I was surprised to see a significant difference in the interpretation of the beatitudes presented by the NLT Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible.

NLT Study Bible:

6:20-23 God blesses those who acknowledge their inadequacy and weakness and turn to God for strength. The value system of God’s Kingdom is radically different from the world’s value system, in which power and strength represent success.

ESV Study Bible:

6:20-23 The Beatitudes. (See noted on Matt. 5:3-12). Luke’s first record of a sermon by Jesus was in Luke 4:16-30; his second sermon is here in 6:20-49. The Beatitudes are not conditions for entering the kingdom of God but blessings pronounced on those who have already entered. The main theme of the Beatitudes and the following “woes” involves the “great reversal” (see Introduction: Key Themes). On the relationship between this “Sermon on the Plain” (vv. 20-49) and the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), see not on Matt. 5:1-7:29.

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I found this statement by the ESV Study Bible to be quite shocking: “The Beatitudes are not conditions for entering the kingdom of God but blessings pronounced on those who have already entered.” I disagree with this statement and I go along with the idea behind the NLT Study Bible. Jesus is teaching the people about the nature of the kingdom of God and how the people must act and change to be part of this kingdom. Jesus is describing the character of those who will be in his kingdom. The people were not already in this kingdom, for both John the Baptist and Jesus preached that the kingdom was still to come (“at hand”- Matthew 3:2; 4:17). The kingdom was promised to arrive with power (Mark 9:1) and in Acts 1:6 we read about the apostles asking Jesus when this kingdom would arrive.

Since the kingdom was coming and had not yet arrived while Jesus lived, I have a difficult time seeing how Jesus was not giving conditions for entering the kingdom. I think that is exactly what Jesus is doing. The Pharisees and religious leaders thought they were surely in the kingdom and the outcasts and sinners would not be offered entrance into the kingdom. Jesus preaches a reversal of thought. The Pharisees and leaders would not be in the coming kingdom because they did not have the heart and character described by the Beatitudes. However, the outcasts and the sinners would be invited to enter the kingdom became what John the Baptist and Jesus were preaching. I would have gone a step further than the NLT Study Bible notes, pointing out that the value system of God’s kingdom is not only radically different from the world, but also from the value system the rabbis, Pharisees, and religious leaders were teaching in the first century.

I hope this will spur on your own personal studies about what John the Baptist and Jesus were preaching concerning the nature of Christ’s kingdom.

2 Comments

  1. “Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,
    “God blesses you who are poor,
    for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now,
    for you will be satisfied.
    God blesses you who weep now,
    for in due time you will laugh.
    What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.” (Luke 6:20-23 NLT)

    Both commentaries offer adequate commentary. When the ESV Study Bible writes, “The Beatitudes are not conditions for entering the kingdom of God but blessings pronounced on those who have already entered” it means that in other words you don’t have to necessarily be poor (or hungry or weeping or hated) to get into the Kingdom of God, but if you are, God certainly blesses you contrary to your circumstances.

  2. Thanks, Rick. I see what you are saying and that is probably the intent of the ESV Study Bible.