The “Poor” in the Beatitudes of Matthew and Luke -- By: Gary T. Meadors

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: The “Poor” in the Beatitudes of Matthew and Luke
Author: Gary T. Meadors

The “Poor” in the Beatitudes of Matthew and Luke

Gary T. Meadors

The identification of the poor in Luke 6:20 has been disputed. Some have seen them as the economically impoverished. However, it must be noted that Jesus was specifically addressing his disciples when he uttered the beatitude of the poor. Furthermore, Luke 6:20–26 stands in the literary tradition of an eschatological reversal motif found in Psalm 37, Isaiah 61, and in certain Qumran materials. A comparison of Luke 6:20–26 with these materials indicates a connection between πτωχοί in Luke 6:20 and the Hebrew term ענוים, which had become metaphorical for the pious. This connection is supported by the fact that Matthew records the same logion of Jesus as πτωχοὶ ἐν πνεύματι (5:3 ). Thus, the termpoor in Luke 6:20 is used in reference to the pious.

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Do the “poor” in Luke’s account of the beatitudes refer to the economically impoverished whereas the “poor in spirit” in Matthew’s account refer to the pious? It has become quite common to answer such a question in the affirmative and thus to see a dichotomy between the two accounts. Indeed, redactional studies have correctly observed that Luke’s gospel contains more unique material concerning the poor and oppressed than the other gospels. However, the reason for this has been much debated. This study argues that the “poor” in both accounts of the beatitudes refer primarily to the pious. (This is not to deny, however, that they may also have been economically oppressed.) Thus, in the beatitudes Jesus sought the spiritual reversal of life situations.

The Beatitudes in Luke

NT scholarship today generally recognizes that underlying the Matthean Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7)1 and the Lukan

Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20–49; cf. 6:17–19) is “one basic piece of tradition.”2 However, the two recountings of this tradition ar...

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