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WBC for $299.00: Do it if you can


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#1 Abram K-J

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 07:14 AM

Last spring I picked up the Word Biblical Commentary series (58 volumes) from Accordance for $299.99. This sale is even 99 cents lower!

 

I realized it was the best deal I'd probably see on WBC so wanted to jump at it. I didn't quite have the means, so I sold the 10 or so print volumes in WBC I had  then to help fund the purchase. (Unlike, say, the NIGTC series, I don't think the WBC volumes present a stellar bookshelf aesthetic, and they're not as searchable as in Accordance, obviously.)

 

I've never regretted that decision and have used the WBC series quite regularly since then.

 

So if you're on the fence about it: if you have the means, church budget line, print books you can sell, etc., I highly recommend taking advantage of the WBC series at this sale price. I'm sure others would agree.

 

 


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#2 Serpentium

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 08:00 AM

Hi Abram,

I'm not sure if I want to buy it, since I find the NIB very helpful, deep, and enough extensive. I thought that NIB + IVP2 and IVP3 could be quite right balance for me. Plus some specific resource like JPS for torah, Comfort for NT and few Bible Studies (Life, Apologetics, Hard sayings...)

 

Now, in your opinion, can you think of a example that I will find beneficial buying the WBC?

Thanks...

Paolo

 

ps. I own Holman, NAC, EBC, Butler, and more, in another christian sw system you use too.



#3 Abram K-J

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 08:45 AM

Well, I'm a big fan of only spending for what you need. I preach every week and find that I like having at least one or two (maybe even three, if I have time) more "technical" or "semi-technical" commentaries like the WBC that look at the original languages. I had a couple professors in seminary that insisted that we not use just one commentary for a passage--so we could get a diversity of approaches, views, etc.

 

But if you feel you already have a good balance (and I think it would all depend on what you are using these resources for), you'd probably want to makes sure to have really good reasons for springing for the WBC, other than just the fact that it's on sale. If you have NAC and EBC, I'd think you're in a good place, unless you really do regularly use more than 4-5 commentaries per passage.

 

NAC has a little bit of stuff on the original languages--so does EBC. I think WBC is probably more extensive along those lines--lots of so-called form criticism in the WBC, too.


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#4 Tony Lawrence

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 08:48 AM

Abram, a question. Do you also own NICNT? I have been saving my money for NICNT but have often thought about WBC as many of its volumes are rated highly on BestCommentaries.com. If you own both, which do you find the most helpful? This sale has put me in a dilemma: do I buy the WBC or do I wait for the next sale of NICNT?

 

Any input from others who own both would be greatly appreciated.


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#5 Abram K-J

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 08:52 AM

Hi, Tony--that is a tough decision! NICNT has some real standouts--R.T. France's Matthew volume, Lane's Mark volume, Moo on Romans, Fee on 1 Corinthians....Conversely, Hagner on Matthew in WBC is good, Guelich on Mark (1-8:26) is even better than Lane/NICNT (in my opinion), and Nolland on Luke is nice, too.

 

I think personally I'd give the edge to NICNT over WBC-NT for usefulness (at least for preaching--writing an exegesis paper might be more of a toss-up). Of course, the whole WBC series (note: not yet the complete "set") is cheaper than just NICNT.


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#6 Dan Francis

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:09 PM

I personally am the opposite I find WBC a bit more helpful. WBC is a bargain at that price (mine was even more a bargain since I found it at a used Christian bookstore years ago). It has a lot to offer and is my favourite evangelical commentary.

 

I will share Psalm 1 here. I will admit for me I usually just read comments and explanation portions, but as you can see there is a lot for those who really like to dive into more technical.

 

------------

An Introductory Psalm of Wisdom (1:1-6)
 
 
Bibliography
 
Auffret, P. “Essai sur la structure littéraire du Psaume 1.” BZ 22 (1978) 27–45. Anderson, G. W. “A Note on Psalm 1:1.” VT 24 (1974) 231–3. Beaucamp, E. “La salutation inaugurale du livre des Psaumes.” Église et Thélogie 1 (1970) 135–46. Bergmeier, R. “Zum Ausdruck רשׁעים in Ps. 1:1, Hi. 10:3, 21:16 und 22:18.” ZAW 79 (1967) 229–32. Brownlee, W. H. “Psalms 1–2 as a Coronation Liturgy.” Bib 52 (1971) 321–36. Bullough, S. “The Question of Metre in Psalm 1.” VT 17 (1967) 42–49. Lack, R. “Le psaume 1–Une analyse structurale.” Bib 57 (1976) 154–67. Merendino, R. P. “Sprachkunst in Ps. 1:1.” VT 29 (1979) 45–60. Rinaldi, G. “Môšāb nell’ultima frase del Sal. 1:1.” BeO 17 (1975) 120. Schedl, C. “Psalm 2 und die altjüdische Weisheitsmystik.” In XVII Deutscher Orientalistentag vom 21. bis. 27. Juli 1965 in Würzburg, ed W. Voigt. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1969. Soggin, J. A. “Zum ersten Psalm.” TZ 23 (1967) 81–96.
 
 
Translation
 
1  Blessed the man who has not walked by the counsela of the wicked,
and has not stood in the wayb of the sinful,
and has not sat in the gatheringc of scoffers.d
2  But in the Lord’s Torah is his delight
and in his Torah will he musea by day and night.
3  So shall he be like a tree,
transplanted by running waters,a
which shall yield its fruit in its season,
and its foliage shall not wither.
So, in all that he shall do, he shall prosper.b
4  Not so the wicked!
But they are like the chaff that wind tosses.a
5  Therefore, the wicked shall not rise up in judgment,a
nor sinners in an assembly of the righteous.
6  For the Lord protectsa the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall perish.
 
 
Notes
 
1.a ‏עצת‎, “counsel,” in S, is transposed with ‏דרְך‎ “way” in v 1c; though such a change might be viewed as an improvement in the sequence of thought, it is unnecessary. The word ‏עצה can mean either “counsel” or “council”; Dahood translates “council” in this context (Psalms I, 1–2). A similar alternative is the translation “fellowship” (of wicked men), on the basis of the use of the term in the Qumran literature, as proposed by Bergmeier, ZAW 79 (1967) 229–32. Both alternatives are possible, though it is a question of judgment rather than semantics and depends upon the translation of the rest of v 1; see notes b* and c* below
 
1.b דָרְך “way.” Dahood (Psalms I, 2) translates דרְך by “assembly,” basing his translation upon a supposed usage of the cognate term in the Ugaritic texts. The word is used again (in v 6, twice) and thus is critical to the meaning of the psalm as a whole. According to, Dahood,  the Ugaritic word drkt, which means “dominion, power,” and hence “throne” (see Aistleitner, WUS #792), undergoes a semantic shift from “dominion” to the place where dominion is exercised, namely the “assembly.” But the argument is weak. Within Ugaritic, there is precisely such a semantic shift, but it is from “dominion” to “throne” (namely, the seat of dominion). The use of the term in Ugaritic may designate the dominion of the deities; Anat, for example, is called bʿlt.drkt, “mistress of dominion” (’ 24.252.7). No doubt the Ugaritic nuance of drkt (“dominion, power”) does occur in the OT in the Hebrew usage of the root דרְך (see Judg 5:21 and P. C. Craigie, JBL 88 [1969] 257). In the present context, however, the argument for the meaning “assembly,” insofar as it is based on Ugaritic, is without firm foundation. “Throne” would be a possible translation, though it would not fit the poetic context well. Furthermore, the contrasting of two ways (1:6) is a common theme in both biblical literature (Deut 30:19; Jer 21:8; Prov 1:1–7; Matt 7:13–14) and in Near Eastern texts: e.g. in Gilgamesh X.vi (ANET, 93) and the “Hymn to Aten” (ANET, 371). In summary, it is better to retain the translation “way” for Heb ‏דרְך, both here and in v 6.
 
1.c “Gathering” (‏מושׁב) or “seat”; on the meaning of the term, see Rinaldi in BeO 17 (1075) 120. The sense of this word could admittedly add to the strength of Dahood’s argument (note B), in that it would provide synonymous parallelism for the first three lines as follows: “council//assembly//gathering (session).” Nevertheless, the more conventional rendering shows a progression within the parallelism. Just as the verbs demonstrate a kind of progression (or regression): “walked//stood//sat,” so too do the nouns: “counsel//way//gathering.”
 
1.d The verb ‏ליץ‎ has the basic sense “to talk loosely,” and the noun ‏לץ‎ has the sense “babbler”; but the context here suggests the nuance “scoffers.” cf H. N. Richardson, “Some Notes on ‏ליץ‎ and Its Derivatives.” VT 5 (1055) 163–79.
 
2.a The root הגה, which may be onomatopoeic, implies more than just “meditating”; some kind of utterance is indicated, such as “murmuring” or “whispering.”
 
3.a “Running waters”; viz. “irrigation channels,” fed with a constant supply of water.
 
3.b The syntax is ambivalent, and the line could refer to the tree. But the line is best taken as referring to the righteous man and as concluding the first section (vv 1–3); it is thus unnecessary to delete the line as a gloss (as suggested in BHS).
 
4.a G adds ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς (“. . . from the face of the earth”). The words may have been added simply for stylistic reasons, to avoid the abruptness of MT, which is nevertheless the best text.
 
5.a “In judgment” implies the place of judgment (cf Deut 25:1); i.e. the wicked will have no place, or no respect, in the courts of law, where justice and righteousness are the modus operandi. Such a meaning is strongly implied by the second line of the synonymous parallelism (v 5b). If this interpretation is correct, then there is not any eschatological implication of a final judgment here.
 
6.a “Protects”: the normal sense of the verb ידע is “to know”; on the sense “protect, guard,” see Dahood, Psalms I, 5.
 
