple and sincere good intention, the "single eye" of Matthew 6:22, and thus opposed to the unavowed by-ends of the Pharisees (Matthew 6:1-616-187:1523:5-7, 14) This "single eye" or "pure heart" is most of all required in the works of mercy (verse 7) and zeal (verse 9) in behalf of one's neighbor. And it stands to reason that the blessing, promised to this continuous looking for God's glory, should consist of the supernatural "seeing" of God Himself, the last aim and end of the heavenly kingdom in its completion.

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Seventh beatitude

The "peacemakers" (verse 9) are those who not only live in peace with others but moreover do their best to preserve peace and friendship among mankind and between God and man, and to restore it when it has been disturbed. It is on account of this godly work, "an imitating of God's love of man" as St. Gregory of Nyssa styles it, that they shall be called the sons of God, "children of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:45).

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Eighth beatitude

When after all this the pious disciples of Christ are repaid with ingratitude and even "persecution" (verse 10) it will be but a new blessing, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

So, by an inclusion, not uncommon in biblical poetry, the last blessing goes back to the first and the second. The pious, whose sentiments and desires whose works and sufferings are held up before us, shall be blessed and happy by their share in the Messianic kingdom, here and hereafter. And viewed in the intermediate verses seem to express, in partial images of the one endless beatitude, the same possession of the Messianic salvation. The eight conditions required constitute the fundamental law of the kingdom, the very pith and marrow of Christian perfection. For its depth and breadth of thought, and its practical bearing on Christian life, the passage may be put on a level with the Decalogue in the Old, and the Lord's Prayer in the New Testament, and it surpassed both in its poetical beauty of structure.

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Sources

Besides the commentaries on St. Matthew and St. Luke, and the monographs on the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes are treated in eight homilies of ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, P.G., XLIV, 1193-1302, and in one other of ST. CHROMATIUS, P.L., XX, 323-328. Different partristical sermons on single beatitudes are noticed in P.L., CXXI (Index IV) 23 sqq.

Van Kasteren, J.P. (1907). The Eight Beatitudes. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02371a.htm