Archbishop Em Elias Chacour sheds new light on the Sermon on the Mount

“Knowing Aramaic, the language of Jesus, has greatly enriched my understanding of Jesus’ teachings.  Because the Bible as we know it is a translation of a translation, we sometimes get a wrong impression.  For example, we are accustomed to hearing the Beatitudes expressed passively:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

‘Blessed’ is the translation of the word makarioi used in the Greek New Testament.  However, when I look further back to Jesus’ Aramaic, I find that the original word was ashray from the verb yashar.  Ashray does not have this passive quality to it at all.  Instead, it means ‘to set yourself on the right way for the right goal; to turn around, repent; to become straight or righteous’.

How could I go to a persecuted young man in a Palestinian refugee camp, for instance, and say, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’, or ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’?  That man would revile me, saying neither I, nor my God understood his plight, and he would be right.

When I understand Jesus’ words in the Aramaic, I translate like this:

Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for you shall be satisfied.

Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.

To me this reflects Jesus’ words and teachings much more accurately.  I can hear him saying, ‘Get your hands dirty to build a human society for human beings; otherwise, others will torture and murder the poor, the voiceless, and the powerless’.

Christianity is not passive but active, energetic, alive, going beyond despair.”

excerpt from -Archbishop Chacour’s second book, ‘We Belong to the Land’ 

While you are here

Donations are urgently needed at Archbishop Chacour’s school, Mar Elias Educational Institutions. A large crumbling cliff face threatened the safety of the children on the campus. Because of the urgency of the situation work had to begin immediately before money could be raised and a large loan for the work costing over £1,000,000 had to be taken out. If lots of people help by putting a ‘drop in the ocean’ of this huge amount the resulting ocean will pay the bill and keep this unique and successful school open. Have you a drop to spare. See other pages on this website for futher information of the peace work at Mar Elias Educational Institutions.

Cheques should be made out to ‘Ashray’ and sent to Lyngarth, Front Street, Rothbury, NE65 7UU.  Ask if you want to register for Gift Aid. Donations in currencies other than Sterling may be sent direct to Mar Elias Educational Institutions (email for details)


© Ashray 2012


2 thoughts on “Beatitudes

  1. Thank you, dear Abuna, for being an inspiration and guiding light to us all. May come to understand how to follow in the way of reconciliation and ‘ashray’ in our own situations in life.

  2. This translation has at last made sense of the beatitudes for me and once again I find that Jesus was motivating people to nonviolent action.

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