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"Blessed" or "Happy"


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#1 Jane Lev Ron

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 05:11 PM

I live in Israel and when I go to Capernaum or the Mt. of Beatitudes I always wonder why the Sermon on the Mount, in English is translated: Blessed are..., and in Hebrew it is: Happy are...

I think the different translations are significant. Can someone explain this?

In Christ,

Ioanna

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 02 January 2010 - 11:10 PM.
Removed extraneous formatting


#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 08:38 PM

I live in Israel and when I go to Capernaum or the Mt. of Beatitudes I always wonder why the Sermon on the Mount, in English is translated: Blessed are..., and in Hebrew it is: Happy are...

I think the different translations are significant. Can someone explain this?

In Christ,

Ioanna


Dear Ioanna,

'Blessed' is translated from the Greek of St Matthew's Gospel (Mt 5:3-12): makarioi. I cannot say for certain what this means but the Slavonic 'blazhenii' certainly means blessed.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 02 January 2010 - 11:11 PM.
removed extraneous formatting


#3 Ben Johnson

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 09:28 PM

Difficult to say. I looked at a Hebrew translation on-line, and it uses the word "Ashrer," which means "happy of." It could be that "ashrei" means a happy state coming from the inside and a blessed state, coming from God, whereas the Hebrew baruch (blessed) just means one who is blessed by God. Just a guess.

Ben

#4 Owen

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 09:31 PM

There are two Greek words commonly translated "blessed": evlogitos/evlogomenos and makarios. The former carries the notion that someone has "put a good word" on someone/thing; the latter implies "in a state of bliss, freed from evil."

#5 Ben Johnson

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 11:00 PM

OOps. I wrote "Ashrer." I meant to write "Ashrei." Sorry for the typo.

Ben

#6 Jane Lev Ron

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 08:19 AM

Thank you all. By the way, the Mt. of Beatitutes here is called, in Hebrew, the Mt. of Happiness.

If we are blessed then we will definitely by happy, right?

In Christ,

Ioanna

#7 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 01:52 PM

Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.

Translation of makarios as 'happy' seems to make a presumption of a modern idea of what 'blessedness' ought to mean, by translating it into a vernacular term that needn't actually have anything to do with being 'happy' in our ordinary sense of this idea.

Blessedness may not well mean 'happiness'. The beatitudes themselves proclaim: 'blessed are you when men shall revile you and curse you'.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#8 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 04:55 PM

Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.
INXC, Dcn Matthew


Perhaps the problem is with the modern (last 150 years) definition of happiness. Happy as was meant back then would seem much closer to blessed. Or at least when the US declaration of independence was written the "pursuit of happiness" was still very much 'eudaimonia'. Are either of these words related to that one?

#9 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 06:20 PM

I'm not entirely certain that even the older usage of 'happiness' - such as in the older American usage you cited - means the same thing as 'blessedness'. Though it would certainly be closer to the modern - and there may be some usage with which I'm not familiar. Have you any examples of 'happiness' or 'happy' being used in the manner of relating to a blessed state, which might include within it sorrow and suffering, such as we find in the beatitudes? I would be very grateful to see such an example of such a usage.

I've only (knowingly) encountered 'happy' and its derivatives as relating to an emotional state - even if a deep one; and I've not as yet seen it used to describe a condition of interior blessing that may be manifest in and through great sorrow, pain, etc.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#10 Orthodox Christian Chanell - OCC247

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 07:34 PM

Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.

INXC, Dcn Matthew


Absolutely. Happines and blessednes are two ontological different words.

Word "makarios" have link with immortal and this word expressed eternal life which is Christos promised.

On the other hand "happiness" requires external goods such as frineds, holiday etc.

Christos very specifically contradicts : "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted"

#11 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 09:13 PM

For the record, happy still basically means "lucky, fortunate," and only secondarily "joyful." That's why we wish people a "Happy New Year" and not a "Joyful New Year." It's also why "Merry Christmas" predominates in America over "Happy Christmas." When we speak of a "happy ending," we mean things turned out well, not that everybody felt "happy" in the end. After all, a happy ending can include bad consequences -- the thief going off to jail, for example.

It would seem the connection between happy and blessed is the recognition that all luck or fortune is a gift from God. It would also seem that the blessings of the Beatitudes suggest a reward to come on account of the suffering endured: "Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven." The words rejoice and glad clearly refer to an emotional state, but our happiness is the promised reward.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#12 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 10:48 PM

Interesting comments, Fr Patrick, for which my thanks. I'm still not entirely sure that I find such examples compelling reasons to equate 'happiness' and 'blessedness': I think there is a deeper theological message in the state of blessedness than comes across in this English alternative; but I certainly am more than willing to admit that 'happiness' has a richer background of its own that simply the shallow meaning it is often given in casual conversation today.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#13 Orthodox Christian Chanell - OCC247

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 10:24 AM

For the record, happy still basically means "lucky, fortunate," and only secondarily "joyful." That's why we wish people a "Happy New Year" and not a "Joyful New Year." It's also why "Merry Christmas" predominates in America over "Happy Christmas." When we speak of a "happy ending," we mean things turned out well, not that everybody felt "happy" in the end. After all, a happy ending can include bad consequences -- the thief going off to jail, for example.

