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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 5: Exegetical Analysis of the Beatitudes:Its Contextual Meaning and Verbal Threads 117


CHAPTER 5 Exegetical Analysis of the Beatitudes: Its Contextual Meaning and Verbal Threads he Beatitudes exemplify one of the most beautiful literary pieces penned. The beauty, though, cannot be restricted simply to its poetic structure. The fundamental nature of the Beatitudes was in the pro- nouncement by Jesus, resulting in meaning and purpose to those who heard and followed him (cf. Davies and Allison 1988:434). The Sermon on the Mount exhibited the nucleus of Jesus’ preaching concerning the kingdom (Lambrecht 1985:40). Matthew composed the Sermon for the new community to which he ad- dressed. One scholar has concluded it was the “cornerstone” for the operation of the new community (Gale 2005:32). The beginning of the Sermon consisted in a form known as “the Beatitudes”. What was a Beatitude? A beatitude was a literary form used with “a short cry of joy”, included with a reason for good fortune (Viviano 2007:64). We have examples of various “beatitudes” from the Old Testament (Ps 1; 32; 119; 128), Ben Sirach (Sir 14:20–27; 25:7–11), and the Qumran community (4Q525). Did Matthew use certain “forms” available for his use, or did he compose the gist of Jesus’ sayings into his own theological framework? T The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins 118 Some scholars, through redaction and form criticism, have deduced that Matthew used fixed forms of Jesus material that had passed through oral tradi- tion (Betz 1985:18; Strecker 1988:12–14; Hollander 2000:349–357)...

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