Here we go with the cheesemakers again. What I wanted to do was get my act together for Sunday School. Which I “teach.” And by “teach” I mean “keep the kids from burning down the building.” So what I do is get up early enough on Sunday to have time to figure something out to say. Not that one can get in a word edgewise with these kids, but you have to have something to fill in the gaps between Bieber references.
So what I do is look up whatever the gospel reading is going to be and think of pithy things to say about the passage. Seeing as how this week is the beatitudes, I sort of had a lock on it. “Well, when you are up there on the Mount of the Beatitudes you see blah blah blah ….” I was tired of me before I started. So it’s always interesting to see how any given passage is rendered in a different translation of the Holy Bibble.
So, I flip open the Kindle on iPod version of the Common English Bible. Low and behold, they render all the “Blessed are”s (that would be the multiple of “are” not a synonym for the butt) as “Happy are.” And I’m all like “OMG, G! What did they do to your sermon?” And I asked a friend who knows a thing or two about this translation and was referred to a blog post on the subject by the translator.
What it boils down to is this: Jesus is using the same figures of speech that Old Testament dudes would when they said things like “Happy is the person who takes out the garbage without being asked to do so.” (That’s in the book of Mother if you want to go look it up.) For those OTs, happiness — blessedness — was something dependent on human action. For Jesus, happiness or blessedness or worth — whatever you want to call it — is intrinsic but varied depending on one’s particulars.
Now, by rendering the passages as “Blessed are” implies a value coming from the outside. It implies this because it sounds like passive voice in English. Problem is, the gospels were written in Greek (another topic for another time.) In ancient Greek, there is really no such thing as the passive voice. It’s at best ambiguous whether or not the subject of a sentence participates in the action of the verb.
Furthermore, the verb in question, makarios, is one of many words in ancient Greek used to discuss the meaning of happiness. You may recall that the Greeks tended to talk a lot A LOT about what true happiness is. So the word “happy” is also ambiguous and much more encompassing than “self-gratification.”
Um, ok. But I’m not really sure why you are boring us with this crap on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Shouldn’t you be outside running or biking or at least not producing one extremely slow moving blog post?
No, wait! Here is the point: happiness doesn’t come from where we think it does. It’s not because of what we do that we are blessed, it’s because of who we are. Blessedness is not bestowed on us, it exists in us. The thing that stands between us and fulfillment is that we stand between us and our true self. Being spiritually destitute doesn’t mean I am screwed, it means that I’ve got a spiritual home to return to. But first I have to admit my poverty. And because the blessing is intrinsic, it’s not something I have to earn or that can be taken away.