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Reading the Beatitudes 1: Hope AND Summons

Reading the Beatitudes 1: Hope AND Summons

“Boussuet remarked that the Sermon on the Mount was a summary of the entire Gospel, and the beatitudes a summary of the Sermon…Here the entire moral teaching of the Gospel is subsumed together with the complete art of Christian living … All the reality of man and God, seeking one another in a world that is capable of the best and the worst, is the stuff out of which the beatitudes are shaped. Herein lies the essence of Jesus’ response to our desire for happiness.”[1]

THE BEATITUDES: A BLENDED, WEDDED TRADITION

Beatitudes (with their “blessed are you’s”) have a long and rich tradition.  Even Luke’s 4 woes fit the profile of Psalm 1 & Jeremiah 17:7-8. In the wisdom tradition, these are words of promise, but also “criteria for the discernment of spirits.”[2] When you see beatitudes in Psalms or Proverbs (or Isaiah or Deuteronomy, for that matter), they usually describe a right attitude or proper conduct that, if done or by doing, procures well being.[3] Guelich gives us examples of well-being in life (Prov 8:34), security (Ps 40:4), deliverance (Ps 2:11), military success (Deut 33:29), prosperity (Ps 1:2), posterity (Ps 127:5), and help, justice, and abundance of food (Ps 146:5-7).[4] They are about the present, and only rarely about the great future in some life beyond (Is 30:18; 32:20; Dan 12:12).

In the time between the testaments, the use of beatitudes diverged into two distinct approaches: one continued this ethics-in-the-present sense as found in the wisdom tradition (Wis 3:13-14; Sir 14:1-2, 20; 25:8, 9; 26:1; 28:19; 31:8; 24:15; 48:11; 2 Bar 4:4; Oss Sol 4:23; 5:16; 6:1; 10:1; 17:44; 18:6), while a second approach offered an apocalyptic, future-oriented sense, complete with both bitter woes as well as eschatological hope (1 Enoch 103:5; 2 Bar 10:6-7; cf. 1 Enoch 99:10-15). This second use, call it the “hope-for-change-in-the-future” approach, involved blessing people in hopelessly difficult circumstances, since comfort and vindication will come in the future.[5] Guelich is right that, in some of these writings, there is little to no sense of present-justice, and little to no emphasis on ethical actions; there is, instead, encouragement that the present situation is not the end of the story. But Pennington notes that in the Second Temple period, some apocalyptic writings and wisdom instruction are being wed together.[6] Suffering was acknowledged (often recognizing that one may not be able to do anything to alleviate the suffering), but the hope offered included the claim that “by living wisely now a good promised future from God will come.”[7]

When we come to the Sermon on the Mount, we see this blended wedding in full bloom. The form of each saying copies that of the wisdom tradition, but (unlike the wisdom tradition) Matthew includes a hoti-clause (“for”) to explain each promise as a future one. It is very important for us to keep this wedding together; we do not have to choose one or the other. Commentators have long claimed that, whatever Jesus actually said, Matthew turns the beatitudes into wisdom-tradition “ethical entrance requirements,” while Luke turns them into apocalyptic eschatological hopes.[8] But we do not need to make such a claim if we see these two traditions as wedded together. These beatitudes, writes Pennington, “are invitations to flourishing in light of God’s coming eschatological kingdom.”[9]

But does Jesus’ beatitudes seem to offer something rather unusual? In the time of Jesus, you could find a series of beatitudes (Sirach 25:7-10; Tobit 13:14-16; 2 Enoch 41:2-42:14), almost always given in the third person.[10] But long lists like these were often used as a catalogue of saints who did well (Heb 11; Sirach 44) or a list of characteristics describing faithful or unfaithful actions and their proper rewards. Mishnah ‘Abot 5:12, for example, lists four types of disciples:

  • Quick to grasp, quick to forget—he loses what he gains
  • Slow to grasp, slow to forget—what he loses he gains
  • Quick to grasp, slow to forget—a sage
  • Slow to grasp, quick to forget—a bad lot indeed.[11]

Jesus’s beatitudes begin in the third person, but switch in the final beatitude to the second person. And for some readers, Jesus offers the apocalyptic thing, listing people in dire circumstances (poverty, mourning, and hungry) and describing future hope that awaits them. Read this way, Jesus’ beatitudes seem different, unique, or something other than the typical.

