In Christianity, the Beatitudes are the set of teachings by Jesus that begin "Blessed are...", and appear in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The term beatitude comes from the Latin adjective beātitūdō which means "happy", "fortunate", or "blissful". In the Vulgate (Latin), the book of Mathew titles this section Beatitudines, and "Beatitudes" was anglicized from that term.
The Beatitudes describe eight blessings in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, "cryptic, precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme". Four of such "blessings" also appear in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke, and are followed by four woes that mirror the blessings.
Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on a spirit love and humility different in orientation than the usual force and exaction taken. They echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality, and compassion.
While opinions may vary as to exactly how many distinct statements into which the Beatitudes should be divided (ranging from eight to ten), most scholars consider them to be only eight. These eight of Matthew follow a simple pattern: Jesus names a group of people normally thought to be unfortunate and pronounces them blessed.
- ...the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)
- ...those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
- ...the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
- ...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be satisfied. (5:6)
- ...the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
- ...the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
- ...the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
- ...those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
In verses , the eight Beatitudes are followed by what is often viewed as a commentary—a further clarification of the eighth one with specific application being made to the disciples. Instead of referencing third-person plural "they", Jesus changes to second-person "you":
- Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Beatitudes unique to Matthew are the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, and the peacemakers. The other four have similar entries in Luke, but are followed almost immediately by "four woes".
- ...who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
- ...who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
- ...you who weep now, for you will laugh.
- ...when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of man.
Verse 23—"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets".—seems parallel to the commentary in Matthew 5:11-12 which reads, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you".
The four woes that follow these in Luke 6:24–26 each begins with:
Woe to you...:
- ...who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
- ...who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
- ...who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
- ...when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
The fourth "woe" in verse 26 may be parallel to the commentary in Matthew 5:11-12.
Analysis and interpretation
Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. In almost all cases the phrases used are familiar from an Old Testament context, but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus elevates them to new levels and teachings. Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction. They echo the highest ideals of Jesus' teachings on spirituality and compassion.
The term the meek would be familiar in the Old Testament, e.g., as in Psalms 37:11. Although the Beatitude concerning the meek has been much praised even by some non-Christians such as Mahatma Gandhi, some view the admonition to meekness skeptically. Friedrich Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morals considered the verse to be embodying what he perceived as a slave morality.
In Christian teachings, the Works of Mercy, which have corporal and spiritual components, have resonated with the theme of the Beatitude for mercy. These teachings emphasize that these acts of mercy provide both temporal and spiritual benefits. The theme of mercy has continued in devotions such as the Divine Mercy in the 20th century.
The peacemakers have been traditionally interpreted, not only live in peace with others but do their best to promote friendship among mankind and between God and man. St. Gregory of Nyssa interpreted it as "Godly work", which was an imitation of God's love of man.
Occurrence in other religious texts
Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit 'who come unto me,' for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (3 Nephi 12:3).
And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled 'with the Holy Ghost' (3 Nephi 12:6).
Blessed the soul that hath been raised to life through My quickening breath and hath gained admittance into My heavenly Kingdom.
The Qur'an never quotes the Bible except for Q:21:105 which resembles Psalm 25:13 referred to in Matthew 5:5; but the Qur'an uses "righteous" rather than "meek". However, the Qur'an (e.g., "say the word of humility and enter the gate of paradise") and some Hadith (e.g., "My mercy exceeds my anger") contain some passages with somewhat similar tone, but distinct phraseology, from the Beatitudes.
The Bhagavad Gita, and the traditional writings of Buddhism (e.g., some of the Mangala Sutta) have been interpreted as including teachings whose intentions resemble some of the messages of Beatitudes (e.g., humility and absence of ego), although their wording is not the same.
- Community of the Beatitudes
- Divine Mercy
- Life of Jesus in the New Testament
- Mount of beatitudes
- Sermon on the Mount
- Sermon on the Plain
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