Wisdom and Blessing – Mt 5:1-11

The Beatitudes

This week i am attending a workshop for pastors on preaching the Wisdom Literature.  My texts to prepare are Matthew 5:1-11 and Psalm 1.  These share the concept of a Blessing. 

Matthew 5:1-12 –  ESV
    Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
    [2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
    [3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    [4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    [5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    [6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
    [7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
    [8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    [9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
    [10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    [11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 Some see a progression of the individual in the “Beatitudes” of Matthew 5.  Each blessing is seen as a step in the path.  The interpretation has a long history, but it seems weak to me for three reasons.  First of all, there is an “inclusio” the 1st and 8th beatitudes share the same goal “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  So a circle or switch back is happening here.  Second, is the goal of the disciple to be persecuted?  Third, the words are plurals (those who mourn, etc), so the progress of the individual soul appears to be an import.

I have experimented with a chiastic structure.  Verse 1-2 and 11-12 are Intro and Exit (teacher/disciple; prophet as example) then the beatitudes break out in this pattern.  B = Beatitude

A A’  v. 1,2, 11-12      Intro/exit – Teacher/way

B B’   v. 3,10               Poor/Persecute

C C’  v. 4,9                  Mourn/Peacemaker

D D’  v. 5, 8                Meek/Pure

E E’   v. 6,7                 Righteousness/Mercy 

The E/E’ verses at the center might then be the emphasis – and that gives the follower of Jesus the goal to seek Righteousness (or Justice) and to give Mercy.  All of which is an echo of

Micah 6:8
    He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness(mercy),
        and to walk humbly with your God?

   I will let you know how this develops.


Luke 1:26-38 Syntactically

I wish I had been taught more about syntactical patterns in narratives in school.  However, even past the 50 year mark one can learn.  I created an outline which can be found here.   Luke1.26to39.syntactical

 This demonstrates to me that the center point of the narrative at the Annunciation is Mary’s question in verse 34 – “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  (ESV). 

One can not bypass the miraculous claim of the passage.  This miracle is presented as the central point of the story.  Note the emphasis on virgin (v. 27 twice, v. 34 “i have not been with a man”) and the clarity that it is the Most High who has conceived the child.

My analysis had

A-A’  v. 2617; v. 38 – Mary betrothed/servant, Gabriel

B-B’ v. 28-29; 36-37 – Favored Women

C – C’  v. 30-33; 35 – Who/How; Son

D – v. 24  How?

So the D is the central point of the narrative, as I see it.  I know Thomas Jefferson actually cut out all the miraculous from his edition of the New Testament, to find his rationalistic Jesus.  the one presented in the text is not easily trimmed without doing damage to the central parts of the text.

Have a Merry Christmas fellow readers.

II Kings 22,23 – Chiasmus

I told someone this week that I was discovering a “chiasmus” in the story of King Josiah, found in II Kings 22,23.  He asked what that was.

It is a literary form where the elements of a story (A, B, C) are repeated, modified in reverse form (C’, B’, A’).  Chiasmus refers to the shape being an “x” or “chi” in Greek.  Often the main point of the story can be found in the center, where the “x” marks the spot.  The number of elements vary. 

English readers need to look for this as it is not a literary form we are as accustomed to as the ancient Hebrews.   We are used to jokes with three elements (minister, rabbi and priest jokes for example), with “inclusio” returning at the end to the beginning.

In my analysis of II Kings 22, 23, I found such a structure.  Notice below that at the start Josiah is affirmed and at the end.  He has the book read to him and he reads it to others, he was restoring the temple, then he restores the people, etc.  The B’ is a long section detailing the repairs Josiah made as a result of his recommitment to the Covenant. 

This is helpful in finding what the intent of the passage might be.  If you see this structure, it is likely pointing you toward the mid point. In this narrative, that is Hulda’s word form the Lord for Josiah and for Jerusalem.  The passage has good news for Josiah, but bad news for the people.  Overall, what it is saying is that rebellion was so advanced and so deeply set in the people that there was no chance that the judgment of God could be averted.  A very serious point.  However, whatever may be the case for the nation, Josiah was still intent on obedience and he was still rewarded for his repentance and faith.

there is this structure.

A – Josiah Affirmed  22:1,2

    B – Josiah Repairs  22:3-7

            C – The Law Recovered  22:8-10

                    D – Josiah Reads the Law  22:11-13

                          E – Josiah Inquires  22:14

                                    1. Jerusalem  22:15-17

                                    2.  Josiah  22:18-20

                    D’ – Josiah Reads the Law  23:1,2

             C’ – Josiah Recovers the Covenant 23:3

     B’ – Josiah Repairs 23:4-24

                        Jerusalem – 23:4-14

                        Outlying Area – 23:15-20

                        Passover – 23:21-23

                        Idolatry – 23:24

A’ – Josiah Accepted; Jerusalem Rejected  23:25-30

            1. Jerusalem – 23:26-27

            2.  Josiah – 23:25, 28-30