Reading the Sermon with lenses set to spot any hint of legalism and works-salvation will only get us so far in a proper interpretation. In fact, there is more to this whole story.

But this is not the whole of the story. A beatitude in the second person is not without precedent (1 En 58:2; Isa 33:20, 29; Ps 127:2; As. Mos. 10:8), and Sirach even switches from third to second person in the same series—twice (Sir 47:12-22; 48:1-11).[12]  In addition, Jesus borrows his language from the tradition before him. “Makario” (“Blessed”) is the first word of Psalm 1 (an ethical, Temple Psalm), and appears 25 more times in the Psalms. H. Benedict Green has a chart showing that apart from two phrases (“theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”) “every detail of the wording of the Beatitudes has its counterpart somewhere in the LXX text.”[13] Besides, it is possible to interpret the “dire circumstances” spiritually (poverty of spirit, hunger for righteousness), turn them into positives, and suggest he proclaims the proper reward for right attitudes and ethical behavior.

So what is the right reading of the Beatitudes? Ethics or eschatology? Right actions and proper rewards, or eschatological hope for dire circumstances? The truth is that the results are mixed. We can find 44 makarisms in the New Testament, found (not surprisingly) in both ethical contexts and eschatological ones.[14] And this is precisely what we should expect. As we will see, Virtue ethics helps us appreciate how both truths are present in a blended, wedded tradition.[15]

SIDE 1: HOPE-FILLED PROMISES IN HOPELESS SITUATIONS

The problem with extremes is that they breed incomplete alternatives that sound so good, especially in the light of the problem one is escaping. For example, an overemphasis on duties and effort can incur the pains of guilt and the stigma of works-righteousness; in the vein of Luther, many commentators have sought to escape this danger by speaking of the beatitudes only as “eschatological blessings” for the sad, lonely, and persecuted downtrodden. Robert Guelich tells us that there are two options for interpreting Matthew’s beatitudes: either they are “entrance requirements” for the kingdom, or they are “eschatological blessings” inherent to the coming of the kingdom.[16] “On the practical level,” writes Guelich, “one frequently hears comments to the effect of trying to ‘live according to the Sermon on the Mount.’ This generally means orienting one’s attitudes and conduct by the various Beatitudes…The Beatitudes have become an ideal for human conduct, a goal to be pursued.”[17] What is the problem with this? This kind of preaching, says Guelich, usually leaves the listener “with a sense of guilt or inadequacy.”[18] Instead, says Guelich, one should adopt the second reading:

For Matthew…these Beatitudes were not intended to be benedictions that pronounce one blessed in a sacral rite, nor did they intend to express popular wisdom or ethical teaching of that day. Rather, these are to be heard and understood as having been spoken by the one who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (5:17). Instead of ethics swallowing up eschatology in Matthew, we have just the reverse. The implicit attitudes and conduct of the Beatitudes as well as the demands of 5:20-48 are only intelligible in light of that new eschatological moment between God and humanity established by Jesus’ person and ministry.[19]

This reading makes the strong case that Jesus offers blessing before he gives commands, giving graciously before he asks for anything in return. “The chief result is not the burdening of the faithful with moral imperatives,” writes Dale Allison, “but rather blessings for disciples, without which, they cannot face the following demands.”[20]

To be fair, such statements are found throughout the great tradition. Augustine speaks this way when describing the beatitudes as gifts of the Spirit: “As the dry earth cannot bring forth fruit without moisture,” writes Augustine, “so we, who were once a dry tree, cannot bring forth fruits in our lives unless we have been watered by the dew of the Holy Spirit, the gracious rain from above.”[21]

And consider William Tyndale:

All these deeds here rehearsed, as to nourish peace, to shew mercy, to suffer persecution, and so forth, make not a man happy and blessed; neither deserveth he reward of heaven; but declare and testify that we are happy and blessed, and that we shall have great promotion in heaven; and certify us in our breasts that we are God’s sons, and that the Holy Ghost is in us: for all good things are given to us freely of God, for Christ’s blood sake and his merits.[22]

No one, to my knowledge, reinforces this reading (‘good news of freely-given future blessing for hurting people’) better than Dallas Willard. In his inimitable style, Willard urges us to avoid any sense that when the Beatitudes say “Blessed are…”, that we should read them as “now, go and be like that!” Reading them this way is “pretty poison,” and we “could hardly be more mistaken” to think this way.[23] It leads to “a constant burden of guilt conscientiously borne for not being, or not wanting to be, on this list of the supposedly God-preferred.[24] Willard then offers this guilt-erasing prescription for how to read the Beatitudes:

The Beatitudes, in particular, are not teachings on how to be blessed. They are not instructions to do anything. They do not indicate conditions that are especially pleasing to God or good for human beings…They are explanations and illustrations, drawn from the immediate setting, of the present availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus. They single out cases that provide proof that, in him, the rule of God from the heavens truly is available in life circumstances that are beyond all human hope.[25]

I can’t help but sympathize with what seems to be “driving the bus” for Willard. You can almost hear Luther speaking in the background:  “The Beatitudes simply cannot be ‘good news’ if they are understood as a set of ‘how-tos’ for achieving blessedness. They would then only amount to a new legalism.”[26]

Instead, writes Willard, we should see the first part of each Beatitude as describing an unfortunate situation of destitution, and the second half as a hopeful promise that, in spite of that condition, God’s grace is available and approaching:

And so he said, ‘Blessed are the spiritual zeros—the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of ‘religion’—when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them.’ . . . “Those poor in spirit are called ‘blessed’ by Jesus, not because they are in a meritorious condition, but because, precisely in spite of and in the midst of their ever so deplorable condition, the rule of the heavens has moved redemptively upon and through them by the grace of Christ.[27]

And to make the case even harder to challenge, Jonathan Pennington (who will serve as a major witness to reading these texts from a blended virtue perspective) seems to echo these sentiments. He tells us there are two wrong ways to read Beatitudes. One is to see each beatitude as including two blessings (God gives you poverty of spirit, then he gives you the reward in heaven because of it). The other is to see them as “if-then” statements. Pennington writes:

This mechanistic ‘do this and you’ll get this from God’ interpretation does not accord with the overall emphasis on the grace and succor that Jesus is providing in his teaching and actions; that would be idealistic religion, not grace-based Christianity … this ‘entrance requirements’ reading of the Beatitudes does not accord with the rest of Matthew or the New Testament.[28]

And Pennington is not alone among scholars in the virtue tradition. Servais Pinckaers sounds the alarm against legalism by reminding us of God’s blessings that always precede his commands.

It is wholly remarkable that God, addressing man in Scripture, almost always begins by speaking to him of happiness. The Word of God thus responds first of all to the desire for happiness which is natural to the human heart. It arouses man, invigorates him, and opens up a horizon exceeding all human limitations..Promises of happiness therefore come first in God’s Word and designs. They precede the Law and the commandments given to Moses and are evoked in the remainder of the Sermon o the Mount … Salvation, freedom, justice, and happiness come to us from our faith in the divine promises and our hope in mercy and grace, rather than from the merits we may acquire by our own strength in adhering to the observances of the Law. Faith, which engenders hope, will therefore come first in biblical and Christian morality, and will become the source of good works. It will lay as the foundation stone of Christian action the humility of the one who knows he has received everything and who joyously entrusts himself to the power of One greater than himself, as contrasted with the secret pride of the one who thinks he can carry out his obligations by his own strength.[29]

Even Stanley Hauerwas, who is sympathetic to the Anabaptist tradition of reading the sermon as a call to radical discipleship, reinforces the point:

The temptation is to read the Beatitudes as a list of virtues that good people ought to have or as deeds they ought to do. We thus think we ought to try to be meek, or poor, or hungry, or merciful, or peacemakers, or persecuted. Yet we know it is hard to try to be meek: One either is or is not. It is even more difficult to have all the characteristics of the Beatitudes at once! Yet, that is not what it means to be blessed.[30]

To summarize, the view from side 1 is over blessing over commands, giving over demand. As Harris puts it, the Beatitudes are not “orders to be obeyed;” they are “blessings to be enjoyed.”[31]

WHY SIDE 1 IS INCOMPLETE

Surely there is something right about all of that, just as Luther was right to turn out eyes upon Jesus rather than our own righteousness. But does this tell the complete story? No, it does not. Hearing the Sermon only as a reaction/response to slavish works-salvation will only get us so far in a proper interpretation. Yes, the freely-gifted grace of God is the right starting place, ending place, and framework for the entire the discussion. But it is not the whole story, and it leaves out a significant element of the journey.

The reasons for a one-sided reading are several—including the attempt to avoid legalism, neuroticism, and pride. But there are technical textual readings that are factors as well.