 
Form/Structure/Setting
 
Psalm 1, by virtue of its language and content, must be classified with the wisdom psalms (cf Pss 32, 34, and 49 in this volume). Its terminology and teaching reflect the thought of the Wisdom Literature in general and the Book of Proverbs in particular (cf Prov 2:12–15, 20–22). The psalm was probably not composed in the first instance for use in formal worship; rather, it must be viewed as a literary and poetic composition, expressing with remarkable clarity the polarity of persons and their destinies.
There are certain basic problems pertaining to the analysis of the psalm in terms of poetry, particularly with respect to meter. While the analysis of meter is always difficult in the study of Hebrew poetry (see the critical remarks in the INTRODUCTION), there is even less regularity than usual in Ps 1. The interpretation of most scholars has proceeded on the basis of a provisional metrical analysis (e.g. Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 1–4), but it has been claimed by  Bullough that the psalm is not metrical at all, but is “plain rhythmic prose” (VT 17 [1967] 42–49). For a critical analysis of the problem of meter, see O. Loretz, UF 3 (1971) 101–3. The translation above has not included a metrical notation (as is done for other psalms in this commentary). Bullough is probably correct in his view that the psalm is not metrical in the normal sense; the only approximate indicator of balance is the division of lines, which are very uneven in length. But although there is not a normal metrical structure to Ps 1, it is still dearly and distinctively poetry. Parallelism is used in vv 1, 2, 3c–d, 5, and 6. And the psalm as a whole is a finely crafted piece of poetic literature, as various recent studies have shown. Merendino has shown that the psalm is a work of art (Kunstwerk), and Lack’s structural analysis has shown the dosely knit structure of the whole—the text is a “tissue of interdependencies” (Bib 57 [1976] 167).
The structure of the psalm may be set forth as follows: (1) the solid foundation of the righteous (1:1–3); (2) the impermanence of the wicked (1:4–5); (3) a contrast of the righteous and the wicked (1:6). Within this overall structure the poet has made careful use of chiasmus in the first two sections:
 
 
vv 1–2 A
v 3 B
v 4
v 5
 
On this chiastic structure, see further N. H. Ridderbos, Die Psalmen, 120 and R. L. Alden, JETS 17 (1974) 11–28. The inner chiasmus between the first two parts of the psalm is then united in the contrast of the antithetical parallelism in v 6, which also has an internal chiastic structure.
Psalm 1, as a didactic poem, does not in the first instance have a cultic or social setting; its primary setting is literary, for it forms an introduction to the Psalter as a whole and has been placed in its present position by the editor or compiler of the Psalter for that purpose. But although the psalm is a distinct and independent literary composition, there is some evidence, in both the early Jewish and Christian traditions, to suggest that it was joined to Ps 2, and the two psalms together were considered to be the first psalm of the Psalter. In the Jewish tradition, Rabbi Johanan is credited with the following words in the Babylonian Talmud: “Every chapter that was particularly dear to David he commenced with ‘Happy’ and terminated with ‘Happy.’ He began with ‘Happy,’ as it is written, ‘Happy is the man,’ and he terminated with ‘Happy,’ as it is written, ‘Happy are all they that take refuge in him’.” (Ber 9b). The reference here to the first verse of Ps 1 and the last verse of Ps 2 indicates that the two psalms together were considered to be a literary unit.
The evidence from the early Christian tradition is found in Acts 13:33. The writer, Luke, gives a quotation from Ps 2:7, but introduces it as coming from the first psalm; the corrections, both in the early Greek text and in modern English versions, to read “the second psalm,” are appropriate given the change in the conventional system of numbering the Psalms. Nevertheless, the oldest Greek text of Acts provides evidence for the early Christian view  that the first two psalms were considered to be a single unit. If the two psalms were first joined in the Psalter (despite being independent compositions prior to their incorporation in the Book of Psalms), it may be that they were intended to provide a double perspective in introduction; Ps 1 provides an introduction from the perspective of wisdom, whereas Ps 2 provides a prophetic approach to the book. It has also been suggested that the two psalms were joined together to form a coronation liturgy, perhaps for one of the last kings of Judah; the king, at his coronation, pledged himself to fulfill the Deuteronomic law of kings (W. H. Brownlee, Bib 52 [1971] 321–36).
 
 
Comment
 
The solid foundation of the righteous (1:1-3). The righteous are introduced as the “blessed” or “happy” (see further H. Cazelles, TDOT I, 445–48). Their happy estate is not something given automatically by God, but is a direct result of their activity. A person can be happy, from a negative perspective, by avoiding the advice, the life style and the assembly of wicked persons (v 1). The three parallel lines of v 1 are poetically synonymous and thus all describe in slightly different ways the evil company which should be avoided by the righteous. Though the three lines, taken together, provide a full picture of what is to be avoided, it would be stretching the text beyond its natural meaning to see in these lines three distinct phases in the deterioration of a person’s conduct and character (see further G. W. Anderson, VT 24 [1974] 231–33). The righteous person avoids all the dimensions of the way of the wicked; therein lies the source of blessedness or happiness.
But a person who is to be happy must also engage in a positive task, which is identified in v 2 as being related to the Torah. Although the term Torah can be used of the law, or of the Pentateuch, or even (at a later date) of the whole OT, its significance here is the most fundamental one. Basically, the word Torah means “instruction”; specifically, it is the instruction which God gives to mankind as a guide for life. Thus it may include that which is technically law, but it also includes other more general parts of God’s revelation. The Torah is to be a source of “delight” (see further the Explanation, below), a delight which is discovered by means of constant meditation on its meaning. Just as the king would learn to live a life of humility and righteousness through constant reflection on the meaning of Torah (Deut 17:18–20), so too could all mankind. And an understanding of Torah contributed to long life, peace and prosperity (Prov 3:1–2), for in its words God has set down the nature of a life which would reach the true fulfillment for which it was created.
The happy estate of the righteous is illuminated in v 3 by the simile of the tree. A tree may flourish or fade, depending upon its location and access to water. A tree transplanted from some dry spot (e.g. a wadi, where the water runs only sporadically in the rainy season) to a location beside an irrigation channel, where water never ceases to flow, would inevitably flourish. It would become a green and fruitful tree. The simile not only illustrates colorfully the prosperity of the righteous, but also make a theological point.  The state of blessedness or happiness is not a reward; rather, it is the result of a particular type of life. Just as a tree with a constant water supply naturally flourishes, so too the person who avoids evil and delights in Torah naturally prospers, for such a person is living within the guidelines set down by the Creator. Thus the prosperity of the righteous reflects the wisdom of a life lived according to the plan of the Giver of all life.
The wicked (1:4-5). “Not so the wicked” (v 4); that is, they shall not prosper as the righteous (v 3). The life of the wicked is summarized succinctly in the brief simile of v 4b. They are like chaff. The language reflects the practice of winnowing grain at harvest time. The grain would be tossed into the air with a pitchfork at the village threshing floor; the wind would separate the light chaff and husks and blow them away, while the more substantial grain fell back to the floor. Chaff is something light and useless, part of the crop, but a part to be disposed of by the farmer. The wicked are thus depicted in the simile as lightweights, persons without real substance or worth.
The “lightness” of the wicked is then elaborated in v 5. The two lines of v 5, in synonymous parallelism, reflect essentially the same thought, namely that the wicked hold no weight or influence in the important areas of human society. Where the righteous meet for the pursuit of justice and government, the wicked have no place and are not recognized. They live for themselves and cannot participate in the affairs of those who live for others and for righteousness.
The contrast (1:6). And so, in the last resort, human beings are of two kinds. They may be righteous; if so, God protects their way. But they may be wicked, and for the wicked, the final destiny is doom. The doom of the wicked, as it is expressed in this psalm, is not primarily a punishment, any more than the happiness of the righteous is a reward. Each is presented as the natural outcome of a way of life which has been chosen.
 
 
Explanation
 
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 1:7); these words are often taken to be an expression of the fundamental principle of the Wisdom Literature, of which this psalm is a part. Psalm 1 elaborates upon this principle with respect to human behavior. The righteous person is the one whose “fear” (or reverence) of God affects his daily living; he avoids evil and learns how to live from God’s Torah, and therein lies his wisdom. The wisdom, as expressed in this psalm, is essentially related to the present life; the psalm does not clearly evince any doctrine of future life (as proposed, for example, by Dahood in Psalms I, 3–5). The anticipated prosperity is in the present life, just as the failure of the wicked is to be a present reality.
The contrast between the two ways (1:6) is illuminated further in the words of Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 7:13–14). Jesus speaks of two gates, a broad gate giving entrance to the “way that leads to destruction” and a narrow gate giving entrance to “the way that leads to life.” (Alternatively, the text could be interpreted to mean that there are two ways, one leading to a broad gate, the other leading to a narrow gate). The principles of Jesus’ teaching are essentially those of the psalm, yet there is an eschatological  element in the words of Jesus (see also Luke 13:24), for the kingdom of God, represented by the way of life associated with the narrow gate, has both a present and a future dimension of reality.
There is a further aspect of this psalm which is relevant to its application. In the last resort, the principal wisdom of the psalm can be reduced to v 2; the prosperity and happiness of the righteous depends upon their finding “delight” in the Lord’s Torah. But how is such delight to be found? In practical terms, it is achieved by constant meditation upon the Torah (v 2b), which is God’s instruction. As instruction, it contains guidance from the Creator as to the meaning of creation. Life is lived in futility if its fundamental purpose is never discovered. It is the meaning of human existence which is enshrined in the Torah, and it is the discovery of that meaning which flows from meditation upon Torah.
 
Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50, vol. 19 of Word Biblical Commentary. Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 57-62.
 
---------
 
-Dan

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#7 Tony Lawrence

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:30 PM

Thanks Abram and Dan. Both comments were helpful.

 

In the ideal world we would all have an unlimited budget and could afford to purchase everything we want. But that's not where I live. For some, the flexibility to pay over a year may be an option but I have determined to "save then buy" or "sell then buy." Thus, I will have to weigh the "possibility" that NICNT would be offered fairly soon versus the ability to purchase WBC now. If I were to let WBC pass and NICNT was not offered fairly soon then I would be upset with myself for letting this deal pass. I have just about made up my mind that I better take the WBC at this price and hope that funds will be there when NICNT goes on sale.


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#8 Dan Francis

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:07 PM

One thing to keep in mind NICNT is not likely going to be priced down to lower than or even to the introductory price of $499 anytime soon (I have no inside info or a reliable crystal ball, but just speaking logically and from Accordance's historical practice). In Accordance WBC only comes as a set, while the NICNT has individual volumes for sale. One theoretically could get the full WBC and pick up the best of the NICNT for the same price one gets the entire NICNT. Ultimately you must do what is best for you and I fully understand limited budgets. I am going to post the beatitudes from both sets. I own NICNT in OT since I couldn't afford it in Accordance when it came out but nearly as good a deal was offered in december or January at OT.

