One of the fascinating things about the Bible is its constant ability to fascinate. This morning I was reading through the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount and was struck by the structure of the Beatitudes. Believing that the literary features of the Scriptures are as important for interpretation as are matters linguistic and locational, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go “rabbit hunting”.
A few weeks ago I was discussing the twenty-third chapter of Matthew with a friend who was preparing to preach through the particular section dealing with the “woes.” We were interested in finding parallels between these 8 caustic comments from the Christ and other such declarations of judgment throughout the canon. We considered the prophets and the Apocalypse and noted a few similarities but I recalled nothing that stood out with much rhetorical force. There also happened to be a textual dispute concerning the authenticity of the second “woe” (Matthew 23:14) that made finding parallels a bit trickier.
But then this morning it occurred to me that there were 8 Beatitudes: 8 specific benedictions promised to the faithful in the Gospel of Matthew. I began to wonder if there might be some correlation between these two preachments from the Master. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the two sections fit together like hand in glove. One reveals the side of blessing, the other reveals the curses that would befall the apostate Jews at the end of that age. The perfect parallelism between the two also serves as further evidence for the authenticity of the disputed text concerning the second woe.
In Luke’s Gospel we find blessings and cursings standing side by side in chapter 6. This sermon is an obvious summarization of the Sermon on the Mount (event if delivered on another occasion). Bearing in mind that both writers condensed various parts of the sermon, we note how the various authors stress certain things for particular emphasis. That said it is possible that the original sermon(s) preached by Christ to various and sundry (mixed) crowds contained both of these sections as features of the message. Regardless, it is evident that the two sections are parallel points in the preaching of Jesus.
(Upon sharing this with my friend he was diligent enough to verify and helpful enough to put together the following chart)