John Dominic Crossan
See Crossan [Historical Jesus] (270-74) for discussion of this saying. He concludes that discussion with observations about the "almost synonymous" beatitudes: 43 Blessed the Poor [1/3], 59 Blessed the Sad [1/3], 96 Blessed the Hungry [1/2] and 48 Blessed the Persecuted [1/3]:
I judge that Jesus said, speaking no doubt from his own experience, something like "Blessed are the abused and rejected," and the early communities said, speaking from their own increasingly dangerous situations, "Blessed are the persecuted." As John Kloppenborg put it, having paralleled that beatitude's acceptance of social abuse with similar Cynic experiences, "those who proclaim, 'Blessed are the poor' will find themselves hated and reviled."
Flusser [Jesus b] (95f) comments on the light shed on this saying by the Essene texts from Qumran:
For both the Essenes and Jesus, poverty, humility, purity, and unsophisticated simplicity of heart were the essential religious virtues. Jesus and the Essenes thought that in the very near divine future, the social outcasts and oppressed would become the preferred, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," and "those who mourn will be comforted." ... Now for the first time, because of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can understand the phrase "the poor in spirit.' It was a title of honor among the Essenes. These are the poor to whom the Holy Spirit Spirit is given. In one passage from the Essene hymnbook (1QH 18:14-15) the author thanks God for having apppointed him preacher of his grace. He is destined "To proclaim to the meek the multitude of Thine mercies, and to let them that are of contrite spirit to be nourished from the source of knowledge, and to them that mourn everlasting joy." These correspond to "the meek," "the poor in spirit," and "those who mourn" of the first three beatitudes of Jesus.
Flusser also cites the following parallels from the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs:
And there will be one people of the Lord and one language;
And there will be no spirit of error of Beliar any more,And all the peoples will glorify the Lord for ever. [TJudah 25:3-5]
For he will be thrown into the fire for ever.
And those who have died in grief will rise again in joy,
And those who are in penury will be made rich,
And those who are in want will eat their fill,
And those who are weak will receive their strength,
And those who have been out to death for the Lord's sake will awake to life.
And the harts of Jacob will run with gladness,
And the eagles of Israel will fly with joy
(But the ungodly will mourn and sinners weep),
The International Q Project reconstructs the original Q saying as follows:
Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be consoled.
The commentary in [The Five Gospels] (290) notes:
The Fellows of the Seminar were virtually unanimous in their view that Jesus is the author of the first three congratulations. They were also convinced that the Lukan versions of those addressed to the poor, the weeping, and the hungry are more original.
Samuel T. Lachs
Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament] (73) suggest that this saying refers to "the Mourners for Zion:"
... a well-known group among he Jews whp were so deeply affected by the destruction of the Termple that they lived their lives amidst grief and mourning because of the national tragedy. Matt.'s language indicates that he drew upon Isa. 61.2-3 when framing this beatitude, to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion--to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Who according to the Gospel was to comfort these mourners? Jesus is represented as the comofrter, and it is of note that the Messiah is called menachem, the Comforter.Following the destruction, the Mourners for Zion carried this mouring into all aspects of their daily living. The destruction of the Temple ecen created a form of an oath, er'eh benechamach, "may I live to see the consolation."
Luedemann [Jesus] (297) concludes:
The earliest stratum of the beatitudes goes back to Jesus. This judgment is based on two observations: (a) the beatitudes form a much longer series in Matthew and there consist of ten individual blessings (Matt. 5.3-12); here we can already note processes of growth within the tradition (cf. Matt 5.7-9). (b) Luke 6.22/Matt 5.11-12 (cf. Thomas 68.1) are focused on the situation of the post-Easter community and are clearly of later origin.
[After a paragraph on the "spiritualization of the beatitudes in Matthew" he continues:]
Around the historical nucleus we have two rings of expansions in Q (vv. 22-23) and the expansion by Luke himself (vv. 24-26), neither of which, like the introduction (v. 20), has any claim to historicity. By contrast the criteria of growth, offensiveness and difference support the historicity of vv. 20b-21.
John P. Meier
Meier [Marginal Jew] (II, 317-36) has an extensive treatment on the Beatitudes. On the authenticity of this tradition, he concludes:
Affirmation of the authenticity of the core beatitudes of the Q Sermon must rest mainly on the criteria of discontinuity and coherence; in my view, the criteria indicate that their authenticity is the more probable opinion. (p. 333)