 

---------------

The Foundation of Righteous Living: The Beatitudes (5:3–12)
 
Bibliography
 
Barré, M. L. “Blessed Are the Poor of Heart.” BiTod 22 (1984) 236–42. Best, E. “Matthew 5, 3.” NTS 6 (1960–61) 255–58. Betz, H. D. “Die Makarismen der Bergpredigt (Matthäus 5, 3–12).” ZTK 75 (1978) 1–19. Böhl, F. “Die Demut (ʿnwh) als höchste der Tugenden: Bemerkungen zu Mt 5.3, 5.” BZ 20 (1976) 217–23. Broer, I. Die Seligpreisungen der Bergpredigt. BBB 61. Bonn: Peter Hanstein, 1986. Dodd, C. H. “The Beatitudes: A Form-critical Study.” In More New Testament Studies. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968. 1–10. Dupont, J. Les béatitudes. 3 vols. Paris: J. Gabalda, 1958–73. _______. “Les πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι de Matthieu 5,3 et les ענוי רוח de Qumran.” In Neutestamentliche Aufsätze. FS J. Schmid, ed J. Blinzer etal Regensburg: Pustet, 1963. 53–64. Flusser, D. “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit.” IEJ 10 (1960) 1–13. Frankemölle, H. “Die Makarismen (Mt 5,1–12; Luke 6,20–23).” BZ 15 (1971) 52–75. Guelich, R. A. “The Matthean Beatitudes: ‘Entrance Requirements’ or Eschatological Blessings?” JBL 95 (1976) 415–34. Holmes, M. W. “The Text of Matthew 5.11.” NTS 32 (1986) 283–86. Kertelge, K. “‘Selig, die verfolgt werden um der Gerechtigkeit willen’ (Mt 5,10).” Internationale katholische Zeitschrift/Communio 16 (1987) 97–106. Kieffer, R. “Wisdom and Blessing in the Beatitudes of St. Matthew and St. Luke.” SE 6 [= TU 112] (1973) 291–95. Kirchschläger, W. “Die Friedensbotschaft der Bergpredigt: Zu Matthew 5,9, 17–48; 7,1–5.” Kairos 25 (1983) 223–37. Lapide, P. “The Beatitudes.” Emmanuel 92 (1986) 322–29, 355. McEleney, N. J. “The Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain.” CBQ 43 (1981) 1–13. Rodzianko, V. “The Meaning of Matthew 5,3.” SE 2 [= TU 87] (1964) 229–35. Schnackenburg, R. “Die Seligpreisung der Friedensstifter (Mt 5,9) im matthäischen Kontext.” BZ 26 (1982) 161–78. Schweizer, E. “Formgeschichtliches zu den Seligpreisungen.” NTS 19 (1972–73) 121–26. Stenger, W. “Die Seligpreisung der Geschmähten (Mt 5,11–12; Lk 6,22–23).” Kairos 28 (1986) 33–60. Strecker, G. “Die Makarismen der Bergpredigt.” NTS 17 (1970–71) 255–75. Trilling, W. “Heilsverheissung und Lebenslehre des Jüngers (Mt 5, 3–12).” In Christusverkündigen in den synoptischen Evangelien. Munich: Kösel, 1969. 64–85. Trites, A. A. “The Blessings and Warnings of the Kingdom (Matthew 5:3–12; 7:13–27).” RevExp 89 (1992) 179–96. Tuckett, C. M. “The Beatitudes: A Source-Critical Study: With a Reply by M. D. Goulder.” NovT 25 (1983) 193–216. Walter, N. “Die Bearbeitung der Seligpreisungen durch Matthäus.” SE 4 [= TU 102] (1968) 246–58. Zimmerli, W. “Die Seligpreisungen der Bergpredigt und das Alte Testament.” In Donum Gentilicium. FS D. Daube, ed E. Bammel, C. K. Barrett, and W. D. Davies. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978. 8–26.
 
 
Translation
 
Beatitude
3  “Happy are the oppressed,a because to them belongs the kingdom of heaven. (1)
4  Happy are they who grieve,b for they shall be comforted.c (2)
5  Happy are those who have been humbled,d for they will inherit the earth. (3)
6  Happy are those who hunger and thirst after justice,e for they shall be satisfied. (4)
7  Happy are those who show mercy, for they shall be shown mercy. (5)
8  Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (6)
9  Happy are those who are peacemakers, for theyf shall be called children of God. (7)
10  Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (8)
11  Happy are you whenever theyg reproach you and persecute you and [lying]h speak all kinds of evili concerning you for myj sake. (9)
12  Be joyful and be glad because in heaven your reward is great. For in the same way theyk persecuted the prophetsl who came before you.”m
 
Notes
 
a οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, lit “the poor in spirit.” See Comment.
 
b Some witnesses (ℵ1 33 vgmss sams bo) add νῦν, “now,” thereby emphasizing the contrast between the present time and future eschatological blessings.
 
c A few witnesses (D 33 vg syc boms) put v 4 after v 5, in order to put οἱ πραεῖς, “the meek” (v 5a), immediately after οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, “the poor in spirit” (v 3a), as well as thereby juxtaposing the reference to τῶν οὐρανῶν, “heaven” (v 3b), and τὴν γῆν, “earth” (v 5b). See TCGNT, 12.
 
d οἱ πραεῖς, lit “the meek.”
 
e Or “righteousness” (δικαιοσύνην).
 
f Some important MSS (ℵ C D ƒ13 it vgcl,st syp) omit the intensive pronoun αὐτοί, “they.”
 
g A few witnesses (0133, vgs sys,c) insert οἱ ἄνθρωποι, “people,” by the influence of the parallel in Luke 6:22.
 
h The critical text places ψευδόμενοι, “lying,” in brackets because of uncertainty about whether the word (which is omitted in D it sys) should be included. The word was possibly omitted in the Western textual tradition by way of harmonization with Luke 6:22. On the other hand, the word may be a scribal addition designed to clarify the text. See TCGNT, 12–13.
 
i Many MSS (C W Θ ƒ1,13 TR syp,h mae) insert ῥῆμα, “word,” which appears to be the addition of a natural complement to the verb εἴπωσιν, “speak.”
 
j D it read δικαιοσύνης, “righteousness,” in place of ἐμοῦ, “my.” sy ;s,c has in the same place τοῦ ὀνόματος μοῦ, for the sake of “my name.”
 
k U sys,© add the subject οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν, “their fathers,” through the influence of the parallel in Luke 6:26.
 
l D adds ὑπάρχοντας, “who ruled,” ie, the prophets in charge before you.
 
m syc omits τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν, “who came before you.”
 
Form/Structure/Setting
 
A. The opening of this discourse, with its decisive pronouncements of the blessedness of those who receive the kingdom, befits the setting of the discourse as well as the material that follows. The form of these affirmations, the so-called beatitudes, is found with many minor variations in Hellenistic literature but is also well known in the OT and was taken up by the rabbis. The same form—an initial μακάριος, “blessed” or “happy,” without the copula—is thus found frequently in the LXX (eg, Pss 1:1; 2:12; 105[106]:3; 118[119]:1; Isa 30:18; for the OT background, see esp Zimmerli). For rabbinic parallels, see bHag 14b; bYoma 87a (see further StrB 1:189). The beatitude form is also common in the NT. Outside the Sermon on the Mount (and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain), see Matt 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46; Luke 1:45; 11:27–28; 12:37–38; 14:14–15; 23:29; John 13:17;  20:29. See, too, Rom 14:22; Jas 1:12; Rev 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14. Although other NT beatitudes employ the ὅτι clause, it is rare outside the NT, and Matthew’s consistent use of it is unique.
B. Only four of the beatitudes are paralleled in Luke, where they also occur at the beginning of the sermon (Luke 6:20b–23). Luke gives the first, fourth, second, and ninth beatitudes, in that order, although none of these is in verbatim agreement with Matthew. The major difference is that the second part of Luke’s first three beatitudes is in the second person plural rather than in the third person plural as in Matthew. The first two beatitudes in Luke (ie, Matthew’s first and fourth) are closest in form, but Luke lacks Matthew’s ἐν πνεύματι, “in spirit,” in the first, where Luke also has “kingdom of God” (not “heaven”), and the words καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, “and thirst for righteousness,” in the second. Luke’s third beatitude is similar in thought rather than vocabulary, and the fourth contains numerous differences in wording. Luke furthermore has four corresponding woes (Luke 6:24–26) that follow the beatitudes directly and serve as their counterparts.
The explanation of this state of affairs remains unclear. Both the Matthean beatitudes and the Lukan beatitudes/woes reflect careful, artistic construction. It seems unlikely that they used the same source here, for then one or the other omitted what would appear to be irresistible material (Luke, several beatitudes; Matthew, the woes). It may well be that each evangelist follows an independent, though overlapping, oral tradition. This material, as it is found in both of the Gospels, exhibits content and form that the early Church very likely would have committed to memory.
C. It is clear that the evangelist has carefully structured this passage with its nine successive sentences beginning with the word μακάριοι, “blessed.” Each of the first eight beatitudes consists of (1) the initial μακάριοι; (2) designation of those called “happy”; and (3) a ὅτι clause describing the reason or ground of the predication of happiness. At the same time, however, the structure is not altogether rigid. The ninth and last beatitude (vv 11–12) is by far the most different in form, shifting as it does from the third to the second person plural (“happy are you”), adding the lengthy ὃταν (“whenever”) clause, and delaying the ὅτι (“for”) clause by the insertion of the verbs at the beginning of v 12 (“be joyful and be glad”). Indeed, because of this distinctiveness, the ninth appears not to have been a part of the original collection. Such a conclusion also finds support in the verbatim agreement of the ὅτι clause of the eighth beatitude (v 10), ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, “because theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” with that of the first (v 3), thereby forming an inclusio.
Other slight modifications of the parallelism can be seen in the addition of defining datives in the first and sixth beatitudes, vv 3 (πνεύματι, “in spirit”) and 8 (τῇ καρδίᾳ, “in heart”), as well as the more expanded subjects of the fourth and eighth beatitudes in vv 6 (“those who hunger and thirst after righteousness”) and 10 (“those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”). The strict parallelism of the simple future passive in the ὅτι clause is found only in the second, fourth, and fifth beatitudes, vv 4, 6, and 7 (but cf also the seventh beatitude, v 9). One further parallel of note occurs in the ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, “for righteousness’ sake,” of the eighth beatitude (v 10) and the ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, “for my sake,” of the ninth beatitude (v 11).
 
D. It is difficult to determine the extent to which the Matthean form of the beatitudes is the creation of the evangelist.
 
A number of scholars (eg, Guelich, Sermon; Davies-Allison) have concluded for a variety of reasons (see Davies-Allison) that Matthew has derived eight (Gundry: four) of the nine beatitudes from his sources (the exception being the eighth, which is regarded as a Matthean creation), though some argue that Matthew has also created the third (or even the second four; thus Gundry). The argument (eg, E. Bammel, TDNT 6:904) that the third beatitude was created as a gloss on the first (in some MSS it is reversed with the second beatitude) depends too much on an unjustified presupposition that originally there were seven beatitudes in the collection. A further conclusion (Luz; Guelich, Sermon; Schweizer; Gnilka; Davies-Allison) is that only three of these nine go back to Jesus himself (ie, the first, second, and fourth), namely, three of the four found in Luke and thus presumably in Q (Luke’s fourth, “blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man” [= Matthew’s ninth], is said to exhibit secondary characteristics; thus Guelich, Sermon). There seems little reason, however, not to accept that all nine beatitudes are derived from tradition by Matthew (without denying his redactional hand, as, eg, in vv 3, 6). Why would he create a beatitude (ie, the eighth) that simply reduplicated the thought of the ninth rather than creating an entirely new one? Moreover, the Matthean vocabulary (eg, “righteousness”) does not guarantee that this beatitude could not be derived from tradition. To assert that only three go back to Jesus assumes criteria that are too restrictive and presumes to know more than we can know.
 