Let’s start with the word “blessed.” This word is translated a variety of ways in our English texts. For many who read the beatitudes from the side described above, the word can mean something like “congratulations to,” where the stress is on a declaration of good fortune, and announcing a promise, especially to “the unsuspecting and undeserving.”[32] Guelich gives the basic reason why he prefers this reading: there is no merit + reward plan here; this is “Jesus’ declaration, an announcement of congratulations…rather than a demand for conduct. . . . These promises are given as assurance rather than as reward.”[33]

But this is not the only way (or, in my opinion, even the best way) to translate the word. Here are some other options. Glenn Stassen prefers the term “joyful” which, he claims always means “joy of participation in God’s action of deliverance.”[34] The term can also be translated “happy” or “fortunate”–borrowing from the wisdom tradition—which, according to Guelich, involves seeing the term as “an exhortation for one to exhibit a particular attitude or conduct.”[35] And, of course, there is the word “blessed” (the most familiar translation); but this word, too, emphasizes “attitude and behavior,” says Guelich.[36]

What do all three of these options have in common? They assume that our attitude, behavior, and active response to God’s action are, somehow, in view. This is because of what seems to be inherent in the word makario, or what Pennington calls “macarisms.”

For Pennington, knowing which Greek word is found here is crucial.[37] But why? Because there are two different Hebrew words in the Old Testament translated “blessed”—and confusing them is common. One word is bārûk (Gen 14:19; Deut 28:3) which, in the New Testament, can be compared to eulogeo/eulogetos.  The word is especially strong in the Penteteuch, where God initiates and offers favor (fertility, authority, peace, and rest), empowering people with such Divine blessing. God does the blessing, and, in both testaments, God alone is brk/eulogatos.[38]

The second Hebrew word is ‘ašrê (Ps 1:1; 2:12; Prov 3:13). This word is used 45-x in the Old Testament, including 26-x in the Psalms. It is connected with the wisdom tradition, and, in the LXX (the Greek version of the Old Testament), it is often paired with wisdom words like sophia and phronesis. This is not a word describing God initiating a blessing to someone; rather, it is “an exclamatory description of the state of happiness, privilege, or fortune that is upon someone as observed by someone else, a bystander, not the one providing or initiating the blessing.”[39] You could even say it refers to “a state of happiness.” And what is the New Testament equivalent for this word? Makario. These are not statements about God actively favoring someone; instead, an asherism or a macarism is a hearty congratulations (yes!) to people who stand in a state of happiness; that is, those who walk in a way that brings happiness, peace, and all that awaits the good life.[40] For Pennington and others, the best English word to translate this concept is “flourishing.”

But notice how “flourishing” really does encapsulate the wedded, blended tradition. Yes, there is a declarative announcement of God’s gracious work and eschatological promise. But there is also a strong connection with the Wisdom tradition which spoke of flourishing as the “truly happy state of the Torah-keeping life.”[41] “It becomes clear that something other than a pronouncement of divine blessing is at hand,” writes Pennington. “Rather…Jesus begins his public ministry by painting a picture of what the state of true God-centered human flourishing looks like. He is making an appeal and casting an inspiring vision…for what true well-being looks like in God’s coming kingdom.”[42] Proclaiming a macarism is to make a value judgment upon another member of the community’s behavior and commitments, the sphere in which one walks.[43] But it is not as simple as some magical if-then formula.

The beatitudes offer both a call and a hope. A call for a life that looks like Christ. A hope that he God that raised Jesus from the dead will provide you an abundant life as well. tell the world

Consider Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…but his delight is in the law of the Lord.” This Psalm is not about brk blessing at all (as if God promises to give you land and children if you read your Bible every day). Instead, it’s a call to walk a certain road, to be a certain way in the world, that will allow such a person to flourish like a tree.[44]

In summary, writes, Pennington, “macarisms are not ‘blessings’ in the brk, blessings-cursings sense. Macarisms are exhortatory invitations to flourishing . . .Therefore, one misreads the Beatitudes if they are taken as mere statements of God’s blessing without recognizing that inherent in a macarism is an appeal to live a certain way that will result in our flourishing.”[45]

William Mattison joins the chorus in helping us see the wedded, blended tradition in view.

