Jesus' Use of the Psalms in Matthew

Thomas A. Wayment

Thomas A. Wayment, “Jesus’ Use of the Psalms in Matthew,” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The New Testament, ed. Frank F. Judd Jr. and Gaye Strathearn (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 137–149.

Thomas A. Wayment was an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry was His ability to teach the gospel in a way that caused even His most learned followers to reevaluate their thinking. He often taught principles and concepts that were new and exciting and that were difficult to understand and accept without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In a culture where the Old Testament was accepted as the ultimate source of gospel learning, it is not surprising to find the Master Teacher drawing broadly on this important body of scripture, especially the book of Psalms, to facilitate His message and give credence to His teachings (see John 5:39). By looking at the ways Jesus incorporated the Psalter, or book of Psalms, into His teachings, we can gain a more profound understanding of how Jesus taught the gospel, as well as how He chose to explain His earthly ministry to the Jews.

The Sermon on the Mount contains nine relatively short sayings known as beatitudes. [1] This major discourse contains the Savior’s teachings on the higher law of salvation. It has also been suggested that this sermon was a type of missionary preparation for the disciples. [2] The Beatitudes form an introduction to the body of the sermon, and they maintain a certain organizational consistency that helps to reveal their original meaning and function. In our biblical account of the Sermon on the Mount, there is some confusion regarding the Savior’s audience. The event, as recorded by Matthew, indicates that the Savior went to the mountain to remove Himself from the multitude (see Matthew 5:1), yet at the end of the sermon the multitude is said to be astonished at what the Savior has taught (see Matthew 7:28). This confusion is eliminated, however, when we consider the account of the Savior’s sermon given at the temple in Bountiful in the Book of Mormon or when we look at the changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his inspired version of the biblical account. The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the sermon to the Nephites was delivered to a believing multitude, whereas some of the Savior’s teachings were directed specifically to the Twelve (see 3 Nephi 12:1; 13:25). We may assume that the sermon delivered in the Holy Land had an audience similar to that in the Nephite setting. The Joseph Smith Translation indicates that parts of the Sermon on the Mount were directed to the disciples, thus helping to confirm our comparison (see JST, Matthew 6:1). [3]

As an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes summarize some of its more prevalent themes. The eight beatitudes represent an independent unit framed by the first beatitude, which promises “the kingdom of heaven” to the poor (Matthew 5:3), and the eighth beatitude, which repeats the promise of the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). The first seven beatitudes (vv. 3–10) are also composed in the third person plural (they), while the eighth and final beatitude (vv. 11–12), with its warning that persecutions may follow, is written in the second person plural (you). The last beatitude also shifts from the indicative “blessed are they” to the imperative “rejoice, and be exceedingly glad” (Matthew 5:11–12). The shift from the indicative to the imperative indicates a shift of emphasis and creates a distinction between the first eight beatitudes and the final beatitude. The “you” of Matthew 5:11 makes the connection explicit between the first seven beatitudes and the eighth one. The newly called disciples should begin to consider that persecution may follow those who seek to obey the commandments and purify their lives. While it may have been comforting to hear in the third person the expectations the Savior has for His people, the disciples have this expectation placed directly on their shoulders when the Savior turns to them and warns them of the perils that will follow the righteous. [4] Jesus strengthens this idea by telling His disciples to expect the same treatment and blessings that the prophets of old received. The Savior’s profound reasoning on this issue is persuasive. How could these disciples reject the Savior’s call to be like one of the prophets of old, even if it meant enduring suffering and persecution?

A close look at the first three beatitudes and the way the Savior uses them to teach His disciples the higher law demonstrates the characteristics that Jesus expected His disciples to emulate. It also provides an example of the Savior’s ability to present new ideas, using the Old Testament as His text. The first three beatitudes, which are structured according to the pattern of Isaiah 61:1–3, incorporate a passage from Psalm 37:11. [5] Isaiah 61 provides the structure and some terminology for Matthew 5:3–5. Isaiah 61 promises good tidings to the poor (KJV, “meek”) and comfort to those who mourn. The two passages, Matthew 5:3–5 and Isaiah 61:1–2, share a number of verbal similarities. The following will help to demonstrate the verbal relationship between Isaiah 61 and Matthew 5. Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit [ptochoi]”; Isaiah 61:1: “The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the poor [ptochois; KJV reads “meek”]”; Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are they that mourn [penthountes]: for they shall be comforted [paraklethesonthai]”; Isaiah 61:2: “To comfort [parakalesai] all that mourn [penthountas]”; Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth [klerovomesousin ten gen]”; Isaiah 61:7: “Therefore in their land they shall possess [kleponomesousin ten gen]; a double portion” [KJV reads “the double”]; Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness [dikaiosunen]”; Isaiah 61:3, 8, 11 each use the term for righteousness (dikaiosunes); Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart [katharoi te kardia]”; Isaiah 61:1: “To bind up the brokenhearted [suntetpimmenos te kardia].”

