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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’ available from: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Ashray 2012