[T]he beatitudes are best understood as both ethical exhortations that guide action in this life preceding full entrance into the kingdom and descriptions of the eschatological deliverance offered by God and fully known only in the end times. If the eschaton as eternal happiness is marked by activity that is continuous with, or intrinsically related to, activity in this life, then there can be no dichotomization between eschatology and ethics.[46]

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the beatitudes are both eschatological promises and “directions for discipleship.”[47] The one-sided view (“blessings not requirements”) creates a wedge between command and grace, between ethics and eschatology, that is unhelpful.[48] As Pennington wisely states, it is a self-inflicted dilemma to pit grace and virtue against one another.[49] “Thus, for the careful reader this opening to Jesus’ teaching is both macaristic and eschatological, combining the vision for true human flourishing and the context of God-centered eschatological hope.”[50]

REFLECTIONS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: THE CALL TO A FLOURISHING LIFE

While more will be said on this subject in later posts, consider five practical reasons to appreciate the other side of the coin. First, Christ came to offer the abundant life—not just in the future, but right here and now. Surely God’s desire for our happiness is total, and his call to life in this world is the call to embrace a life that flourishes in all ways. Pinckaers writes: “The beatitudes, each in its own way, detail all the happiness man can hope for: the possession of the Kingdom, the ‘inheritance of the earth,’ consolation, the satisfaction of the human longing for justice, mercy, the peace which makes man a child of God, joy and exultation, and a great reward in heaven.”[51]

Second, discipleship involves choosing costly suffering, not simply finding oneself in a despised situation. It is consistent with the entirety of Scripture to find grace and discipleship, virtue and hope wrapped up together.

Third, we have to make sense of Luke’s woes. If Jesus is simply saying “people in dire, unfortunate situations—which no one would choose, even God on behalf of his people—are going to get bailed out,” then how we understand the woes anticipated by those who live in situations that anyone would choose? The opposite of a macarisms is a woe (the situation or life that does not bring about flourishing).

Fourth, what are we to make of the fact that each beatitude describes not only the expected fare of a disciple of Jesus, but the life of Jesus himself? Are these simply situations in which Christ happens to find himself? Of has he, in some sense, chosen the life, walked the road, that brings about abundance?

The beatitudes are not one-sided; they offer eschatological blessings to the downtrodden while also describing what constitutes a flourishing life, imitating the life of Christ.

Fifth, the great tradition (including Gregory, Chrysostom, and Augustine) challenges us to see not only eschatological promise of freely-gifted grace, but also a summons to change ones attitude and behavior, and to walk a certain kind of life. Clement of Alexandria “understands the beatitudes as implicit commandments,” since Jesus is speaking of both “discipline of the soul” and “the ascent of the soul to God.”[52] Ambrose aligns Luke’s 4 beatitudes with the four cardinal virtues, and claims that Matthew’s 8 beatitudes when grouped rightly, each correspond to a cardinal virtue.[53] Gregory of Nyssa finds in the beatitudes a moral imperative which leads to an “ethical likeness” to God that is “gained through virtue, as distinct from that acquired either by birth or the sacrament of baptism.”[54] John Chrysostom finds a “catalogue of virtues” in the opening segment of the Sermon, and is “utterly confident, almost cavalier, in his belief about the universal validity of these imperatives.”[55] Listen to Chrysostom describe the golden chain of virtues:

And observe too, after how many commandments He has put this, for surely He did it not without reason, but to show that it is not possible for one unprovided, and unarmed with all those other virtues, to go forth unto these conflicts. Therefore, you see, in each instance, by the former precept making way for the following one, He has woven a sort of golden chain for us. Thus, first, he that is humble, will surely also mourn for his own sins: he that so mourns, will be both meek, and righteous, and merciful; he that is merciful, and righteous, and contrite will of course be also pure in heart: and such a one will be a peacemaker too: and he that has attained unto all these, will be moreover arrayed against dangers, and will not be troubled when evil is spoken of him, and he is enduring grievous trials innumerable.[56]

Augustine speaks of  “ascending step by step…those several degrees of perfection.”[57] “[S]ee how fittingly the corresponding rewards and labors are conjoined,” writes Augustine. “Indeed, where is there a mention of any reward which is not in agreement and harmony with the labor?…How appropriate throughout are the rewards attached to the several labors. In the reward, nothing is added which is not in keeping with the precept.”[58]  He continues: In the Sermon on the Mount,

