Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Posts Tagged ‘beatitudes

Matthew 5

Posted on: February 3, 2012

We finally get to hear some of the things Jesus was teaching about!

So who was there? Just some disciples? His 12 disciples or just the 4 we already were introduced to? Or does disciples mean all of his followers? But it said he got away from them for a bit, right?

What does kingdom of heaven mean?

In Biblical forms of Christianity, concepts about the future “Kingdom of Heaven” are also professed in several scriptural prophecies of the new (or renewed) Earth said to follow the resurrection of the dead — particularly the books of Isaiah and Revelation. (wikipedia)

Some Biblical scholars[who?] speculate that the Matthean text adopted the Greek word for “heaven” instead of the Greek word for “God” because, unlike Mark and Luke, it was written by a Jew for a Jewish audience. It is a Jewish practice to avoid using God’s name as an act of piety. In Matthew, “heaven” stands for “God. (wikipedia)

C. H. Dodd and John Dominic Crossan argued that the “Kingdom” was fully manifest in the present teaching and actions of Jesus. Through his words and deeds the “Kingdom” was brought into the present reality of Palestine. Dodd coined the term “realized eschatology[27] and largely based his argument on Luke 11:20, and Luke 17:21, claiming that “the kingdom of God has come to you” and “the kingdom of God is within you”. Crossan imagined Jesus as a cynic-like peasant who focused on the sapiential aspects of the “Kingdom” and not on any apocalyptic conceptions.[28]

Albert SchweitzerRudolf BultmannNorman Perrin and Johannes Weiss argued that Jesus’ “Kingdom” was intended to be a wholly futuristic kingdom. These scholars looked to the apocalyptic traditions of various Jewish groups existing at the time of Jesus as the basis of their study.[29][30][31][32] In this view, Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who would bring about the end times and when he did not see the end of the cosmic order coming Jesus embraced death as a tool in which to provoke God into action.

The most common view of the “Kingdom” in recent scholarship is to embrace the truths of both these parties─present reality and future manifestation, known as Inaugurated eschatology. Some scholars who take this view are N.T. Wright and G.R. Beasley-Murray. In their views, the “Kingdom” that Jesus spoke of will be fully realized in the future but it is also in a process of “in-breaking” into the present. This means that Jesus’ deeds and words have an immediate effect on the “Kingdom” even though it was not fully manifested during his life. Even greater attention has been paid to the concept of the “Kingdom of God” by scholars during the current third quest for the historical Jesus (with which N.T. Wright is associated). (wikipedia)

So much information to digest. I guess the point I’m making with myself is that the Bible is really hard to decipher. When I was growing up, everyone at my church gave me the impression that the way they were interpreting the Bible was the only way – but that seems really hubritic. Yes, we want to believe our religious text is infallible and can only be read one certain way (thereby somehow proving its validity), but even scholars can’t agree on what “Kingdom of Heaven” means. To some it is an apocalyptic, physical realm that we go to or that will come to inhabit and rule our Earth. Some people thought heaven means a when you are spiritually living closer to God and his commandments, and hell is when you are ignoring or going against him. Some think he was saying, “I’m the Kingdom – you’ve got it right now!”

Matthew 5:11 is a verse that really bothers my husband (and me, sometimes). A lot of Christians use this verse as a way to act like martyrs and prove their godliness – even though in America there is barely any real religious persecution of Christians. Christianity is the prominent, majority religion in the U.S. We’ve noticed how Christians often take stupid things like not forcing all the kids to sit through a Christian prayer during school hours as some kind of attack on them and God. It isn’t! and wasting time and energy and anger on something like this issue seems fruitless and ridiculous when there are real problems in our world.

I don’t have a lot to say. These verses were drilled into me, but even since then I’ve been told that the way they were interpreted were wrong. I grew up believing that you behave and follow God’s commands, and you don’t hesitate to say you are a Christian… and then people will want to be Christians, too. Then later I was told that it isn’t enough, that I have to evangelize them and make sure to make people sit down and hear the full story of Christ and ask them if they want to be Christians. Then I was told that was too pushy, and I should befriend them with the goal of bringing them to Christ. Then that was shady and you should just go back to being good and then pointing to God. Which brought me back to the beginning.

Okay, if christ came to fulfill the Law (I’m guessing Jewish law, i.e. Old Testament), does that mean that they had to keep following them, or that his fulfillment brought an end to archaic rules or laws such as sacrifice (since we say he is the ultimate sacrifice)? If we mix meat and milk, are we relaxing the laws? What laws are we talking about, and what does this mean?

In this verse the Gospel of Matthew directly counters these views by insisting the old laws such as the Ten Commandments are still valid. France notes that “law and prophets” was a common expression for the entirety of what Christians today call the Old Testament, though it more correctly refers to the Mosaic Law and Neviim, seeBiblical Canon.[1]

The main controversy over this verse is over the word “fulfill.” What exactly does fulfilling the laws entail? A wide number of reading of the word plerosai, fulfil, have been advanced. Among them are: establish, confirm, validate, complete, bring into actuality by doing, set forth in their true meaning, accomplish, and obey. These varying definitions and the textual uncertainty over the status of the law have led to a number of understandings of the relationship between Mosaic law and the New Testament. (wikipedia)

Again, I guess I’m not alone. Why do churches and pastors teach like they actually know what these verses mean?  I’m so confused.

St. Augustine makes some clean points about who Jesus was and what his purpose was:

Augustine outlined six different ways in which Jesus fulfilled the law:

  • Jesus personally obeyed the law
  • He fulfilled the messianic predictions
  • He empowered his people to obey it
  • He brought out its true meaning
  • He explained the true meaning behind the rituals and ceremonies
  • He gave additional commands that furthered the intentions of the Law. (wikipedia)

He obeyed and believed in the Jewish laws, but he brought about a clearer meaning and gave additional notes on how to fulfill the true intentions of the law. I think that’s what he does in the rest of this chapter.

This is all kind of the same thing – Jesus saying that it’s not enough to follow the letter of the law (and I think later he’ll go into how misguided that really is.) It’s one thing to never murder someone, but the Law isn’t about just not murdering – it’s about keeping your mind, heart, and spirit from the maliciousness, the lust, lying, etc.

TThis divorce section seems very cultural based – I mean, it’s very anti-women. If a man divorces a woman (because she can’t make that decision for herself?) then she is an adulterous and for the rest of her life she can’t find a partner again because then her partner will be committing adultery too? I’m probably missing the point here; don’t get divorced. Duh.

Kind of the same. But revenge movies are certainly fun.

This part is really hard sometimes, but it’s one of the things I love the most about Jesus and his philosophy. What does it matter to anyone if you treat people you like well? Anyone can do that. It’s how we treat people we don’t know, don’t care about, don’t have any connection to, or don’t even like! It’s caring enough to think – how is this going to effect others? If I buy this product, am I paying for someone to be enslaved or work in really terrible conditions? If I use this, am I making the place where people live more polluted? Or will it make the world worse in the long run? I think these things matter. I think they matter more than most Christians are willing to admit to themselves. If they did -and if they acted accordingly, I wouldn’t recognize the world I live in anymore.

Lingering Questions:

  • Who got to hear the beatitudes?
  • What does “the kingdom of heaven” mean?
  • What did Jesus mean when he said he fulfilled the Law? He fulfilled prophesies, yes – but what does his existence do to the way we interpret the Mosaic laws?
  • What would the world look like if all the Christians really acted – all the time, with their time, their money, how they vote, how they raise their children, how they interact with their communities, how they travel the world and what they do – as if they loved everyone equally?