The Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes
Based on the Greek Text


The Beatitudes serve as a type of overture for the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.


Matthew 5:3

makarioi oi ptwcoi twi pneumati oti autwn estin h basileia twn ouranwn.

makarioi "Blessed": WBC--91: "nearly incomprehensible happiness of those who participate in the kingdom announced by Jesus. . . . deep inner joy of those who have long awaited the salvation promised by God and who now begin to experience its fulfillment."

From makarios used by the Greeks to denote the utter joy experienced by the gods (Kittel's WDNT on makarios). [Notice that Jesus is describing the state in which a person where he exists and not necessarily a feeling. The person who is destitute is blessed if he has just chosen a lottery ticket which will make him a multi-millionaire in another few days. He may not "feel" blessed, but he is. The person who is wealthy and is dining and wining while on the luxurious train The Orient Express may "feel" blessed but is actually cursed if the bridge up ahead has been blown up and the train is about to plunge hundreds of feet into the canyon below. Reality, not feeling, is what determines whether or not a person is blessed.

hoi ptochoi toi pneumati oi ptwcoi twi pneumati "poor in spirit": "the literally poor but he focuses on their psychological condition or frame of mind. The poor are almost always poor in spirit; the poor in spirit are almost always the poor . . . the 2 phrases were synonymous in the Judaism of Jesus' day. In Israel, especially in the post-exilic period, poverty and piety often went together, the poor having no other recourse than their hope in God" (WBC 91). ["Poverty drives us to piety."]

Isaiah 61:1 is the basis for the beatitudes: "1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness" (Is. 61:1-3). The good news that has come to the poor is that the kingdom is theirs; it belongs to the overlooked, the forgotten.

Notice that throughout the beatitudes both the present and future tenses are used: these find partial fulfillment right now but will find complete fulfillment upon the return of Christ. Now and not yet at the same time. Yet notice that HERE IN V. 3 the verb is present tense, not future. We don't have to wait until some far-off future event for us to receive the kingdom of heaven. We can experience it, maybe only partially, but we can experience it right now in the power of the Holy Spirit who makes the kingdom of God a reality (see Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:14-36).

auton autwn "theirs": notice that the emphasis is upon "theirs." Not everybody receives the kingdom of heaven; only the poor in spirit receive the kingdom of heaven. There is no universalistic salvation in the Sermon on the Mount (or in the rest of Jesus' teachings either).

Matthew 5:4

makarioi oi penqounteV oti paraklhqhsontai

hoi penthountes oi penqounteV "Blessed are those who mourn": the exact same word for "mourn" in Isaiah 61:2 as found here in Matt. 5:4 (parakalesai pantaV touV penqountaV). They mourn over the slowness of God's justice. Yet don't limit just to God's justice. Mourn over the hurts in life. "Men who suffer under the present aeon, which is an aeon of suffering . . . Hence the sorrow referred to here is not to be regarded too narrowly as penitent sorrow for sin. On the other hand, it is evident that not all who mourn are called blessed. The reference is plainly to those who see this suffering aeon as it is and who are not led astray by its charms like the gelwnteV (Lk. 6:25)" (TDNT VI: 43 by Bultmann).

On the GREEN TV Channel today (April 25, 2011) was an episode on the earlier years of the life of Jesus describing the hardship of life in Galilee during the time of Jesus. It was really sad. The death rate of infants up until the age of 5 was terrible. Moreover, malnutrition and hunger were a daily part of the life of a person from Galilee during the first century A.D. Jesus grew up during a harsh time in the world's history. According to the commentator, the positive effect of the high death rate and all this suffering was that they developed real compassion among the people for others who were grieving. Jesus compassion, though, is far more effective than just kind words from a sympathizing friend, neighbor, or family member.

Sorrow is woven so tightly into the fabric of life that one of the main titles of the Messiah was Comforter (see 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Isaiah 40:1 (the beginning verse of the great second part of Isaiah) states: parakaleite parakaleite ton laon mou legei o qeoV. Whatever else the kingdom brings, it brings comfort.

paraklethesontai paraklhqhsontai "shall be comforted": a totally futuristic tense. We are guaranteed the fulfillment of this promise only in the future, when the Comforter, Jesus Himself, appears to give final and eternal comfort to His people. This comes only after Satan has been thrown into the Lake of Fire and the heavens and earth have been totally transformed to become a suitable dwelling place for God and His sons and daughters: "3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.'"