One of the reasons the Savior referred to Isaiah 61 may be found in the opening verses of that chapter. Isaiah’s prophecy lends authority to the Savior’s message, and it forms a remarkable parallel to the power and authority the Savior’s teachings would have. Isaiah may well have had the Savior in mind when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings” (Isaiah 61:1). [6] In addition, Isaiah 61 is quoted numerous times in the New Testament with reference to Jesus. [7] Jesus Himself, when given a portion of Isaiah 61 to read in the synagogue, interpreted it as a reference to His own ministry. In his Gospel, Luke reported that this reading and interpretation caused such excitement and hostility that some of Jesus’ listeners attempted to take His life. They couldn’t abide His declaration that this important messianic prophecy pointed to His own ministry—that He was its literal fulfillment. [8] This passage, Isaiah 61:1–3, was interpreted by the rabbis and others as a reference to the end of the world and the redemption associated with the coming of the Messiah at that time. [9] The Qumran sectarians, the authors and compilers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, likewise understood this passage messianically and eschatologically, or as a reference to the time when the Messiah would come to redeem His people at the end of the world. [10] It is significant that the Savior used this passage of scripture, one that many Jews of His day believed had reference to the ministry of the Messiah, both at the beginning of His public ministry and as the prelude to one of the greatest sermons ever given.

In using Isaiah 61 as a preface to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus drew on an image that was highly familiar to those who were looking for the Messiah. Jesus often incorporated the Old Testament into His teachings in a manner that was completely unexpected or contrary to popular opinion. [11] This is the case with the Sermon on the Mount. Many of the Jews were expecting a national hero who would use physical force to liberate them from their Roman captors. [12] The Jews also viewed themselves as the legitimate heirs of the covenant, the only people whom the Messiah would visit and redeem, and a nationalistic pride led many of them to despise other peoples and nations. For some, Isaiah 61 was part of this mind-set and rhetoric. [13] In this setting of national fervor and excitement, the Savior did something that would cause many Jews to reflect upon their own assumptions. Instead of playing to the Jews’ nationalistic hopes and expectations and the pride they took in being the chosen people, the Savior pointed out that God blesses the meek, the poor, and the persecuted, supporting that doctrine with wording derived from Psalm 37:11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” This psalm, which the Savior converts into a beatitude, is linked with Isaiah 61 to help the Jews understand Isaiah’s true meaning. This reversal of conditions would signify a dramatic shift in thinking for many of Jesus’ followers, as evidenced by Matthew’s commentary: “The people were astonished at his doctrine” (Matthew 7:28). [14]

Instead of emphasizing the parallel between His own ministry and the messianic ministry described in Isaiah 61, the Lord chose to focus on the plight of the poor and brokenhearted and to indicate that it is they who will receive the kingdom of heaven. In doing so, He directed the attention of the leaders of the Jews to those whom they had typically despised. [15] Both Isaiah 61 and Psalm 37 contain the Hebrew term ‘anawim, or “meek.” In both passages, the Lord promises a certain blessing to the poor or meek and defines who the poor really are. The term used for “poor” in both of these passages is the same one used to describe the meekness of Moses (see Numbers 12:3). Psalm 37 interprets this to mean those who have been pushed aside by society, criticized by the wicked, and deprived of land ownership by the wealthy (see Psalm 37:1–13). The Lord promises that this class of despised servants will be given the necessities they lack, namely the land that has been usurped by the wealthy and powerful. The Savior’s use of Psalm 37 in the context of Isaiah 61 helps us see that the poor spoken of in Matthew 5:3 are different from the meek of Matthew 5:5, even though both terms derive from the same Hebrew word. [16] The King James translators attempted to accentuate this difference by translating Matthew 5:5 as “meek” and Matthew 5:3 as “poor.” The subtle nuance of comparing the meek of Psalm 37 with the meek of Isaiah 61 helps us to see that the Lord had two different groups in mind. [17]

