Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit...

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Sermon on Mount, first Beatitudes

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Fortunate the beggars in this breath: because theirs is the realm of the skies.

KJV : 

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The humor in this line is in the first two words instead of the end, as is more common for Jesus's punchlines. Here the first two word mean "fortunate the poor" or "wealthy the poor." This is an obvious contradiction.

Another interesting but difficult aspect of this verse is the phrase "of spirit". The word that means "spirit" also means "breath." (For more about its meaning, read this article on soul, spirit, mind, and heart and this article on "holy" "spirit.") The "in" before it comes, not from a preposition, but from its form, which requires the addition of a preposition in English. That preposition can be a  "to,"  "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at" or "on," depending on the context.  So it could mean "with the spirit," "by the spirit," "for the spirit" and so on. The NLT version doesn't want to deal with what Jesus said at all and just drops his words and substitutes their own.

The "kingdom of heaven" literally means the "realm of the skies." This article on The Kingdom of Heaven discusses it further and it is updated regularly.

NIV : 

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

NLT : 

Matthew 5:3  God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Wordplay: 

 A contrasting of adjectives meaning "wealthy" and "poor" 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Μακάριοι (adj pl masc nom) "Blessed" is from makarios (makarios) which means "blessed", "prosperous", "happy", "fortunate," and "blissful."

οἱ (article pl masc nom) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

πτωχοὶ , (adj pl masc nom) "Poor" is from ptôchos (ptochos), which means "beggar", "beggar-woman," and "beggarly."

τῷ (article sg neut dat)   Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." --

πνεύματι (noun sg neut dat) "Spirit" is pneuma (pneuma), which means "blast", "wind", "breath", "the breath of life", "divine in inspiration", "a spiritual or immaterial being," and "the spirit" of a man.

ὅτι (adv/conj) "For" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

αὐτῶν (adj pl masc gen) "Theirs" is from autos (autos), which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

ἐστὶν (3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi (esti), which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (3rd person, singular present form-esti).

(article sg fem nom) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

βασιλεία (noun sg fem nom) "Kingdom" is from basileia (basileia), which means "kingdom", "dominion", "hereditary monarchy", "kingly office," (passive) "being ruled by a king," and "reign." "

τῶν (article pl masc gen)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." --

οὐρανῶν. (noun pl masc gen) "Heaven" is from the Greek ouranos (ouranos), which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

KJV Analysis: 

Blessed -- (CW) The word "blessed" in Greek is an adjective from a root word meaning "happy" or "fortunate." In Jesus's era, all luck was attributed to divine favor but this is not otherwise a religious word. It has no relationship to the Greek verb "bless" or the noun "blessings." This word can also mean "wealthy". This sets up an interesting play on words that only works in Greek, saying "wealthy the poor,"

are -- There is no verb "are" in the Greek source. It is implied by the equating of "workman" with "worthy" both in the Greek form of subjects.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

poor -- The Greek word translated as "poor" means "a beggar." It is the subject of the phrase and plural, "beggars." The first two words are literally, "Lucky beggars."

in  -- This word "in" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English, but the translator must decide which preposition to use: a "to" as an indirect object, a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

spirit: -- The word translated as "spirit" primarily means "breath", "wind," a "non-material being", and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical". Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit. 

for -- The "for" here is a causal adverb that means "seeing that", "because", or "since."

theirs -- This is the possessive plural pronoun. It is in a form that modifies the noun "kingdom".

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Christ does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive nouns. 

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

heaven. -- (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods.  The word is plural, not singular.

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "blessed" means "blessed" primarily in the sense of "lucky" or "fortunate" without a sense of a "blessing."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "spirit" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "skies"  is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "heaven" is translated singular as but it is plural."skies."

NIV Analysis: 

Blessed -- (CW) The word "blessed" in Greek is an adjective from a root word meaning "happy" or "fortunate." In Jesus's era, all luck was attributed to divine favor but this is not otherwise a religious word. It has no relationship to the Greek verb "bless" or the noun "blessings." This word can also mean "wealthy". This sets up an interesting play on words that only works in Greek, saying "wealthy the poor,"

are -- There is no verb "are" in the Greek source. It is implied by the equating of "workman" with "worthy" both in the Greek form of subjects.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

poor -- The Greek word translated as "poor" means "a beggar." It is the subject of the phrase and plural, "beggars." The first two words are literally, "Lucky beggars."

in  -- This word "in" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English, but the translator must decide which preposition to use: a "to" as an indirect object, a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

spirit: -- The word translated as "spirit" primarily means "breath", "wind," a "non-material being", and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical". Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit. 

for -- The "for" here is a causal adverb that means "seeing that", "because", or "since."

theirs -- This is the possessive plural pronoun. It is in a form that modifies the noun "kingdom".

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Christ does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive nouns. 

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

heaven. -- (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods.  The word is plural, not singular.

NIV Translation Issues: 

4
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "blessed" means "blessed" primarily in the sense of "lucky" or "fortunate" without a sense of a "blessing."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "spirit" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "skies"  is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "heaven" is translated singular as but it is plural."skies."

NLT Analysis: 

God -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "God" in the Greek source.

blesses -- (CW, WF) The word "blesses" in Greek is an adjective from a root word meaning "happy" or "fortunate." In Jesus's era, all luck was attributed to divine favor but this is not otherwise a religious word. It has no relationship to the Greek verb "bless" or the noun "blessings." This is not a verb. This word can also mean "wealthy". This sets up an interesting play on words that only works in Greek, saying "wealthy the poor,"

those -- The word translated as "those" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

who are -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "who are" in the Greek source.

poor -- The Greek word translated as "poor" means "a beggar." It is the subject of the phrase and plural, "beggars." The first two words are literally, "Lucky beggars."

and realize their need for him, -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "and realize their need for him" in the Greek source.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

untranslated "spirit"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "spirit" primarily means "breath", "wind," a "non-material being", and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical". Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit. 

for -- The "for" here is a causal adverb that means "seeing that", "because", or "since."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

Kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Christ does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive nouns. 

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

Heaven. -- (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods.  The word is plural, not singular.

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek.

theirs -- This is the possessive plural pronoun. It is in a form that modifies the noun "kingdom".

NLT Translation Issues: 

9
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "God" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "blessed" means "blessed" primarily in the sense of "lucky" or "fortunate" without a sense of a "blessing."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "blesses" is not an active verb but an adjective.
  • IP - Inserted phrase-- The phrase "who are" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IP - Inserted phrase-- The phrase "and realize their need for him" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "spirit" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "spirit" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "skies"  is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "heaven" is translated singular as but it is plural."skies."

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

Given the meaning of the words, there are many potential interpretations, all legitimate. Christ could be saying that the poor are wealthy in the spirit of God. It could mean that the poor are lucky because they are in a spiritual place. He could be saying that they are fortunate because they can use spirit as in instrument. Or it could mean simply that even the poorest of us are lucky to be alive.

The Spoken Version: 

“Lucky! The beggars!” He said in a cheerful tenor, indicating a group of beggars who were seated near the stage area.
Many laughed at the idea of beggars being lucky.
“For the breath of life,” he continued earnestly, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He spoke the common tongue like a local, but with a slight accent.
“Because theirs is,—the realm of the skies!” he said happily.

evidence: 

1.00

Front Page Date: 

Apr 10 2020