This is also called a divine passive because although the subject is not stated, it is implied that God Himself is the One who will comfort His people (WBC: 92).

Matthew 5:5

makarioi oi praeiV oti autoi klhronomhsousin thn ghn.

hoi praeis oi praieV "the gentle":

  1. RWP 1:41--the Greeks did not consider this to be a virtue at all. "The Beatitudes assume a new heart, for the natural man does not find in happiness the qualities mentioned here by Christ. The English word 'meek' has largely lost the fine blend of spiritual poise and strength meant by the Master. . . . It is the gentleness of strength, not mere effeminacy." {The image is that of a powerful stallion under the control of the bit in his mouth, our bit being the lordship of Jesus Christ.]

  2. "Special significance attaches to the self-predication of Jesus in the tradition at 11:25-30 which has not yet been explained in terms of comparative religion, ->V, 992, 40ff. . . . The mission of Jesus takes place on earth in lowliness and weakness (= prauV). His life is not alife at court; it characterises Him as the lowly in heart, i.e., the One who is fixed wholly on God . . . . But for that very reason He can invite with full authority . . . and fulfill the promise contained in the invitation. . . . the entry of Jesus is depicted as that of a non-violent, non-warlike king of salvation and peace. . . . To them Jesus promises the inheritance . . . of the coming aeon, which includes . . . secure dwelling in their own land. In contrast to the first beatitude (Mt. 5:3) . . ., the emphasis in the third beatitude is on the future promise: Those who are now oppressed and bowed down will be rulers of the world in the eschaton" (TDNT 6:649 by Schulz).

autoi autoi "they": the gentle--"these" shall inherit the earth; no universalism here.

kleronomesousin klhronomhsousin "they shall inherit": again future tense.

Notice also the significance of the word "inherit." "Inherit" implies that someone has died, the person who leaves you the inheritance. In this case, God [the Son] Himself dies to give us the inheritance. Paul (Rom. 8:17), though, along with John (Rev. 3:21) claims that we are CO-heirs, co-heirs with Christ. Because of our faith relationship with Him, we are being swept up into HIS destiny, into HIS inheritance. It may seem fantastical, almost preposterous; however, if Christianity is true, then this is true.

"Mk. 12:1-12 and par [see especially Mark 12:7]. The heir is the Son, and the inheritance is God's kingdom. A firm link is established between sonship and inheritance such as we hardly ever find in the OT and later Judaism, and this runs through thewhole of the NT. Thus Paul, although he never calls Christ klhronomoV, refers to Christians as sugklhronomoi Cristou in R. 8:17 and attributes the inheritance of Christians expressly to their uioqesia, Rom. 8:17 . . . According to the comon Greek and Oriental view, sonship is the basis of inheritance . . . Only the risen Lord has entered upon His inheritance, Mt. 28:18 . . . Hence klhronomoV is an eschatological concept. . . . If Christ as Son is heir, His people as those set in sonship are sugklhronomoi" (TDNT 3:781-782 by Foerster).

ten gen thn ghn: "the earth." This with "shall inherit" means that God's original purpose for mankind will one day be finally realized. God had designed that all the earth be subjected to mankind. This design will be fulfilled among those who are His followers, the gentle. This promise is futurist as the future tense of klhronomhsousin indicates.

Matthew 5:6

makarioi oi peinwnteV kai diywnteV thn dikaiosunhn oti autoi cortasqhsontai

ten dikaiosunen thn dikaiosunhn "the righteousness":

  1. "In keeping with the preceding, the fourth beatitude names the literally hungry and thirsty, i.e., the downtrodden and oppresed, who especially hunger and thirst after the justice associated with the coming of God's eschatological rule. . . . That dikaisounh here means 'justice' rather than 'personal righteousness' is clear from the context. The poor, the grieving, and the downtrodden (i.e., those who have experienced injustice) are by definition those who long for God to act. They are the righteous who will inherit the kingdom. Yet this interpretation does not altogether exclude the sense of dikaiosunh as personal righteousness" (WBC:93).