[Jesus] says that there are many causes of that blessed life which no one wishes to be without. Surely, we can find no one who does not wish to be blessed. Would that men were as willing to fulfill the condition as they are eager to obtain the reward! Is there anyone who would not run with alacrity when it is said to him: ‘You shall be blessed’? Then, let everyone lend a willing ear when the condition is announced: ‘If you do this.’ If one loves the reward, let him not decline the labor. Rather, let the thought of the reward enkindle the mind to alacrity in the labor. What we wish for, what we desire, what we are seeking—all that is in the future. What we are bidden to do for the sake of what is in the future—all that is here and now. So, begin to reflect upon the divine sayings—both the precepts and the rewards of the Gospel.[59]

Thomas Aquinas also uses theological and cardinal virtues to describe the beatitudes as the life of discipleship. And it is not a coincidence that, in the Middle Ages, it was common to see the beatitudes as habits or virtues in and of themselves.[60] Aquinas (nuancing this tradition to speak of the beatitudes as activities that proceed from habits)[61], connects several key ideas, including activity, law, and virtue: “Likewise note that the acts of virtues are those about which the law command; moreover the merits of the beatitudes are the acts of the virtues; and therefore all those things which are commanded and are contained below [Mt 5:21-48] are referred back to these beatitudes.”[62]

All of this is to say, simply, that the Beatitudes are not one-sided; they offer eschatological blessings to the downtrodden while also describing what constitutes a flourishing life, and calling us to a shift in both attitude and behavior, in order to have a life characterized like that of Christ.

BUT…WHO WOULD CHOOSE THIS LIFE?

But who would choose this life? When you make a list of traits you admire—traits you are looking for in a potential spouse, or in an ideal candidate for governance—would you list things like poverty, or mourning, or constant persecution? The life Jesus is commending appears so…dark! Doesn’t the list seem to describe the opposite of flourishing?

The key, of course, is that the call of Jesus is a call to a reversal of values. Kingdom values simply do not make sense to a world that is centered on selfish ambition and achievement. Pinckaers makes the contrast clear:

Let’s face it. One after another, the beatitudes topple our choices and mock our contemporary scale of values. To satisfy our appetite for riches, they suggest poverty. In place of our aggressiveness, they would have us meek. They would slake our thirst for pleasure with patience and love of justice and turn our hard-heartedness into mercy, our inclination to evil to purity of heart and our touchinesss to a peaceful spirit, while our vanity would be transformed into a carefree acceptance of insults and calumny. The beatitudes seem to delight in promising us happiness in all that we loathe and fear.[63]

But there is power in the twist to the story. Pennington writes:

The solution for these problematic readings is to understand anew that macarisms are invitations to a way of being in the world that will result in flourishing, while understanding that Jesus is redefining flourishing as suffering while awaiting the eschaton. This is not the opposite of grace but the means of it. What is radical and unique about Jesus’ macarisms is the unexpected eschatological twist that human flourishing is now found amid suffering in the time of waiting for God to bring his just reign from heaven to earth.[64]

 

[1] Servais Pinckaers, The Pursuit of Happiness–God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes (Alba House, 1988), pp. 25, viii-ix.

[2] Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth, Vol 1: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Trans. Adrian J. Walker (New York: Doubleday, 2007), p. 71.

[3] Robert A. Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1982), pp. 63-64.

[4] Guelich, p. 63.

[5] This view may have OT roots. See Isa 30:18; 32:20; Dan 12:2.

[6] Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), p. 158.

[7] Pennington, p. 158.

[8] Guelich, pp. 109-111 strongly disagrees with the traditional claim that Matthew is ethical and Luke is apocalyptic.

[9] Pennington, p. 158.

[10] See Gen 30:13; Pss 1; 40:4; Prov 8:34; Sir 14:1-2; Tob 14:14; 2 Bar 10:6; 1 En 99:10; 2 En 42:7, 11. Guelich, p. 63, 66.

[11] Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount. The Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), pp. 30-31.

[12] Charles H. Talbert, Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Ethical Decision Making in Matthew 5-7 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), p.  57.

[13] H. Benedict Green, Matthew, Poet of the Beatitudes, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), p.264. Chart found on pages 266-267.

[14] Mt 5:3-12; 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46;  Lk 1:45; 7:23; 10:23; 11:27, 28; 12:37, 38, 43; 14:14, 15; 23:29; John 13:17; 20:29; Rom 4:7, 8; 14:22; James 1:12, 25; 1 Pet 3:14; 4:14; Rev 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.