Although we are limited to speculation in this regard, it may well be the case that the beatitudes were transmitted through oral tradition essentially as they appear in the Gospel. The essential structure of the beatitudes can indeed go back to Jesus himself. If we allow ourselves a further guess, based upon the form of Matthew’s beatitudes, the following may be said. It appears that the first eight beatitudes are a unity in themselves, with the ending of the eighth forming an inclusio with the ending of the first and serving as an appropriate conclusion: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The ninth beatitude, on the other hand, not only repeats the thought of the eighth concerning persecution but shifts to the second person plural, “Happy are you.” It may be that the evangelist has added this beatitude to the eighth, possibly drawing it from another tradition (which we may say because of the shift in person and Luke’s similar fourth beatitude) but also shaping it in his own way. More probably Jesus orig inally spoke the beatitudes using the second person plural form that we see in Luke, and the evangelist, or someone before him, has altered the form to the third person plural to objectify these teachings and hence make clear their universal significance. (For the beatitude form using the second person plural form, see Ps 127[128]:2 and Luke 14:4, as well as the Lukan parallel to the present pericope.)
E. It is also difficult to ascertain much significance in the order of the beatitudes. The first and eighth (and ninth) beatitudes set the tone for the entire collection, referring to those who are “poor in spirit” or oppressed and those who are persecuted. Closely related to this emphasis are the second (“those who mourn”), third (“those humbled”), and fourth (“those who hunger for justice”) beatitudes. Thus, the first four beatitudes form a more or less single unit of thought focusing on the needy. On the other hand, there is some relationship in thought between the fifth and seventh beatitudes, in which those who are designated as  blessed are described in relation to others as “merciful” and “peacemakers.” These two beatitudes together with the sixth, concerning “the pure in heart,” come closest to being of the ethical exhortation type, characteristic of the wisdom tradition, over against the apocalyptic type of declarative statement concerning the future (see Guelich, Sermon, 64–65). Although all the beatitudes can be said to involve implicit commands, this aspect of the beatitudes is decidedly secondary to the clear and grace-filled affirmation of the deep happiness of the recipients of the kingdom (cf Broer, 52). Some beatitudes describe the unenviable position of the needy, who have become the blessed recipients of the kingdom, and some describe their demeanor in these circumstances. This leaves only the sixth beatitude (“the pure in heart”), which could be related to the condition described in either of these two groups but which alone focuses on the inner motivation of those who are the blessed ones.
 
Comment
 
3 Although the word μακάριοι, which appears as the first word in each of the nine beatitudes, occurs in Hellenist literature, where it describes those of good fortune, the true background to the NT use of the word is in the OT (Zimmerli finds forty-six instances in the Hebrew canon). The LXX often uses the word as a translation of אַשְׁרֵי (deeply “happy, blessed”). The word is of course especially appropriate in the NT in such contexts as the present one, where it describes the nearly incomprehensible happiness of those who participate in the kingdom announced by Jesus. Rather than happiness in its mundane sense, it refers to the deep inner joy of those who have long awaited the salvation promised by God and who now begin to experience its fulfillment. The μακάριοι are the deeply or supremely happy.
οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, lit “the poor in spirit,” the subject of the first beatitude, refers to the frame of mind characteristic of the literally poor. Thus, by the added “in spirit,” Matthew or the tradition before him has not “spiritualized” the Lukan (and probably original) form of the beatitude (so too Guelich, Sermon). He too means the literally poor, but he focuses on their psychological condition or frame of mind. The poor are almost always poor in spirit; the poor in spirit are almost always the poor (cf Broer [71], who notes that the two phrases were synonymous in the Judaism of Jesus’ time). In Israel, especially in the post-exilic period, poverty and piety often went together, the poor (Luz refers to the “déclassé”) having no other recourse than their hope in God. The poor were driven to complete reliance upon God, and the righteous poor were thought especially to be the objects of God’s special concern (cf Pss 9:18; 33[34]:18; 40:18; Isa 57:15; Jas 2:5). The poor were particularly in view in expressions of eschatological hope. In a passage alluded to in Matt 11:5, Isaiah (61:1) writes:
 
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted [poor];
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
to those who are bound.
 
This passage is almost certainly the basis for the present beatitude. The good news that has now come to the poor is that the kingdom is “theirs” (αὐτῶν is in an emphatic position). Thus this opening beatitude points to eschatological fulfillment (cf the citation of Isa 61:1–2 and the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry in Luke 4:18–19). The exact expression “poor in spirit” (ענוי רוח, ʿnwy rwḥ) is found in the War Scroll from Qumran (IQM 14:7), where the community describes itself, the “sons of light,” as those who are poor in spirit. Although membership in the community entailed a voluntary poverty, this reference indicates how the literally poor were identified as the righteous. Zimmerli (19) finds the equivalent concept in the combination of passages in Isaiah referring to the poor (Isa 61:1) and the contrite in spirit (Isa 57:15; 66:2). On “kingdom of heaven,” see Comment on 3:2. It is important to note that the present tense is used, ἐστίν, “is theirs,” rather than the future tense. Because Jesus is present, the kingdom is already present, already theirs despite contradictory appearances (cf too v 10b). There is, however, at the same time an awareness of an eschatology that is future, hence the future tenses, especially “they will inherit the earth” (v 5), “they will see God” (v 8), and the future orientation of “great is your reward in heaven” (v 12). F. Hauck thus rightly calls the beatitudes “sacred paradoxes” (TDNT 4:368) in that they point both to present and to future blessedness.
4 In the second beatitude we have an even more striking allusion to the words of Isa 61. In the LXX of Isa 61:2, the one anointed by the Spirit says he has come παρακαλέσαι πάντας τοὺς πενθοῦντας, “to comfort all those who mourn.” Here the key word (πενθοῦντας) is exactly the same as in the beatitude. Thus again we find the eschatological expectation of the downtrodden and poor, those who suffer. The rabbis accordingly referred to the Messiah as the “Comforter” (Mĕnaḥēm) because of his mission in the messianic age (cf StrB 1:195). Those who mourn do so because of the seeming slowness of God’s justice. But they are now to rejoice, even in their troubled circumstances, because their salvation has found its beginning. The time draws near when they shall be comforted (cf Rev. 7:17; 21:4), but they are already to be happy in the knowledge that the kingdom has arrived. Their salvation is at hand. The verb παρακληθήσονται is a so-called divine passive, which assumes God as the acting subject (so too in the fourth, fifth, and seventh beatitudes).
5 The third beatitude is practically a quotation of the LXX of Ps 36[37]:11: οἱ δὲ πραεῖς κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν, “the meek will inherit the earth.” The Hebrew word underlying πραεῖς is עֲנָוִים, ʿănāwı̂m, the same word that occurs in Isa 61:1, which the LXX there translates πτωχοί, “poor.” Therefore we have approximately the same thought here as in the first beatitude. In view are not persons who are submissive, mild, and unassertive, but those who are humble in the sense of being oppressed (hence, “have been humbled”), bent over by the injustice of the ungodly, but who are soon to realize their reward. Those in such a condition have no recourse but to depend upon God. The Qumran community revered Ps 37 and saw themselves as those about to experience the vindication that would come with messianic fulfillment (4QpPs 37). The “earth” (τὴν γῆν) originally referred to the land of Israel, ie, what was promised to the Jews beginning with the Abrahamic covenant (cf Gen 13:15). But in the present context of messianic fulfillment it connotes the regenerated earth (19:28; cf Rom 4:13, where κόσμος, “world,” replaces γῆ), promised by the eschatological passages in the prophets  (eg, Isa 65–66). This beatitude stands in parallel with the assertion of the first beatitude that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. It is possible, though we cannot be certain, that the third beatitude originally followed the first in synonymous parallelism and that the evangelist broke the couplet by inserting the beatitude concerning those who mourn, in order to follow the lead of Isa 61:1–2 (thus Guelich, Sermon, 82). See Form/Structure/Setting §E, above. It should be noted that the LXX of Isa 61:7 also contains the words κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν, “they will inherit the land (earth).”
6 In keeping with the preceding, the fourth beatitude names the literally hungry and thirsty, ie, the downtrodden and oppressed, who especially hunger and thirst after the justice associated with the coming of God’s eschatological rule. There is, then, no significant difference between the Matthean and Lukan versions of the beatitude, despite the additional words καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, “and thirst for justice,” in Matthew. That δικαιοσύνη here means “justice” rather than “personal righteousness” is clear from the context. The poor, the grieving, and the downtrodden (ie, those who have experienced injustice) are by definition those who long for God to act. They are the righteous who will inherit the kingdom. Yet this interpretation does not altogether exclude the sense of δικαιοσύνη as personal righteousness. The justice of God’s eschatological rule presupposes the δικαιοσύνη of those who enjoy its blessings (cf 2 Pet 3:13). Thus, albeit to a slight degree, this verse may anticipate the stress on δικαιοσύνη in v 20 and 6:33. This beatitude seems to reflect the language of Ps 107 (LXX: 106), where, after a reference to the hungry and thirsty (v 5), the psalmist writes, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (v 6), and then a few verses later continues, “For he satisfies the thirsty and the hungry he fills with good things” (v 9), where the LXX contains the same verb χορτάζειν, “to fill,” as in Matthew. This is the language of messianic fulfillment: he has filled the hungry soul with good things (cf Luke 1:53). It is the language of those who at long last have been “redeemed from trouble” (cf Ps 107:2; for a similar sense of “thirsting” for salvation, cf Pss 42:1–3; 63:1). In the first instance it is God’s righteousness that satisfies (cf the “divine passive”) these hungry and thirsty souls (cf John 6:35; Rev 7:16–17). (On “righteousness” in Matthew, see Comment on 3:15.)
7 The fifth beatitude marks a new emphasis in the beatitudes. Whereas the first four find their focus primarily in a state of mind or an attitude (and imply conduct only secondarily), this beatitude refers to the happiness of those who act, namely , those who are merciful toward others. This beatitude again has strong biblical overtones. Prov 14:21b reads ἐλεῶν δὲ πτωχοὺς μακαριστός, “blessed is the one who has mercy on the poor” (cf Prov 17:5c, a phrase only in the LXX text: ὁ δὲ ἐπισπλαγχνιζόμενος ἐλεηθήσεται, “the one who has compassion will be shown mercy”). Showing mercy to the needy became a key element in rabbinic ethics (see b. Šabb 151b; t BQam 9.30[366]; cf StrB 1:203–5 and the excursus in 4:559–610). For the importance of mercy to Matthew’s presentation of the Christian ethic, cf 9:13; 12:7; 23:23. What the poor and oppressed have not received from the rich and powerful, they should nevertheless show others. The point is analogous to that made somewhat differently in 18:33; there a servant who had been forgiven a great debt refused to have mercy on his debtor, whereupon his master said, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on  you?” Implicit in this beatitude is the judgment upon the wicked oppressors, ie, the ones who have not shown mercy: to them mercy will not be shown (cf Jas 2:13).
8 The sixth beatitude bears strong similarity to the thought of Ps 24[LXX: 23]:3–4, where the LXX refers, as does the present text, to the καθαρὸς τῇ καρδία, “the pure in heart” (cf Pss 51:10; 73:1; linked here with “guiltless hands”), who will go up to the mountain of the Lord and stand in his holy place. “Pure in heart” refers to the condition of the inner core of a person, that is, to thoughts and motivation, and hence anticipates the internalizing of the commandments by Jesus in the material that follows in the sermon. It takes for granted right actions but asks for integrity in the doing of those actions, ie, a consistency between the inner springs of one’s conduct and the conduct itself. Another way of putting this is in terms of “single-mindedness” (cf Jas 4:8, where it is the “double-minded” who are exhorted to “purify [their] hearts”). Purity of heart and purity of conscience are closely related in the pastoral Epistles (cf 1 Tim 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3; 2:22; cf 1 Pet 1:22). The reference to seeing God in the present passage is again eschatological in tone. In contrast to the strong OT statement that no one can see the face of God and live (eg, Exod 33:20), the righteous in the eschatological age will experience the beatific vision; they will see the face of God (cf too Rev 22:4). Although one might have expected in the second clause something more in line with the first, such as “for they will be granted peace,” Matthew describes the greatest possible eschatological reward, one that by its nature includes all else. This beatitude is the most difficult to relate to the others. Perhaps it is meant to indicate that even for the downtrodden and oppressed, for those to whom the good news of the kingdom comes, an inner purity is also required and is not something that can be presupposed.
9 The substantive εἰρηνοποιοί, “peacemakers,” of the seventh beatitude occurs only here in the NT (the verb of the same stem occurs in Col 1:20). In the context of the beatitudes, the point would seem to be directed against the Zealots, the Jewish revolutionaries who hoped through violence to bring the kingdom of God. Such means would have been a continual temptation for the downtrodden and oppressed who longed for the kingdom. The Zealots by their militarism hoped furthermore to demonstrate that they were the loyal “sons of God.” But Jesus announces the kingdom entirely apart from human effort and indicates that the status of υἱοὶ θεοῦ, “children of God” (cf Rom 9:26), belongs on the contrary to those who live peaceably. It is the peacemakers who will be called the “children of God.” Later in the present chapter, Jesus will teach the remarkable ethic of the love of even one’s enemies (vv 43–48). This stress on peace becomes a common motif in the NT (cf Rom 14:19; Heb 12:14; Jas 3:18; 1 Pet 3:11).
10–12 The paradoxes of the beatitudes reach a climax in the eighth and ninth beatitudes, in which not simply the poor and oppressed are declared to be happy, but also those who experience active persecution precisely for their righteousness. Here ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, “on account of righteousness,” points to the character of the recipients of the kingdom as it has hitherto been described in the beatitudes. That is, their loyalty to God and his call upon their lives become in turn the cause of their further suffering. To be identified with Jesus and the kingdom is to be in “the way of righteousness” (cf 21:32); hence ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, “on account of righteousness,” finds its counterpart in the ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, “on account of me” (cf 10:22), of the following verse. (See further in Comment on 3:15.)
 
