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Most early literal translators chose Happy instead of Blessed in the beatitudes, Matthew 5. Even the earliest English versions used Eadige meaning Happy, and then in the 14th century, Wycliffe seems to have started the trend with Blessed. I am intrigued to know some translation analysis. Which is the more suitable word for Μακάριοι makarios Strong's #3107 makarios. Those writing "Happy" are the translations like Emphatic Diaglot (1864) Those literal translators must have solid reasons to go against the tide. Matthew 5:3

YLT(1862) 3 `Happy the poor in spirit—because theirs is the reign of the heavens.

JuliaSmith(1876) 3 Happy the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of the heavens.

Rotherham(1872) 3 Happy, the destitute, in spirit; for, theirs, is the kingdom of the heavens;

WestSaxon990(i) 3 Eadige synt þa gastlican þearfan. forþam hyra ys heofena rice;

WestSaxon1175(i) 3 Eadige synde þa gastlice þearfan. forþan hyora is heofena riche.

Wycliffe(1382) 3 Blessed ben pore men in spirit, for the kyngdom of heuenes is herne.

STRONGS NT 3107: μακάριος

μακάριος, μακαρία, μακάριον (poetic μάκαρ) (from Pindar, Plato down), blessed, happy: joined to names of God, 1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:15 (cf. μακαρες Θεοί in Homer and Hesiod); ἐλπίς, Titus 2:13; as a predicate, Acts 20:35; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14; ἡγοῦμαι τινα μακάριον, Acts 26:2; μακαραριος ἐν τίνι, James 1:25. In congratulations, the reason why one is to be pronounced blessed is expressed by a noun or by a participle taking the place of the subject, μακάριος ὁ etc. (Hebrew פְּ אַשְׁרֵי, Psalm 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:29, etc.) blessed the man, who etc. (Winer's Grammar, 551 (512f)): Matthew 5:3-11; Luke 6:20-22; John 20:29; Revelation 1:3; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:14; by the addition to the noun of a participle which takes the place of a predicate, Luke 1:45; Luke 10:23; Luke 11:27; Revelation 14:13; followed by ὅς with a finite verb, Matthew 11:6; Luke 7:23; Luke 14:15; Romans 4:7f; the subject noun intervening, Luke 12:37, 43; Luke 23:29; James 1:12; μακάριοι ... ὅτι, Matthew 13:16; Matthew 16:17; Luke 14:14; followed by ἐάν, John 13:17; 1 Corinthians 7:40. (See Schmidt, chapter 187, 7.)

BDAG "privileged recipient of divine favor" for makarios seems inconsistent when used for God. The context doesn't show any divine favor but the state of heart or mind, from favor or because of a reward.

On the other hand, (εὐλογέω) eulogeó is more suitable for praising, consecrating and saying praise, and thanks for the food. Eulogeo pertains more to blessing [Vine's dict.], praise, benediction, as a rewarding act to the one receiving. Jesus used makarios which pertains to the state of mind, not the blessing, praising in reward sense, being fortunate, as the verse 12 concludes "Rejoice (chario) and be exceedingly glad (aggalliao: to leap or jump for joy), because your reward is great in heaven." He is not saying they are fortunate, but happy but rather should be happy. The contrast is made with the sad state of spirit of the suffering, miserable, humble & downtrodden with happiness and cheerfulness because of their future reward in heaven. Also, he is not describing their state, this maybe the reason the literal ones remove the present tense verb are.

It may rather be "be happy". If you are insulted for the name of Christ, be happy; because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1Peter 4:14) SLT has "ye happy".

What is the defense given for Happy? If that's the right word, shouldn't we prefer this translation today? Did Wycliffe or others introduce "Bless" rendering, changing it to overlap with happiness? Bless seems to have evolved and included a secondary sense of happiness after Wycliffe. Some say "happy" is trivializing maybe due to emotional attachment, but maybe its meaning has been trivialized with tradition. Some argue that eudaimon should've been used if they wanted to say "happy", which has a very different meaning from happiness (I guess something like a gifted genius and/or having made a deal with the devil or good devil spirit for his virtue or affluence), and it isn't even used in the Bible. Kindly give some translation analysis for the most suited word, don't write interpretation and doctrines and opinions when I am looking strictly for translation arguments. When using just a few Greek words, try to add transliteration.