  2. "2. dikaiosunh as Right Conduct before God. . . . we may first maintain that dikaiosunh is almost always used in the NT for right conduct of man which follows the will of God and is pleasing to him, for rectiude of life before God, for uprightness before His judgment. The fact that the basic relationship to God is always in view, and that it is related to the event of revelation, distinguishes this usage from Greek and Hellenistic ethics and links it firmly with the OT. . . . . According to [Matt.] 5:6 a right state before God is the supreme goal for the peinwnteV kai diywnteV. We need hardly take this to be the judging and saving dikaiosunh qeou in the forensically eschatological sense. On the other hand, in opposition to the Jewish thought of merit, dikaiosunh is plainly regarded as a gift which God gives to those who ask for it. . . . Righteousness is here closely linked with God and His kingdom, again as a pure gift from God, like everything connected with he kingdom." (TDNT 2:198-199 by Bertram).

chotasthesontai cortasqhsontai "they shall be satisfied": "The word for 'filled' (chortasthesontai) means to feed or to fatten cattle from the word for fodder or grass like Mark 6:39 'green grass' (chortos chloros)" (RWP 1:41).

Matthew 5:7

makarioi oi elehmoneV oti autoi elehqhsontai

oi eleemones oi elehmoneV "the merciful":

  1. In Gk. eleoV is apaqoV, i.e., the emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else" (TDNT 2:477 by Bultmann).

  2. "The fifth beatitude marks a new emphasis in the beatitudes. Whereas the first four find their focus primarily in a states of mind or an attitude (and imply conduct only secondarily), this beatitude refers to the happiness of those who act, namely, those who are merciful towards others . . . Showing mercy to the need y became a key element in rabbinic ethics . . . For the importance of mercy to Matthew's presentation of the Christian ethic, cf. 9:13; 12:7; 23:23. What the poor and oppressed have not received from the rich and powerful, they should nevertheless show others. . . . in 18:33; there a servant who had been forgiven a great debt refused to have mercy on his debtor, whereupon his master said, 'Should not you have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?" (WBC:93-94).

In case this is not convincing enough, refer to Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats: one's entry into the kingdom of heaven depends upon the way one treats the Christian poor (Matt. 25:31-46).

Matthew 5:8

makarioi oi kaqaroi thi kardiai oti autoi ton qeon oyontai.

hoi katharoi oi kaqaroi "the pure":

  1. "The purity of the NT community is personal and moral by nature. It consists in full and unreserved self-offering to God which renews the heart and rules out any acceptance of what is against God. Those who are pure in heart in this way are called to participate in the kingdom of God, Mt. 5:8. This purity of heart is far above the cleanness of hands which was so greatly valued by the Pharisees" (TDNT 3:425 by Hauck).

  2. "Without holiness no man will se the Lord in heaven (Heb. 12:14).(RWP 1:41).

  3. "'Pure in heart' refers to the condition of the inner core of a person, that is, to thoughts and motivation, and hence anticipates the internalizing of the commandments by Jesus in the material that follows in the sermon. It takes for granted right actions but asks for integrity in the doing of those actions, i.e., a consistency between the inner springs of one's conduct and the conduct itself." (WBC:94).

opsontai oyontai "they shall see":

  1. "The reference to seing God in the present passage is again eschatological in tone. In contrast to the strong OT statement that no one can se the face of God and live (e.g. Exod 33:20), the righteous in the eschatological age will experience the beatific vision; they will see the face of God alone (cf. too Rev 22:4) . . . Matthew describes the greatest possible eschatological reward, one that by its nature includes all else" (WBC: 94).

  2. "The Beatific Vision is only possible here on heart to those with pure hearts. No other can see the King now. Sin befogs and beclouds the heart so that one cannot see God. Purity has here its widest sense and includes everything." (RWP 1:41-42).