The theme of persecution is particularly important in Matthew, very probably reflecting the situation of the community for whom the Gospel was written. As they experienced persecution, especially from their Jewish brethren, they needed to know what Jesus had said about it, how to regard it and how to endure it (cf the perfect tense of the participle δεδιωγμένοι). Hence we have the present verse and the following two verses, all unique to Matthew, which encourage the readers not to be alarmed by the experience of persecution. We may note how 1 Pet 4:12–14 (cf 3:14) makes use of the same underlying material used by Matthew. We find similar motifs in Matt 5:44, where the readers are told to pray even for their persecutors, and 10:23, where they are told to flee. All of these passages are found only in Matthew.
V 10 could well be the closing beatitude of the collection used by Matthew, since it rounds out the collection by an inclusio, ie, concluding with the same ending as in the first beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (cf v 3). The poor and the persecuted, precisely the most unlikely candidates, are proclaimed the happy or blessed ones who receive the kingdom.
The ninth beatitude, vv 11–12, is in effect an elaboration of the preceding beatitude. Its original independence from the preceding collection of eight is indicated not only by its different form but also by the use of the second person pronoun rather than the third. Matthew probably received it in the form in which it stands and added it to the collection he had received from another source. Added now to persecution are “reproach” (cf 27:44, where Christ is reproached) and the speaking of “all evil concerning you.” This is exactly the kind of behavior one would expect from Jewish opponents, first toward the disciples, and then later toward the Jewish-Christian readers. It is obvious, whether the word ψευδόμενοι (“lying”) is authentic or not (see Note h* above), that the persecutors do not speak the truth. What they say is motivated by hatred (cf Luke 6:22). Luke here has the more Semitic expression “cast out your name as evil.”
The opening words of v 12 serve as a parenthetic expansion of μακάριοι in v 11. The happiness referred to in the beatitudes is nothing other than a deep and exuberant joy. The evangelist heightens the paradox with the redundant χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, “rejoice and be glad,” which can only be seen as exceptionally remarkable in connection with persecution (the same verbs are joined in Rev 19:7). These words are followed by the delayed ὅτι clause, giving the reason for such joy: “great is your reward [μισθός] in heaven.” It is self-evident that, in any persecution context, the reward spoken of must lie in the future, which is the meaning of ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, “in heaven.” That holds true here, too, but it is confidence about the future that can and should produce joy in the present in full contradiction of the present, painful circumstances. The kingdom is already theirs, hence the appropriateness of the happy rejoicing in advance of the consummation. If this is a reward for their faithfulness under testing, it is also a reward that stems primarily not from their merit but from the grace of God, who gives the kingdom both in the present and the future. The idea of μισθός, “reward,” is much more important in Matthew (ten occurrences; cf 6:1–16; 10:41–42) than in any other Gospel. Despite its importance, the actual content of the reward is left vague. The concept of reward is important even when the word is not used, as for example in 25:31–46, where the content is described generally as inheriting “the kingdom” and entering into “eternal life.” (Cf too passages with the verb ἀποδιδόναι; see Comment on 6:4.)
 
The suffering of the righteous at the hands of persecutors is nothing new in the history of God’s dealings with Israel, as the evangelist reminds his readers. It is an honored tradition they stand in when they suffer persecution. τοὺς προφήτας τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν, “the prophets before you,” should not be taken narrowly to mean only the literary or canonical prophets, but broadly as referring to all God’s earlier spokespersons (cf 2 Chr 36:16; Matt 23:35). This motif is important to Matthew as the unique material in 23:31 also shows; it is found also in Acts 7:52 and Jas 5:10.
 
Explanation
 
The beatitudes are a bold, even daring, affirmation of the supreme happiness of the recipients of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. They are thus based upon—their truth depends upon—the fulfillment brought by Jesus and already stressed by the evangelist. Indeed, it is a part of this fulfillment that the good news comes to the poor and oppressed, the grieving and humbled, those who hunger so much for the revelation of God’s justice. A turning point has been reached. The time is at hand, and these needy people, so dependent upon God, will now have their needs met. For this reason they are pronounced happy, blessed. The reality of the kingdom causes this new, unexpected joy. And that kingdom sets these people upon the way of righteousness, peacemaking, and inner purity.
What must be stressed here, however, is that the kingdom is presupposed as something given by God. The kingdom is declared as a reality apart from any human achievement. Thus the beatitudes are, above all, predicated upon the experience of the grace of God. The recipients are just that, those who receive the good news. Because they are the poor and oppressed, they make no claim upon God for their achievements. They do not merit God’s kingdom; they but await his mercy. This emphasis on God’s mercy is essential at the beginning of Jesus’ teaching, especially at the beginning of the present discourse with its description of the righteousness of the kingdom, which has all too often been taken as involving a new nomism. But here, as throughout God’s dealings with humanity, grace precedes requirements. It is true that the beatitudes contain implied ethical exhortations (becoming more explicit in the case of the fifth and seventh beatitudes). Indeed, the traits of those who are proclaimed “happy” could well be taken as a description of the behavior of Jesus himself. Yet this ethical side of the beatitudes remains distinctly subordinate to the indicative aspect that is directly related to the announcement of the kingdom.
These declarations of happiness are to some extent a manifestation of realized eschatology. The remarkable tension throughout is, of course, caused by the temporary delay of the final consummation. In this interim period those who may appear to enjoy anything but the favor of God are paradoxically pronounced blessed. In their present condition, and even as they experience intense persecution, they are already accounted as supremely happy. Salvation has begun; their time has come, and this assurance of the future is meant to transform their present existence.
 
 
 
Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A of Word Biblical Commentary. Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Dallas: Word Books, 1993), 87-97.
 
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2. The Good Life:the Paradoxical Values of the Kingdom of Heaven (5:3–10)
 
  Happy are those who are poor in spirit, for it is to them that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
  Happy are those who mourn, for it is they who will be comforted.
  Happy are the meek, for it is they who will inherit the earth.
  Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for it is they who will besatisfied.
  Happy are those who show mercy, for it is to them that mercy will be shown.
  Happy are the pure in heart, for it is they who will see God.
  Happy are the peace- makers, for it is they who will be called God’s children.
  Happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for it is to them that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
 
The discourse begins with a manifesto on the values of the kingdom of heaven which is carefully constructed for easy memorization and maximum impact. The sharply paradoxical character of most of its recommendations reverses the conventional values of society —it commends those whom the world in general would dismiss as losers and wimps; compare the presentation of disciples as “little ones” in 10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; 25:40 (cf. the “little children” of 11:25). The beatitudes thus call on those who would be God’s people to stand out as different from those around them, and promise them that those who do so will not ultimately be the losers. While the promises in vv. 4–9 do not specifically mention God as subject, the implication of the passive verbs is that it is God who will comfort, give the inheritance, satisfy, show mercy and call them his children.
 
a. The “Beatitude” Form
Beatitudes (statements of the form “Happy is/are …”) occur in both pagan and Judeo- Christian literature. For some OT examples see Pss 1:1; 32:1–2; 40:4; 119:1–2; 128:1. In the NT compare Matt 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46, and many instances in Luke (1:45; 10:23; 11:27–28 etc.). The Greek adjective makarios (“happy”; see below) has spawned the verb makarizō, “to call happy” (Luke 1:48; Jas 5:11; the verb occurs frequently in classical Greek) and the derivative noun makarismos, a “calling happy,” a beatitude (Rom 4:6, 9). Such “macarisms” are normally single statements, and there is no close parallel to Matthew’s carefully structured set of eight beatitudes. Sir 25:7–11, with its list of nine or ten types of people whom the sage “calls happy,” resembles Matt 5:3–10 in range but not in regularity of form (Sirach uses the verb makarizō once and the adjective makarios only twice); in Sir 14:20–27 there is a similar description of a (single) person whom the sage designates makarios (using the adjective once only, to introduce the series of descriptive clauses). But in comparison with Matt 5:3–10 the lists in Sirach are strikingly conventional:they lack both the paradoxes of the Matthean list and also the regular inclusion of explicit reasons for the commendations in the “for it is they …” clauses (a feature which is lacking in most other biblical beatitudes apart from Luke 6:20–22).
 
b. The Meaning of Makarios
“Macarisms” are essentially commendations, congratulations, statements to the effect that a person is in a good situation, sometimes even expressions of envy. The Hebrew equivalent of makarios is ʾašrê rather than the more theologically loaded bārûk, “blessed (by God).” The traditional English rendering “blessed” thus also has too theological a connotation in modern usage; the Greek term for “blessed (by God)” is eulogētos, not makarios. The sense of congratulation and commendation is perhaps better conveyed by “happy,” but this term generally has too psychological a connotation:makarios does not state that a person feels happy (“Happy are those who mourn” is a particularly inappropriate translation if the word is understood in that way), but that they are in a “happy” situation, one which other people ought also to wish to share. “Fortunate” gets closer to the sense, but has inappropriate connotations of luck. “Congratulations to …” would convey much of the impact of a “macarism”, but perhaps sounds too colloquial. The Australian idiom “Good on yer” is perhaps as close as any to the sense, but would not communicate in the rest of the English- speaking world! My favorite translation of makarios is the traditional Welsh rendering of the beatitudes, Gwyn eu byd, literally “White is their world,” an evocative idiom for those for whom everything is good. Beatitudes are descriptions, and commendations, of the good life.
 
