The First Stanza – Promises of Reversals to the Unfortunate

This coming weekend is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel is the beginning of Matthew’s well known “Sermon on the Mount.” In yesterday’s post we drilled deep into the nature of the first part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes. In today’s post we consider the first stanza of the the beatitudes (vv.3-6)

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  Continue reading

Beatitudes: structure

This coming weekend is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel is the beginning of Matthew’s well known “Sermon on the Mount.” In yesterday’s post we covered the nature and alternative outlines of the Sermon. Today we go a little deeper into the nature of the first part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes.

Internal Structure 

Altogether there are nine beatitudes in 5:3–12, the ninth (5:11–12) is really an expansion of the eighth (5:10). Some scholars opt for a structure with three sets of three, the first eight exhibit such a tightly knit parallel structure that it is more likely that we should understand them as two sets of four. This is most consistent with Hebraic poetry forms which seem to be the literary background of the Beatitudes. Still there is an internal consistency within each “stanza/verse” as seen in the form of each pronouncement

Blessed are they who… (a quality/activity in the present tense)
for they will be…. (a verb in the future; except vv. 3 and 10)

This form is repeated each time with minor variations.  The first and last beatitude have the same ending: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Some see an internal chiastic structure of the poetic based on the grammar of the text:

However interesting, this perhaps is a bit over analyzed. It would seem a simpler model (vv. 3 and 10 in the present with the intervening verses in the future) is adequate to point to a “realized eschatology”  and the “two-groups of four” is adequate to retain the underlying poetic.

Mark Allen Powell (119-38) suggests that the text can be outlined in the following way:

This outline is simpler and retains a central idea that the kingdom has begun to break into the world but will only be complete (fulfilled) in a future time.


Image credit: Cosimo Rosselli Sermone della Montagna, 1481, Sistine Chapel, Public Domain 

Beatitudes: scripture, culture and theology

This coming weekend is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel is the beginning of Matthew’s well known “Sermon on the Mount.” In yesterday’s post we covered the nature and alternative outlines of the Sermon. Today we go a little deeper into the nature of the first part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes. Continue reading

Sermon on the Mount: nature and outline

This coming weekend is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel is Matthew’s well known “Sermon on the Mount.” In yesterday’s post we covered the context for the Sermon as well as some overarching views of the Sermon regarding its context and audience. Today we consider the nature and alternative outlines of the Sermon. Continue reading

An eye for an eye

jesus-teaching-mountIn today’s gospel from Mark, Jesus continues his discourse called the Sermon on the Mount. It is from a section of the Sermon which is marked with “you have heard it said… but I say to you…” He is not overturning the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses, but rather he is commenting on their misunderstanding of God’ intent in the gift of the Covenant and the Law. Misunderstanding can be taken as “you have misunderstood all along and each generation just makes it worse” – or – Jesus is telling them to “take the next step in their evolution of understanding the mysteries of God’s intent.”

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The lens of Covenant

sermon-on-the-mountThe gospel text for this Wednesday of the 10th Week is take from the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s gospel: 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19) 

Warren Carter (Matthew and the Margins) has these introductory comments about the entire sermon:  Continue reading

A new Moses

sermon-on-the-mountThe gospel for this Monday in the 10th week of Ordinary Time is the familiar Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew. If you would like to read a commentary on the Sermon, you can find it here. But in this post I would like to place these passages in a larger flow of the Matthean narrative. If you could only choose one word to describe the Sacred Writer’s “project” the word “fulfillment” would be a good choice.

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Becoming saints

Next Sunday is the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints. You can read a complete commentary on the Gospel here.

1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. (Matthew 5:1-12)

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Sermon on the Mount

In today’s gospel we hear Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted… (Mt 5:1-12)  They are words familiar to all Christians. They are words that have been parsed and prodded for meaning since the time of Christ. Continue reading