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I ask this as blessed can mean many things. Eternal life, financial wealth, health, having kids, having a job, being happy, etc. Blessings seem to be very broad, so I'd like to see if anyone can narrow it down or define the word for better understanding of what Jesus was intending for his audience to understand.

Does the blessing that Jesus speaks of mean one specific blessing or type of blessing? Also, does the word blessed point to the same specific blessing in each new phrase?

Alternatively, does part b of each phrase simply define the blessing from part a?

Thank you.

Matthew 5:3-11 NIV

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  • The question seems to be confusing the condition (blessed) with gifts (blessings) that might result from, or be an evidence of the condition. – Jonathan Chell Oct 10 '15 at 8:29
  • @JonathanChell, so how do you define blessed in this context? – RJ Navarrete Oct 10 '15 at 15:26
  • as being approved of by God – Jonathan Chell Oct 11 '15 at 8:01
1

According to the BDAG, pg 610, makarios means "pertaining to being fortunate or happy because of circumstances, fortunate, happy." This would indicate that due to the action of the individual (peace maker), they are happy or fortunate because of being such. So no specific blessing is assigned for each, but in all likelihood, it is similar to saying "He is fortunate because he is rich" and "He is rich because he is fortunate." I would say you probably need to consider the Greco-Roman view on fortune and fate to contextually understand likely meaning here.

  • Chris Thomas, that's a great comment and explains a lot about how we should understand these beatitudes - what you say makes a lot sense. – Richard Jan 23 at 12:28
1

Introduction

A search of the W/H Greek NT and the LXX for μακαρι% οτι using a tool like the Unbound Bible, say, will reveal that the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 reveal a literary form that is particular, but not exclusive, to Jesus.

The form is:

Blessed ... because ...

The search is not exhaustive, of course, because verse boundaries prevent instances like Matthew 5:11-12 or Luke 10:23-24 being picked up, but it is sufficient to reveal Jesus' particular use of the form.

A search for instances of μακαρι%, alone, yields statements like Jesus uses in Luke 7:23 where the "because" is implicit.

So, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus' use of this form in Matthew 5, is deliberate, and sufficiently exclusive, such that the term "Beatitude" might be used to identify any expression that exhibits the same structure.

The Purpose of the Form

References: KJV

Note that the Beatitudes are bracketed by reference to the "kingdom of heaven" in the first, Matthew 5:3, and the last Matthew 5:11-12. Each need identified in a Beatitude, will find its supply from the kingdom of heaven.


  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Those in need of spiritual sustenance will seek out the kingdom of heaven and be fed (Matthew 6:33). Those who are not in need of such, are sustained by what they've found in the kingdom of earth.


  1. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Those in need of comfort when death moves them to sorrow, will seek out the kingdom of heaven in order to find it, since reunion is its principle hope. Those who are not so moved have no such need, taking comfort in what they believe to be the finality of the grave.

Jesus is unmistakeably identifying himself, here, with the same purpose as the prophet, in Isaiah 61. This Beatitude also has particular relevance in regard to the death of Jesus (Matthew 24:30).


  1. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

The meek, who are not inclined to violence, are vulnerable and in need of protection and will seek out the kingdom of heaven to secure it. Those who are inclined to violence, will seek out their own means of securing protection from the resources available to them in the kingdom of the earth.

Jesus is making reference in this Beatitude to Psalm 37, where the meek are those who rest in the LORD, in contrast to the wicked who prosper their way by bringing wicked schemes to pass. Jesus is also making a connection with Isaiah 11 and his role as the Rod from the stem of Jesse.


I'll leave the exegesis at this point, since exegesis is not the function of this site, and three examples are sufficient to show the purpose of Jesus' particular use of this literary form. The reader can pursue their own study, if they have a mind, to verify how the given pattern continues throughout the passage, and that all the Beatitudes are moving towards the last, Matthew 5:11, which are then rounded off by the statement given in Matthew 5:12.

Conclusion

The text is putting forward the notion that "blessed" refers to the state of being of those who put their trust in God - the pre-eminent physical manifestation of whom, is Jesus. These people have access to the vast riches of the kingdom of heaven, in this life and in the life to come. Whereas, the state of being of those who put their trust in someone/something else, is totally dependent on their immediate circumstances, and the rule of life that governs humanity disconnected from God: exploit or be exploited.

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How blessed. Greek makarios corresponds to Hebrew asher and means "blessed," "happy," and "fortunate" all at once, so that no one English word is adequate. There is much that is lost in translation if we fail to examine the scriptures based on the language that was spoken by the author. Matthew was a Jew and there is strong evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. To properly translate The Gospel of Matthew, one must do so from a Hebrew mindset.

  • 1
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'Blessed' in this context means 'happy.' In fact it's a little more than happy, as it would encompass being very joyful. Note how your last quoted verse actually answers the question: "12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...."

This is similar to how Psalm 1 (NKJV) uses 'blessed' in the same way (emphasis mine):

1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

He delights (takes joy in) in the law of the Lord.

And also how Psalm 32 (NKJV) uses it (emphasis mine):

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
7 You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.
9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.
10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;
But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

  • This is actually more to do with a different question: Happy or blessed in the Psalms? A different language, but see footnote 1 there. – Susan Dec 10 '15 at 15:53
  • It's more than just 'happy' since being happy is mostly a fleeting feeling based on current circumstances. 'Joyful due to being in the favor of God' would more more accurate. Pronouncing it as "bless-ed" (2 syllables) might help distinguish it from "blessed" (1 syllable), with the latter connoting mainly material increases (i.e. increase in wealth). – Bʀɪᴀɴ Dec 10 '15 at 16:14

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