c. The Structure of Matthew’s Beatitudes
These eight statements are clearly designed as a coherent group. The epigrammatic form of the eight pronouncements
“Happy are those who … [a quality or activity in the present tense], for it is they who … [a future verb, except in vv. 3 and 10]”
is repeated each time with only very minor variation. The first and last of the group both have the same second clause, “for it is to them that the kingdom of heaven belongs,” thus forming a framework which sets the tone for the promises which come between. The first four qualities all begin in Greek with p, which might be merely coincidental, but suggests to many a deliberate alliteration; in that case, however, it is perhaps surprising that no attempt was made by the Greek translator to carry the alliterative pattern through the remaining four. The effect of this tightly- controlled structure is to produce an easily memorable unit of teaching, a pocket guide to life in the kingdom of heaven.
 
d. Matthew’s Beatitudes Compared with Luke 6
While both discourses begin with beatitudes, the two sets are very different:
  •  i.   Luke has four beatitudes against Matthew’s eight, corresponding roughly to Matthew’s first, fourth, second and eighth ( though the last is in fact much closer to Matt 5: 11–12 than to Matt 5: 10).
  • ii    Luke has four balancing “woes,” to which Matthew has no parallel.
  • iii   Luke’s are cast in the second person, “Happy are you …” rather than the third; in this they correspond to Matt 5: 11–12 rather than to 5: 3–10, which use the more traditional third- person form.
  • iv   The “tone” is quite different. Whereas in Matthew the qualities commended are essentially spiritual and ethical, in Luke they are concerned with the situation in which disciples find themselves, particularly in contrast with the security and satisfaction which the rest of society seeks. There is nothing to suggest that “poor,” “hungry,” “weeping” and “hated” in Luke are to understood as anything other than literal, and their counterparts in the woes ( “rich,” “well fed,” “laughing” and respected) maintain the same emphasis. Even where the same words occur in the Matthean beatitudes, they are explicitly qualified in a “spiritualizing” direction: “poor in spirit, ” “hungry and thirsty for righteousness. ” Thus while the Matthean beatitudes commend in general terms the qualities which promote the good life of the kingdom of heaven, the Lucan beatitudes and woes speak directly to the disciples of their own material and social disadvantage as a result of their following Jesus.
  • v    The cumulative effect of these observations is to cast serious doubt on the common assumption that there was a single original set of beatitudes which either Matthew has “spiritualized” or Luke has “radicalized. ” Jesus may well have used the familiar beatitude form on various occasions in the course of his teaching and for various purposes—as indeed the substantial number of other beatitudes scattered singly through these two gospels indicates. Matthew, aware that the sermon outline which he is using as the basis for this discourse began with a set of beatitudes, may well have used for that purpose a different tradition from that used by Luke. That he was aware of the second- person form ( and indeed of the specific content of one of Luke’s beatitudes) is clear from his “appendix” in 5: 11–12, but he has chosen not to reproduce the distinctively socio- economic manifesto of the second- person Lucan beatitudes and woes.
 
e. The OT Background to Matthew’s Beatitudes
 Not only is the beatitude form familiar from the OT, especially the Psalms, but the content of these beatitudes also echoes familiar OT passages and themes. Isa 61: 1–3 tells of good news to the poor ( cf. v. 3 —and note that in Matthew “good news” has already been defined in terms of the “kingdom of heaven” in 4: 23) and of the comforting of those who mourn ( cf. v. 4). Verse 5 reproduces the LXX wording of Ps 37: 11. Verse 8 reflects the “pure in heart” who “seek the face of God” in Ps 24: 3–6. More generally, the qualities commended echo closely the character of the ʿ nāwîm or ʿ nîyîm, the righteous “meek” or “poor” ( the two terms are used interchangeably) who feature so largely in the Psalms and elsewhere as the true people of God whom he will ultimately vindicate against the “proud” and “wicked” who oppress them. In other beatitudes, while there may not be such direct verbal echoes, the teaching reflects that of the OT, especially the Psalms: for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness cf. Ps 42: 1–2; Isa 55: 1–2; for the reciprocal principle of mercy to the merciful cf. Ps 18: 25–26; for the peace- makers cf. Ps 34: 14. However paradoxical these blessings may seem to those who view things from the world’s point of view, the divine perspective of the kingdom of heaven has been well prepared for already in the psalmists’ accounts of the qualities and experience of the true people of God. Note also the comparable descriptions of those who may approach God’s holy hill in Pss 15 and 24: 3–6.
 
f. The Eschatological Character of the Promises
 A distinctive feature of these beatitudes ( and of those of Luke 6: 20–22) is that they not only list the qualities commended, but they also explain that commendation by a promise appropriate to each quality. The second half of each line is as important as, and indeed is the basis for, the first. All but the first and last are expressed as promises for the future, and the question is often raised whether that future is envisaged as fulfilled within the earthly sphere, or whether it looks to compensation beyond this life. The third beatitude, with its echo of Ps 37: 11, raises the issue particularly acutely: “inherit the earth” ( or perhaps “the land,” see below) sounds more concrete than a purely heavenly reward. So are these beatitudes speaking of benefits “now in this age” and not only “in the age to come”? That is the language Jesus uses in Mark 10: 30, but we shall note that Matt 19: 28–29 avoids such an explicit dichotomy, and is worded in such a way that it can be read as speaking only of heavenly reward. On the other hand, the present tense used in verses 3b and 10b, “it is to them that the kingdom of heaven belongs,” warns against a purely futuristic interpretation, and suggests that the simple dichotomy between “now” and “then” may miss the breadth of Matthew’s conception of the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven has already arrived ( 4: 17, and see on 3: 2), and so these are people who are already under God’s beneficent rule. The advantages of being God’s people can then be expected to accrue already in this life, even though the full consummation of their blessedness remains for the future. The tension between “now” and “not yet,” so familiar from much of the rest of the NT, may appropriately be seen as running also through the promises of Matt 5: 3–10.
 
 3 “Poor in spirit” recalls the ʿ nîyîm or ʿ nāwîm, the “poor/meek” of the Psalms ( see above section 5), who, while they do experience material poverty, are also, and primarily, presented as God’s faithful people, humbly dependent on his protection in the face of the oppression which they endure from the ungodly rich. For “poor in spirit” cf. also Isa 66: 2, “the poor/humble ( ʿānî) and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word. ” “Poor” continues to be used in this positive sense in later Jewish literature, particularly the Psalms of Solomon and the Qumran literature ( where the phrase ʿ nîyî- rûaḥ, “the poor in spirit” occurs in a similar sense, 1QM 14: 7; cf. rûaḥ ʿ nāwâ, “a spirit of meekness”, 1QS 4: 3). The bold NEB translation of this verse, “How blest are those who know their need of God,” while it may have been too specific ( and was abandoned by REB), well reflects this background of thought. “Poverty in spirit” is not speaking of weakness of character ( “mean- spiritedness”) but rather of a person’s relationship with God. It is a positive spiritual orientation, the converse of the arrogant self- confidence which not only rides roughshod over the interests of other people but more importantly causes a person to treat God as irrelevant. To say that it is to such people that the kingdom of heaven belongs means ( not of course that they themselves hold royal authority but) that they are the ones who gladly accept God’s rule and who therefore enjoy the benefits which come to his subjects. The second clause of v. 3, repeated in v. 10 ( see above section 3), thus establishes the general context for the more specific blessings promised in vv. 4–9. This is the “good news of the kingdom” ( v. 23) announced in v. 17, and poverty of spirit is the product of the repentance which was there declared to be the appropriate response to the coming of God’s reign.
 
 4 This verse illustrates the danger of treating the first half of a beatitude in isolation from the second half. To say simply that those who mourn are “happy” ( see above section 2) would clearly be nonsense. Their “happiness” consists in the fact that they will be comforted. The echo of Isa 61: 2–3 ( following the echo of Isa 61: 1 in the “good news to the poor” in v. 3) indicates that the “mourning” envisaged is not primarily, as modern use of the verb might suggest, that of personal bereavement, but rather of those whose situation is wretched. Isa 61: 2–3 goes on to contrast their “ashes” with “a garland” and “the oil of gladness,” “the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. ” Its message is of the restoration of oppressed Israel ( cf Luke 2: 25, “the consolation of Israel”). For those who, as God’s people, find their current situation intolerable and incomprehensible, there are better times ahead. When they will be is not stated ( see above section 6); experience indicates that while for some there will be a reversal of fortunes in this life, this is not always so. The statement in 9: 15 that the wedding guests ( the disciples) cannot mourn while the bridegroom ( Jesus) is with them speaks of the specific contrast between the period of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the time to follow, whereas this beatitude speaks of a general characteristic of God’s people: there will be times of rejoicing, but their situation in the world is generally one of disadvantage and therefore of mourning.
 
 5 “Meek,” like “poor in spirit,” speaks not only of those who are in fact disadvantaged and powerless, but also of those whose attitude is not arrogant and oppressive. The term in itself may properly be understood of their relations with other people; they are those who do not throw their weight about. But “meek,” as well as “poor,” is used to translate ʿ nāwîm in the Psalms, where the emphasis is more on their relationship with God. It is the ʿ nāwîm who according to Ps 37: 11 will inherit the earth ( or “land”) when the “wicked” who have oppressed them have been cut off. They are further described in Ps 37: 7–9 as “those who wait for the Lord” instead of fretting and scheming to right their own wrongs. In echoing this psalm so closely Jesus clearly intended to promise a reversal of fortunes such as the psalm envisages, but whereas the “inheriting of the land” in the psalm seems to be understood in terms of earthly reversal, the overall tone of these beatitudes does not encourage us to interpret his words here quite so literally ( see above p. 164). Cf. Isa 61: 7 where the “poor” and “mourning” of 61: 1–3 ( see on vv. 3–4) are promised inheritance of the land; if the promises to them in the first two beatitudes apply to the kingdom of heaven, the same should presumably apply to their inheritance. There is a general tendency in the NT to treat OT promises about “the land” as finding fulfillment in non- territorial ways, and such an orientation seems required here too. The focus is on the principle of reversal of fortunes rather than on a specific “inheritance. ” For “meek” as a characteristic of Jesus himself see 11: 29; 12: 15–21; 21: 5.
 
