The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)

Sermon on The Mount

  1. What are some of the hazards of contextual interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount (and Scripture in general)? Is contextual interpretation of Scripture intrinsically bad or wrong?
  1. Ulrich Luz (a Swiss theologian, b. 1938) hypothesized “a tendency in the mainstream of the church to ‘domesticate’ Jesus’ radical commands.” What is your critique of his hypothesis? Why might contemporary Christians prefer a domesticated religious life? What are some of the potential pitfalls associated with a domesticated gospel?
  1. How might domesticating Jesus’ challenging sayings and ethic bring about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (German clergy, Feb. 4, 1906 – Apr. 9, 1945) concern of making God’s free gift of salvation into “cheap grace”?
  1. Do you think Yieh’s (Making Sense of the Sermon on the Mount) claim that the Sermon on the Mount is better viewed as a “New Covenant” is a plausible claim? What are the strengths and weaknesses of his claim?
  1. Regarding the Beatitudes (5:3-12), to whom do you think the blessings are directed? Do you think these are offered as consolation to those in need? Or are they “laws” to be followed (and rewarded)?
  1. How might the blessings be the framework of a Christian ethic?
  1. Yieh points out that Augustine almost sees the Beatitudes as a seven-step process to perfection in God. What are the potential flaws of this view? How might Augustine’s claim problematic?
  1. Yieh also points out that Martin Luther offers a different perspective for the Beatitudes: more closely approximating fruits and good works that must (my emphasis) flow from our faith. What are the potential flaws for this view? How might Luther’s claim be problematic?
  1. The first four beatitudes appear to promise a type of reversal of fortune in the end times for those who have been unfortunate in their life. How might this promise be useful to believers? How might this not be Pollyanna “deal with it, things will be better when you die?”
  1. What might it mean to be: (1) poor in spirit; (2) one who mourns; (3) meek; and (4) one who hungers and thirsts for justice?
  1. What might it mean to be: (1) merciful; (2) pure in heart; (3) a peacemaker; and (4) persecuted for the sake of righteousness?
  2. The first eight are referred to “blessed are those…” and the ninth is referred to “blessed are you…” What is the impact of the shift in person in the final blessing?