The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:11-12

Matthew 5:11-12 (Lk 6:22-23)

The so-called ninth (or ninth + tenth) Matthean Beatitude (Matt 5:11-12) holds a special position and should be considered separately from the collection of eight in Matt 5:3-10. It is also significant in that there is a Lukan parallel (Lk 6:22-23, with a corresponding “woe” in v. 26) for this two-fold Beatitude. It may be helpful here to compare the two sets of Beatitudes (Matthean and Lukan), using Matthew as the point of reference:

    • 1st: Matt 5:3 (= 1st in Luke [Lk 6:20b with “woe”, v. 24])—”Happy the poor…”
    • 2nd: Matt 5:4 (= 3rd in Luke [Lk 6:21b with “woe”, v. 25b])—”Happy the (ones) mourning/weeping…”
    • 3rd: Matt 5:5 (not in Luke)—”Happy the meek/gentle…”
    • 4th: Matt 5:6 (= 2nd in Luke [Lk 6:21a with “woe”, v. 25a])—”Happy the (ones) hungering [and thirsting]…”
    • 5th: Matt 5:7 (not in Luke, but see Lk 6:36)—”Happy the merciful…”
    • 6th: Matt 5:8 (not in Luke)—”Happy the pure in heart…”
    • 7th: Matt 5:9 (not in Luke)—”Happy the peace-makers…”
    • 8th: Matt 5:10 (not in Luke)—”Happy the (ones) having been pursued on account of justice/righteousness…”
    • [9th]: Matt 5:11-12 (= [4th] in Luke [Lk 6:22-23 with “woe”, v. 26])

One can consider Matt 5:11-12 as a single saying or two—I prefer to treat it as a twofold (single) Beatitude, which picks up where the eighth Beatitude leaves off (see the previous article), with the theme of enduring persecution:

Maka/rioi e)ste o%tan o)neidi/swsin u(ma=$ kai\ diw/cwsin kai\ ei&pwsin pa=n ponhro\n kaq’ u(mw=n [yeudo/menoi] e%neken e)mou=
“Happy are you when they should revile you and should pursue (you) and should say all evil down on [i.e. against] you [acting falsely] on my account.”

Xai/rete kai\ a)gallia=sqe, o%ti o( misqo\$ u(mw=n polu\$ e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$:
ou%tw$ ga\r e)di/wcan tou\$ profh/ta$ tou\$ pro\ u(mw=n
“Be joyful and leap (for joy), (in) that your payment will be much in the Heavens;
for thus they pursued the Foretellers [i.e. Prophets] before you.”

There are three verbs used in verse 11, all in the aorist subjunctive form:

  • o)neidi/zw (oneidízœ, “revile, reproach, disgrace”). This verb is relatively rare in the New Testament, used in reference to Jesus’ suffering in Matt 27:44; Mark 15:32; Rom 15:3 (quoting Psalm 69:9); and for the suffering of believers in 1 Pet 4:14, a sense similar to that in the Beatitude here (see below). Related nouns o&neido$ and o)neidismo/$ (“reviling, reproach, disgrace, shame”) also appear on occasion (Lk 1:25; Rom 15:3; 1 Tim 3:7; Heb 10:33; 11:26; 13:13).
  • diw/kw (diœ¡kœ, “pursue, chase [after]”). In the negative sense (as here and in v. 10), this verb is usually translated “persecute”. Cf. my discussion on the eighth Beatitude in the prior note.
  • e&pw (épœ [used only in past tense], “say, speak”)—here it is the specific idiom “speak evil”, which is relatively frequent in Scripture (see esp. Psalm 109:20; Matt 12:34; Mark 9:39; Lk 6:45; Acts 19:9; James 4:11; Tit 3:2; 1 Pet 4:11). The qualifying participle yeudo/menoi (pseudómenoi, “acting/doing falsely”) is present in nearly all Greek MSS, but is absent from a number of witnesses (primarily ‘Western’: D b c d h k syrs geo Tert al), and is otherwise suspect on internal grounds (it is the sort of clarifying addition one might expect a well-intentioned scribe to make). If original, it may have been removed to harmonize with Luke 6:22.