 6 Dikaiosynē, “righteousness,” is the term used in LXX to translate Hebrew ṣdāqâ, which is often better translated “deliverance” or “salvation,” sometimes even “victory,” referring to God’s putting right what is wrong. On this basis many interpreters have suggested that dikaiosunē here represents not the behavior of the disciple but rather the action of God, understood either as his exercise of “justice” in the world, especially as his intervention on their behalf, or as his saving gift of “justification” in the Pauline sense. NEB ’s translation “those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail,” represents the former option. But in Matthew’s usage dikaiosynē is overwhelmingly concerned with right conduct, with living the way God requires ( see on 3: 15), and in 5: 20 dikaiosynē will be used emphatically in this sense. 5: 10 follows closely on this beatitude, and the “righteousness” which is there the cause of persecution can hardly be understood as divine action. It is thus better understood here not of those who wish to see God’s will prevail in the world in general or on their own behalf in particular, but of those who are eager themselves to live as God requires, those who can say, as Jesus himself is recorded as saying in John 4: 34, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me. ” The metaphor of hunger and thirst in this connection recalls 4: 4, the idea of living not on physical food but on every word that comes from God. It is a matter of priorities. Such hunger and thirst will be fully satisfied: chortazomai, a graphic word used also for fattening animals, implies being well filled, as in 14: 20, colloquially being “stuffed. ”
 
 7 For “mercy” as God’s requirement cf. 9: 13; 12: 7; 23: 23. The principle of reciprocity embodied here comes to fuller expression elsewhere in Matthew. In connection specifically with mercy and forgiveness see 6: 14–15 and its “commentary” in 18: 21–35. It is expressed more generally in the “measure for measure” epigram of 7: 2, while 7: 1–5 fills out the principle with regard to the specific issue of criticism. The golden rule of 7: 12 establishes the same principle at the heart of Jesus’ ethic. “Mercy” is closely linked with forgiveness, but is broader here than just the forgiveness of specific offences: it is a generous attitude which is willing to see things from the other’s point of view and is not quick to take offense or to gloat over others’ shortcomings ( the prime characteristic of love according to 1 Cor 13: 4–7). Mercy sets aside society’s assumption that it is honorable to demand revenge. The passive verb here ( as in vv. 4b, 6b and 9b) speaks primarily not of how other people will respond to the merciful person, but of how God will deal with those who live by his standards.
 
 8 Again the OT passage which this beatitude echoes fills out its meaning. Those who are qualified to “ascend the hill of the Lord” and “stand in his holy place” are characterized by “clean hands and a pure heart,” which is then defined in terms of truthfulness and of an active “seeking” for God ( Ps 24: 3–6). The meaning is thus not far from that of v. 6, with its emphasis on a longing to live the life God requires. In the context of first- century Judaism, with its strong emphasis on ritual “purity,” the phrase “pure in heart” might also be understood to imply a contrast with the meticulous preservation of outward purity which will be condemned in 23: 25–28 as having missed the point of godliness; but no such connotation is likely in Psalm 24, on which this beatitude is based. The vision of God which is the goal of the pure in heart ( Ps 24: 6; cf. Pss 11: 7; 17: 15; 27: 5; 42: 2 for this aspiration), and which is here promised to them, is sometimes in the OT expressed in terms of an actual “seeing” ( Exod 24: 10; Isa 6: 1) though these are clearly marked out as exceptional. More often it is the invisibility of God which is stressed ( Exod 33: 18–23) and this is strongly reinforced in the NT ( John 1: 18; 1 Tim 1: 17; 6: 16). There may be visionary experiences in this world which include a “seeing” of God, as for John on Patmos, but “seeing God’s face” is a privilege reserved for the new Jerusalem ( Rev 22: 4; cf. 1 Cor 13: 12; 1 John 3: 2). Meanwhile, it is the “angels” of God’s people, not those people themselves, who see his face in heaven ( 18: 10; see further discussion there). Here on earth the people of God may find strength “as if seeing him who is invisible,” ( Heb 11: 27) but such “seeing” remains only a foretaste of the true vision of God in heaven.
 
 9 It is a characteristic of God’s true people to “seek peace and pursue it. ” ( Ps 34: 14) This beatitude goes beyond a merely peaceful disposition to an active attempt to “make” peace, perhaps by seeking reconciliation with one’s own enemies, but also more generally by bringing together those who are estranged from one another. Such costly “peace- making,” which involves overcoming the natural desire for advantage and/or retribution, will be illustrated in the extraordinary demands of 5: 39–42 which overturn the natural human principle of the lex talionis. ( We will be reminded in 10: 34, however, that not all conflict can or should be avoided; the issue there is not inter- personal relationships but faithfulness to God’s cause in the face of opposition.) While the focus here is probably primarily on personal ethics, the principle of peace- making has further implications. H. D. Betz ( Sermon page. 140) well comments that the discourse “recognizes war, persecution and injustice as part of the evil world…. Peacemaking is a means of involvement in the human predicament of warlike conditions” which “implies assuming responsibility against all the odds, risking peacemaking out of a situation of powerlessness, and demonstrating the conviction that in the end God’s kingdom will prevail. ” Peacemakers “will be called God’s children” ( the passive probably implies that God himself will recognize them as his true children) on the basis that God’s children reflect God’s character ( 5: 44–45), and God is the ultimate peace- maker. The Semitic idiom “sons of …” often indicates those who share a certain character or status; for varied examples in Matthew see 8: 12, “sons of the kingdom; ” 9: 15, “sons of the wedding- hall; ” 13: 38, “sons of the evil one; ” 23: 31, “sons of those who killed the prophets. ” Here and in 5: 45 “sons of God” similarly expresses the idea of sharing God’s character, but a more relational sense is probably also implied since, while Matthew generally reserves “son of God” language for Jesus and does not elsewhere reflect the Pauline language of “becoming sons of God” as a term for salvation ( e. g. Rom 8: 14–17), he will frequently record Jesus as speaking to his disciples of “your Father in heaven” ( 5: 16, 45, 48 etc.).
 
 10 The pursuit of “righteousness” ( v. 6) can arouse opposition from those whose interests or self- respect may be threatened by it. Already in the commendation of the merciful and the peace- makers these beatitudes have marked out the true disciple not as a hermit engaged in the solitary pursuit of holiness but as one engaged in society, and such engagement has its cost. As the following verses will spell out more fully, to live as subjects of the kingdom of heaven is to be set over against the rest of society which does not share its values, and the result may be—indeed the uncompromising wording of this beatitude suggests that it will be—persecution. Cf. 1 Peter 3: 14, which echoes this beatitude, and for the likelihood of persecution for God’s people cf. in this gospel 10: 16–39; 22: 6; 23: 29–36; 24: 9–13. In vv. 11–12 the further element of an explicit allegiance to Jesus himself will be added to the cause of persecution, but already in the light of 3: 15 and 5: 6 “righteousness” sums up his distinctive mission and ethic. For the persecution of those who “know righteousness” cf. Isa 51: 7.
 
NICNT Matthew
 
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-Dan

PS: I apologize for not sharing a sample earlier but OT is basically a reader only copying text it comes out horrible looking (section heads missing) and I needed to reformat it back to how to appears on screen, I should also note there are footnotes to NICNT but they are not copied out here but I will paste them below.

 

