The Beatitudes of Jesus contain wisdom from the ages that is not carried through in the English translation. If we spoke Aramaic, we might grasp more depth of meaning. Since the gospel reading for Sunday, Feb. 2 is the Beatitudes in Matthew, here is a segment from my book In Living Color: The Beatitudes.
A beatitude is a statement of blessings that will result from a person’s actions, often describing one aspect of maturation toward the common good. In literature as early as the Dead Sea scrolls, spiritual teachers used the “blessed are” phrase to instruct their students. Some scholars suggest that both Jesus and the apostle Paul quoted directly from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
This same phrase (“blessed are”) is found in the teaching of the Buddha who lived five centuries before Jesus. The Buddha delivered his own beatitudes on Elephant’s Head Mountain near Buddha Gaya.
Few people had contact with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Access was given only to initiates of the Essene community who were sworn to secrecy. (Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces Matt 7:6 NKJV). Jesus has been linked to this special community, having taught many things found in these scrolls.
What does the word blessed mean? Happy? Favored? Maybe. The word arises from an Aramaic and Hebrew root which means “that which is suited for its purpose, which is in the right timing and tune with divine reality.”
Other words for this concept include ripeness or maturity—one does the right thing at the right time, or one is coming to completion, resistant to the corroding effects of the world. Fragmented pieces of the soul are coming together as it discovers how and where it fits as part of the whole with God and all of creation.
As we progress in our development we discover our oneness with the Divine Reality, a concept that many people fail to understand. I know I don’t understand it fully. Yet I think it has something to do with New Testament passages like these (my underlinings):
“Do you not know that Christ is within you?” (2 Cor. 13:5 NRSV, 1989).
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts…” (Gal. 4:6 NKJV).
“. . .the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him for He dwells with you and He will be in you” (John 14:17 NKJV).
“But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9-11 NRSV, 1989).
“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because he has given us of His Spirit” (1 John. 4:13 NASB).
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16 NKJV).
“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He had testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:11 NKJV).
“I became [the church’s] servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:25-28 NRSV).
Maturing, ripening, coming to completion,
in harmony with the Divine, developing oneness,
favored, happy. . .
all these are possible ways of thinking of the word blessed.
© Paul W. Meier, In Living Color: The Beatitudes (references are noted in the book).