If you are one of the scholars that come to our bible study group you would know that Luke’s version of Jesus’ delivering the beatitudes is different from Matthew’s. We are probably more familiar with this reading as the Sermon on the Mount, but here in Luke, the author makes a point that Jesus is not delivering this speech from a mountain but on level ground. This might cause some of you to scratch your head and wonder how can there be two different accounts of the same thing?
Clearly, Matthew and Luke are drawing from the same source, most likely the “Q-Source” a traditional list of sayings given by Jesus, predating the writing of the Gospels. From the Q-Source the settings and details of these sayings is vague at best. Both writers are writing too different audiences. Matthew to Jewish converts and Luke to Gentile converts. Matthew knows his Jewish audience will respond and understand his use of typical Jewish symbols and motifs, such as mountains and teachers teaching from the mountain. For the Jews, who also went up a mountain and came down to deliver the new Law? Moses. For Matthew, Jesus is the new Moses and so he places Jesus on the mountain, teaching to the people the new Law, the beatitudes.
For Luke, the idea of Jesus delivering this speech on a mountain makes no sense and would likely confuse his audience more than help. For Luke, Jesus is the new Adam (or every man), and his audience would not pick up on Jewish symbols and so Luke does not use them. Jesus simply gives the Law to the people standing with them…at their level.
Regardless of the setting, the words of the Beatitudes would have been stunning to hear for the various listeners. Even today, if we listen, these Beatitudes in many ways are more difficult than the Ten Commandments, especially when it comes to being a Christian.