Matthew 5:8 #VOTD [Commentary + Memorization Tutorial Video]

Verse of the Day 11.21.17: Matthew 5:8

  1. Text
  2. C4C Translation
  3. Context
  4. Commentary
  5. Memorization

Text

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.1

8 μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ, ὅτι αὐτοὶ τὸν θεὸν ὄψονται.2





Translation

Blissful are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blissful (μακάριος | makarios)

I prefer “blissful” over “blessed.” Why? Though the word makarios is an adjective, it can be misunderstood as a participle. Participles, often used as verbal adjectives (e.g., the beaten path), frequently imply that that which the participles describe is the recipient of some action (e.g., the path has been beat, walked on continuously). By saying “blessed are the…,” I believe that one may, mistakenly, come away with the impression that whoever is blessed has been blessed because of what precedes the conjunction (ὅτι| hoti)3 instead of what follows the conjunction. That is, the pure in heart are blissful not because they are pure in heart, but because they will see God

In ancient Greco-Roman culture, beatitudes became a sort of genre. They commonly “extoll[ed] the fortune accruing to someone and… exalt[ed] [a] person on the basis or condition of the good fortune.”4 In that context, fortunate was the one who had wealth, wisdom, fame, honor, a good family, etc.5

Makarios, an adjective, pertains “to being happy, with the implication of enjoying favorable circumstances.”6 Paradoxically, however, Jesus claims that “blessed” are the “poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3), the mourners (Mt 5:4), and the meek (Mt 5:5). Someone can easily interpret this to mean that these groups of people are blessed (i.e., they have been blessed) because they are poor in spirit, mourning, and/or meek. Again, in my view, this is a poor reading of the passage.

In the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that the New Testament writers quoted and alluded to, makarios is the word used in many so-called wisdom texts that “commend a proposed path of goodness.”7 For example, in the very first Psalm, the one who does not follow the ways of the wicked but meditates on the instruction of the LORD is makarios (Psalm 1:1-6). Makarios is the one who takes refuge in the LORD (Ps 2:12), whose sins are forgiven (Ps 31:1-2), who trusts in the LORD (Ps 33:9, 83:12), etc.

In the New Testament, however, makarios is not necessarily associated with some sort of righteous action or virtue of the one who is makarios. Rather, it is more often associated with the righteous action of the Virtuous One who makes others makarios. That is, there is less emphasis on the circumstances that were traditionally extolled in the Greco-Roman world or in the Old Testament, and more emphasis on the promise of salvation8— the nearing kingdom of God (Mt 4:17).9 The happiness or blessedness that is being described in this passage is not so much based on antecedent favorable circumstance or favorable behavior, but on the favor of God.

Therefore, I believe “blissful” better conveys the idea of the adjective, makarios. For “bliss” is “a state of spiritual blessedness.”10

Pure in Heart (καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ | katharoi tē kardia)

The adjective katharos (like catharsis — “PURIFICATION, cleansing, expurgation, lustration, purgation”)11 means “clean, pure.”12 Though one’s “heart” is often merely the seat of one’s emotions in our society, in the Bible, the “heart,” kardia (like cardio, cardiology, etc.), is the “seat of physical, spiritual and mental life.”13 and “…the center or focus of personal life—the spring of all desires, moral choices, and behavioral trends.”14

The Greek expression “pure in heart” (καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ) may only appear once in the LXX (Ps 24:4 in English Bibles, 23:4 in the Septuagint). “Pure in heart” also appears in English translations in the psalm we reviewed yesterday, Psalm 73 (Ps 73:1).15

In any case, “pure in heart” is not merely about moral or sexual purity, but of utter, undivided devotion (i.e. love) to God (Dt 6:5).16

Context

Sermon on the Mount

This verse is a line from what is, most likely, the most famous sermon ever preached — The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus is probably teaching His disciples, and a crowd of potential disciples, from a mountainside  (Mt 5:1-2). The mountain motif is momentous in Matthew. Not only does Jesus teach from a mountain, but He is transfigured on a mountain (Mt 17:1-8), and gives the Great Commission from a mountain (Mt 28:16). The Jewish readers of the Gospel of Matthew will recall that Moses received the Law (Torah, meaning instruction) on a mountain (Exodus 19-24). Now, Jesus, “the new Moses, teaches the true meaning of the Torah for the prospective and current disciples on a mountain.”17

Sermon Outline

Scholars frequently structure the Sermon on the Mount as follows: Introduction (Mt 5:3-16), Body (Mt 5:17-7:12), and Conclusion (Mt 7:13-27). In the introduction, where the verse of the day is found, one can also find the major themes of the Sermon. These include (1) the proclamation of the Good News of the inbreaking Kingdom of God (“Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew, a circumlocution)18 to the marginalized who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt 5:6) and (2) the expectation of such marginalized peoples to become model citizens of God’s Kingdom.19

