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The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins

A Literary and Speech Act Analysis


Michelle Howell Hancock

The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins: A Literary and Speech Act Analysis examines how Matthew used Jewish concepts as paradigmatic utterances for the Matthean community. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew was the most Jewish of the Synoptic Gospels, and Matthew’s paradigm was the needed transition for understanding the role of the new community post-70 AD. The importance and role of Jewish concepts is evident in Matthew’s work. More specifically, the literary nature of the Beatitudes demonstrates a composition that evolved from oral origins. Speech act theory is utilized to point out the oral features of the text as well as to reveal what Jesus did in his sayings. Moreover, a speech act model is presented and applied to the Beatitudes’ pericope. Their significance lies in the authoritative utterances of Jesus. By employing speech act theory on the Beatitudes, the sayings of Jesus are investigated to illustrate the force of his eloquence on the Christian community.


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Chapter 1: Why Use Speech Act Theory on the Beatitudes? 1


CHAPTER 1 Why Use Speech Act Theory on the Beatitudes? or centuries, the beauty of the Beatitudes has amazed readers with both its literary and rhythmic quality, as well as its theological significance. It is probably one of the most familiar pericopes, besides the Lord’s Prayer, in the New Testament (Matt 5:3–12). The sayings attributed to Jesus by Matthew, formed a purpose for the new community as it struggled in its in- fancy. The new community Matthew addressed consisted primarily of Jewish Christians at its inception, but incorporated Gentile believers over time (Beare 1981:10–11; Davies and Allison 1988:33,133–138; Harrington 1991:1–3,19; Hagner 1993:lxiv–lxxi; Stanton 1993:124–145; Betz 1995:1–4; Barnett 1999:362; Luomanen 2002:107–130; Skarsaune 2002:222–223; Ferguson 2003:613–615; Carter 2004 81–89; France 2007:17–18; Lutz 2007:45–55,84–87; Turner 2008:14). Some have identified the community with a divergent Jewish sect who came to believe in Jesus (Overman 1990:157–161; Saldarini 1994:84–90, 120– 121). The new community was none other than the Christ community with ob- vious Jewish roots. Identity clarification was critical in the beginning of Christi- anity. Clarifying its existence would also serve in promoting its purpose in the domain of Hellenistic and Jewish religion. F The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins 2 Purpose and Rationale of Study he purpose for this study is the focus on how the Beatitudes demonstrate...

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