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אשר : Μακάριοι : Blesseds

March 8, 2015

This morning, I’ve translated “the beatitudes” in the Hebraic Hellene gospel of Matthew into English.

Yesterday, and this is what got me going with the rendering today, I listened to Anthony Heald narrating Book One of the Iliad. He was reading aloud the brilliant English translation of the Greek by W. H. D. Rouse. And while listening to Heald (and Rouse), I was reading along in A. T. Murray’s English translation with Homer’s Greek original text.

Early enough (line 339), this is what I saw and heard:

πρός τε θεῶν μακάρων πρός τε θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων

blessed gods” and “mortal men”

And then again (406) and again (599):

μάκαρες θεοὶ

μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν

blessed gods”

blessed gods”

Do the Septuagint translators use this Hellene phrase this way? Well, it seems not. In fact, of the 20 uses of the Greek word translated “blessed” none is for God and all are for humans.

In Tobit (13:16), for example, there’s this:

αὶ μακάριοι πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι

And in 2 Chronicles (9:7), there’s this:

μακάριοι οἱ ἄνδρες μακάριοι οἱ παῖδές σου οὗτοι

And in the Greek translation of 1 Kings (10:8), there’s this very strange addition of women (not in the Hebrew text, which parallels the Hebrew of 2 Chronicles 9:7):

μακάριαι αἱ γυναῖκές σου μακάριοι οἱ παῖδές σου οὗτοι

There are no uses of this Greek word for the translation of the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses aka Torah aka (Nomos, the Law of Kyrios). But in the Psalmoi, we can find the phrase. And it’s repeated in poetic parallelisms so like the Hebrew text; here’s from the Hellene translation of one of the Psalms:

119:1  αλληλουια αλφ μακάριοι οἱ ἄμωμοι ἐν ὁδῷ οἱ πορευόμενοι ἐν νόμῳ κυρίου

119:2  μακάριοι οἱ ἐξερευνῶντες τὰ μαρτύρια αὐτοῦ ἐν ὅλῃ καρδίᾳ ἐκζητήσουσιν αὐτόν

At most, the references of “the blesseds” in the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures are in relation to Kyrios, and to the one God’s Law or instruction, and Kyrios (the LORD) translates here in the Psalms the tetragrammaton, יהוה. So humans, mortals, both men and women, and not G-d, are the “blesseds.” The happy Hebrew here is אשר [esher or ashar].

So Matthew writing in Greek has Jesus speaking Greek, beginning his famous sermon with the famous “beatitudes.” The Hebrew scriptures read in Hellene by that time have accustomed the Greek readers and audiences to thinking of the people of the Jewish God as the blesseds.

The Greek phrase blessed does not explicitly apply to The One G-d Himself, to Kyrios. In Homer, in the Iliad, in contrast, it blessed is the way the gods are described in contrast to the mortal human people.


And the people of the Hebrew scriptures are blessed because they are undefiled and are instructed in His ways and give testimony to Him and whole-heartedly follow His ways and seek Him.

This is the context in which one may come to the sermon on the mount of Matthew. Who are the blesseds?

Here, then, is Jesus speaking LXX (perhaps Homeric) Greek followed by my Englishing:




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