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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 8: Words as Deeds: The Beatitudes asParadigmatic Utterance 277


CHAPTER 8 Words as Deeds: The Beatitudes as Paradigmatic Utterance ince “words are also deeds” (Wittgenstein 1958:§546), then the Beati- tudes serve to exemplify the validity of Jesus’ sayings and doings through the Christ community. God’s Word affirms the actuality of divine– human communication. A viable tool for assessing the force of divine utterance with the potential response by the hearer is speech act theory. Matthew, in ad- dressing the new community, understood the force of Jesus’ sayings as he com- posed a literary piece to engage those capable of responding to the divine speech act. Matthew constructed his Gospel around the sermons Jesus told (cf. White 2010:303–310). By adopting speech act theory on the Beatitudes, the sayings of Jesus in the Matthean composition were investigated to demonstrate the force of the per- formative utterances with its potential effects on the hearers. The exegetical, theological, and literary findings of this study will be evaluated in relation to speech act theory and the model advanced in this study. Questions Posed by the Study of the Beatitudes imply stated, any speech act situation contains the speaker, audience, con- text, speech, and response. This study developed and explored the ele- ments of a speech act situation. The direct audience was examined in S S The Matthean Beatitudes in Their Jewish Origins 278 chapter two with discussion of the Matthean community. The focus of chapter three was upon the cultural milieu and worldview to which the Beatitudes were framed. Central to...

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