The term for “meek” in Isaiah 61 connotes slavery, bondage, and oppression by a foreign power. The meek to whom Isaiah referred have their liberty taken away; they are in prison and are brokenhearted because there seems to be no relief (see Isaiah 61:1). The meek in this context are those who suffer under the weight of the oppression this world often inflicts on those who seek to live righteously. In a way, they are subject to the demands and punishments of this world, even though they are waiting to hear the good news of the gospel promised by the Lord. In a sense, Isaiah 61 may be speaking to all those who would hear the good tidings despite being taken into bondage by the world. To this group of downtrodden and afflicted, the Savior promises the kingdom of heaven. The promise of the kingdom in Matthew 5:3 is essentially the promise of all the rights, powers, and ordinances necessary for salvation. The Prophet Joseph Smith summarizes this promise: “Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God; but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not.” [18]

In contrast to the meek of Isaiah 61 are the meek of Psalm 37. These are they who, due to their meekness, have been denied privilege, standing, and honor in this world. They are persecuted because they are willing to stand up to the ways of the world and “do good” (Psalm 37:3). In this psalm, the Lord calls on the meek to trust Him even though the wicked seem to prevail. The meek are also called on to cease being angry and to let go of wrath (see Psalm 37:8). The meek of Psalm 37 are those who are trying to live in the ways of the Lord even though the unrighteous prosper and appear to be blessed. The Lord reiterates His promise that the meek shall ultimately inherit the earth as a result of their humility and patience. The magnitude of that blessing is better understood through latter-day revelation, which teaches that the earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will become the final resting place of the righteous (see D&C 88:17–20, 25).

The Savior’s skill in teaching from the scriptures is unparalleled. We find in the Beatitudes a marvelous example of the Savior’s ability to teach new concepts using familiar sources. Psalm 37 and Isaiah 61 evoked certain ideas in many of Jesus’ followers and antagonists. Many among those who heard the Savior teach were astonished to learn that the very groups that society had learned to despise were those whom the Lord would ultimately bless, while those who were typically thought to be blessed would be left wanting. Using these two Old Testament passages to introduce the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord declares the entrance requirements for the kingdom of heaven. The reformulation of the old law turns its attention to those who suffer, are meek, are poor, and seek after the things of God.

Psalm 118 and Matthew 21

Psalm 118 has a familiar ring to many Latter-day Saints. Phrases such as “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (v. 22) and “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (v. 26) remind us of the Savior’s mortal ministry and His final days on earth. These scriptures, and others like them, confirm that the Savior came in fulfillment of the prophecies spoken of Him by David and Old Testament prophets. This scripture in particular was used by the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon to explain that the Jews would reject the Messiah, be gathered again after having rejected Him, and once again become His covenant people. Jacob quoted from Psalm 118 when he described the Jews’ turning away from and eventually returning to the Messiah. One might even say that Psalm 118 forms an introduction to the allegory of the olive tree (see Jacob 4:15–17).

What did the Jews at the time of Christ understand this particular scripture to say? Did they, like the Nephites, believe it referred to the mortal ministry of the Messiah and His first coming, or did they expect something entirely different? Another related question Psalm 118 raises is how the Savior used this scripture to refer to His own ministry.

There is little, if any, evidence that the Jews at the time of Christ understood that Psalm 118 referred to the initial coming of the Messiah. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that the earliest Christians regarded Jesus Christ as the literal fulfillment of Psalm 118. One New Testament scholar has remarked that there is no evidence to suggest that the rabbis at the time of Jesus interpreted Psalm 118 as a reference to the Messiah. [19] The earliest evidence that can be adduced to support a messianic understanding of Psalm 118 dates to the late second century after Christ, when the Jews had already lost their homeland. [20] Before this time, it appears that the Jews understood the rejection of the chief cornerstone and its eventual reestablishment as a reference to their own nation and the return of the Davidic dynasty. [21] The structure of Psalm 118 lends itself, on one level, to this interpretation.

Verses 1 through 4 of Psalm 118 are a song of thanksgiving for deliverance; verses 5 through 18, a description of divine rescue; verses 19 and 20, a triumphal entry into the gates of the Lord (that is, into the temple of the Lord); verses 21 through 28, a celebration of Israel’s rescue; verse 29, a final call for thanksgiving.

