Sr. Louise Zdunich

YOUR QUESTIONS

February 9, 2015

QuestionWhy are the Beatitudes presented so differently in Matthew and Luke? It seems to me that they should be the same. Who is right?

 


AnswerMatthew's teaching is given to us in five great discourses. Luke's teaching has a less formal structure with Jesus' teaching spelled out less formally, more simply.

Mark's Gospel was the first Gospel written, and Matthew and Luke had access to it. They also seem to have another source, known as Q Source from the German Quelle, an additional source from which they selected material. The existence of Q has been questioned.

The first three Gospels (synoptics) are similar in content, order of events and the words Jesus used. Mark has 661 verses while Matthew and Luke each have more than 1,000.

Many parables are similar but are adjusted to reflect audience needs. Written by a Jew to Jews, Matthew's parables have a severe tone because Matthew blames the Jews, the chosen people, for being unfaithful to God.

Luke is writing to Gentiles and has no need for this severity because he writes to those who are already converted. One could analyze the differences, but what is clear is that these evangelists are faithful to their duty to bring Jesus to the people who lived 50 to 60 years after Jesus as they continue to do today.

Whether we talk of Matthew (5.3-12)or Luke (6.20-26), traditionally, we speak of eight beatitudes. Although differing in wording, they speak the same truths.

Matthew addresses Jews so Jesus is presented as the new Moses, proclaiming a new revelation on a new Mount Sinai. This "Sermon on the Mount" has Matthew's Jesus ascending the mountain, sitting down and preaching. Jesus' discourse introduced with unusual solemnity is where, after calling his disciples, he speaks to great crowds from the entire region.

Luke's attitude is simpler in keeping with the tone of his whole Gospel. He has Jesus speaking on a plain, thus being closer to the common people to help them understand Jesus in the Jewish tradition.

Therefore, in Matthew, Jesus looks down on the people while in Luke, he looks up to them.

Beatitude or blessing has God's word/action at its base and has a spiritual effect. Blessings were often accompanied by an imposition of hands so the sense of touch conveyed the good from the one invoking to the one receiving. God is the source of life and spiritual blessings.

GOD'S BLESSINGS

To share in God's life is a blessing from God. Persons of authority like kings and prophets were allowed to invoke God's name in blessing on persons who were under them. This blessing was an invocation of God's favour and loving mercy in keeping with the covenant.

Blessings were irrevocable as revealed in the story of Esau who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob (Genesis 27) and it could not be reversed by his father Jacob.

Jewish prayer forms show that God is also blessed by creatures who offer to God praise and thanksgiving for all they receive. The Eucharist is the great act of thanksgiving and blessing, praising and worshipping God.

The first three beatitudes in Luke indicate that those who suffer poverty, hunger or misfortune will have their suffering removed. Luke's fourth about persecution is the same as Matthew's eighth. Luke's "poverty" and Matthew's "poverty of spirit" are similar, even though Matthew qualifies his to a greater degree.

Matthew presents Jesus as Messiah in word in his first discourse (chapters five to seven), the Sermon on the Mount, and in deed in chapters eight and nine. Matthew's beatitudes give rewards for each. In conclusion, Matthew offers persecution, like the persecution of prophets before Jesus' time.

LUKE'S COUNTERATTACK

Luke counterattacks four Beatitudes, with four woes (6.24-26). These woes cast Jesus in a prophetic role with condemnations for those absent. The last woe blames those who fail to acknowledge comfort from Jesus while the disciples are addressed as "having" comfort.

Luke's Sermon on the Plain, like Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, combines various statements of Jesus. Luke chooses to present a different order, often reversing Matthew's order. They often use different terminology to express the same situations as, for example, Matthew identifying wrongdoers as "publicans and gentiles" while Luke simply uses "sinner."

MEETING READERS' NEEDS

Why the differences? Different speakers, different audiences, different listeners, different personalities and different writers who penned the Gospels.

What was presented to specific audiences caused the evangelist to choose certain stories instead of others. This doesn't mean one is right but rather that both are good teachers, adjusting to the needs of their listeners.

(Other questions? Email: zdunich@shaw.ca)