It would seem the connection between happy and blessed is the recognition that all luck or fortune is a gift from God. It would also seem that the blessings of the Beatitudes suggest a reward to come on account of the suffering endured: "Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven." The words rejoice and glad clearly refer to an emotional state, but our happiness is the promised reward.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick


In theological language there is no space for term "happy" beacouse Christos are not happy. Christos is Love,Joy, our Saviour and Life Giver....specific state od being. Church as communion with Christos is the result of sharing in his experience: dying with Him and be glorified with Him.

"Happy" issue from our experience and have special meanings with world and creatures. Someone can be happy without communion with Christos....I'm very happy when eat good food and wine.....but "I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal". Nobody can say: "I'm Love or loved apart from Christos.

We - christians when it is used in theology we must think and take care with ontological structure. It is very important. The God is is radically other than the kinds of beings we find in the created world. We cannot take terms which apply to creatures and apply them to God without modification.

#14 Seda S.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 12:40 PM

I'd like to ask the native English speakers, if they understand the word ''blessed'' used in the Beatitudes and in, say, Mt 25:34 (''blessed of my Father'') in the same way because of the sameness of the word.

#15 Michael C.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 02:18 PM

I don't know if this willl help but in this short story by Photios Kontoglou:

http://www.orthodoxi...d-Kontoglou.pdf

Καὶ πάλι δὲν κατάλαβε τίποτα ὁ Γιάννης ὁ μακάριος, ὁ Γιάννης ὁ Βλογημένος...

The translator (Archbishop Chrysostomos) uses the word "blissful" for "makarios".

And again John the blissful, John the blessed, understood nothing...

Kontoglou describes John as "makarios" and "evlogimenos", which confused me because I remembered that in the beatitudes "Makarioi..." is translated as "Blessed are..."

#16 Seda S.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 02:52 PM

Thank you, Michael, for that information. I can understand why Archbishop Chrysostomos translated 'makarioi' as 'blissful'. It is just because of the use of the English word 'bless' in its different forms both for 'makarizO' and 'eulogeO'. That is why the word 'happy' is chosen in the Hebrew translation of the Beatitudes. If the Hebrew 'ashrei' means also 'happy' in the sense of 'blissful', full of spiritual, ultimate happiness, then the Hebrew translation is quite correct, while the English 'blessed' is a little bit problematic because of its formation from and confusion with 'bless' ('eulogeO').

#17 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 03:25 PM

I think there is a deeper theological message in the state of blessedness than comes across in this English alternative ...


I quite agree with Fr. Dn. Matthew: happiness and blessedness are not synonyms, and in the verses discussed, blessed is the better, more expressive word. My concern was that, in contrasting the two concepts, the discussion tended to reduce happiness to an emotional state without due regard for the word's actual denotation (dictionary definition). This reduction or narrowing of meaning obscures the connection between "happy" and "blessed," making it more difficult to understand why happy would sometimes be used in translation instead of blessed, which is the question beginning this thread.

To understand why happy sometimes appears instead of blessed, it helps to understand the relation of happy and happiness to other English words like mishap, perhaps, and happen. None of these relate to an emotional state; all relate to external circumstances or events. That relation still survives in the denotation of happy and happiness and in the different ways English-speakers use happy on one hand and joyful, blissful, or merry on the other. We might, for instance, speak of a "happy result" or "happy outcome," but we never say "joyful result" or "blissful outcome," much less "merry ending." Clearly happy still often means that things have turned out well.

Sorry to go on, but as a professional writer and editor of English, I am of the belief that the problem with most English translations of church works is not that the translators don't know Greek or Hebrew as well as they should; it's that they don't know English as well as they should.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#18 Orthodox Christian Chanell - OCC247

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 06:59 PM

The problem isn't the bad English translation the problem is that we have not considered what a Christian account of the logic.What happens when Christian logic is simply applied to reality?

If we are theologians we can't use isolate literal language or simpy dictionary and try correctly understand the Word of God. We don't just use things comes from the earth (world) according "The one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things".

But in theology everything we have and everything we use comes from Eshatos. Protos kai Eshatos.

#19 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 10:50 PM

Two more phrases one often hears: "happy coincidence" and "happy turn of events." That's enough, I suppose.

#20 Ben Johnson

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 02:01 AM

Thank you, Michael, for that information. I can understand why Archbishop Chrysostomos translated 'makarioi' as 'blissful'. It is just because of the use of the English word 'bless' in its different forms both for 'makarizO' and 'eulogeO'. That is why the word 'happy' is chosen in the Hebrew translation of the Beatitudes. If the Hebrew 'ashrei' means also 'happy' in the sense of 'blissful', full of spiritual, ultimate happiness, then the Hebrew translation is quite correct, while the English 'blessed' is a little bit problematic because of its formation from and confusion with 'bless' ('eulogeO').

According to Benjamin Davidson's Hebrew Lexicon, "Ashrei" comes from "Asher" which can mean "happy" and "blessed." Biblical Hebrew has a smaller vocabulary than English, so many times Hebrew words have a wider meaning. I don't know Greek, so cannot say anything about the Greek word.




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