An Explanation of FLOURISHING


What follows is an explanation of our use of the word FLOURISHING in the Beatitudes (as opposed to “Blessed” or “Happy”) The most common translations use the English word “Blessed” throughout the beatitudes. For example:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3 (NASB)

But, what is really interesting is that there are TWO Greek words that we translate with ONE English Word.

εὐγλωττία, [eulogia /yoo·log·EE·ah/]


μακάριος [makarios /mak·AR·ee·os/]

Here are some ways we use the English word “BLESS”:

“I would like to BLESS someone with a gift.” 

(Blessing is something bestowed)

“God BLESS you.” 

(I ask God give you his favor)

And this is a correct interpretation of The GREEK word εὐγλωττία, [eulogia /yoo·log·EE·ah/]

Read how Paul uses this word (eulogia) in his opening greeting and prayer in Ephesians:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…”

Ephesians 1:3 (NASB)

God is blessing (giving) us spiritual blessing. A blessing is something received and it is something given. This is the correct understanding of Eulogia AND our English word.

So, when we read the BEATITUDES it can look like: 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”

Matthew 5:4

Reads like: God Blesses you WITH mourning. 
“You’re blessed—someone GAVE that blessing—must be God!”

If we use EULOGIA’s meaning in the beatitudes, we can miss the meaning and begin interpret pain as God’s divine gift (God doing pain to me).

In the Beatitudes, we use the same English word—but it is really a totally different Greek word. This word BLESSED here in the beatitudes is 

μακάριος [makarios /mak·AR·ee·os/]

Translation is always difficult, but Jonathan Pennington and others make a great case for this as being a significant interpretive error.

The word makarios was often used in pithy “macarisms“: commonly used wisdom statements in the ancient world through which a sage would describe someone’s posture or circumstance that would lead them towards flourishing. 

For example (I made up): 

Happy (Makarios) is one who finds a dollar for the next trinket is theirs.

The dollar isn’t the blessing, but describes the position one finds themself in: able to receive a trinket. It describes the posture that leads to happiness (in this case—possessing the trinket)

About MAKARIOS and EULOGIA, Jonathan Pennington says,

[English uses] “blessed” for both of them, and it has perpetrated this huge confusion where in other languages it’s very clear: divine favor [EULOGIA] is one word, and someone describing a state of happiness [MAKARIOS] is a totally different word. The word in the Beatitudes describes a state of happiness. 

Jonathan Pennington in The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing

In order to clarify the intent of the GREEK word Makarios, we will use the WORD flourishing.

So, Jesus begins his great sermon with a series of Macarisms—
statements that describes the postures that lead towards flourishing. 

Pennington also says:

That’s where it gets interesting, because what he defines as true happiness is shocking. It’s totally unexpected. He doesn’t say, “Flourishing is when you have lots of kids,” “Flourishing are those who have tons of money,” “Flourishing are the prestigious ones in society,” “Flourishing are the virtuous ones in society.” Instead, it’s flourishing when you have a poverty of spirit, a hungering or thirsting — not positive things. When you are humble, that means not getting your rights. When you’re merciful, you are giving up your rights and forgiving someone who has wronged you. All these things he describes as flourishing are totally unexpected.

Jonathan Pennington in The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing

I hope this information and explanation is helpful for you!

This book has been very helpful in understanding. It is quite scholastic, but those who are up for it would enjoy the insights.

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