oa Conspectus : The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary - Those who are persecuted because of righteousness, are those who pursue righteousness : an examination of the origin and meaning Matthew 5:10

Volume 9, Issue 03
  • ISSN : 1996-8167



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 נבף, 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.'

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