Matthew 5:9

makarioi oi eirhnopoioi oti autoi uioi qeou klhqhsontai

hoi eirenopoioi oi eirhnopoioi "the peacemakers"

  1. "This is to be understood in terms of the Rabb. ... which denotes the establishment of peace and concord between men. It is thus a mistake to refer with Dausch to those who promote human happiness and well-being. Nor is it a matter of helping others to peace with God, as Brouwer sugests. The reference is to those who disinterestedly come between two contending parties and try to make peace. These God calls His sons because they are like Him." (TDNT 2:419 by Foerster).

  2. "In the context of the beatitudes, the point would seem to be directed against the Zealots, the Jewish revolutionaries who hoped through violence to bring the kingdom of God. Such means would have been a continual temptation for the downtrodden and oppressed who longed for the kingdom. The Zealots by their militarism hoped furthermore to demonstrate that they were the loyal 'sons of God.' But Jesus announces the kingdom entirely apart from human effort and indicates that he status of uioi qeou, "children of God" . . ., belongs on the contrary to those who live peaceably. It is the peacemakers who will be called the 'children of God.' . . . This stress on peace becomes a common motif in the NT" (WBC: 94).

Matthew 5:10

makarioi oi dediwgmenoi eneken dikaiosunhV oti autwn estin h basileia twn ouranwn

hoi dediogmenoi oi dediwgmenoi

"those who stand persecuted": constative prfct pass no agency articular ptc subj nom masc plur (adj ptc-subst) diwkw "those who stand persecuted."

  1. "The kingdom of heaven bleongs only to those who suffer for the sake of goodness, not who are guilty of wrong" (RWP 1:42).

  2. "That is, their loyalty to God and his call upon their lives become in turn the cause of their further suffering. To be identified with Jesus and the kingdom is to be in 'the way of righteousness' (cf. 21:32); hence eneken diaiosunhV, 'on account of righteousness,' finds its counterpart in the eneken emou, 'on account of me' (cf. 10:22), of the following verse" (WBC: 94).

Matthew 5:11

makarioi este otan oneidiswsin umaV kai diwzwsin kai eipwsin pan ponhron kaq umwn yeudomenoi eneken emou.

oneidisosin oneidiswsin "they revile" 1 con. aor. s. act potent subj 3 plur oneidizw: "This is the kind of behavior one would expect from Jewish opponents, first toward the disciples, and then later toward the Jewish-Christian readers. The ninth beatitude, vv. 11-12, is in effect an elaboration of the preceding beatitude. . . . This is exactly the kind of behavior one would expect from Jewish opponents, first toward the disciples, and then later toward the Jewish-Christian readers" (WBC: 95).

Matthew 5:12

cairete kai agalliasqe oti o misqoV umwn poluV en toiV ouranoiV; outwV gar ediwzan touV profhtasV touV pro umwn

agalliasthe agalliasqe "be glad": "In the NT agalliasqai (and the act. in the same sense in Lk, 1:47 and Rev. 19:7 v.l.) and agalliasiV are use in the same way as in the LXX. The term signifies profane joy supremely in Jn. 5:35: hqelhsate agalliasqhnai proV wran en twi fwti autou. God's help is always the theme of the ag. which is a jubilant and thankful exultation. . . . It is indeed the eschatological act of divine salvation which is supremely the theme of rejoicing, as is seen most clearly in the song of Revelation 19:7: cairwmen kai agalliwmen kai dwsomen thn doxan autwi oti hlqen o gamoV tou arniou" (TDNT 1:20 by Bultmann).

o misqoV

"The idea of misqoV, 'reward,' is much more important in Matthew (ten occurrences . . .) than in any other Gospel. . . . The suffering of the righteous at the hands of persecutors is nothing new in the history of God's dealings with Israel, as the evangelist reminds his readers. It is an honored tradition they stand in when they suffer persecution. touV profhtaV touV pro umwn, 'the prophets before you,' should not be taken narrowly to mean only the literary or canonical prophets, but broadly as referring to all God's earlier spokespersons (cf. . . . Mattt. 23:35)" (WBC: 95).


RWP: A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
WBC: Matthew 1-13 in Word Biblical Commentary
WDNT: Kittel's Word Dictionary on the New Testament