Beatitudes Meaning and Structure

The Beatitudes meaning and structure relies upon extraordinary geometry that may provide seekers and students with additional insight. Matthew’s Beatitudes and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain contain some of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. When we diagram the pattern of Yeshua’s words and phrases, however, the Beatitudes reveal even more information. We are blessed with a glimpse of the pure genius of Christ and the mind of the Son of God.

Beatitudes Meaning and Structure: Matthew vs. LukeView/Download PDF »        Compare the Texts »

The Geometry of Unconditional Love

A while back I sought a way to determine if a gospel text or recently unearthed manuscript could be said to hold the actual words of Jesus Christ. So I diagrammed the geometric structure of several gospel texts, including the Beatitudes. My hope was to identify the Savior’s “literary fingerprint.” I do not claim to have discovered it. Still, I gained even more appreciation for the Beatitudes—and the sheer brilliance of Yeshua of Nazareth.

Many of Christ’s sermons and parables contain geometric word structures called chiasmus.[1] ‌Chiastic structure makes a text easy to remember and repeat to others. It also provides a redundancy that helps to preserve the meaning of the concepts across centuries of translation. Even so, I discovered that the geometric structure of the Beatitudes within Luke and Matthew’s texts is very different. What additional truths might be gleaned from this?

Beatitudes meaning and structure reveals eternity.

Each version of the Beatitudes illustrates a different view of eternity. For example, Mathew’s text depicts stasis: a state of unchanging blessedness. Luke’s text, to the contrary, presents a road map to the kingdom that is adaptable and subject to change. When compared these texts provide a clearer picture of the goal, and Yeshua’s advice on how to reach it.


Chiastic Structuring Primer

Beatitudes Meaning and Structure - Chiastic Structuring

Chiastic structuring is a literary technique used by Christ and other NT authors. A common structure includes two ideas, (A) and (B), together with variants (A) and (B). The wisdom is presented to the reader as ABBA. Continuous, or ring structure occurs when the opening and closing A completes a circle. For example:

(A) Whoever exalts himself (B) will be humbled,
(B) whoever humbles himself (A) will be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12

To view the Beatitude’s structure, I employed an arch, or keystone approach to identify the text’s condition, outcome and guiding principles. From this I can create a geometric view of an entire text at a glance. In the case of the Beatitudes, both texts show eight sided geometry. This suggests a common author, perhaps Christ. It may also be noted that in Christian numerology the numeral 888 represents Jesus.[2] ‌


Gospel of Matthew — The Sermon on the Mount

Beatitudes meaning & structure - the chiastic geometry of Matthew

The continuous ring structure in Matthew suggests a perfect state of blessedness. The text contains a set of target concepts to help us attain the state necessary to enter the eternal kingdom of God. But for how long can one maintain perfection? What happens if, and when, the outcome of the struggle leaves one rich in spirit, no longer hungry or mourning? Is that one still “blessed”?

Gospel of Luke — The Sermon on the Plain

Beatitudes meaning & structure - the chiastic geometry of Luke

Beatitudes meaning and structure in Luke addresses this question. Over time, one invariably grows “full.” People praise our goodness. Kingdom seekers must transcend these obstacles at all cost, and continually work to remain hungry. Thus, with both blessed and woeful conditions, Luke’s contrasting “X” chiasm depicts a practicable eternity in which the seeker strives to overcome his or her faults through ascending states of being.

So which one is the real deal?

Which Beatitudes did the the Son of God speak? Probably not the proper question. And there is another difference in these texts. Jesus Christ rarely delivers a sermon with just one level of meaning. A single sentence from the Messiah can give rise to pages of commentary. Indeed, Matthew’s view is beautiful and perfect. His text forms a very compelling image, whereas Luke’s structure accounts for the ongoing nature of human spiritual growth. After one gains a new truth, goal, or understanding, the same lesson will  present again at a higher level. Since  the Master’s teachings target both saints and sinners, Luke’s text feels more authentic.


Beatitudes meaning and structure in Sheep and Goats.

Parable of the Sheep and Goats[3] contains a contrasting ‘X’ chiasm identical to Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. Here we find both woeful and blessed conditions. Matthew’s use of both types of chiastic structure could suggest that Christ delivered two versions of the Beatitudes. The currently accepted idea is that the gospel authors tailored Beatitudes meaning and structure to suit their congregation. Although Sheep and Goats shows six conditions as opposed to the Beatitudes’ eight; it seems plausible this well known parable is a restatement of Christ’s concepts by Matthew himself.

— Andrew Michael


Footnotes
  1. Chiastic Structuring, an Introduction. (NewTestamentResearch.com)
  2. Dudley, Underwood (1997). Numerology: Or What Pythagoras Wrought, MAA Spectrum, Cambridge University Press, p. 105, ISBN 9780883855249.
  3. Chiastic structure in The Sheep and The Goats. (Matthew 25)

 

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