The closing phrase e%neken e)mou (“on my account”) echoes a similar expression in v. 10 (e%neken dikaiosu/nh$, “on account of justice/righteousness”), which qualifies the persecution: it is done on account of (following) Jesus. In Luke 6:22, the expression is “on account of the Son of Man” (in the Synoptic Jesus traditions, “Son of Man” often appears as circumlocution by which Jesus effectively refers to himself). Here is the first portion of the Lukan Beatitude, set side-by-side with that of Matthew for comparison (nearly identical or common elements are italicized):

Matthew 5:11

Maka/rioi e)ste o%tan o)neidi/swsin u(ma=$ kai\ diw/cwsin kai\ ei&pwsin pa=n ponhro\n kaq’ u(mw=n [yeudo/menoi] e%neken e)mou=
Happy are you when they should revile you and should pursue (you) and should say all evil down on [i.e. against] you [acting falsely] on my account.”

Luke 6:22

Maka/rioi/ e)ste o%tan mish/swsin u(ma=$ oi( a&nqrwpoi kai\ o%tan a)fori/swsin u(ma=$ kai\ o)neidi/swsin u(ma=$ kai\ e)kbalwsin to\ o&noma u(mw=n w($ ponhro\n e%neka tou= ui(ou= tou= a)nqrw/pou
Happy are you when men should hate you and when they should mark you (apart) from (others) and should revile you and should cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”

The Lukan version fits more naturally as part of the collection of four (3 + 1), all addressed in the 2nd person plural. The version in Matthew is the more striking in its shift to the 2nd person plural (all of the prior Beatitudes are in the 3rd person)—Jesus is now addressing his followers directly. The message regarding one’s response to persecution follows through in the subsequent teaching of Matt 5:43-47; Lk 6:27-35:

Matthew 5:43-44

43“You have heard that it has been uttered: ‘You shall love the (one who is) near you [i.e. your neighbor], and you shall hate the (one who is) hostile (to) you [i.e. your enemy]’; 44but I say to you: ‘Love the (ones) hostile (to) you, and speak out toward (God) [i.e. pray] over the (ones) pursuing you…'”

Luke 6:27-28

27“But I say to you the (ones) hearing: ‘Love the (ones) hostile (to) you [i.e. your enemies], do/act beautifully to the (ones) hating you, 28give good account (of) [i.e. bless] the (ones) wishing (evil) down on you, speak out toward (God) [i.e. pray] about the (ones) bringing threats/insults upon you…'”

Paul echoes the same teaching in Romans 12:14:

eu)logei=te tou\$ diw/konta$ [u(ma=$], eu)logei=te kai\ mh\ katara=sqe
“Give good account of [i.e. bless] the (ones) pursuing [you], give good account and do not wish (evil) down (on them)”

In Luke, this instruction on loving and doing good to one’s enemies follows directly after the Beatitudes, whereas in Matthew there is intervening teaching (including the first five “Antitheses”, Matt 5:21-42—vv. 43-47 is the sixth). In both versions, the teaching concludes with a similar summarizing saying by Jesus:

Matthew 5:48

“Therefore you shall be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.”

Luke 6:36

“Become merciful/compassionate, even as [also] your Father is merciful/compassionate.”

This response toward one’s enemies and persecutors is one of the most challenging and striking of all Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps even more difficult to realize is the response indicated in the second part of the Beatitude—”Be joyful and leap (for joy)…!”—which I will discuss in the next article.

This series was originally posted in the earlier version of Biblesoft’s online Study Blog. It is also available for use in Biblesoft’s PC Study Bible program (Version 5 or OneTouch) [find out more]

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