It’s All Greek to Me

When we read the Bible we have to remember that it was not written in English, and sometimes the words used in the original language don’t have a direct analog in English. Just like people in Argentina when I asked them what the Spanish word for kitchen sink was and it was at that moment that they realized they had never even thought of having a word for that thing, there are concepts that do not exist in English that exist in Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic.

One such word is μακάριοι (makarioi). In Greek, there is a single word that conveys an idea. In English, we have many ways of describing the same idea, and even a few words that are used in a similar way, but every attempt at translation fails in some way. It’s not that English speakers have never experienced makarioi, but they may never have thought about it because we don’t have a word specifically for that.

In ancient Greek, the word makarios (or makar) was used to refer to people who were living a rich life. They were people with a full and satisfying life. In the writings of Plato and Aristotle, the term is sometimes translated as “good Sir” or “gentleman” implying someone of nobility with wealth enough that they do not need to labor with their hands. But more than being someone who does not have to constantly worry about their daily bread it is someone who can live a life content with what they are doing.

A philosopher, statesman, or other rich, noble person may be makarios. But wealth itself was not what made someone makarios. In Greek, it also refers to someone who has been favored by the gods. To be someone who was makarios you needed to be living a prosperous life. Someone who could look at their life and be content was makarios.

Thus another translation of makarios is happy. But in English happiness is usually understood to be a momentary emotion. Makarios implies a much more enduring contentedness with your life in general. Generally, those who are enduring long-term sickness, or hard labor, and must toil cannot have or be makarios. Anciently this was something that only the rich, educated, noble, and powerful could achieve.

In the New Testament the authors turn this around in the Greek version of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus proclaims:

The poor in spirit are makarioi, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Those who mourn are makarioi, for they will be comforted.
The meek are makarioi, for they will inherit the earth.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are makarioi, for they will be filled.
The merciful are makarioi, for they will be shown mercy.
The pure in heart are makarioi, for they will see God.
The peacemakers are makarioi, for they will be called children of God.
Those who are persecuted because of righteousness are makarioi, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here those who are makarioi are not the rich, educated, nobles who have achieved a contented state in life, it is the poor, the meek, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

In English, this is almost always translated as blessed. And while that does convey part of the concept there is some confusion since we try to treat blessed as a verb while makarioi is an adjective, meaning we look for a subject and a predicate when there is none. When we read these passages in English we tend to unconsciously think “The poor are blessed. Who blesses them? God of course.” But the original concept was not that those who are poor and meek will be blessed by God, but rather that the poor and the meek are makarios. That is, the poor, the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers are living a full and contented life, not just the rich and powerful.

In the end, it is the humble and pure in heart who will prosper and will see God.

Sometimes when we read the scriptures in English we unknowingly miss the original meaning. Sometimes the concepts are missed, not because we are incapable are understanding them or have never experienced them, but because our language just doesn’t place emphasis on them. Or our language and grammar demand a particular form. When this happens we may unknowingly give undue emphasis to ideas that were never intended.

 

A Coming Trend?

 

Bullet Points:

* Putin Promises – Vlad spoke recently in Uzbekistan where has been attending a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. He promised more aggressive Russian activity on the Ukraine front in the face of devastating losses in men, equipment, and the ground they seized. Hinting vaguely at the use of tactical nuclear weapons, the Turks, Iranians, and others at the meeting seemed strangely pleased.  The Turks have sided with Ukraine so far but they’re capable of turning their coats at a moment’s notice.

* A 33-year-old doctor was carjacked in Washington, DC. He was struck and killed by his OWN car. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser says the criminal “probably didn’t intend to kill anybody.” The felony murder rule applies here but the mayor is a cretin who is only concerned for the welfare of the negro murderer.

* The U.S. Marine Corps is rescinding strict punishments for service members seeking religious and other exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine, Fox News reported Friday. New interim guidance posted this week “amends actions” towards Marines who did not get the COVID-19 vaccine and sought a religious exemption. Service members who previously applied for a religious exemption could have the application denied. They could appeal this decision. Townhall covered late last year how Marines were removed for refusing to get vaccinated.

