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English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

Image via Wikipedia

“Makarios” is the koine Greek word often translated as “blessed” in the famous Beatitudes from the Sermon of the Mount, a collection of the core message of Jesus. It is unfortunate that a passive, almost listless unpacking of the mysterious word “blessed” renders the equally inactive meanings of “happy” or “fortunate” – hence “happy are you who are poor, mourn, are persecuted…” Such translations lead to a kind of status quo mentality with little incentive to transform self or society.

One positive outcome of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was a fresh awareness of Aramaic, the language of Jesus and his contemporaries. Aramaic was the language of home and hearth in rural Galilee, koine Greek the universal Hellenistic language of the commercial world of the ancient Mediterranean, hence we have both.

The word translated “blessed” is much more active in Aramaic. It is translated variously as “Wake up! Get up!” Passive acceptance becomes a call to action. It seems much more in line with the message and modus operandi of the Jesus of the Gospels.

Abuna Elias Chacour, a constructive voice for peace in the Middle East,  is an active authority on the Aramaic tongue. An essay on his perspective can be seen here.

My next few posts are going to explore each of the Beatitudes from the perspective of a translation from the Aramaic.

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