Matthew 5:6 in the NLT

Matthew 5:6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

I read this in Tyndales’ The Many Gospels of Jesus book (they have all four Gospels in it along with all the other noncononical Gospels) and was struck by the choice for justice.

Typically most folks know this beattitude as reading something like in the TNIV:

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Reading the NLT version I was struck by two things: God Blesses and justice.

God Blesses: The Greek here is μακαριος and it coresponds to the Hebrew אשרי. It communicates the idea of happiness, fortunance, free from worry (either because of circumstances or being especially favored (BDAG 610).  My question is, does this come from something God does or from a person’s obedience to God?

Justice: the Greek here is δικαιοσυνην. In the 3rd ed BDAG p247, there are three possibilities for δικαιοσυνην:

  1. the quality, state, or practice of judicial responsibility with focus on fairness, justice, equitableness, fairness.
  2. the quality or state of juridical correctness with focus on redemptive action, righteousness.
  3. the quality or characteristic of upright behavior, uprightness, righteousness (in general).  Bauer lists Mt 5:6 here.

So in choosing to translate δικαιοσυνην as justice, is the NLT communicating the proper idea of the beattitude?

Update:  I don’t want to be guilty of what James Barr called “illigitimate totality transfer” but I still wonder if while BDAG might prefer δικαιοσυνην to refer to a desire for general upright behavior, it can encompass the aspects of the definitions as given in BDAG? A desire for uprightness will be for personal uprightness and for pursuing justice in one’s life and community.

The beattitudes are challenging are they not?  I think they were meant to be so we would be forced to depend on God.

4 responses to “Matthew 5:6 in the NLT

  1. I noticed exactly the same thing two nights ago. I looked up things in Easton, Strong’s etc and don’t know Greek and Hebrew so your resources are much better than mine.

    From a plain English standpoint if we are blessed, it could mean we are blessed because of God and we are blessed by God. In studying the Beatitudes last fall I came away with being in God’s favor as much as being “happy”. But we can be blessed and not necessarily be happy.

    I hope someone else can give more input.

  2. Thanks Jeff. My only worry in translating δικαιοσυνην as justice is justice in what sense? Are righteousness and justice the same thing and in what sense? Some folks (I think) tend to go over the top on social justice issues to the neglect of freedom and responsibility. So I worry if it is translated as justice, it could be misread. Too, it could be justice in the sense of social justice and not personal righteousness, when both should probably be the focus.

  3. Yeah the justice thing is hard for me to handle. I don’t think we now think of justice in the same way that the dictionaries may have in mind. In my mind I can’t equate justice with righteousness. And it seems like righteousness is a broader term which would include justice where it’s not the case the other way around. But that’s just me babbling, not from any point of authority or knowledge of the subject.

  4. I like the NLT, but find ;justice’ in Matthew 5:6 a disappointing choice of word. In the context of the Beatitudes, which is about ‘Disciples’ and their walk of faith (5:1), social and any other justice is an ASPIRATION, but from a spiritual satisfaction point of view (the thrust of the Beatitudes), the disciple of Christ would not ‘hunger and thirst’ for that, but rather for Christ and more of God. Why on earth the NLT placed this above the footnote in the main text defeats me.


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