The memo stated that “Marine Corps will not enforce any order to accept COVID-19 vaccination, administratively separate, or retaliate against Marines in the class for asserting statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

It’s a toxic vax that doesn’t work. Leave the Marines alone! Leave us all alone! (primal scream)

 

Tomorrow is the Queen’s Funeral. Today the queue…

I lived in Britain some years ago but even for me, it’s confusing.

So the Queen is now lying in state in Westminster Hall. It is a 1000-year-old hall in the parliamentary complex next to Big Ben, near the river. This is fairly standard for senior royals, prime ministers, and other high-status/high-fame people in the UK.

What isn’t fairly standard is a huge queue sweeping through central London of people wanting to see the coffin lying in state.

Brits love to queue. I don’t understand it. The queue allows them to indulge the love side of a love/hate relationship with it on a regular basis. It keeps things in order for them, it helps them to make sense of the big things and the small things in life. They have clear-cut rules. They understand when it’s appropriate to hold a space and when it’s appropriate to cut in (only if your life depended on it). They would happily queue forever to get into heaven.

Look at this:

Image

It’s the mother of all queues. The queue to end all queues. It’s their Everest. As a nation, they have been training for this day. It’s about 5 miles long and I don’t think they have capacity beyond 6.9 miles. But who really knows?

You can’t cut in. You can’t rejoin The Queue. You can only briefly leave The Queue for the restroom or the water fountain at the designated refreshment zones which are very few and far between. You can’t hold a spot for someone. It will continue 24/7. There are few places to sit or sleep. It will crawl at an impossibly slow but infuriatingly steady pace due to security at the finish line. You will be queueing for an estimated 30 hours. 30 hours of little food/drink/loo breaks/sleep – and the British love it.

The Queue is already a celebrity in its own right. Its volunteers will be lauded as heroes. They’ve been told to look out for people struggling and in need of medical help. This is NOT for the young, the old, the disabled, the pregnant, or the faint of heart.

The prize is a couple of minutes of looking at a (possibly empty) box containing the corpse of a 96-year-old woman.

While ludicrous, the Brits are LIVING for it. This is so epic, so British. It’s a high stakes/low-impact sport.

Being an American (a wretched colonial – they play Yankee Doodle with me in mind), you know that I’d find a way to cut in line fifteen minutes from the coffin if I was there. And I’d take a selfie.

46 COMMENTS

      • Quoting Paul. Putin can find that in the Bible, as well as the How To, same as anyone else.
        A quote attributed to several people “There are some people who, if they don’t know, you can’t tell them”. Don’t know if Putin falls into that category.

  1. The Brits do enjoy their pomp and circumstance, by all accounts it’s part of their makarioi. Standing there waiting in some queue would drive me nuts, I’m not that patient, which means I could never be on sniper overwatch, too antsy. Plus I don’t like crowds…which also makes me a lousy activist.

    Will there be lawsuits for unlawful termination over a seriously dubious injection that was touted as vaccine nirvana but isn’t? The torte boys will have a field day, not against The immune Big Pharma mind you, only employers, which will have the added harm of increased prices as litigation costs get passed along while further hamstringing every economic sector.

    Why is it we don’t hear a whole lot on Ukraine these days? No lapel pinned media types being pushing Zellenskyy is awesome narrative. Could it be passe’, having served its purpose? Now we’re subject to fake outrage over 50 well-fed and attired illegals invading the lily white enclave of Marthas’s Vineyard despite the Dems shipping tens of thousands all over the country in the middle of the night. Rules for thee and not for me generating another illusion.

    Really enjoyed your essay on “blessed”, gratitude and humility are the backbone of that understanding.

    • Sniper overwatch isn’t boring. At least I have a slightly different take. It’s not at all like standing in a line endlessly for a 30-second view of a box. Sniper overwatch is stressful because of your troops are hit and you didn’t see it and react – in a way at least, it’s on you. I have done it – but not a lot of it. I’ve also had to stand in line at times and I hate it.

      Americans can only seem to pay attention to one thing at a time (as a general rule). Ukraine, then, LOOK, A SQUIRREL!

      • Good point, doubtful overwatch could be anything but exhausting as you are required to give it full attention for hours/days at a time, otherwise lives are potentially lost. Still, for me, sitting longer than an hour or two is torture, but I’m learning.

