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Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”
No-one knows who wrote the gospel attributed to Matthew (or any of the others, come to that) but it’s erroneously stuck with his authorship, so I’ll stick with this name for convenience’ sake.
In the so-called Beatitudes (“Blessed are the peacemakers”….etc) it is confusing to read two different versions in 2 different gospels, Matthew and Luke. They can’t both be right – Jesus can’t have preached both versions. Is there any way we can we tell which one it was?
Yes, there is.
Does it really matter?
Yes it does.
Let’s look at the details.
(a) Beatitudes about the poor:
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20b)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there’s is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
The first version unequivocally offers salvation to the down-trodden and oppressed. The second, mealy-mouthed ”spiritual” version is about something else entirely – people who are poor in spirit. According to Patterson’s (i) research into this “Believe it or not, scholars have never reached a consensus about what that means exactly.” Matthew shows a similar tendency to lay blessings on certain people who pursue virtuous qualities. In chapter 6 we find he praises meekness, mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking and suffering for the sake of righteousness. These Beatitudes are not found in Luke.
(Matthew’s use of the word ‘kingdom’ is not of any significance. It reflects the Jewish aversion to expressing the full name of God.)
(b) Beatitudes about the hungry:
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.” (Lk 6:21a)
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Mt 5:6)
While Luke’s version simply blesses the hungry and promises a day when they will be satisfied, Matthew does not have in mind actual hungry persons. “Scholars of Matthew will immediately recognize in this a common Matthean theme: righteousness.” (Patterson) c.f.Mt 5:20!
“Maybe the kingdom of God is all about basic human needs. To seek the empire of God might just mean seeking out that way of life by which all have access to the means of life, even the poor and hungry.”
Naturally, as a left-leaning blog, Zingcreed works for solidarity with the oppressed. It has promoted the idea that “Comrade Jesus” like the prophets before him, stood shoulder to shoulder with the downtrodden. I naturally hope that Jesus’ message is reflected in Luke and not in Matthew. But I follow the facts wherever they lead.
Fact one: Both Matthew and Luke drew upon the first written gospel,Q , which was written 20-40 years before they put quill to papyrus.
Fact two: A group of Q specialists have worked for over a decade to see which version (Mt or Lk) lies closer to the Q original; and, second, Matthew’s extra beatitudes: did Matthew’s author add them or were they in Q and Luke’s author omitted them?
Fact three: Fragments 7 and 8 of reconstructed Q read:
“And he opened his mouth and taught them saying:
Blessed are you beggars, for yours is the empire of God.
Blessed are you who hunger, for you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted .
Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and utter every sort of evil against you because of the Son of Man.”
Conclusion: be careful of Matthew – he made stuff up! He put words into Jesus’ mouth and subverted his real red message. All the incomprehensible mumbo jumbo words about ‘poor in spirit’ and ‘hungering after righteousness’ are a deliberate attempt to distract Christians from the essentially radical political nature of Jesus and his message. The church as a supporter of the status quo throughout its history used Matthew’s texts to keep the rabble in check, time after time.
Luke and Zingcreed are vindicated, Comrade Jesus did preach in favour of the poor and hungry. He did not preach wishy-washy spiritual stuff in the Beatitudes after all.
Patterson, Stephen “The Lost Way. How two forgotten gospels are rewriting the story of Christian origins”HarperOne (2014) (pp.62, 74, 87)
Related Zingcreed Posts:
The gospel of Q