Psalm 118 reads as though it were written to celebrate the Lord’s redeeming Israel following the persecution and suffering she had endured at the hands of her political oppressors. The celebration is centered in the temple (see v. 27) and has to do with Israel’s miraculous deliverance from those who sought Israel’s demise. It is no surprise, then, that many Israelites derived a certain nationalistic hope from Psalm 118. For many, it was the Lord’s promise that Israel would finally be vindicated and that the stone, symbolic of Israel herself, would no longer be rejected by the world. [22]

Even though the Jews at the time of Christ may not have interpreted Psalm 118 as a reference to the Messiah, they were deeply aware of its content. According to the Mishnah, one of the earliest Pharisaic oral interpretations of the Old Testament, Psalm 118 was sung as part of the Hallel at the Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah, and the Feast of the Passover, where it was recited at the sacrificing of the Paschal Lamb and at the Passover Feast. [23] The context of these recitations of Psalm 118 suggests that this psalm was of significant importance to the Jews at the time of Christ. The fact that this scripture was also a Jewish hymn helps us to gain an appreciation of the extent to which its content would have become ingrained for faithful Jews at the time of Christ. If we are correct in stating that many of the Jews looked at this psalm as an indication of God’s promise of deliverance, then the repeated recitation of Psalm 118 makes sense, given the Jews’ concern over the loss of their nation’s sovereignty. Roman oppression caused many Jews to look to the heavens for deliverance. For many, the continued recitation of Psalm 118 reminded them that God had delivered them in the past and that He would once again establish this rejected stone.

The evidence suggesting that Psalm 118 was understood as a promise of the coming and rejection of the Messiah at the time of Christ has been very weak. Most of the evidence suggests that Jews at the time of Christ were interpreting this psalm as a promise of the reestablishment of their nation. When we turn to the early Christians, however, there is very strong evidence that the early Christians thought the rejected stone and other prophecies of Psalm 118 had reference to the Messiah. Psalm 118 is, in fact, cited or alluded to at least fifteen times in the New Testament, if we do not count the occurrences where different gospel writers have recorded the same event. [24] This evidence suggests that Psalm 118 was one of the most cited Old Testament scriptures and indeed one of the most important statements about the coming of the Messiah from any Old Testament figure. The interpretation of Psalm 118 and its relative importance goes back to the Savior Himself as He sought to explain the meaning and importance of His mortal ministry to a people who were for the most part looking for a leader who would liberate them from foreign oppression. [25]

One of the most interesting ways the Savior used Psalm 118 as a reference to His own ministry can be found in Matthew 21. This chapter begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (see Zechariah 9:9). According to the Gospel of Matthew, many people immediately recognized the significance of this sign, and they laid out their clothes for the Savior to ride upon. They also prepared a path for Him so that he could ride into the city triumphantly. While He entered, they recited the now famous words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” After His triumphal entry, making His whereabouts public, He immediately entered the temple and cast out the money changers. The following day He again entered the temple. On this occasion, His authority to do such things as cleanse the temple was challenged. His response, in part, includes the parable of the vineyard, wherein the lord of the vineyard prepares all that is necessary for his vineyard to flourish. He then rents it out to those who end up abusing his servants and ultimately taking the life of his son (see Matthew 21:33–40). After reciting this parable, the Savior asks His inquirers what action the lord of the vineyard should take against these wicked servants. Matthew records their response as “He [the lord] will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen” (Matthew 21:41).

Having backed His accusers into a corner, the Savior summarizes the implications of the parable of the vineyard. He begins by saying that the son of the vineyard is equated with the rejected stone of Psalm 118:22, asking, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (Matthew 21:42). The Savior then gives them to understand that the Jews represent the hired servants and that the kingdom of God (the vineyard) will be taken from them and given to someone else who is worthy. [26] To appreciate fully the impact of such teachings, one must look back at the Jews’ understanding of this passage. Many of them believed that this scripture, Psalm 118:22, promised the return of their nation to a position of prominence, and they believed that the Lord would ultimately deliver them. Instead, the Savior interprets this scripture to mean the very opposite—the Jews become those who have oppressed the Lord’s people, and the Lord will punish them as wicked servants. Moreover, the land of their inheritance will be taken from them and given to the worthy followers of Jesus, a man whom many Jews despised. Matthew underscores the impact of this interchange by saying, “When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude” (Matthew 21:45–46; emphasis added). These Jews became so enraged at the Savior’s teachings that they wanted to take His life, but they feared that the multitude would cry out against them. [27]

