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The Beatitudes Through the Ages by Rebekah Eklund

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The Beatitudes Through the Ages

Author Rebekah Eklund, an associate professor of theology at Loyola University Maryland, offers clergy, lay people, and serious students of the Beatitudes an invaluable resource. Eklund’s study is a reception history of the Beatitudes—“an exploration of a text’s ‘effects’ as it has traveled through history.” She asks, “How has a text like the Beatitudes functioned when it has been read by particular people, in specific social contexts, at certain points in history?”   

Before introducing specific historical figures who have been affected by the Beatitudes, Eklund considers six big-picture questions that lay the foundation for the rest of her narrative: “Are Matthew’s and Luke’s narratives the same, or are they different? Who are the Beatitudes for? (How) are they countercultural? Are they commands or descriptions? How many are there? When are they for?”   

Eklund also answers a question that has been asked perpetually throughout the history of the exploration of the Beatitudes: “What’s the role of grace in the Beatitudes? What’s the role of divine agency (God’s action) versus human agency (our actions)?”  

The Beatitudes through the Ages is based on Eklund’s exhaustive research, expounded in great detail, and rooted in her profound love for God, Scripture, and the Christian church. She explores the Beatitudes' effects on well-known people like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Thomas Acquinas, Augustine, and Martin Luther King Jr., and on lesser-known individuals like Mother Alexandra from Romania, Mother Mary Francesca Cabrini from Italy, and Hendrik Niclaes from Germany, and more.  

In conclusion, Eklund notes that the Beatitudes are “deceptively simple,” then offers readers an invitation to wonder and a challenge to dig deeper, “Perhaps one of the main functions of the Beatitudes is to make us wonder about them—to move us to talk to each other about what poverty is, and what poverty of spirit is, and whether they’re the same or different, and why they’re both declared blessed by Jesus. The more you wrestle with the Beatitudes, the more they pull you into their depths. The deeper you dig, the more they yield.” (Eerdmans)

 

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