The King of Stories -- The King Declares the Kingdom (Part 1 of 2)

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

This 'chapter' runs rather long, for obvious reasons (it's "the Sermon on the Mount", duh--except as it happens, it takes place neither on a 'Mount' nor on a 'Plain' as often labeled in Bibles!) so I've broken it into two entries. Scripture refs will be given at the end of Part 2.

The King Declares the Kingdom (Part 1 of 2)

Now they went together into a house (the Follower says, evidently meaning Jesus' house in Capernaum, after coming down from the mountain. This is probably to eat breakfast.)

Then, going down, He stood with them on a level place (says the Scholar), with a great throng of His disciples and crowds from all of Judea and Jerusalem and (even) the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon (northwest in southern Syria along the Mediterranean coast).

And Jesus told His disciples (says the Follower) that a boat should be standing ready for Him, so that He wouldn't be crowded by the people; for He had healed so many by now, that people with afflictions would fall on Him in order to touch Him and to be healed by the power coming out of Him (adds the Scholar)! And those who were being tormented by unclean spirits were (also being) cured.

Now turning His gaze upon His disciples, He opens His mouth and teaches them, saying:

"Happy be the poor in spirit, for you shall inherit God's great kingdom!

"Happy be the humble, for you shall be enjoying the allotment of the land!

"Happy be the mourners who lament, for you shall be consoled and shall be laughing!

"Happy be the ones who hunger and thirst for fair-togetherness; you shall be made full!

"Happy be the clean in heart, for you shall see the God!!

"Happy be the merciful, for you shall be shown mercy!

"Happy be the peacemakers, for you shall be called heir-children of God!

"Happy be those who are persecuted on account of fair-togetherness, for you shall have the kingdom of the heavens!

"Be happy when they damn and persecute you, falsely testifying, saying every wicked thing against you, for My sake! Be happy when men hate you and they cut you off, calling your name wicked for the Son of Man!

"On that day--leap around rejoicing! Look!--your wages in the heavens are immense!! For their fathers also persecuted prophets in this way before you!

"However... Rich, be wailing!--for this is all the consolation you already have!

"Be wailing those who now are filled, for you shall be in hunger!

"Be wailing, you who laugh now, for you shall lament and mourn!

"Be wailing whenever all men say fine things about you; for just this way their fathers treated prophets who were false!

"Do not infer from this that I have come to undermine the Law or Prophets; I came to fulfill them, not demolish them. I tell you truly: until the earth and heavens shall be passing away, the smallest stroke or letter of the Law shall not be passing away--until it all is finished.

"So, whoever is disintegrating one of the least of these instructions, teaching other people likewise, he shall be called least in the kingdom of God!

"Yet, whoever does and teaches (these instructions), shall be called great in the kingdom of God!

"For I tell you, unless your fair-togetherness super-exceeds the scribes and Pharisees, you absolutely shall not enter the kingdom of God!!

"You have heard that it was said to the ancients 'MURDER NOT', and 'Whoever murders, shall be guilty before the judging'.

"But I am saying to you, that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the judging; and whoever calls his brother 'Good-for-nothing!' shall be guilty before the Sanhedrin; and whoever even says 'You fool!' shall be guilty to the Gehenna of fire!

"Therefore, if you are putting forth your gift-offering at the altar (in the Temple), and remember your brother has any claim against you--go away! Leave your present there in front of the altar! First make reconciliation with your brother; then come back and offer your approach-present.

"Make friends quickly with the one who accuses you, while you are on the way (to court); so that your accuser may not deliver you up to the Judge, and the Judge give you over to the deputy, and you be cast into prison! Truly I tell you: by no means shall you be coming out from there, until you have paid the final cent!

"You have (also) heard that it was said 'ADULTER NOT'. But I am telling you, every man who looks upon a woman to lust for her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart!

"Now, if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away!--for it is better for you that part of your body should die and you should enter the kingdom of God with only one eye, than to be cast with two eyes into the flaming garbage dump!

