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Hebrew in Greek

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10Matthew 5:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

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Persecuted – Matthew writes with Hebrew idioms, not Greek concepts.  Sometimes the difference between these two worldviews makes all the difference in our translations into English.  When it does, we often discover that entire doctrines point in the wrong direction.

Let’s take apart this English (Greek) statement and see what we find.  First, we know that the Greek predicate adjective makarios (blessed) is properly the Hebrew ‘esher (see any number of the Psalms).  This is a statement about a state of bliss, not a blessing from God.  The Beatitudes are not spiritual formulae for getting God’s favor.  They are descriptions of those who enjoy heavenly bliss.  In other words, I don’t get something by being persecuted (or poor in spirit, or merciful, or pure in heart, etc.).  God doesn’t reward me with a slice of the pie for all my good efforts.  These “blessings” are really descriptions of the state of well-being of those who already exhibit the characteristics that reflect godliness.  So, we can begin correcting this translation by rewriting it like this:  “A state of bliss [describes] those who . . .”  Who what?

The only verb here is dioko.  It means “to  persecute, to pursue, to prosecute.”  These synonyms may all be seen in a negative light, except for “pursue.”  Pursue can be either a good thing or a bad thing.  This variation shows up in the Hebrew equivalent term, radaph (e.g. Exodus 15:9Exodus 15:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. destroy: or, repossess  

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).  The LXX uses the Greek dioko for the Hebrew radaph – to pursue, not to persecute.  So, Matthew’s recounting of Yeshua’s statement is not about persecution.  It is about pursuing.  “A state of bliss [describes] those who are pursuing righteousness.”  Now the rest of the sentence makes perfect sense.  Those who pursue righteousness are experiencing the kingdom as a present reality.

Of course, we need to make some corrections to the very odd Greek phrase “for theirs is the kingdom.”  Even Greek scholars recognize that this phrase cannot be taken at face value.  Why?  Because no follower actually gets a piece of the kingdom.  The kingdom is the reign and rule of God.  It is not subject to legal partitioning.  It can’t be subdivided.  In fact, the Greek expression literally says, “for because of them the kingdom is.”  In other words, in perfect Hebrew parlance, pursuing the kingdom actually brings about the kingdom.  The kingdom is because there are those who pursue righteousness and because they pursue righteousness, they can be described as experiencing a state of bliss.

You have to be thinking in Hebrew to get it, don’t you?  Does this make you wonder how many conclusions drawn from the Greek text might need to be reconsidered?


LXX  – is the “Septuagint Commentary” which is the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament

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