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  • Blessed comes from bliss.
    – Lucian
    May 22 at 18:19
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In hebrew, the verb "to bless", does not mean "to make happy", neither does it mean "to praise". It comes from the root meaning "to kneel". From the same root we get "greet" and "bless" (TDOT). This is a powerful image that explains much of the import. E.g. in the Ancient Near East, there are greeting ceremonies involving humbling yourself and offering gifts, as well as "saying a good word" or blessing, to those who have arrived. The good word is some kind of prediction "may your shoes never wear out", "may you have many sons", "may the rain be plentiful". This is what the blessing is, except in the Bible we are interested in divine blessings -- blessings that carry God's weight and are true, not just empty talk. Thus when the scriptures say that someone was blessed, they were blessed with a real blessing, something that will come true because it is a divine promise.

Thus to bless refers to granting of a divine favor which is a certain fate (and in some cases, a curse) (BDAG). Blessing and cursing are mirror images and often the word b-r-ch is translated as both bless and curse into english depending on the context.

There is great ceremony and tradition about this, e.g. God blessed man saying "be fruitful and multiply". Jacob went to great lengths to receive Esau's blessing and fought with the Angel, demanding "bless me!" before he would let him go. To bless someone was a big deal. It was not like saying "thank you" or like we say "bless you" after a sneeze today. The giving of the blessing had spiritual weight and referenced someone's fate.

The noun "blessing" refers to the divine favor itself whereas "blessed" refers to someone who has been given the blessing, with the grantor of the blessing ambiguous, but generally this is an example of the Divine passive. God gave the blessing.

Thus we say things like "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" to mean that someone who comes in the name of the Lord has been given divine favor.

It was because of the sermon on the mount that we regularly now say "bless you" as a type of thank you or use this word casually, without any of the spiritural import. This is to be expected as languages change, but in the arena of Biblical exegesis, we should try to understand the meaning of the word as intended by the author. In today's world, "curse" means to use a bad word, but we should not use that definition in exegesis.

Back to the sermon on the mount, when Jesus said "blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth", it meant that God has ordained for the meek a divine favor or fate, namely to inherit the earth. Just like God had ordained to man a divine favor to be fruitful and multiply. The feelings of the meek do not enter into this verse anywhere. The verse is not saying "You (the meek) should feel good because you will inherit the earth". Otherwise sentences like "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" don't make much sense. The meaning is "God has granted a divine favor and fate to those who mourn, which is that they will be comforted". It does not mean "happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted". If they were happy, then they would not be mourning. The happiness has to come after the mourning, so now they are mourning, but with a promise, that promise is God's blessing to them now, in the midst of their mourning.

Now having said that, it could be that one of the intended effects of being given a blessing was that the recipient should feel better. That is, they should feel comforted, thankful, grateful, less afraid, etc -- because they received the blessing. But that does not mean that the definition of the blessing is emotional in nature, or that the blessing itself is just a feeling.

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  • Thank you. Very insightful. Can you say a word or two on phrases such as blessed be the Lord?
    – Austin
    Aug 3 at 1:55
  • I've for a while thought, fortunate would be a good alternative translation. We just don't have words or ready made frames of reference for the concepts you discuss.
    – Austin
    Aug 3 at 1:57
  • @Austin When God is the object, it means "praise". There is an interesting history where originally people were praising and recommending to God to bless someone else, and then over time that turned into blessing God full stop, with just the praise part. But this history is speculative -- TDOT has details.
    – Robert
    Aug 3 at 3:47
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https://biblehub.com/topical/b/blessed.htm

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia BLESSED bles'-ed (barukh): Where God is referred to, this word has the sense of "praise," as in 1 Samuel 25:32, "Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel." But where man is in mind it is used in the sense of "happy" or "favored," and most frequently so in the Psalms and the Gospels, as for example, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked" (Psalm 1:1); "Blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:42); "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3).

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