The Beatitudes

Ever since a co-worker mentioned to me back in the mid-1990s that in his opinion the traditional English translations of the Beatitudes had lost their power to inspire, I have been trying my hand off and on at producing a version in English that would capture the radical quality of Jesus’s teaching. Apparently, part of the difficulty in rendering them is that the Beatitudes challenged conventional wisdom so deeply during his life that very early attempts were made to tone down their message. Also, I’ve come to think that a certain element of Jesus’s humor was present in these words of encouragement to the destitute and abandoned. Perhaps what is hardest of all to accept in Jesus’s message is his belief that the most wretched members of society have somehow achieved a kind of angelic status, and that everyone should learn from them and in fact aspire to be poor. Far from fulfilling our obligation to give some support to the poor, we should give everything to them. In any case, here is one of my more recent attempts at rendering the anger, humor, and visionary quality of these teachings:

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Jesus said–

Blessed are the beggars; God has put his kingdom in your cup!

Blessed are the starving; God groans with your hunger!

Blessed are the miserable; God winks at you!

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Photo: The Seven Miracles; Author, Moros; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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  1. Sharon Sieben
    April 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I like the “beggars” and the “miserable” interpretations. Need to think more about the “starving”

    • April 7, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      Sharon: yes, i haven’t got the starving right yet; i’ve been pursuing the connection between the appearance of food in their empty bowls and the multiplication of the loaves. Maybe this isn’t the right tack. We’ll find out. Thx for your feedback! RT

  2. Emma
    April 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    What a worthwhile challenge! I’ve recently begun to think more about how much man’s interpretation and translation of the Bible has affected our ideas about Jesus and Christianity in general. It would be wonderful to have a translation that was as close to Jesus’ original ideas and intention as possible.

  3. April 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    emma: a gospel true to jesus has been the holy grail of christianity since the Reformation…many attempts, almost all based on the KJV (which in turn was based on the work of William Tynsdale). In the last several decades, the search for Jesus’s teachings has taken on new energy, and scholars now believe that the so-called “Q” gospel (based on the material that Matthew and Mark share) is the oldest writing in the gospels, and therefore the likeliest to have originated with Jesus. “The Lost Gospel” by Burton Mack gives an excellent account of the search for Jesus’s words, and a very careful and readable translation of the Q material. Anyway, it was by reading Mack’s book that I first got interested in the topic of recovering Jesus’s message. RT

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