One confused comma


The beatitudes – just the packaging.

There are four verses in these three iconic chapters that I never see mentioned. The top and tail of Jesus’s gift of teaching us all faith, life and love as we have come to know and debate:

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.” Matthew 5:1-2

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28-29

Top: his disciples are being taught.
Tail: the crowd are being taught.
How did that happen?

I was reading the book of books (at least in terms of “inches thick” terms) last night. A whole mega book compiled, written, edited, proof-read, printed and published, and (in my case) bought. The only topic? Three chapters of mountain teaching to either the disciples, or the multitudes – or both. Up there with the ten commandments, the two new commandments – the “key stuff” we pore over.

And yet …

No one seems to have noticed this important discrepancy: was it the disciples or the crowds who were being taught? Isn’t this misleading confusion worthy of a book or two? To clarify and illuminate this potential conflict of theme and message.

Am I a disciple or a multitude? Do I read these “beatitudes” as applying to me or not? If this confusion exists – where else in this “roadmap for good living” lie other such ambiguities? Is this why such encyclopedias are necessary? Is there a definitive version with which I can I actually trust? Until such time as I have the answers, absorbing the truth of such issues can only be just another interpretation. I may have to suspend judgement of these three chapters until then. I will definitely have to pass on making them part of my living. God will understand. I have been forgiven before, now and in the future. Ten old commandments and a couple of new ones will suffice. You know where you are with those ones. Much easier to judge if I am following the way and the word properly. As He wants.

In fact …

This must be the evidence to finally illustrate to everyone that I am finally becoming a bible scholar!

A follower of the way able to navigate the ebb and flow of The Word. Able to discern when and what to buy-into. Qualified to hold forth and share these insights with others. So that others may see more clearly how to follow The Way in The Word. What do you know … I am finally becoming a clever christian! Thank you God!!

(And through such curiosities and writings was born another phrase: “tongue in cheek.”)

Seems to me this “teaching with authority” pre-empted all the clever “teachers of the law” before, now and in the future. All the ologies and isms. The encyclopedias and intellectual league tables of who can find the obscurest verses. Take a scalpel to specific words and phrases. Look for the atomic numbers in every letter of every word of The Word.

One which accepts curiosity – and warns against mere intellectual cleverness. One I think that covers almost every argument and division within this great Love we have been given. One which needs no encyclopedia (although maybe an odd blog or two is acceptable) …

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

Let’s hear it for The Word. – rather than the comma within the word within the verse within the paragraph within the chapter within the … All of which is The Word. Just like all of us are The Body. The Orchestra. The Followers of the Way. Disciples or multitudes. It matters not.

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28-29

One confused comma is not good reason for division.

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11 thoughts on “One confused comma

  1. Lol, took me a moment or two to catch your drift and mood. I think this phrase sums it up…

    “Disciples or multitudes. It matters not.”

    It never seems like Jesus’ INSTRUCTIONS differ a jot between “multitude” and “disciple”. But His expectations, His “enforcement” of demeanor does. To disciples, all is disclosed, explained, and then expected to be implemented. For multitudes, the margins are a bit wider.

    But I don’t know that the essence of the teaching ever differs…

    Grace — LM

  2. Now Paul, when we decide to create division and discord, when we are searching for an excuse to get the fighting under way, one comma, confused or not is as good an excuse as any!

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