The term beatitude is from a Latin word meaning “happy” or “fortunate.” In Matthew 5:3-10 there are eight beatitudes, eight statements beginning with “blessed are…”:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Are these eight beatitudes randomly arranged? No, they are thoughtfully and carefully organized, and several literary clues will help us admire Matthew’s arrangement of them. Below are six structural observations that some New Testament scholars have made about Matthew 5:3-10.
First, the first and eighth beatitude have the same promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). These two beatitudes also give their promise in the present tense (“is”), whereas the other beatitudes are in the future tense.
Second, the first four beatitudes all start with a p-sound in Greek, which doesn’t come across in English translations. This design is apparently to divide the first four from the rest, creating two groups of equal number.
Third, the two groups (beatitudes 1-4 and 5-8) each have a total of 36 Greek words, further clarifying that we should view the eight beatitudes as two groups of four. There is no miscellaneous word in any beatitude.
Fourth, the last beatitude of each group (beatitudes 4 and 8) both concern “righteousness” in some fashion.
Fifth, the two groups appear to focus chiefly on our disposition toward God (beatitudes 1-4) and on our disposition toward others (beatitudes 5-8).
Sixth, the beatitudes fall into an interesting chiastic pattern according to tense:
- Verb in present tense (v. 3)
- Future divine passive (v. 4)
- Future active with object (v. 5)
- Future divine passive (v. 6)
- Future divine passive (v. 7)
- Future middle with object (v. 8)
- Future divine passive (v. 9)
- Verb in present tense (v. 10)
Any other structural observations to add?