Summary and Conclusion

It is difficult to overstate the impact the Savior’s statement had on His listeners. Many in the exuberant crowd that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem saw in that event a fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 118. Others, however, thought the Savior’s interpretation of this passage was self-serving and blasphemous. They could not see that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah promised by the prophets. For His critics and enemies, He was simply a man caught up in His own pride who deserved to be put to death. Jesus’ use of Psalm 118 cuts to the very core of this division. Will the followers of Jesus be able to accept Him as their Redeemer even though their prior understanding of scripture indicates that He is not what they expected? For many, as indicated by Matthew 21:8, the answer is yes.

These two examples give us an insight into the ways the Lord taught from the Old Testament during His mortal ministry. In the first example, the Savior reveals His complete mastery of scripture, though He often uses familiar scriptures in new and different ways. The Lord has revealed in our dispensation that revelation helps us know when we have erred, and that it will guide us on the strait and narrow path (see D&C 1:25). For those who were ready and willing, the Savior’s message was one of profound enlightenment and intelligence. In the second example, we see the Savior boldly apply to Himself the scriptures that speak of the coming of the Messiah. For many people, these scriptures were of national importance, providing hope that when the Lord came, He would redeem His people from the oppression of the world. Instead, the Savior offered a dramatically different interpretation. In both instances, the reaction of the crowd is marked; in the first, His audience is surprised, while in the second, a portion of His audience seeks to take His life as a result of His teachings.


[1] The term beatitude derives from the Latin adjective beatitudo, meaning “happy or blessed.” The Latin beatitudo is a translation of the Greek makarismos, which indicates a happy and blessed state of existence that was generally achieved only by the gods in Greek-speaking cultures. At times, this state of blessedness could be achieved by mortals after death (Hans D. Betz, A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, including the Sermon on the Plain, ed. Adele Yarbro Collins [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995], 92–97).

[2] Catherine Thomas, “The Sermon on the Mount: The Sacrifice of the Human Heart,” in Studies in Scripture, Volume 5: The Gospels, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 8 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 5:237.

[3] W. Jeffrey Marsh, “Prophetic Enlightenment on the Sermon on the Mount,” Ensign, January 1999, 15–16.

[4] Several scholars have noted this method of drawing the disciples in and then pointing out that they may expect persecution (see W. J. Dumbrell, “The Logic of the Role of the Law in Matthew V1–20,” Novum Testamentum 23 [1981]: 2–3; Mark Allan Powell, “Matthew’s Beatitudes: Reversals and Rewards of the Kingdom,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 58 [1996]: 447).

[5] This parallel has been consistently noted by biblical scholars for many years (see Robert A. Guelich, “The Matthean Beatitudes: ‘Entrance-Requirements’ or Eschatological Blessings?” Journal of Biblical Literature 95 [1976]: 423–26; W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, 3 vols. [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988], 1:436–38; James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1915], 74).

[6] The term gospel, a term used by the earliest Christians to characterize the teachings of Jesus, may derive from Isaiah 61:1. The Hebrew basher is translated in the LXX, or Greek translation of the Old Testament, as euangellion. The term can most accurately be translated as “gospel.” The parallel to the servant who teaches the gospel in Isaiah 61, and to Jesus who likewise teaches the gospel, is profound. The early Christian usage of the term gospel or euangellion may indicate that they were intentionally drawing attention to Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah 61.

[7] The 27th edition of Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, lists fifteen references or allusions to Isaiah 61: Matthew 5:3,4; 11:5; Luke 1:47; 4:18; 6:20–21; 7:22; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 19:8; 21:2.

[8] See James A. Sanders, “From Isaiah 61 to Luke 4,” in Luke and Scripture, ed. James Sanders and Craig Evans (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 14–25.

[9] The Targum Pseudo-Johnathan on Numbers 25:12 indicates a move toward interpreting this passage eschatologically and messianically. James Sanders, “From Isaiah 61 to Luke 4,” 48–57, discusses the history of interpretation of this passage.

