Re: Anyone out there???

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Nov 21 1996 - 06:32:19 EST

At 3:27 AM -0600 11/21/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 10:12 PM 11/20/96 -0500, wrote:
>>dear friends,
>> This verse, Matt. 5.3, in the Gospel of Matthew marking the beginning of
>>the "teaching" of Jesus, provokes a great deal of trouble in third-world
>>translations when people can't understand how Christians would want to be
>> The Jesus Seminar tried its hand and came up with: "Congratulations you
>>poor! God's empire belongs to you." This abysmal translation avoids
>>"MAKARIOS" as well as "kingdom of God (heaven)".
>> One could suggest that the problem with Matt. 5.3 (and Luke 6.20) is
>>that the words of Jesus have come down to us embedded in a slightly
>>diffferent literary genre than that of the original delivery. Either Matthew
>>or the author of Q collected these sayings and produced a serrmon that sounds
>>lilke a set of teachings designed for Christian (communal) living.
>> But Jesus spoke most of these sayings in the prophetic mode, that is,
>>with passion and social fervor. A proper translation in the prophetic mode
>>would be, "Blessings on you poor; God is on your side."
>> Likewise, the woes which follow in Luke 6.24-26 were not designed as
>>prescriptions for how to receive "woe", but meant, "Damnation to you rich;
>>you already have everything!"
>> richard arthur Merrimack NH
>With this style of argument, couldn't I make the verse say pretty much
>anything I want it to, based on my presuppositions of who the real Jesus is
>and what he must have really said?

One additional point may be helpful: although Richard did point to the
corresponding "woes" in Luke's "Sermon on the Plain," one ought to realize
that these Beatititudes correspond to the antiphonal sequences of
"blessings and curses" that attend the observance and non-observance of the
covenant stipulations--i.e. the Torah, wheher that be conceived as just the
Decalogue or as the Covenant Code of Ex 20-24 or all the other and later
parts of the Law in Leviticus, etc. In Deuteronomy 27-28 are the formulae
of blessings and curses that are to be pronounced in the presence of the
assembled people of Israel, presumably at the "Covenant Renewal" ceremony
which was celebrated at intervals that are not quite certain during the
period of the Tribal Confederacy. The Beatitudes and the corresponding Woes
(whether or not they were original or were a later addition, as it would
appear) were understood by the evangelists who wrote Mt and Lk as serving
the same role for the New Covenant instituted by the new Moses who gives
and interprets the New Torah in these corpora of instruction that came to
be collected as Mt's "Sermon on the Mount" and Lk's "Sermon on the Plain."
The Blessings are those that are to accrue to those who observe the New
Torah, vice versa the Woes. Presumably also the future tenses in the
consequence clauses are to be understood in eschatological terms as
consequences accruing not immediately in this world-age, but in the
age-to-come--although those futures could as well, IMHO, be understood in
the "old covenant" sense--at least with regard to Mt's "spiritualized"
consequences--as states of satisfaction concomitant upon observing the New
Torah or "higher righteousness."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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