1. No English word fully captures the sense of μακάριος in this traditional form of “beatitude;” see comments below. I have chosen “happy” for the translation, despite its inappropriately psychological connotations, as the least inadequate option in current English.
2. “For it is to them,” “for it is they” etc. is intended to capture the emphatic ὅτι αὐτῶν /αὐτοί which introduces the second half of each line, identifying the people described in the first half, and only them, as the ones to whom the promised benefit will come.
3. αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν could also be translated “it is of them that the kingdom of heaven consists;” i. e. they make up its membership. The effect would not be greatly different, but in so far as the latter rendering suggests a more “concrete” view of the βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν as comprising a group of people it is less consistent with Matthew’s usage generally. God’s kingship (“the kingdom of heaven”) belongs to them of course not in the sense that they exercise royal authority, but that they benefit from it.
4. The order of vv. 4 and 5, the second and third beatitudes, is reversed in D and most Latin versions, and this order is reflected in many patristic citations. The reversal has the effect of sharply juxtaposing heaven (v. 3) and earth (v. 5), and may have been made for that reason. The close similarity in meaning between “poor” and “meek” would also suggest that they should stand together. But the much wider attestation of the less “obvious” order which places the mourners before the meek suggests that it is original, though several interpreters have favored the Western order:see G. R. Beasley- Murray, Kingdom 158.
5. ἡ γῆ can mean either “the land” (usually understood as Israel) or “the earth” in the broader sense, and it is the context which must decide. Here, while in Ps 37:11 the meaning is probably “the land,” it is likely that Matthew intended a less territorial sense, which is better represented by “the earth.” See comments below, especially p. 166, n..
6. This is demonstrated at length by J. H. Neyrey, Honor 164–189. His basic thesis (concerning the whole Sermon on the Mount, but focused especially in 5:3–12) is set out on pp. 164–165:“Jesus changed the way the honor game was played and redefined the source of honor, namely, acknowledgement by God, not by neighbor.” Neyrey’s discussion draws out an important aspect of this pericope, but the fact that his thesis finds no place for one of the beatitudes (“Blessed are the pure in heart,” v. 8) suggests that it may not go to the heart of the message of the passage as a whole.
7. A wide range are collected in Davies &Allison, 1. 431–434.
8. The beatitude form is continued in the Gopel of Thomas, sayings 7, 18, 19, 49, 54, 58, 68–69, 103, most of which have little in common with the canonical beatitudes, though sharing the form.
9. The fragmentary Qumran text 4Q525 begins with what appears to have been a set of beatitudes outlining the character of God’s true people in a way similar to Ps 15. In the surviving text ʾašrê (which corresponds to Greek μακάριος) introduces four short commendations (there may have been more originally), which are followed by a more discursive portrait of the “happy” person, but without continuing the use of ʾšrê. E. Puech, RB 98 (1991) 80–106, discusses this text in relation to Sir 14:20–27 and Matt 5:3–10, and suggests that they reflect a recognized stylistic form; on this basis he suggests that the Qumran text originally had eight beatitudes, like Matthew.
10. There is a set of nine beatitudes which is some ways resembles those of Sirach in 2 Enoch 42:6–14 (repeated with variations in 43:6–14). It too lacks the regularity in form of the Matthean beatitudes; its date is quite uncertain, but is likely to be well after the NT period.
11. A good secular example is the exquisite little poem attributed to Anacreon (sixth century b. c.) addressed to a cicada:
“We call you happy (μακαρίζομεν), cicada,
when up on the treetops
after you have drunk alittle dew
you sing like a king.
Yours are all the things
you can see in the fields,
all that the woods produce.
You are honored by all people,
sweet prophet of summer.
The Muses love you,
and so does Apollo himself
who gave you your shrill song.
Age cannot wear you down,
you earthborn sage and musician.
Free from the suffering of flesh and blood,
you are almost like the gods.”
12. J. H. Neyrey, Honor 165–167, reading the text against the background of ancient values of honor and shame, argues for the sense “honorable,” “esteemed.”
13. What is sometimes referred to as the “ninth beatitude,” vv. 11–12, is formally distinct:it is longer and more complex, and is cast in the second person—and its content merely expands on the eighth beatitude rather than introducing a ninth quality.
14. I am assuming that Jesus spoke in Aramaic and that the alliteration would not work in that language.
15. Some commentators point out a further structural feature in that if the beatitudes are regarded as two groups of four (one alliterative, the other not), each group consists of exactly 36 words. This observation may help to illustrate the carefully balanced nature of the structure, but I find it difficult to imagine Matthew counting the words (and adding or deleting a word or two to achieve symmetry?). The proposed division into two groups of four is examined and approved by M. A. Powell, CBQ 58 (1996) 459–479.
16. The observation that it is only in the second half of the first three of Luke’s beatitudes that the second person is explicit is hardly significant, since the second person in the “because” clause determines the person of the first clause; and in any case both the fourth beatitude and the first, second and fourth woes are all explicitly second- person throughout.
17. The view that Matthew’s beatitudes, like Luke’s, express the literal deprivation of God’s people (and particularly “the terrible consequences of Roman power”) and its literal reversal, and are not to be “spiritualized,” is most consistently expressed by Carter, 130–137; but see also comments below on Hagner’s translation of the first and third beatitudes. In the comments below I shall give reasons for doubting this approach.
18. For the possibility of much more extensive dependence on Isa 61 see Davies &Allison, 1. 436–439.
19. R. E. Menninger, Israel 148–151, finds in this OT motif an indication that Matthew regarded the disciples as the true “remnant” of Israel.
20. One of the more imaginative suggestions of M. D. Goulder, Midrash 252–268, is that the eight beatitudes of 5:3–10 are expounded in reverse order throughout 5:11–7:11. Several links between aspects of 5:3–10 and later parts of the discourse will be noted below, and the link between 5:11–16 and 5:10 is of course transparent, but some of Goulder’s other links take considerable ingenuity, notably the proposal that the discussion of lust, divorce and swearing (5:27–37) is an exposition of the beatitude on the pure in heart, or that the section on criticism (7:1–6) expounds the beatitude on mourners. As Goulder himself remarks on one of these proposed links, “Matthew is never obvious” (p. 259)!
21. D. Flusser, IEJ 10 (1960) 1–13, explores a number of other links between Matt 5:3–5 and passages in the Qumran literature. Note especially 1QH 18:14–15, where God’s blessings are proclaimed to “the meek (ʿ nāwîm), “those of a “contrite spirit” and “those who mourn.”
22. This element seems to be lost in Hagner’s decision (87,91) to translate οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι simply as “the oppressed.” His version rightly recognizes the OT background, but οἱ πτωχοὶ alone would have sufficed to convey this; the addition of τῷ πνεύματι changes the focus, though Hagner is perhaps right to object to calling this simply a “spiritualizing” of the Lucan beatitude.
23. As in v. 3, Hagner disagrees, and has translated οἱ πραεῖς by “those who have been humbled;” they are “not persons who are submissive, mild and unassertive, but those who are humble in the sense of being oppressed.” Again, the OT background is appropriately recognized, but Matthew’s use of pra’vuß also to describe the character of Jesus’ ministry (11:29; 21:5, which apart from 1 Pet 3:4 are the only other uses of the adjective in the NT; in 1 Pet 3:4 the reference is clearly to behavior, not to status) suggests that he understood it as not only or even primarily a description of social status.
24. Ps 37:25–26 speaks of their blessed life on earth, and v. 29 of them “living in the land for ever.”
25. This is comprehensively demonstrated in W. D. Davies, Gospel. He summarizes on p. 336:“A growing recognition that the Christian faith is, in principle, cut loose from the land, that the Gospel demanded a breaking out of its territorial chrysalis…. Christianity increasingly abandoned the geographical involvement of Judaism.” Jesus’ “concentration on a loving, universal community suggests that the land itself played a minor part in his mind.” (354) With regard to Matt 5:5 Davies (362) suggests that “it is necessary to divorce Matt. 5:5 from its meaning in Ps. 37:11” so that “for Matthew ‘inheriting the land’ is synonymous with entering the Kingdom and that this Kingdom transcends all geographic dimensions and is spiritualized.” B. Charette, Recompense 85–88, seems to agree completely with Davies’ interpretation, but then, following Brueggemann, adds a comment that “the image of land not simply be absorbed into that of kingdom;” his desire to retain in some sense “its original, historical referent” is not clearly explained. In his discussion of 5:12 (ibid. 88–91) Charette suggests that the land is again in view, but is unable to find any earthly element to the “reward in heaven” in that saying.
26. Jesus’ understanding of Ps 37:11 is thus in contrast to that of the writer of the Qumran commentary on Ps 37 who takes the parallel v. 22 as referring to “the congregation of the poor” who will “possess the high mountain of Israel and delight in his sanctuary” (4Q171 3:10–11); see D. Flusser, IEJ 10 (1960) 7–9.
27. D. C. Allison, Moses 180–182, considers, but is ultimately unpersuaded by, the suggestion that this beatitude alludes to the “meek” Moses (Num 12:3) who nonetheless was denied his inheritance of the land.
28. See e. g. J. P. Meier, Law 77–78, for the proposal that in 5:6 and 6:33 δικαιοσύνη is used in a different sense from its ethical use in 5:10, 20; 6:1, and means God’s justice exerted on behalf of his people. Similarly Gundry, 70.
29. So especially B. Przybylski, Righteousness 96–98.
30. H. D. Betz, Sermon page. 132, understands the metaphor as pointing to “the eschatological banquet,” which is to “occur after the faithful enter through the gate into heaven (7:13–14).” But we may question whether this eschatological hope exhausts the significance of the promise, or whether there may also be a degree of satisfaction even in this life.
31. Cf. also the debate on purity in 15:1–20, where it is the state of the heart, vv. 8, 18–19, which matters rather than ritual observance.
32. The masculine is of course generic, hence my translation “children” to avoid a gender- specificity which is inappropriate in modern usage.
33. The theme of the deliberate persecution of the “righteous poor man” by the ungodly is memorably expressed in Wisd 2:10–20.
34. For the ethical sense of δικαιοσύνη here see B. Przybylski, Righteousness, 98


#9 Abram K-J

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:13 PM

Actually, minor correction to what Dan noted: WBC is available as individual volumes in Accordance.
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#10 Gordon

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:17 PM

Ignoring for the moment the excellent platform that accordance offers, why is it that the WBC set on Olivetree has 60 volumes and the accordance version has only 58 volumes?  The accordance version does NOT contain volumes for Judges or Job 21-42.  The olivetree version does include Judges and two volumes of Job: volumes 17 and 18 which includes job 1-37.

 (the third volume 18b Job 38-42 is not yet available).

  The price is the same for both collections.


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#11 Tony Lawrence

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:31 PM

The NICNT was offered in a sale in March of this year for $439.99 when the Hebrews volume was released. I contemplated buying it then but I hadn't yet sold some of my print volumes. I was sort of viewing that as a baseline for the "best deal."

 

I understand the benefit of cherry picking individual volumes. I did that with the Pillar set. However, when I upgraded to the Ultimate Collection I actually lost the value of those individual volumes as Pillar comes with the Ultimate Collection. I decided then that I would probably only buy sets from now on. 

 

Thanks Dan for posting the contrast of the two sets on the Beatitudes. I hate to say it but I find the NICNT in this section much better for my usage. Thus, it makes me hesitate and think, perhaps I should wait. The benefit I have right now is that I have the print volumes of Acts and Hebrews by F.F. Bruce and 1Corinthians by Fee.


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#12 Dan Francis

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:32 PM

Thank you Abram I did not realize that. Gordon Accordance has yet to update it's WBC collection, that being said since volumes will be added it likely can not be a free upgrade. My guess is Zondervan (which has been assigned the WBC series since Nelson's purchase by the Harper group). Likely offered it's venders to allow a sale of the collections at set prices. 

 

-Dan



#13 Tony Lawrence

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:37 PM

 Just for an update. I went ahead and bought it. 


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#14 Abram K-J

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:38 PM

Well, there you go. Hope you enjoy it! I surely have. Especially for the value, I don't think I've once regretted my decision to get WBC in Accordance.


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#15 Rick Bennett

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:44 PM

Ignoring for the moment the excellent platform that accordance offers, why is it that the WBC set on Olivetree has 60 volumes and the accordance version has only 58 volumes?  The accordance version does NOT contain volumes for Judges or Job 21-42.  The olivetree version does include Judges and two volumes of Job: volumes 17 and 18 which includes job 1-37.

 (the third volume 18b Job 38-42 is not yet available).

  The price is the same for both collections.

 

We've been working to add these along with other Thomas Nelson titles, but it's been slow going since the Harper acquisition; hope is not lost. As far as the price, you really can't compare us to Olive Tree; they have a much different philosophy on pricing. edit:* they have a history of pricing titles very low in comparison to other competitors.

 

[*I shouldn't have implied any direct knowledge of their policies when I do not know such things.]


Edited by Rick Bennett, 15 July 2014 - 02:11 PM.

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#16 Rick Bennett

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 01:57 PM

On a personal note, I used the Pastoral Epistles volume pretty extensively for sermon prep here recently, and I really liked the approach (not to mention the author is a friend). It was the perfect balance of exegesis and exposition.


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#17 Abram K-J

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 07:19 PM

... they have a history of pricing titles very low in comparison to other competitors.
 

I've noticed this too, but isn't competitive pricing a goal of every Bible software?
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#18 JonathanHuber

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 07:59 PM

I've noticed this too, but isn't competitive pricing a goal of every Bible software?

 

Sort of. Some companies will price their products so low just to get the sale that they leave little or no profit margin (think of Amazon). Perhaps it's so they can sell services, or so they lock the customer into their platform, or maybe they don't spend as much effort proofing/tagging etc so their costs are lower. Apple doesn't have the lowest prices, but they are still "competitive" because they make good products. I like having various Apple devices that work together well just I like having my Bible study resources in one solid platform (Accordance). And back to the original topic: the WBC is an absolute steal at this price.


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#19 Julie Falling

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 07:52 AM

I have WBC-NT, and would love to have WBC-OT, but just can't swing it.

 

However, I agree with you, Jonathan, that even when a product costs more from one source than another, they may still be competitive.  Apple devices are a good example.  Another is electronic books from Amazon vs. iBooks.  (For Bible study stuff, I go to Accordance first.)  I have books from Amazon that I wish I'd purchased from iBooks.  Amazon may turn out a lot of titles and offer better prices, but the formatting is often very sloppy, and books with charts are sometimes unusable.  I wish I'd spent more and purchased from iBooks.


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#20 Timothy Jenney

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 08:27 AM

For my exegesis, I generally prefer WBC to NICNT and NICOT. If it's a choice between the former and the two latter, I'd recommend WBC.

 

As far as pricing goes, ask anyone who has been in the military what the results are of "lowest-bidder" purchases. I have no desire to participate in a "race to the bottom" for my biblical studies purchases. It's not like "an apple is an apple is an apple," no matter how it's labeled.

 

Bible software companies all get the same content from publishers. It's what they do with it that distinguishes one from the other.  That why I used Accordance for all that time (14 years) before I officially joined the the team. Their pre-indexed resources, multi-field tagging, and seamless integration, translate into real world differences in quality, speed, reliability, and usefulness. I'm willing to pay a bit more for it.

 

I'm not alone, either, check out the testimonials and various interviews with world-class scholars on our facebook page.


Edited by Timothy Jenney, 16 July 2014 - 08:33 AM.

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