        I attempt to live life “elegantly”, more of a contented flow than fits and starts, the last few years have proven my axiom that most of what happens to disrupt ones chi comes from outside forces, assuming you’re not abusing yourself in some manner. Being content now the homestead is getting where we envisioned moons ago, it’s gotten easier to take some time each day to relax into the place without thinking of the next chore or project that needs doing…which are never ending regardless.

    • Marthas’s Vineyard is not lily white, the Obama’s bought a water front estate there… building one on the beach on Oahu too.
      When he went into the White House their major asset was their house in Chicago, 8 years in the White House and they have two water front mansions.

      When Harry Truman left office he bought a train ticket back to Missouri, those days are gone.
      Of course that was before the military industrial complex won. (Eisenhour did warn us)

      • True, only 89% white, not that it matters to normal thinking people, nor do I care about color of ones skin ‘in the eyes of God’. But yes, when The Lightbringer and the “Mrs” moved to their very large waterfront acreage that could easily fit 50 of those Extra Special California tents, percentage-wise they certainly offset the white-age, more her than him of course…but we don’t talk about his mothers side of the lineage.

        (That’s my attempt at sorta serious humor….Chappelle I am not.)

      • I view the Obamas as a species of annoying locust that arrives, torments by its presence, consumes without creating anything useful, and then moves on.

    • “Will there be lawsuits for unlawful termination over a seriously dubious injection that was touted as vaccine nirvana but isn’t? ”
      A guy I know is suing Ann Arbor over his termination from the Fire Department.
      Gonna interview him Saturday.

  2. The Queue also has a constant live stream and because it has now reached capacity there is another queue for the Queue. Even Prince William and our new King went to visit the people within the Queue to talk to them and thank them for waiting up to 30 hours.

    I ask you, Larry, is the Queue the greatest art philosophy we have yet to witness?

    As for Brits loving queues, this one, along with many others, doesn’t. Whilst we are competent with the etiquette of queueing not all of us enjoy it. I had tickets to go down to London on Monday to meet my fairy godmother from Houston, Texas who is currently on a European cruise and lands in London tomorrow. I have told her if she has any sense she should bypass London and head straight to the Cotswolds. However, like the many people who are there, she wants to be part of this historic event. When I found out this was the day of the Queen’s funeral I decided to cancel. The thought of being with millions and millions of people and unable to move or do anything except be squished among the great unwashed is quite honestly horrific to me.
    I would much rather watch from the comfort of my own home.

    It’s certainly been an epic and extraordinary ordeal executed with such excellence and detail. I’m sure tomorrow will be both heartening and incredibly moving, as it should be for such a remarkable head of state and lady. We won’t see the likes of that type of class and dignity again.

    The Queue itself will be always be remembered as the greatest British performing art ever seen.

    • I refer you to the Pink Floyd classic, Time.

      And to this particular lyrical stanza

      Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
      Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
      Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
      The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.

      I’m a big Pink Floyd fan. Not of their early work, but Dark Side of the Moon, forward.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEGL7j2LN84

      • Dark Side of the Moon was released about the same time that I arrived in the UK (so many years ago) and then Wish you were Here. I was back in the US when The Wall was released. And, all in all, it’s just a brick in the wall.

  3. I’ve got to start calling you pastor, now. I know I’ve had a few teachings on the Sermon on the Mount, but not one of them went into what you say about makarioi. It brings quite a different light to all those “blessed are…” statements.

    The phenomena of different cultures not having a word for something happens regularly. I think I was reading somewhere that some culture (and I want to say the Greeks or the Romans) didn’t have a word for blue, which led someone to say the color didn’t exist then. That the color didn’t exist is a lot harder for me to imagine than thinking it was so common it didn’t deserve a name.

  4. Queue
    Won’t do them. Most irritating thing about being in the Army. With a last name starting with “W” I often threatened to legally change my name to Aaron Aardvark. Then there were the kindly NCOs. “Son, you will be in line for an hour and I have a little job that needs done”.

    More power to the Brits. Made of sterner stuff?

