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Three Exercises on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12
(1) The beatitudes reflect selected aspects of Psalm 37, and other portions of the Sermon on the Mount share imagery with the same psalm. Read and compare the Sermon on the Mount and Psalm 37, and look over the comparative chart below. What are some of the themes and ideas that the Sermon on the Mount shares with Psalm 37? In what ways are these shared elements developed and expanded in Jesus’ sermon?
A Comparison of the Sermon on the Mount and Psalm 37
 Betz states, “The formulation of the beatitude’s second line is obviously an adaptation of Ps 36:11 (LXX) [37:11
 See Peter C. Cragie, Psalms 1-50, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard et al. (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1983), 299-300
 See Wis 4:4; cf. Matt 7:27. Also compare Sir. = Ps 37:37; Sir = Matt ; Sir = Ps 37:7-9; Sir = Matt 5:5; Sir 2:7 = 37:7-9; Sir = 37:25; Sir = Matt 5:7.
(2) In the late spring of 2000, I was invited to present a paper at a conference near Toronto explaining some of the oral aspects of selected New Testament texts. My work included using some experimental translation techniques to show some of these textual elements designed for the ear—assonance, alliteration, rhyming, and so on. Of the several passages I used to illustrate the oral phenomena, the most striking is the beatitudes of the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes display many things in the Greek for the ears of the hearers.
Read the translation below, along with the notes, and consider the significance of these oral elements. How does the audible artistry relate to and strengthen the beatitudes? What are some of the implications of hearing the beatitudes according to their oral aspect?
And seeing the crowds he went up into a mountain,
and sitting his followers came to him;
and opening his mouth he taught them,
Graced––the stricken in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.
for they will be consoled.
for they will inherit the earth.
Graced––the ones who starve and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
for on them will mercy be bestowed.
Graced––the ones with whole hearts,
for God they will behold.
for sons of God they will be called.
Graced––the ones who are ravaged because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.
Graced are you
when they revile you
and ravage you
and speak all evil against you
because of me.
Be joyful and celebrate,
for your wages are great in the heavens,
for they ravaged the prophets who were before you.
 The starting point for my approach was experimenting with some of the things Everett Fox has done in his translation of the Five Books of Moses.
 Matt 5:1 he went up into a mountain: Perhaps echoing the language of Exod 24:12 LXX “come-up to me into the mountain.” The setting for the Sermon on the Mount as well as its content––e.g., “you have heard it said (by Moses) . . . but I say to you”––employs Sinai imagery.
 3 Graced: Trad. “Blessed” in the sense of privileged benefactor of divine favor. stricken in spirit: The translation reflects the alliteration in the Gr., ptôchoi tô pneumati. This signals alliteration as one of the significant oral features of the beatitudes. The first four beatitudes are alliterated by p- (see vv. 3-6). Also, the first and eighth beatitudes are parallel (inclusio) by the alliteration of the first line of both––i.e., ptôchoi tô pneumati (v. 3) and dediôgmenoi heneken dikaiosunęs (v. 10)––and the identical repetition of the second line in both.
 4 sorrowing . . . consoled: The alliteration and assonance in the last words of the two lines (penthountes and paraklęthęsontai) could only be reflected in part in the translation because of other simultaneous oral effects of these words in this context. consoled: The final word of the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh beatitudes (vv. 4, 6, 7, 8, 9) rhymes in Gr. (-sontai). This feature could only be partially emulated in the translation.
 5 inherit the earth: Apparently based on “the meek shall inherit the land” (Ps 37:11a NRSV; cf. 37:3, 22, 29, 34).
 7 will be bestowed, etc.: Note that the second lines of the fifth through the eighth beatitudes reflect in reverse order the verb tenses of the first four beatitudes, namely, present active vv. 3, 10; future passive vv. 4, 9; future active vv. 5, 8; and future passive vv. 6, 7.
 8 whole hearts: Text mimics alliteration in Gr. (katharoi tę kardia).
 9 called: Translation of the last word in the second and seventh beatitudes (vv. 4, 9) only partially reflects the assonance of the Gr. (paraklęthęsontai and klęthęsontai).
 10 ravaged because of righteousness: Text mirrors alliteration in Gr. (dediôgmenoi . . . dikaiosunęs). Also, see note on v. 3 above.
 11 you: This final beatitude shifts in format and from third to second person, thus signaling its climactic verbal force. revile . . . ravage: Translation reflects assonance in Gr. (oneidisôsin . . . diôxôsin). Also, note threefold repetition of “ravage” in vv. 10-12 which connects graced followers and the prophets of old. evil against you because of me: It is unclear from the manuscript evidence whether it should read as above or “. . . evil against you (and) misrepresent (you) because of me” (see Metzger, Textual Commentary, 10-11).
(3) The first eight beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 seem to be in pairs the first and eight, second and seventh, third and sixth, fourth and fifth (see note 6 above). (a) Compare the pairs. Besides the overall symmetry, how do these pairs impact interpretation of the individual beatitudes?
(b) The beatitudes and woes of Luke 6:20-26 also are paired. What is the pattern of the pairs? How does the pairing of blessings and woes affect the interpretation of this passage?
(c) Compare Matthew 5:1-12 and Luke 6:20-26. Which beatitudes are similar? What are the differences of these similar beatitudes? How would you characterize the overall significance of the beatitudes in Matthew versus those in Luke?
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