"And if your foot is making you stumble, cut it off!--for it is better to enter life as lame, than to be thrown with both feet into the flaming garbage dump!

"And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away!--for it is better for you that part of your body should die and you enter the life of the kingdom of God as a cripple, than for your whole body to be cast with both hands into the flaming garbage dump!

"The lamp of the body is your eye. Therefore if your eye is whole, all your body will be filled with light; and if your body is full of light, with not a dark part in it, it shall be completely shining, as when the lamp is lighting you!

"But if your eye is evil, then all your body will be dark.

"If the light within you then is darkness, how great is that darkness! Beware that the light within you may not be darkness!

"You are the light of the world! A city set on a hill cannot be hidden! Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a measuring-basket!--but (rather) on the lampstand, and it gives the light to everyone in the house.

"Let your light shine before men, in such a way that they may see your deeds are good, and so be praising your Father in the heavens!

"Now--it was declared (in the Law, in Deuteronomy), 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a divorce certificate.'

"But I am telling you: everyone who dismisses his wife, outside a case of prostitution, makes her commit adultery! And whoever marries her when she has been dismissed is also committing adultery.

"Again, you have heard the ancients were told (in every book of the Law), 'You shall not falsely swear an oath, but shall fulfill your oaths to God.'

"But I am absolutely telling you not to swear!--neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is a footstool for His feet; nor toward Jerusalem, for it is (as the Psalmist says) 'The City of the Highest King'! Nor by your head should you be swearing--for you cannot make one hair to be white or black!

"But let your word be 'Yes, yes', 'No, no'. And excess of these is from the evil one.

"You have heard that it was said (again and again in the Law), 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'.

"But I tell you, do not withstand an evil person; to one who strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the other also. And if he takes away your shirt, then let him also have your cloak. And if someone compels you to go one mile, then go two with him.

"Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from those who want to borrow from you; and if someone takes your things away, do not demand them back.

"You have heard that it was said (in Leviticus of the Law), 'You shall love your neighbor' and hate your enemy (as the Law sometimes is interpreted).

"But I am telling those who hear: love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless the ones who curse you. Pray for those who persecute you. And just as you want people to do to you, do to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets!

"Now, if you love those who love you, what credit or reward is that to you? Aren't the traitors doing this, too!?

"And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?? Even sinners do the same!

"And if you greet your brother only, what are you doing more than others? Don't the pagans do that, too!?

"And if you lend to those from whom you seek repayment, how is this a credit to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be paid again!

"Beyond all this, then: love your enemies, and be doing good, and be lending, not despairing at all, expecting nothing in return; so that you may become heir-children of your Father in the heavens!

"And your reward in heaven will be vast, and you will be the children of the Highest; for He Himself is kind to evil and ungrateful people: He causes His sun to rise on the good and the wicked alike, and makes it rain on the fair and on the unfair!

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who has become perfected will be like his teacher.

"Become, then, merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"Therefore, you shall be perfect, as your Father in the heavens is perfect.

"Now, do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not damn, and you will not be damned; set free, and you will also be set free. Give and it will be given to you: a good measuring, pressed down, shaken together and running over, they will pour into your lap (as from the fullest possible measuring basket). For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return.

"Do not be judging--lest you be judged! For by your standard of judging shall you be judged!”

And He spoke a parable to them, saying, “A blind one cannot lead a blind one--will they not both fall in a ditch?!

"So why do you look at the speck in the eye of your brother, but you do not notice the log sticking out of your own!?

"Or how will you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out this speck in your eye...' and behold!--the log is in your own eye!

"You hypocrite! First remove your own log out of your eye!--then you may see clearly enough to take out the speck from your brother's eye."

[Next time: the morning preaching continues--and a minor character returns, leading to some trouble!]


BK said…
I find it interesting that you translated the word used in the beatitudes which has been translated as "blessed" in most versions as "happy". While I agree "happy" is an appropriate translation, I'm not sure it is a better translation.

