by Rex Rouis
As a Christian, I have always had a slightly negative feeling and a suspicion toward the concept of happiness. Happiness seemed shallow, too temporary, a little too worldly. I remember the phrase (but not where it came from), “Happiness comes from things; joy comes from the Lord.” Surely, we do not want to gauge our lives on mere happiness and lose track of the great eternal depth of God’s purpose. Life is way too serious for simple happiness. And of course, being blessed is better than being happy.
Well, then I saw the Greek word commentary from the great A.T. Robertson on Matthew 5:3. As you recall this section of scripture is called the Beatitudes and is the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is the greatest sermon ever delivered. In it, Jesus used the word ‘Blessed’ over and over. Or did He?
The Greek word in Matthew 5:3 (makarioi) is usually translated ‘Blessed’ but is an adjective that actually means “happy,” which in English etymology goes back to hap, chance, good luck as seen in our words haply, hapless, happily, happiness. “Blessedness is, of course, considered an infinitely higher and better thing than mere happiness” – Weymouth. And because of this, English has thus ennobled “blessed” to a higher rank than “happy.” But “happy” is what Jesus said. Most translations use the more religiously acceptable ‘blessed’ but several translations use the word ‘happy.’
Happy, the poor in spirit — because theirs is the reign of the heavens. Matthew 5:3 Young’s Literal Translation
Happy, the destitute, in spirit; for theirs, is the Kingdom of the heavens. Matthew 5:3 Rotherham
Happy are the poor in spirit: for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3 Bible in Basic English
Happy are those who know their spiritual need; the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3 The Translators New Testament
But “happy” is what Jesus said.The English word “blessed” is more exactly represented by the Greek verbal (eulogˆtoi) as in Luke 1:68, of God by Zacharias, or the perfect passive participle (eulogˆmenos) as in Luke 1:42 of Mary by Elizabeth, and in Matthew 21:9. Both forms come from (euloge), to speak well of (eu, logos).
Jesus takes this word “happy” and puts it in this rich environment. It is a pity that we have not kept the word “happy” to the high and holy plane where Jesus placed it.
If you know these things, happy (makarioi) are you if you do them. John 13:17
Happy (makarioi) are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29
And Paul applies this adjective to God:
…according to the gospel of the glory of the happy (makariou) God” I Timothy 1:11
…waiting for our happy (makariou) hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ Titus 2:13
This Greek word (makarioi) is used in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures edited by seventy Jewish scholars around 300-200 BC. The New Testament writers relied heavily on the Septuagint, as a majority of Old Testament quotes cited in the New Testament are quoted directly from the Septuagint. In it, the word (makarioi) is used to translate a Hebrew phrase meaning, “Oh, the happiness of _____!” In the Old Testament, happiness related chiefly to earthly goods (prosperity, riches, honor, etc.); in the New Testament to the deep fulfillment of those who belong to God’s Kingdom. Christian happiness is not a shallow thing; it is designed to stand the test of eternity. There is nothing wrong with simple happiness.
Happy are the guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Revelation 19:9b