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)
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.
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
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.”
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; 105:3; 118:1; 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 127:2 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.
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 , 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; 33:18; 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 36:11: 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; 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.
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.
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.
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