Friday, January 01, 2010


Matthew 5:6
(6)  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

(6) μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσονται.

This is one of those verses that I must have read a million times.  Well, figuratively anyway.  I've sung it in songs. I've thought about what it means.  Our innermost desire must be to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  If we do that then we will find satisfaction in Christ.

The Greek doesn't contradict that at all, but it does intensify it a bit.  These are present active participles.  To overtranslate this a bit would be to say something like, "Blessed are those who are regularly in a state of hungering and thirsting for righteousness."

In other words, this is one of those things that we should be doing continually.  How are you with this?  I know that I have times where I hunger and thirst after other things besides righteousness.  My prayer is that we would take this verse to heart and enjoy the blessings that follow.


tom sheepandgoats said...

I've long enjoyed the verse just before:

"Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them" Matt 5:3 NWT

We all have a spiritual need, but as with vitamins, we're not necessarily conscious of it. And again as with vitamins, ignore that need and our well-being deteriorates.

Other translations put it:
"....those who feel their spiritual need" Gspd

"they who sense spiritual poverty" Ber

"How blest are they that know they are poor" NEB

Not all translations mine the full potential of the verse. Some do as the NIV:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit" But the real impact lies not merely in being poor, but in knowing one is poor. Only then does one take steps to satisfy that poverty.

Jason said...

I think that the NWT maybe a little bit of an over-translation in this case. These are just two nouns: οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι. The first is the plural of poor. The second is a dative describing how they are poor (in spirit). To say that these are folks who "are those conscious of their spiritual need" is rather interpretive based on the text.

The NIV is just fine. The rest of the verse shows why the poor in spirit are blessed: ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. "The kingdom of the heavens" is strictly literal in this case, but I don't think that accounts for the idiom where "heaven" is usually written in the plural.

Based on my understanding of Greek, I'd stick with the ESV translation:

Matthew 5:3
(3) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I think that sticks more closely to the meaning of the Greek than the NWT and in my opinion reads better.