[15] See William C. Mattison, III, The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017),  pp. 16-52.

[16] Guelich, pp. 109-111.

[17] Guelich, p. 109.

[18] Guelich, p. 109.

[19] Guelich, p. 111.

[20] Dale C. Allison, The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination, Companions to the New Testament (New York: Crossroads Publishing Company / Herder & Herder, 1999), p. 44.

[21] Robert Louis Wilken, “Augustine,” in The Sermon on the Mount Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II, ed. Jeffrey P. Greenman, Timothy Larsen, Stephen R. Spencer (Brazos Press, 2007), p. 46.

[22] William Tyndale, Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of the Holy Scriptures, ed. Henry Walter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849), p. 228.

[23] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life With God (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), p. 99.

[24] Willard, p. 99.

[25] Willard, p. 106.

[26] Willard, p. 106. “On the other hand, pride often visibly swells in those who think of themselves as conforming to the ‘blesseds’” (99).

[27] Willard, p.100, 102.

[28] Pennington, p. 157.

[29] Pinckaers, Pursuit of Happiness, pp. 26-27.

[30] Stanley Hauerwas, “Living the Proclaimed Reign of God: A Sermon on the Sermon on the Mount,” Interpretation 47 (April 1993): 157.

[31] Randy Harris, Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount (Abilene: Leafwood, 2012), p. 32.

[32] One of the options considered by Guelich, p. 67.

[33] Guelich, p. 109-111.

[34] Glen H. Stassen, Living the Sermon on the Mount: A Practical Hope for Grace & Deliverance (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006), p. 39.

[35] Guelich, p. 67.

[36] Guelich, p. 67.

[37] Pennington, p. 150.

[38] Pennington, p. 48-49.

[39] Pennington, p. 49.

[40] Pennington, p. 49.

[41] Pennington, p. 45.

[42] Pennington, p. 47.

[43] Pennington, p. 49.

[44] Pennington, p. 51-52.

[45] Pennington, pp. 152, 160.

[46] William Mattison, “The Beatitudes and Moral Theology: A Virtue Ethics Approach,” Nova et Vetera 11/3 (2013): 842.

[47] Ratzinger, pp. 71, 72, 74.

[48] Mattison, “The Beatitudes and Moral Theology,” p. 841.

[49] Pennnington, p. 159.

[50] Pennington, p. 146.

[51] Pinckaers, Pursuit, p. 27.

[52] Kovacs, in Gregory of Nyssa, p. 314. See Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis IV 6, 25-41.

[53] Ambrose, Treatise on the Gospel of St. Luke, 62.1-68.3 (206-7).

[54] Meredith, in Gregory of Nyssa, p. 107.

[55] Jaroslav Pelikan. See Chrysostom, Hom. on Matt 15.1

[56] Chrystostom, Hom on Matt 15.

[57] Augustine, Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount 1.4.11-12, p. 27-28.

[58] Augustine, Sermon 53: On the Beatitudes, pp.217-218.

[59] Augustine, Sermon 53, p. 211. In another sermon on the Beatitudes, Augustine makes a similar pronouncement: “Everyone who hears the word of God ought to bear in mind that his life ought to be conformed to what he hears. Therefore, let him not disregard that word in his conduct while he seeks to praise it with his lips. If the word of God is sweet to hear, how much sweeter must it be to do?..[W]hile we are expounding the truths which so great a Master pronounced, what could be more helpful for us than to do what he has told us?” (Sermon 11—Morin, On the Beatitudes, p.357).

[60] See Mattison, The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology, p. 46.

[61] Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II 69, 1.

[62] Aquinas, Commentary on Matthew, p. 411.

[63] Pinckaers, Pursuit, p. 34.

[64] Pennington, p. 158.

FIRST POST IN THIS SERIES ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
The Complete Art of Happiness: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 1

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SECTION: PREPARING FOR BEATITUDES
Pinnacle of Hope: Ascending the Mountain (Matt 5:1-2)

Photo credit: Károly Ferenczy, Sermon on the Mount (1896), Hungarian National Gallery

Nathan Guy

Nathan Guy believes the passionate pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty culminates in Jesus Christ. He received formal training in philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and cultural & political ethics from Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE. Nathan lives in Searcy, Arkansas, where he teaches in the College of Bible & Ministry at Harding University.

Categorized: Biblical Studies , Sermon On The Mount

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