Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Did Jesus Really Mean in the Beattitudes?

Matthew 5:1-11 has come to be known as the Beattitudes. Jesus delivered this talk to a crowd gathered on a mountain top. He is at the beginning of his ministry. The Jewish people have been waiting for  Messiah, an earthly king to rescue them. He wants to prepare their hearts for his very different message that he is the one they are waiting for but his kingdom is not of this world. What better place to start than with our perception?

His talk focuses in on people of all kinds of spiritual, emotional, and life conditions. Some have relabeled them the "be attitudes" as they describe a state of being along with not only God's attitude toward them which mirrors what our attitude should be when considering these individual circumstances.

One word we find that is repeated over and over comes from the Greek word makarios. Some translations such as NIV and King James translate the word to "blessed." Other translations have chosen to use the word "happy." Neither seems to truly embody the meaning. Makarios can mean supremely blest, fortunate, and well off. Some people would take this literally to mean financially stable, well off, secure. But I choose to put my own words in there and they are "God's favor rests on you, be at peace. You are not forgotten."  It's  lengthy so I will reduce it to "favored."  I still don't feel it encapsulates it well but it is the best I could come up with. If you can think of a better word please share it with me and my readers.

I dug into what Jesus really meant verse by verse. Here is what I found.

Verse 3  Favored are the ptochos in spirit. Ptochos means poor, beggar, beggarly, destitute, lowly, afflicted, downtrodden or lacking in anything. It goes beyond just physical poverty to an emotional poverty.  Have you ever been so down that you have felt completely void of hope? These are the people Jesus is talking to. Jesus goes on to say," for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  The word kingdom is translated from the Greek word basileia which refers to royal power, or a monarch's rule. It can also mean a territory of rule, or the reign of the Messiah. So in this case I believe Jesus meant his rule as a spiritual king. Heaven translates from the Greek word ouranos and it can apply to either the physical heavens or the spiritual realm in which God dwells. In keeping with the context I believe he refers to the spiritual realm.

Jesus is giving hope to the emotionally and spiritually destitute. People who are this bankrupt are more open to Christ's teaching of heavenly treasure.

Verse 4. Favored are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. The word mourn is from pentheo meaning to mourn or lament. Comforted comes from the word parakaleo meaning to console, encourage, comforted.

The verse is one of the easier ones to translate and is pretty straight forward

Verse 5.  Favored are the meek for they will inherit the earth.  Meek translates from praus which means mild, humble, gentle. Inherit is from kloronomeo meaning, inherit, receive an allotted portion. Earth is from the word ga meaning land or the whole earth.

Jesus often spoke about humility and putting our pride aside. He encouraged us to come as a child to him. Meek doesn't mean weak. I am not clear on the rest of this passage's meaning. Perhaps he meant that when we have a meek attitude and spirit the whole world will belong to us in the proverbial sense. It awaits our meek influence. What are your thoughts?

I will continue this study in my next few posts and welcome your input.


  1. We lose the profound insight that he provides - where triumph comes through selfless service and not self-serving conquest.

  2. Yes. Less of us is his model for sure.