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What are the Beatitudes?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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The Beatitudes are statements made by Jesus Christ, as recorded in part by the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke’s list of beatitudes is shorter, and he attributes the statements to the Sermon on the Plain. Matthew’s record is from the Sermon on the Mount and is a more extensive list of the words said to have been spoken by Christ. The term beatitude comes from the Latin beatus, which translates as blessed. Even non-Christians may be familiar with the list Jesus gives which begins with “Blessed are...” This is also sometimes translated as “Happy are...”

Some argue over whether there are eight or nine beatitudes, and most biblical scholars conclude that not all work from these sermons was completely original. The idea that the meek shall inherit the earth is present in Psalm 37, verse 11: “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Others of the beatitudes can be cross-referenced with Old Testament Scripture.

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There are so many interpretations of the Beatitudes that there is not one clear and all-encompassing interpretation that would satisfy every sect of Christianity, and some non-Christians have occasionally viewed these as a means of indoctrinating people toward suffering in this life, and as such, enslaving them. This is certainly a Marxist view, and was also voiced by Nietzsche. Some believe that initially, by praising what seemed difficult, meek, humble, or peaceful, the attempt by Christ was to shock the audience, to shift them out of the perspective that the best things in life to attain were worldly things. The verses still trouble some to come up with adequate interpretations, though certainly, numerous theologians have repeatedly tried, and are well satisfied with their understanding of these verses.

In Matthew, the following is a summary of the beatitudes listed. Blessed are:

    The poor (or poor in spirit), theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Mourners (those who are weeping), they shall be comforted (or ye shall laugh).
    Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (or the hungry), they shall be filled (or satisfied).
    People persecuted for righteousness, (or followers of the Sons of Man), theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    The meek shall inherit the earth.
    The merciful will obtain mercy.
    The pure of heart will see God.
    The peacemakers will be called the children of God.

The first four of these are listed in both Luke and Matthew and the second four exist in Matthew only. There is also discussion of a ninth beatitude, which exists in both Matthew and Luke. This is again Jesus’ words when he states that people who are accused falsely, hated or persecuted because of their faith in Jesus will have great heavenly reward.

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