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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 2: Various Views of Jewish–Christian Identificationand Its Implications for the Matthean Community 21


CHAPTER 2 Various Views of Jewish–Christian Identification and Its Implications for the Matthean Community he Beatitudes, as framed in the Gospel, were addressed to a “commu- nity network” with a germane understanding of the Matthean intention. An examination of the Matthean network is essential in understanding the Jewish origins employed by Matthew in his Gospel and, more particularly, the Beatitudes. It is best to keep in mind the distinction of the first century fol- lowers of Jesus. There were three historical groups defined as first century fol- lowers of Jesus: those who followed Jesus during his lifetime (the disciples), those who followed Jesus after his resurrection in Jerusalem (the churches of Judea), and those messianic groups after 70 AD found throughout Palestine and Asia Minor (Stegemann and Stegemann 1999:187). Historically, Jewish Christianity refers to Jews who have turned to Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament and affirm their faith in following the teachings of Jesus who is the fulfillment of the righteousness of the Torah (Hagner 2003:196). On the other hand, there have been attempts to discredit the very designation “Jewish Christianity” altogether pointing to it “as a marker of the too Jewish side of the Goldilocks fairytale that is ‘ordinary’ Christian- ity…” (Boyarin 2009:7). Boyarin further contends that Christianity needed Juda- T The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins 22 ism as a religious force for which to do battle and legitimate itself as an equal (2009:20). Yet, ultimately, the central...

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