An Ancient Perspective on the Beatitudes

Posted by on 03/14/2018 in:

Learning from ancient Christians is priceless (here’s why). But it can be difficult to find out what they each had to say about a specific passage of the Bible. Not only did they write A LOT, but their thoughts are scattered in commentaries, diaries, sermons, and even random fragments that we found over time. However, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) did the hard work for us! They compiled rich quotes from the most well-loved ancient Christians and organized them by book and verse. It looks like this:

So, now we can easily go verse-by-verse through the Beatitudes and see what Augustine, Jerome, and Origen had to say! What a time-saver.

Here are our favorite quotes from this resource, covering Matthew 5:3-7.

MATTHEW 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

JEROME

Free Humility, Not Forced Poverty, Is Blessed:

This is what we read elsewhere: “He shall save the humble in spirit.” But do not imagine that poverty is bred by necessity. For he added “in spirit” so you would understand blessedness to be humility and not poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” who on account of the Holy Spirit are poor by willing freely to be so. Hence, concerning this type of poor, the Savior also speaks through Isaiah: “The Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor.” Commentary on Matthew 1.5.3.

MATTHEW 5:4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

CHRYSOSTOM

Intense Grief Over Sin:

He calls blessed even those who mourn. Their sorrow is of a special kind. He did not designate them simply as sad but as intensely grieving. Therefore he did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn.” This Beatitude is designed to draw believers toward a Christian disposition. Those who grieve for someone else—their child or wife or any other lost relation—have no fondness for gain or pleasure during the period of their sorrow. They do not aim at glory. They are not provoked by insults nor led captive by envy nor beset by any other passion. Their grief alone occupies the whole of their attention. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 15.3.

MATTHEW 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

AUGUSTINE

A Perpetual Inheritance:

“Inherit the earth,” I believe, means the land promised in the psalm: “Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living.” It signifies the solidity and stability of a perpetual inheritance. The soul because of its good disposition is at rest as though in its own place, like a body on the earth, and is fed with its own food there, like a body from the earth. This is the peaceful life of the saints. The meek are those who submit to wickedness and do not resist evil but overcome evil with good. Let the haughty therefore quarrel and contend for earthly and temporal things. But “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.” This is the land from which they cannot be expelled. Sermon on the Mount 1.2.4.

MATTHEW 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or they will be filled.”

ORIGEN

God Is The True Virtue:

But if I must utilize a bold explanation indeed, I think that perhaps it was through the word that is measured by virtue and justice that the Lord presents himself to the desire of the hearers. He was born as wisdom from God for us, and as justice and sanctification and redemption. He is “the bread that comes down from heaven” and “living water,” for which the great David himself thirsted. He said in one of his psalms, “My soul has thirsted for you, even for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?” … “I shall behold your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied in beholding your glory.” This then, in my estimation, is the true virtue, the good unmingled with any lesser good, that is, God, the virtue that covers the heavens, as Habakkuk relates. Fragment 83.

MATTHEW 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

CHROMATIUS

Blessed By The Lord Of Compassion:

By a great number of witnesses indeed, just as many in the Old Testament as the New, we are called by the Lord to show compassion. But as a shortcut to faith we deem enough and more than enough what the Lord himself in the passage at hand expresses with his own voice, saying, “Blessed are the compassionate, for God will have compassion for them.” The Lord of compassion says that the compassionate are blessed. No one can obtain God’s compassion unless that one is also compassionate. In another passage he said, “Be compassionate, just as your Father who is in the heavens is compassionate.” Tractate on Matthew 17.6.1–2.

ANCIENT CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE

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Visit our website to learn more about the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

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