a New Christianity

The Case of the Missing Comma

If you haven’t read The “Real” Good News, then I suggest that you read that article before you begin this one.

How marvelous it would have been to have seen Yeshua teach. It was said of Him that He taught with authority. His presentation would have kept those who were listening, spellbound, as they heard Him teach the radical notions of love and forgiveness. I have taken part in worship services in my congregation, where I was asked to read the Gospel lesson, but I am sure that I have never come close to being able to match His style or charisma, even when I read the words which were His. Imagine sitting at His feet, as He pronounced the crowd ‘Blessed’ in the Beatitudes. We would have hung on His every word, even as some of what He said seemed strangely alien to us in our way of life, and even as it made perfect sense when He said it. We would have even heard the pause, the natural place where the comma would have fallen if His words had been correctly written down: “Blessed are the poor… [the pause, or comma would go here] ‘,’ … in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

You would be correct, if you responded to me like this: Wait a minute, I went to all three of the bible websites referenced on the ‘links’ page of the website, 23 translations of the bible in all – there in Chapter 5, verse 3 of Matthew, after the word poor, there is no comma. Well, what can I say? You’re right. Including Jerome’s Vulgate, where there is no punctuation at all, none of the other 23 translations have the comma: thus it must be missing.

Of course if I am suggesting that the comma is missing, that means that I am also suggesting that Yeshua paused, when He said “Blessed are the poor, in spirit,…” instead of “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”. But if Yeshua had spoken this Beatitude with a comma, then what happened to the comma, anyway?

Going back to the Greek texts (such as I could find), we find that there appears to be no comma in this verse, so we can probably excuse all of those who have been involved in the various translations and modernizations of the text along the way (or at least, we can excuse them for the missing comma, anyway). That means that the original person who wrote down the Gospel of Matthew must have left it out, from the start. We are not going to get side-tracked with a discussion of the origin of the book of Matthew. Suffice it to say that it probably was handed down orally at least once, and that this is probably where the inaccuracy crept in. The missing comma.

It might be missing for economical or political reasons. How dare Yeshua declare the poor to be blessed? If people actually sought opportunities to be poor, they would turn away from opportunities to be well-off. Economics tells us that society would grind to a halt. This would be bad. The early church would be blamed for this ‘work-stoppage’,and be wiped out from the empire. This would be very bad, indeed.

It might have been dropped for other reasons. Surely, then as now, the ‘blessings of God’ would have been a notion that God has given us ‘things’: houses, lands, food, and other material goods. If these were blessings from God, how could it also be said that the absence of these blessings, was also a blessing?

Perhaps the people passing on the oral traditions of the Beatitudes couldn’t answer these questions, so they didn’t try to. They simply altered the oral presentation by taking out the pause. But I think that working with the perspective of a New Christianity, we can support the likelihood that Yeshua said: “Blessed are the poor ‘,’ in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To make sense of this, let’s take a look at some of the letters of Paul. Those of you who are familiar with the articles on this site will probably anticipate that I am going to point out Paul’s writings on the spirituality of man; specifically the higher self, or spiritual man, as opposed to the lower self, or natural man. You probably won’t be surprised to find that Yeshua did some teaching on this same topic. We’ll look at that in a moment, but first, let’s think about happiness.

Happiness – it’s a great feeling! Imagine being on a two week long vacation. You've looked forward to this vacation for a long time, knowing that just being there would make you happy! On the 3rd day of the first week you realize that you’re having a really good time, but that the time seems to be going by fast. It’s already the 3rd day, and soon the vacation will be over. That final thought – that soon it will be over – dampens your joy just a little bit. As the time goes by, the thoughts of ‘the end approaching’ become more frequent, and dampen your excitement even more. Soon, its time to go back to real life. Now (at the end of your vacation), where is your happiness?

Happiness – it’s a great feeling! Imagine getting a new car. You drive the car everywhere because it’s your pride and joy. After you’ve had the car for about three weeks, you’re driving home and someone broadsides you. Fortunately, no one has been injured, but look at your car: totaled! Now, where is your joy?

The truth is this: All ‘things of form’ must come to and end. If you take a thing of form, and make that thing of form the source of your joy, then when the thing of form comes to an end, so will your joy. Think about the passage in Mark 10 (Chatper 10 vrs 17-25) in which Yeshua tells the rich young man to sell all of his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Him. Yeshua tells the rich young man this because He understands that ‘things of form’ must come to an end, and that the young man’s ‘things of form’ will soon end as well. But by following Yeshua, the young man can learn about the true source of happiness.

Yeshua also understands that ‘things of form’ can become sources of temptation to the natural man. Fancy cars, piles of money, expensive clothes, and big luxurious homes: these are all things which can tempt a person to think of themselves first, and others second. But if a person is poor, then they aren’t likely to be distracted by these ‘things of form’, because they aren’t likely to have them in the first place. Thus, they will have an opportunity to learn to be truly happy, without ‘things of form’ tempting them into a state of false happiness, which may get in the way, as they are trying to learn to think of others first. And it’s called false happiness, because it is only an illusion which will only come to an end when the ‘thing of form’ fades.

Does this mean that the Father wants us to be poor? No, not at all. The Father wants us to know His love, and share in His happiness. This joy is found in the higher self, and in participating in life in such a way as to come closer to being spiritual man. This is a source of joy that goes beyond ‘things of form’, because it is given to us by the Father, and therefore, this happiness will last forever.

The treasures of this world will fade away. Mold and rust will consume them, and thieves will carry them away in the night. The happiness that these things bring you may look and feel like the Father’s joy, but that resemblance is an illusion. For this reason, Yeshua says “Blessed are the poor ‘,’ in spirit, …” for they have an opportunity to move past the illusionary temptation of material goods, and come to a better understanding of the Father’s true joy. They have a special seat in Yeshua’s class on the knowledge of happiness!

Grace and peace to you all,
Paul

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