Today's version of "happiness" is mere contentment. I am happy ("content") when I get home, eat dinner and turn on the game on television. The Biblical term seems to me to have more depth to it because certainly those who are suffering are not happy in the sense of being content. The Biblical word must mean something more worthwhile than mere happiness.

Do you see what I'm talking about? Do you think that a better word may have been appropriate?
Jason Pratt said…
Actually, the verb involved is "Be happy", though I inverted the English word order to try to emphasize the contrast between the expected emotion. It isn't a static state, but one that requires a certain intentional change of attitude--and a very challenging change.

This challenge to the listener to actually make a change of attitude (somewhat similar to the metanoia of repentence) is implied in the extreme contrasts involved; and more explicitly 'a fortioried' when it comes to leaping around and rejoicing when people "damn and persecute you, falsely testifying, saying every wicked thing against you, being cut off and your name called wicked". People don't passively leap around rejoicing. {g} (Also, I did put the English word order for the verb back into its normal form for that climactic Beatitude, because the action involve is ramped up poetically in the "leap around rejoicing" part.)

The other great place in the Beatitudes where the expected emotional contrast is maximized--and this is important for other reasons, too--is in the Beatitude about the mourners/those who lament. (GosMatt puts it one way; GosLuke puts it the other. I combined the two for emphasis sake, and also as part of my experiment for checking to see how far differences could reflect different partial remembrances.) The person who mourns is supposed to be cooperating with God in the fulfillment of the blessing: God is the one Who shall console them ('shall be consoled', passively receiving the action), the result being that they shall be laughing. But as is typically the case elsewhere, God is calling forth the active cooperation of the person even in this.

That doesn't mean God won't do X until we do Y--the Beatitudes don't say "Be happy so that God will console you." There's always a "for" involved as a ground to consequent. Though on the other hand, the descriptives do often imply a correlative action on the part of the hearer: those who are merciful and who make the peace are obviously doing something themselves. (The hungering and thirsting for fair-togetherness is more strongly put, too, than I can render it in English; it's an active hunger, like an animal in the desert seeking water and food. I rejiggered the blessing order there from the texts, to present that pair of blessings as a logical progression: those who are made full of fair-togetherness, i.e. 'righteousness', are obviously going to be cleaned in their heart as a result. Their hearts will even be 'circumcised', poetically speaking. {g} The clean in heart shall see "ho theos".)

The contrast to expected action on our part is mirrored in the Lukan woes. Jesus didn't simply go around elsewhere pronouncing curses on people; He was always trying to call sinners to repentence. The verb forms here represent that: be wailing. An action is being called for from those whom God shall be cursing; similarly an action is being called for from those whom God will be blessing.

But the action is highly important in context with the Beatitudes (per se): for what is Jesus exhorting those-who-will-be-cursed to do?

Mourn and lament! (Except in a stronger phraseology.)

What is God's promise to those who will mourn and lament? They will be consoled and shall be laughing. For that reason they are also encouraged to go ahead and be happy now for the sake of what is coming for them.

It isn't merely 'laughing' that God is against in the Woes, of course. The larger context has to be taken into account: God is calling for repentance from our sins. If I am "filled", but am not filled with fair-togetherness, then what am I filled with? Unfairness. I need to be "in hunger". And God is going to make sure I get that!--one way or another. I ought to be wailing because I am not filled with fair-togetherness; but if God acts to make sure that hunger comes upon me, the first result will be that I am wailing with that hunger. As a son of God, with the dignity of causality, I ought to go ahead and be anticipating that with an active repentance, represented by an active wailing. It's going to come to wailing sooner or later, for my own good as well as for the good of the people I'm in contact with.

It's a development arc into hope--into God's own hope; but it isn't going to be a fun experience. When a selfish person (I can speak from experience {g}) is freezing to death from refusal to be in the light, it's a mercy to be given the light and heat but (extending the analogy) that light and heat bringing life to the person stings like thousands of red-hot needles at first.

