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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Monday, September 5, 2016

John P. Meier - The Future Kingdom in the Beatitudes of Jesus

This is my second post on the book,  A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus Vol. 2 - Mentor, Message and Miracles by Fr. John P. Meier,  Volume 2  of Meier's five-volume study of the historical Jesus. 

Meier provides background information on the structure of OT beatitudes in the Psalms and Proverbs. He states that "sometimes the reward or fortunate consequence of such wise action is mentioned in the context," as in verse 3 of Psalm 1 (shall be like a tree planted near streams of water).  Meier at 324. 

Credit:  alittleperspective.com
What is a beatitude?  In the OT and in the Intertestamental literature it is a “cry of admiration, congratulation, and felicitation.” Meier at 323.   The wisdom teacher describes the happy person and "while formally descriptive,”  the beatitude is“functionally parenetic.” P. 323. The happiness “explicitly described is implicitly held up as a goal to be pursued.” P. 323. While the OT beatitudes are "basically sapiential [focused on rewards in this life] rather than eschatological," the beatitudes of Jesus reflect the change that came post-exile.   

After the exile, the beatitudes become more realistic (Book of Job), and then after the Seleucid persecutions with apocalyptic literature the horizon extends to the next world, and we see this view of the future kingdom in the beatitudes of Jesus. 

Jesus' beatitudes come in this form: 1) the makarios (happy are), 2) followed by the designation of the sufferers and 3) the  hoti or causal clause which promises the reversal of their "present misery" by an eschatological gift or action from God. Meier at 330.

In the background here is "the whole OT picture of God as the truly just king of the covenant community of Israel, the king who does what Israel's human kings often failed to do: defend widows and orphans ...." Meier at 331.

In Jesus' beatitudes:

“We begin to see why Jesus was not interested in and did not issue pronouncements
about concrete social and political reforms, either for the world in general or for 
Israel in particular. He was not proclaiming the reform of the world; he was
proclaiming the end of the world.”  

Meier at 331.  Here Jesus differs from the prophets who were concerned about the social and political evils of their  day.  Jesus, by contrast, did not denounce slavery, Roman rule in Judea, unjust economic practices “oppressing the poor in the face of inflation,” because:

“The definitive arrival of God’s kingly rule was imminent; calls for social and 
political reform, launched - and often botched - by human beings, were thus beside
 the point.”

Meier at 331.