The Beatitudes Introduction
August 21, 2019
by Barry Fike
In light of the information already presented previously there ought to be a few things perfectly clear about Jesus. First, he was Jewish, one who was intimately tied to the culture of first century Judaism. Second, he was a Rabbi and a teacher par excellent which was noticed by many people of his day and time. Because of this information I propose a new approach to the words of Jesus that we are just about to delve into. It is essential to study the teachings of Jesus in light of early Jewish thought and sources. Unfortunately, the church fathers, for the most part, were detached from the Jewish world and show little interest in, or knowledge of, Jewish literature. Because of this lack of background information, which is essential to understand these words in the mid of the original author and to know what was going on in the minds of the original audience, a great deal of his original message has been distorted and obscured.
I need to once again emphasize that the Bible is, in its entirety, highly Hebraic. In spite of the fact that portions of the New Testament were communicated in Greek, the background is thoroughly Hebrew. The writers are Hebrew, the culture is Hebrew, the religion is Hebrew, the traditions are Hebrew, and the concepts are Hebrew. Hebrew remained the language of worship, of the Bible, and of religious discourse; in a word, it remained the sacred language well into the period of the early Church. Otherwise, it would be impossible to account for the great number of Hebraisms in the New Testament, who very frequency witness to their antiquity in tradition as elements which resisted successfully all efforts at translation into Greek or into the Latin of the later Vulgate. (Pinchas Lapide, Hebrew in the Church, p. 1) The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has laid to rest all literary and philological doubt that Aramaic had displaced Hebrew as the common language in the time of Jesus; yet it has been clearly demonstrated that at least until the destruction of the Second Temple Jews considered the use of Hebrew normal for religious discourse. (Pinchas Lapide, p. 2)
When we get to what is called commonly as “The Sermon on the Mount” we find that this is not a sermon at all but rather a description of the character that will qualify men for membership in the Kingdom of God. Membership in the kingdom, or body, is not written on paper but on the hearts of men – to whoever will open up their life to God and allow him to do his will.
What will qualify people for membership in the Kingdom of God? Jesus describes in these typical Hebrew proverbs what kind of people make up the kingdom. It’s interesting to note that all eight “Beatitudes” not only define Kingdom people but in so doing they all essentially say the same thing. One could say that all eight are Hebrew parallelisms where they say the same ideas and concepts but in a different way. Saying the same thing half a dozen different ways is beautiful Hebrew poetry. The Lord is my rock, the Lord is my right arm, the Lord is my strength, and the Lord is my salvation means that the Lord is my salvation.
Also vital to our understanding of these passages is the important fact that Jesus is referring to passages in the OT that are pregnant with meaning and with which his audience as very familiar. This is vital to our understanding the words of Jesus. Join with us weekly as we continue in our search of the Messiah Yeshua and the living words that are still as vibrant today as the day and time in which they were first spoken. May God bless you as you search out the depth of the meaning, and the Hebraic background that they are embedded in.