Author:David JEFFREY, Professor of Literature and Humanities, Baylor University, USA
The Sermon on the Mount is universally regarded as the core of the ethical teachings of Jesus, and in it, the Beatitutdes, whether in the version found in Mathew or Luke, as the paradoxical key to that ethic. As such, the Beatitudes have attracted Christian poets for many centuries, none more notably than Dante and Chaucer, the two greatest medieval European poets. Of the two, Dante makes less frequently overt textual use of the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes, since established virtue-ethic in which, in his poem, the purgation of personal sins left incomplete in the world may be imagined as being satisfied after death. Chaucer, by contrast finds in the Sermon on the Mount a key to moral appropriation of Scripture for personal and social action in this present life. This key portion of Jesus’ teaching is for him a kind of exegetical cornerstone in terms of which all of Scripture finds its focus, and its resolution, in the readers’ identification with repentance, self-effacement, and following the ethical example of Jesus.
Dante, Chaucer, Sermon on the Mount, Beatitudes
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