Robertson's Word Pictures of the New TestamentMatthew 5:3
- Blessed (makarioi).
- The English word "blessed" is more exactly represented by the Greek verbal euloghtoi as in Luke 1:68 of God by Zacharias, or the perfect passive participle euloghmenov as in Luke 1:42 of Mary by Elizabeth and in Matthew 21:9. Both forms come from eulogew, to speak well of (eu, logov). The Greek word here (makarioi) is an adjective that means "happy" which in English etymology goes back to hap, chance, good-luck as seen in our words haply, hapless, happily, happiness. "Blessedness is, of course, an infinitely higher and better thing than mere happiness" (Weymouth). English has thus ennobled "blessed" to a higher rank than "happy." But "happy" is what Jesus said and the Braid Scots New Testament dares to say "Happy" each time here as does the Improved Edition of the American Bible Union Version. The Greek word is as old as Homer and Pindar and was used of the Greek gods and also of men, but largely of outward prosperity. Then it is applied to the dead who died in the Lord as in Revelation 14:13. Already in the Old Testament the Septuagint uses it of moral quality. "Shaking itself loose from all thoughts of outward good, it becomes the express symbol of a happiness identified with pure character. Behind it lies the clear cognition of sin as the fountain-head of all misery, and of holiness as the final and effectual cure for every woe. For knowledge as the basis of virtue, and therefore of happiness, it substitutes faith and love" (Vincent). Jesus takes this word "happy" and puts it in this rich environment. "This is one of the words which have been transformed and ennobled by New Testament use; by association, as in the Beatitudes, with unusual conditions, accounted by the world miserable, or with rare and difficult" (Bruce). It is a pity that we have not kept the word "happy" to the high and holy plane where Jesus placed it. "If you know these things, happy (makarioi) are you if you do them" (John 13:17). "Happy (makarioi) are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). And Paul applies this adjective to God, "according to the gospel of the glory of the happy (makariou) God" (1 Timothy 1:11. Cf. also Titus 2:13). The term "Beatitudes" (Latin beatus) comes close to the meaning of Christ here by makarioi. It will repay one to make a careful study of all the "beatitudes" in the New Testament where this word is employed. It occurs nine times here (3-11), though the beatitudes in verses 10 and 11 are very much alike. The copula is not expressed in either of these nine beatitudes. In each case a reason is given for the beatitude, "for" (oti), that shows the spiritual quality involved. Some of the phrases employed by Jesus here occur in the Psalms, some even in the Talmud (itself later than the New Testament, though of separate origin). That is of small moment. "The originality of Jesus lies in putting the due value on these thoughts, collecting them, and making them as prominent as the Ten Commandments. No greater service can be rendered to mankind than to rescue from obscurity neglected moral commonplaces " (Bruce). Jesus repeated his sayings many times as all great teachers and preachers do, but this sermon has unity, progress, and consummation. It does not contain all that Jesus taught by any means, but it stands out as the greatest single sermon of all time, in its penetration, pungency, and power.
- The poor in spirit (oi ptwxoi twi pneumati).
- Luke has only "the poor," but he means the same by it as this form in Matthew, "the pious in Israel, for the most part poor, whom the worldly rich despised and persecuted" (McNeile). The word used here (ptwxoi) is applied to the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16:20,22 and suggests spiritual destitution (from ptwssw to crouch, to cower). The other word penhv is from penomai, to work for one's daily bread and so means one who works for his living. The word ptwxov is more frequent in the New Testament and implies deeper poverty than penhv. "The kingdom of heaven" here means the reign of God in the heart and life. This is the summum bonum and is what matters most.
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 5:3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/rwp/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=005&verse=003>. Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960.