I’M STRUGGLING OVER how to put the Bible word “blessed” into today’s English, for folks who don’t read the Bible.
I’ve been paraphrasing parts of the Bible lately.
Genesis and the Gospel of Luke will go live as soon as the website coder puts the finishing touches on my coming Casual English Bible website (which you’ll soon find at CasualEnglishBible.com). At the moment, I’m working on the Book of Acts, which is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. With Luke and Acts done, I’ll have paraphrased a fourth of the New Testament.
There are a bunch of words that trip me up as I try to put the Bible into casual English. They’re words we use in church or when we’re talking to other Christians. But they’re not words we hear very often when we’re chatting with other folks.
Take the word blessed.
My Bible study group spent the better part of our session this past Sunday trying to explain what “blessed” means. We’re studying the Beatitudes. Each one starts with “Blessed.”
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).
Our class leader for the day said he doesn’t like subbing “blessed” with “happy.”
The Greek word for blessed sounds like this in English: makarios. When we look that word up in a Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament, we learn that it can mean “happy,” “to be envied,” and “fortunate.” It can also ID someone who receives divine favor and benefits.
So what do we do with “blessed”?
I’d consider myself blessed if I had figured out a bell-ringer of an answer to that. I’d be happy and fortunate, and I’d be envied by all those who wish they had thought of it first.
Here’s my beta solution for the paraphrase of Luke 6:20.
“Consider yourself fortunate if you’re poor, because God’s kingdom belongs to you” (Casual English Bible).
If anyone out there has a better way of putting it for people who aren’t Christians, I’d love to hear it.
There are lots of other “blessed” ways the Bible writers used the word.
“Bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:28)
My attempt to paraphrase it:
“When someone says bad things about you, say good things about them” (Casual English Bible).
Not as succinct. But it says something we can picture in our head, which is more than the other paraphrase does. At least, that’s my opinion.
Still, I’m not sure I’m capturing the essence of the word in either of these examples.
All I know for certain is that I can’t use any variation of the word “bless” in a paraphrase for folks outside the faith. I think it’s Christian jargon as far as many of them are concerned.
Like the word “grace.”
We use it all the time. But try to explain what it means.
It’s not easy.
Yet we have to work on figuring out what the words mean to us, so we can explain them to people who never use them.
For more about “blessings” and paraphrasing
- “Blessing,” Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 77.
- Wrestle God, get a blessing
- How to bless someone’s soul before we kick the bucket
- Why I have to translate Bible scholars