Most people have heard the term “Beatitudes,” but what you may not know is that those “Blessed are” statements were written in very significant literary forms that help us understand their meaning on a deeper level. Part of their literary structure is based on the ancient methods used to teach and communicate orally. What is unique in this case is how the two apostles, Matthew and Luke, used the same teaching of Messiah, but crafted their delivery in different literary forms that served each one’s greater purpose in writing, all the while maintaining the integrity of the underlying message. Matthew chose a chiastic structure while Luke chose parallelism. These forms not only help the reader hear, retain, and understand the main point of the message, but they play a key role in what aspects of the message each author wanted to bring out.
Grab your Bible and read through Matthew 5:2-12 and Luke 6:20-45, then review the following outlines below. In Matthew’s case, his emphasis is on the concept of being ‘merciful.’ Why is this important? Because it sets the framework for the following verse (5:13) where he explains Yeshua’s statement that ‘we’ are the ‘salt’ of the earth. But if the salt has become tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown to the dogs. What is Yeshua saying? This is something we will dive into in my upcoming two-part series called “Every Offering With Salt.” But I will give you a hint…it has to do in part with the center of the chiasm. In the meantime, let’s look more closely at each account. Review the outline of Matthew’s account again below.
Matt 5:2-12 [Chiasm]
Blessed are the…
Yeshua on mountain sat to teach - Disciples came to Him
A – Poor in spirit => theirs is kingdom of heaven
B – Those who mourn => shall be comforted
C – Gentle = > shall inherit the earth
D – Hunger & Thirst for righteousness => satisfied
E – Merciful => Receive Mercy
D’ – Pure in heart => shall see God
C’ – Peacemakers => called sons of God
B’ – Persecuted for sake righteousness => kingdom of heaven
A’ – You, when people insult & persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you BECAUSE OF ME => reward in heaven great
In same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Disciples)
What do you see? Note that Matthew’s use of chiasm does several things. First, consider how A-B-C-D are parallel to D’-C’-B’-A’ by topic. This is significant because each pair (A-A’, or B-B’, etc.) helps to give greater clarity of meaning. For example, line A says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” But what does ‘poor in spirit’ really mean? It is slightly vague and open to interpretation. However, its paired line gives us greater detail and focuses the meaning intended with regard to ‘poor in spirit’ in a specific way. Being ‘poor in spirit’ here is defined as someone who, because of the sake of Messiah, endures insults, persecutions, and all manner of evil speech spoken about him or her. Likewise, line C states, “Blessed are the gentle or meek.” Again, these are rather vague English terms on their own, but the paired line helps make the intended meaning more concrete as we are accustomed to finding in the Hebrew language. Being gentle or meek in this context is about being a ‘peacmaker.’
At the center of it all is line E. Line E stands alone and forms the central focus and meaning of the entire chiasm. Consider also the importance of the “Because of Me” phrase. This phrase is important as it establishes the specific reason behind the various persecutions and need for endurance of the “Blessed.” Those actions aren’t some type of self-abasement, but are based in simple acts of obedience that resulted in injustice toward them from others that must be endured, or extensions of mercy they must continually give to those who are hateful toward them until judgment comes to their persecutors.
Now review the parallelism outlined here from the Luke passage.
Luke 6:20-45 [Parallelism]
BLESSED ARE YOU WHO…
A – Poor => theirs is kingdom of God
B – Hunger now => shall be satisfied
C – Weep now = > shall laugh
D – Men hate, ostracize, insult, scorn your name as
evil FOR SAKE OF SON OF MAN. Be glad in that day and leap for joy => your reward great in heaven
E- Same way their fathers treated prophets
A’ – Woe Rich => receiving your comfort in full
B’ – Woe Well-Fed now => shall be hungry
C’ – Woe Laugh now => shall mourn and weep
D’ – Woe you when all men speak well of you
E’ – Same way their fathers treated false prophets
BUT I SAY TO YOU WHO HEAR . . .
Did you notice how line ‘A,’ those who are “Poor” now (in the present age) parallel and contrast the “Rich” who receive their ‘comfort’ or ‘rest’ now (but clearly will not enter the Lord’s rest in the age to come). Notice how, like the Matthew passage, the statement regarding the reason is listed “for the sake of the Son of Man.” It is those who are made poor because of or for the sake of their faith in the “Son of Man,” (Messiah) that are ‘Blessed’. Likewise, note how Luke’s parallelism serves to make a clear contrast between each of the related items. Those who choose to forsake Messiah for the sake of maintaining earthly wealth are given a “woe,” which in Bible-speak is not good news! It’s anti-good news. In other words, they will not enter God’s ‘rest’ or ‘comfort.’ Whatever riches they have here will be their full allotment of ‘comfort’ or the extent of the mercy they will receive from God.
The same contrasts continue down the line. Those who are made hungry because of their faith in Messiah, or those who choose to endure weeping and mourning rather than compromise their faith in Messiah, they shall be satisfied and they shall laugh. Those who endure hatred, are ostracized, insulted, and scorned because they choose to obey their Lord and not compromise their faith in Messiah; they will truly be ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed.’ On the other hand, those who choose riches over the Lord or who choose their stomach, like Esau, over the Covenant, or their own pleasure and indulgence (‘laughter’) over obedience, compromising God’s truth for the sake of being liked; all these will not be ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed’ in the end (in the world to come). Thus, James encourages us (James 1:2–4) saying, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
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