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Israel's Psalms are the beatitudes' cornerstone

Published: Friday, Nov. 5 2010 7:00 a.m. MDT

PROVO, Utah — Israel's ancient hymn book — Psalms in the Old Testament — is the pattern the Savior used to teach in the New Testament, said Andrew C. Skinner, during the 39th annual Sperry Symposium at Brigham Young University on Oct. 30.

During the Savior's three-year public ministry, he quoted from Psalms more than any other single source, Skinner said. Especially in the beatitudes.

"I don't think anybody would be surprised that Jesus relied on Israel's songs a great deal when presenting the beatitude's because that really is the pattern of his entire teaching ministry," he said.

Skinner, who is a professor of ancient scriptures at Brigham Young University, focused on specific similarities found in the Sermon on the Mount and Psalms. Both, he said, lead people to Christ and to the temple.

"Among other things, the Psalms prophesied of the Messiah and described certain specific events of his mortal life," he said. "The Psalms spoke and still speak to us, exalting truths, and like the Sermon on the Mount itself, the Psalms reflect a celestial mind-set that ultimately ... was a major purpose of the Sermon on the Mount to teach the disciplines and characteristics they needed to possess."

In order to enjoy the environment of the celestial kingdom also to describe how they should act and think as committed disciples in the fallen world and others to come to salvation."

The Psalms were highly valued among the early Christians, with more than 100 references to the Psalms in the New Testament, Skinner said, with a significant number of the references located in the four gospels.

Using Psalm 22 as an example of the story of the crucifixion, Skinner referenced parallel language and themes throughout the Sermon on the Mount and Psalms.

"The use of psalms in the gospel narratives depict events of the last week of the Savior's life, especially that period of the atoning sacrifice," Skinner said. "Psalm 22 is of the most moving foreshadowings ever penned of the physical sufferings associated with the Messiah's redemptive acts."

The literary form of the beatitudes is based on an ancient Hebrew formula, found especially in the Psalms.

"Clearly the beatitudes are based on original form of Hebrew speech found more often than not in the Psalms," Skinner said. "In the beatitudes, Jesus is describing the qualities of an exalted person. The beatitudes are an autobiography of the life of the Lord."

As individuals look to the content of the beatitudes and Psalms, they are able to look to the temple, Skinner said.

"The psalms were the hymns of the temple," Skinner said. "The psalms were centered in an important part of Israelite and later Jewish temple worship."

Just as the Psalms reflect the temple, so do the beatitudes, Skinner said. At the very beginning of the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1, the Savior went to the mountains before addressing his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, paralleling Moses' decent to Mount Sinai. These occasions evoke a sense of going up to the temple to hear the various songs of the gospel. Using the example of blessed are the poor in Spirit. This is based on Psalm 69:32-33. In these references, the poor in spirit are those who are humble and stripped of pride.

"Poor in spirit doesn't mean economic poverty," Skinner said. "It is the humble posture of the poor in spirit — to those who are stripped of pride."After the beatitudes, Jesus went on to teach other things, but it is in the beatitudes where the richest reservoir of Psalms are located.

"It is there that you learn the attributes and attitudes of celestial beings," he said. "You learn the entrance requirements for the Kingdom of God. The concepts are not new. ... The beatitudes is the autobiography of the Lord Jesus Christ, and like Psalms, the principles are rooted in the Holy Temple."

e-mail: mholman@desnews.com

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