Those who are persecuted because of righteousness, are those who pursue righteousness: an examination of the origin and meaning Matthew 5:10 -- By: Charles R. Day

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 09:1 (Mar 2010)
Article: Those who are persecuted because of righteousness, are those who pursue righteousness: an examination of the origin and meaning Matthew 5:10
Author: Charles R. Day


Those who are persecuted because of righteousness, are those who pursue righteousness: an examination of the origin and meaning Matthew 5:10

Charles R. Day1

Abstract

Standard renderings of the eighth beatitude, Matthew 5:10, such as the NIV’s ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’, fail to convey the subtlety of Jesus’s point adequately. In Aramaic, that saying contains a pun based on the fact that the Hebrew/Aramaic word for ‘persecute’ also means ‘pursue’. The article begins by attempting to reconstruct the beatitude in Aramaic, and then draws on evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Targums to support the contention that Matthew 5:10 contains allusions to Deuteronomy 16:20 and Isaiah 51:1. The key to understanding and translating the beatitute lies in appreciating the double meaning of the Hebrew verb רָדַף, which helps us to appreciate that being persecuted for righteousness’ sake is the result of pursuing righteousness. The idea can best be captured in translation by paraphrasing the verse, such as ‘Blessed are those whose pursuit of what God requires causes them to become persecuted, for they receive the kingdom of heaven.’

1. Introduction

The beatitude of those persecuted for righteousness must be understood as an allusion to both Deuteronomy 16:20 and Isaiah 51:1. Jesus is making a pun based on the fact that the Hebrew/Aramaic word for ‘persecute’ also means ‘pursue’.

2. Reconstructing This Beatitude In Aramaic

Let us start by reconstructing the Greek text of Matthew 5:10 into Aramaic.

Greek:

μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

Aramaic:

טוּבִיהוֹן דִּרָדְפִין לְקוּשְׁטָא דְּדִלְהוֹן מַלְכוּתָא ד...

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