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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 4: The Immediate Circumstances Surroundingthe Beatitudes 87


CHAPTER 4 The Immediate Circumstances Surrounding the Beatitudes he understanding that Jesus came and continued to be the presence of God to a Christ–confessing community served as the inclusio of Mat- thew’s composition (cf. Matt 1:23; 28:20). Matthew constructed a story centered on the claims elucidated in the teaching and ministry of Jesus. For Matthew and the early Christian community, Jesus was the presence and author- ity of God on earth, and continues to be through the new community bearing his name (Matt 16:16–18; 18:20; cf. Kupp 1996). The Jesus story was especially relevant to the issues faced by the Matthean community. Matthew used the word exousia throughout his Gospel, demonstrating the authority Jesus repeatedly displayed in his ministry (Matt 7:29; 9:6, 8; 10:1; 21:23–27; 28:18). For Plato, exousia was the power one had in “legal, political, social or moral affairs” (Betz 1986:607). The authority of Jesus was elucidated in his teaching, differentiating him from the scribes (Matt 7:29) by his pro- nounced forgiveness of sins (Matt 9:2–8), in commissioning the disciples (Matt 10:1), and in the temple cleansing (Matt 21:12–17). This authority extended to the teaching and pronouncements of Jesus (cf. Matt 11:25–30). In what ways did Matthew demonstrate this authority leading to the pro- nounced Beatitudes? What concepts were placed in the narrative to cue the reader/hearer with an understanding of the Beatitude pronouncements? The hearers of...

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