“Exegetes,” or professional biblical interpreters, sometimes call Matthew 5-7 the gospel in a nutshell. This particular pericope is traditionally known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus speaks to a crowd of people, laying out who they are according to the standards used in the Kingdom of God. The people gathered are all the “wrong” kind of people according to the status quo, yet Jesus teaches how God identifies them quite differently.
The passages in 5: 3-12 feature the Greek word “makarioi,” often translated in English as “blessed.” There Jesus identifies the people’s status as rendered in the current regime v. what the kingdom has in store for them: “makarioi…for you shall…” But “blessed” is kind of a strange word for us. What do we mean when we say, “God bless you!”, “Bless your heart!”, or”bless your food!”? It is not only a peculiar word in our context, but we know that its sitz im leben is already something different than contemporary theological framings of the term, even in Christian settings.
Textual critics have experimented with a number of different translations for the Greek term, including:
- “God Blesses”…the New Living Translation (adding God and changing the tense).
- “You’re blessed”… Eugene Peterson’s The Message (a paraphrase rather than a formal translation).
- “Happy”… the Good News Bible/Today’s English Version (a translation not uncommon in non-biblical settings).
- “Congratulations” … the Scholar’s Version (an unconventional choice that tries to capture the semantic or meaning at play in the contrast).
As you try to read these verses within the context of Matthew and what you know of the sitz im leben, what do these translations help you understand about the complexity of the “good” news? What issues, concerns, or questions do they bring?
Spend ~350 words reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount in preparation for our discussion.