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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 6: Literary Analysis of the Beatitudes:Understanding What the Text Is 183


CHAPTER 6 Literary Analysis of the Beatitudes: Understanding What the Text Is literary approach to the Beatitudes is ultimately an aesthetic approach. Texts were not written simply for historians and linguists to consider and debate. A text is the medium between the author and the reader, a combination of both the artistic creation of the author and the aesthetic re- sponse by the reader (Iser 1974:125; cf. Schneiders 1999:148). Jauss understands the role of the reader is as much “for aesthetic as for historical appreciation” (1974:12). Culler has pointed to the aesthetic nature of literature in its ability to engage readers with the interactions between form and content (1997:33). Ri- coeur has described the text as a dialogue (interpretation) “which connects two events, that of speaking and that of hearing” forming a new event where mean- ing resides (1976:16). The Bible should be seen and interpreted as literature. Stanton has even re- ferred to literary theory as “an attractive dancing partner” for the theologian (1993:55)! However, it is not only a literary work “aimed at satisfying aesthetic instincts”, since it reflects at the most “fundamental level” the theological inter- ests it wants its readers to affirm (Esler 1994:17–18). Literature is ordinary lan- guage within a literary context (cf. Pratt 1977:80). Literary analysis begins with the understanding that there is communication between an addresser and an addressee through the medium of a message. A The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins 184...

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