The main protagonist in my series of novels, Portunista Athalia, is a person going through this kind of experience. It hurts horribly, and she resents it. (In Book 3, while summarizing in dream imagery her life up through the end of Book 2, she uses the hypothermia parallel I just gave, too.) She could be accepting the happiness and the gifts that are being given to her, but (as she puts it near the end of Book 1) she wants to take:

"Was I grateful? Did I receive my new opportunities, acting upon them?


I was resentful.

And I took those new opportunities, acting upon them.

And that makes all the difference."

Knoch notes concerning the term, "joyousness springing from within, in contrast with 'blessed' which is the expression of the good opinion by others. [e.g.] God is happy in Himself and is blessed by all who know Him."

Some other uses (some obvious, some less so): those who invite the poor in Luke 14:14 are exhorted to be happy. Those not perceiving and yet who believe in John 20:29. Those who are pardoned in Rom 4:7. Who suffer and are being reproached, in 1Peter 3:14 and 4:14 (respectively). My own personal favorite {g}, those who rinse their robes in the river of life flowing out of the never-closed gates of the New Jerusalem, thereby obtaining permission to enter the city and eat of the tree of life the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:14). Many other uses outside the Matt/Luke Beatitudes. (A recent use in the harmonization is the gentle rebuke to JohnBapt about expectations of the Messiah: Happy is the one who has no trouble getting over this.)

This is one of the words based (though a bit obscurely) on {chara}, the word for joy. I could have translated it with some active form of joy, but there was an even stronger version of this at the end of the Beatitudes already (leap around rejoicing), so I wanted to build up to it.

Anyway: the point is a challenge to be happy in situations where we are not in fact content. And to be wailing in situations where we are content but not in the right way!--which is just as much of a challenge and speaks directly to Western material contentment. (Though that kind of contentment existed in all ages, just less spread around. Capitalism has been good to the world. {s!})

I'd be glad to translate the word some other way, but it would have to be some way that (a.) gets across the call to cooperative action with (and in response to) God, and (b.) sets up the unexpected emotional contrasts involved. Any ideas?

Jason Pratt said…
Relatedly: did you notice the weird grammar of the first wailing?

"Rich, be wailing!--for this is all the consolation you already have!"

That clause after "be wailing" is tough to translate. I tried to put in the interesting parts while leaving it a bit ambiguous and confusing; but there's a narrative-logic solution inherent in it, too. It isn't the riches of the rich which are their 'only' consolation (though that's one way to interpret it, with cutting counter-expectation irony--also the typical way of translating it, of course.) It's the wailing which is their only (real) consolation; and that wailing is already on the way. They'd better be going out to meet it (so to speak).

This implicitly adds a layer of extra complexity (and interestingosity {g}) to the standard description of the darkness outside: the wailing is there, and the gnashing of teeth. Teeth-gnashing is an image of unrepentant anger; but wailing implies real sorrow--and God has hope for that.

Consequently, it's highly important (but often utterly unnoticed) that the cursings are exhortations to be wailing. Jesus doesn't exhort them to be gnashing their teeth, by contrast. There's a reason for that: He'd be exhorting them to keep being rebels and bad children. Those who sorrow, though, shall be comforted; and no one (in the long run) is going to sorrow more than the wicked. Except maybe God. {s}

(This point is made so extremely often in the OT, typically in regard to Israel, the archetypal rebellious bride/son, that I suspect the implications are overlooked out of sheer overfamiliarity. Or maybe because people get an idea that Israel has special privileges as sinners that other sinners don't have...)

Jason Pratt said…
I think the main reason people translate it passively, is because there isn't really a verb in the sentence; the noun isn't even verbified (I think). It's just plural {makarioi}. It could be taken as an absolute state, perhaps: the poors == the happies. The active-verb implication is (in my translation) derived primarily from the parallel with the "leap around rejoicing"; that can't be an absolute state.


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