[10] The Qumran text 11Q13, or Melchizedek, is a Midrash on Isaiah 61:1–3 and clearly understands it eschatologically and as reference to the redemption of God’s covenant people. The difference of interpretation here is that Melchizedek will act as the savior of God’s people instead of the Messiah. For a translation of this passage, see Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (San Francisco: Harper, 1996), 455–57. On the meaning of this passage in general, see D. Flusser, “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit . . . ,” in Israel Exploration Journal 10 (1960): 1–13; Merrill P. Miller, “The Function of Isaiah 61:1–2 in 11QMelchizedek,” Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969), 467–69.

[11] Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990), 221–23.

[12] Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 74.

[13] This can be seen clearly at Qumran, where Isaiah 61 is interpreted as a vindication of God’s chosen people. The translation of 11Qmelchizedek (11Q13) adequately demonstrates this idea of separation and vindication: “Therefore Melchizedek will thoroughly prosecute the vengeance required by God’s statutes. Also, he will deliver all the captives from the power of Belial, and from the power of all the spirits predestined to him. Allied with him will be all the ‘righteous divine beings’ (Isa. 61:3)” (Wise, Abegg, Cook, Dead Sea Scrolls, col. 2, 456).

[14] Powell, “Matthew’s Beatitudes,” 460. Powell argues that the structure of the beatitudes allows them to be interpreted in two distinct groups. He calls the first four beatitudes a list of reversals while he considers the next four to be a list of rewards. Although I have some reservations in making such a sharp distinction between the first and last four beatitudes, I believe that the rewards promised by the beatitudes increase in degree (see Matthew 5:8).

[15] At the time of Jesus, popular sentiment held that God had blessed the rich and punished the poor. Therefore, according to popular opinion at the time of Jesus, being righteous meant being rich (see Davies and Allison, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, 442).

[16] Guelich, “The Matthean Beatitudes,” 426–27.

[17] Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 5:3, helps to clarify this issue by adding “who come unto me” to qualify the poor who are blessed (see also 3 Nephi 12:3).

[18] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1964), 5:259.

[19] J. Ross Wagner, “Psalm 118 in Luke–Acts: Tracing a Narrative Thread,” in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals, ed. James Sanders and Craig Evans (England: Sheffield Press, 1997), 157–61. Joachim Jeremias (The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, trans. Norman Perrin [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966], 255–62) and Eric Werner (“‘Hosanna’ in the Gospels,” in Journal of Biblical Literature 65 [1946], 97–122) argued against this position in two earlier studies. Their position, however, has been greatly diminished by the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which confirm the fact that the Jews expected something other than the coming of the Messiah as the fulfillment of Psalm 118. For a discussion of the problem of dating Rabbinic sources, see Craig A. Evans, “Early Rabbinic Sources and Jesus Research,” in Society of Biblical Literature: Symposium Proceedings, ed. E. H. Lovering (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 53–76.

[20] R. Jose, b. Pesher 118b, cited in Wagner, “Psalm 118 in Luke-Acts,” 158.

[21] Mitchell Dahood, Psalms, vol. 16 of the Anchor Bible series (New York: Doubleday, 1970), 154–59.

[22] A similar sentiment is expressed by Solomon Freehof when he equates the rejected stone of Psalm 118:22 with the nation of Israel. He cites several Rabbinic sources as evidence of this position, among whom is Ibn Ezra (The Book of Psalms [Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938], 338).

[23] Wagner, “Psalm 118 in Luke–Acts,” 160. The Mishnah was fixed in writing around the year AD 200, under the leadership of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi.

[24] Matthew 11:3; 21:9, 42; 23:39; Mark 8:31; 11:9; 12:10–11; Luke 7:19; 9:22; 13:35; 17:25; 19:38; 20:17; John 12:13; Acts 4:11; Romans 8:31; Hebrews 13:6; 1 Peter 2:4, 7.

[25] Richard T. Mead, “A Dissenting Opinion about Respect for Context in Old Testament Quotations,” in New Testament Studies 10 (1963–64): 286–87.

[26] J. Ching has suggested that the controversy represented in Matthew 21 is not based on a division between Christians and Jews but is meant to point out the division between Jesus and the Jewish hierarchy (see “No Other Name,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 12 [1985]: 259).

[27] This idea frames Matthew 21 and forms an inclusion. It begins with a quotation of Psalm 118:26 (see Matthew 21:9) and ends with a quotation of Psalm 118:22 (see Matthew 21:42). The belief of the multitude at the beginning of the chapter is summarized as a reason for Jesus’ deliverance at the end of the chapter.