Beatitudes

The “Beatitudes” (Mt 5:3-12) comprise the first portion of the Introduction of the Sermon on the Mount. “Beatitude” is a translation of makarios from the Latin Vulgate20 (the Latin translation of the Bible started by Jerome in the late 4th century).21 Each of the nine beatitudes is a proclamation of the promised Kingdom of God.22

Most scholars divide the nine into three groups. The first four concern the state of the marginalized to whom the Kingdom of God is promised. The second four concern the righteous actions expected of those marginalized who are to be model citizens of the Kingdom (aside: interestingly, each section of four contains exactly 36 Greek words). The last beatitude serves as a hinge — a third-person (blessed are those, Mt. 5:10) to second-person shift (blessed are you, Mt. 5:11)– and  a segue into the second section of the Introduction (Mt 5:13-16).23

Seeing God

No one has truly “seen” God but His one and only Son (Jn 1:18). Throughout the Bible, the invisibility of the “face” of God is emphasized. For the LORD tells Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Ex 33:20). God is invisible (1 Tim 1:17, 6:16).24

Commentary

In this context, we read that blissful are those who are pure in heart — because they will see God. Once again, in my view, the pure in heart are not blessed because their hearts are pure. The pure in heart — those with unadulterated, undivided loyalty to God25— are blissful because they will see God.

Those who are pure in heart “exhibit a single-minded devotion to God that stems from the internal cleansing created by following Jesus.”26 As a result of such purity in heart, as in Ps 24:3-4, they will see — and fellowship with — God.27

Seeing God is a civil right reserved for those who live as citizens of the Kingdom of God, a promised privilege for members of the Kingdom of Heaven (Rev 22:4; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2).28

Memorization

Memorize Matthew 5:8 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

Sources

  1. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 5:8.
  2. Michael W. Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (Lexham Press; Society of Biblical Literature, 2011–2013), Mt 5:8.
  3. ὅτι…[a marker] of cause or reason, based on an evident fact—‘because, since, for, in view of the fact that’” Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 780.
  4. Friedrich Hauck and Georg Bertram, “Μακάριος, Μακαρίζω, Μακαρισμός,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 363.
  5. J. Nolland, “Blessing and Woe,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 87.
  6. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 301.
  7. J. Nolland, “Blessing and Woe,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 87. “The connection between religious happiness consisting in Yahweh’s favor and earthly happiness through the Creator’s gifts is basic in Heb. thought. The formula always solemnly ascribes well-being to persons…” Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 207.
  8. “Previously the Beatitudes were seen as a vehicle for setting out the virtues ordained by God for man, but now it is quite clear that phrases such as ‘poor in spirit’, ‘those that mourn’, ‘are meek’, ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ are merely different aspects of an attitude to the world nearing its close, an attitude of lasting patience and hope. It is not the virtues which are important so much as the promise of salvation  conveyed by the ‘blessed’ at the beginning as well as by the motive clause in the second half of each line” (Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition, 8).” Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 208–209.
  9. “A clear difference from the Gk. beatitudes is that all secular goods and values are now completely subsidiary to the one supreme good, the kingdom of God, whether it be that the righteous man may hope for this, is certain of it, has a title to it, or already has a part in it. The predominating estimation of the kingdom of God carries with it a reversal of all customary evaluations.” Friedrich Hauck and Georg Bertram, “Μακάριος, Μακαρίζω, Μακαρισμός,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 368.
  10. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  11. Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1996).
  12. Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 568.
  13. William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 508.
  14. Owen Rupert Brandon, “Heart,” ed. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 370.
  15. In the Old Testament, the pure in heart were “those in Israel whose hearts were ‘clean,’ or undefiled, those who recognized that God alone was their help and reward (Ps 73:2–28). The righteous would see God on the day of judgment (e.g., Is 30:20), as in the first exodus (Ex 24:10–11).” Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 5:8.
  16. R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 116.
  17. S-A Yang, “Sermon on the Mount/Plain,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 846.
  18. A circumlocution is “A rhetorical device…involving deliberate evasiveness in speech or writing, talking around a delicate subject rather than using straightforward references.” David Noel Freedman, ed., “Circumlocution,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1031. “We know that ‘heaven’ was frequently used as a circumlocution for “God” by devout Jews. Due to respect for the third commandment (“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God” [Exod. 20:7]), pious Jews used various circumlocutions for the sacred name of God (YHWH) in order to avoid the danger of breaking this commandment.” Robert H. Stein, “Kingdom of God,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 451.
  19. S-A Yang, “Sermon on the Mount/Plain,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 846-51
  20. S-A Yang, “Sermon on the Mount/Plain,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 846.
  21. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1722.
  22. S-A Yang, “Sermon on the Mount/Plain,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 846.
  23. and as a segue into the remainder of the Sermon  S-A Yang, “Sermon on the Mount/Plain,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 846.
  24. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 169.
  25. “‘Pure’ means unalloyed, unadulterated.” Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 91.
  26. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 100.
  27. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 100.
  28. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 169.
About @DannyScottonJr 168 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student