  5. why would Jesus be teaching in Koine Greek rather than in Aramaic or, if preaching, in Hebrew?
    BTW, when we were living (for, unfortunately, too short a time) amongst the Porteños, we found they called a kitchen sink un fregadero or un fregadero de cocina or un lavaplatos.

    • “Why would Jesus be teaching in koine Greek rather than in Aramaic or, if preaching, in Hebrew?”

      Good question.
      I’m not sure what language(s) He spoke. But the apostles were apparently conversant in Greek and could make themselves understood far from home.
      By the time of Christ, Romans were active in the Holy Land, most people elsewhere (notably Alexandria and the East) spoke Greek.
      The New Testament was likely composed in Greek.
      In contrast, the OT was compiled from Hebrew and Aramaic sources.

  6. Ah, the wonders of translation. We can describe all the power behind the Greek word, but it would take possibly 500 words or so. Like the German concept of ‘brotherhood’ which does not equal the English concept of ‘brotherhood.’

    And the Bible is one of the biggest victims. One English translation of the Torah has the “and God repopulated the Earth” rather than the more well-known translation of ‘populate.’ It has, in the past, and still today, been very contentious in both the past and the present.

    Then there are the retranslations of the Bible that have been translated into Chinese or Japanese and then retranslated back to English. Yikes.

    As to the USMC, will they reinstate in full all the people they forced out because of the Vax?

    • I hope that the USMC has the CHARACTER to reintegrate the discharged if they want to return. We’ll see how woke they’ve become.

  7. WSF: +1
    Last name begins with “W”.
    On Waiting.
    The Army runs most everything alphabetically…
    I am still bitter that I missed shooting Expert Rifle in BCT…the 25 meter targets would not drop when I shot them center mass??? The other targets dropped every time I pulled the trigger???

    After the company was done qualifying, the last ten shooters in the company, all of them at the end of the alphabet, got detailed to change the targets out for the next company up to qualify.
    As I approached the 25 meter target in my lane to change the target, I saw that center mass was nothing but a ragged seven-inch hole. Due to the shadows, background, and target placement I did not see that I was hitting nothing but air. I am certain that shooting prone from a puddle of a snow and water mix had nothing to do with any misses.
    I heard years later that the savvy Drill Sargents and Drill instructors told their charges to shoot the dirt in FRONT of the 25 meter target to insure that it would drop when struck by bullet fragments or gravel.

    And I still have to concentrate to not wolf down my food.
    When a company has twenty minutes in the mess hall and you eat by alphabetical order those at the tail-end of the alphabet are lucky to have time to gobble down their chow before having to make room for the next company.

    I could go on…

    But, it now amuses me to see the manic behavior of those who have not learned how to wait.
    I always bring a book to the oil change/vehicle repair, airport or the doctor appointment.
    Along with a truck gun I keep a truck book…just in case.

    Queing up? Nope. Nopety, nope, nope.

    “Waiting is.” Stranger in a Strange Land – RAH

    • It’s difficult for me to be patient about anything, WSF, but often there is no choice. Bringing a book or an i-pad with books on it is a good answer. Books on tape work too.

    • Being older than dirt, the 25 yard was the only one I missed during qualification. 5 Seconds to get the shot off and I went high. The scorer didn’t give me the 350 yard because he couldn’t see it in the rain. End of the day, I missed two qualifying at lovely Fort Lost In The Woods. Last cycle to use M-1s. Loved that beat up beast.

  8. My friends and I wished like hell Filipinos had ever learned to queue. Trying to buy long-distance bus tickets was a free-for-all surging mass of humanity pushing, shoving, and clamoring trying to get the ticket seller to accept their outthrust fares. Given a choice between queueing and that never-ending fustercluck of frustration and rage at the idiocy, queueing is by far the lesser evil.

  9. Excellent homily and ties in well, I think, with today’s Gospel. Viz. Can’t serve God and Mammon. The fools gold of the latter seems a mighty poor second in the face of the true and living God. Those who serve his perfection are truly blessed, μακάριος, and live large. Those who don’t? Chained, like a dog, to the tomb.

  10. Soccer star David Beckham waited 16 hours in the queue even after being told by officials he could jump to the front. Imagine standing in line for that long? Stiff upper lip and all that. It was his finest hour.

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