This is the seventh article in our series on the Beatitudes, (including the introduction to the series, The “Real” Good News). Found in the 5th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the 6th Beatitude which is in verse 8 reads “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Having looked at this verse, and the Greek words behind the translation, I think that it is important to note that the obvious interpretation is not necessarily what Yeshua was trying to teach us in this verse.
Looking at the original Greek words yields the expected results in almost every case in this Beatitude. The Greek word katharos is correctly translated as ‘pure’, but this lexicon entry is complex because of the many different uses we have for the word ‘pure’. We find that the word kardia does translate as ‘heart’; and the word theos comes down correctly as ‘God’. This leaves just optanomai to be looked at, which is what we will do a little while later in this article.
I mentioned that katharos is a complex word. While ‘pure’ is a correct translation, the lexicon entry shows how complex this seemingly simple word can be. Within the lexicon entry, the word is shown in different contexts, and then defined within those contexts. The definition which caught my attention was the first definition under the third context (ethically). Specifically, this says that we use the word ‘pure’ as in ‘pure in heart’ to indicate that we mean clean or pure in the ethical sense, that the person is free from corrupt desire; from sin and guilt.
With this definition of katharos in mind, it’s easy to arrive at the obvious interpretations of this verse. The person, who is ‘pure in heart’ or free from sin and guilt, will see God, when they die and go to heaven. (As I stated before, I don’t think that this is Yeshua’s intended message.)
By now, those of you who are reading these articles in order will realize that we can identify a few inconsistencies with this interpretation, as it relates to the earlier articles. First, we have stated that basiliea ton ouranos or the phrase that is usually translated in the bible as the kingdom of heaven, makes more sense if we interpret the phrase as ‘knowledge of happiness’; one of the reasons that this makes sense is that in the midst of our daily lives, we can get immediate access to the Father’s joy, with this knowledge (even though we are very much alive, and the ‘kingdom of heaven’ may be far away at those times).
Second, we’ve noted that it is the church, and not the Father that continues to come back and dredge up the past, placing repeated emphasis on our sinfulness. The Father, who knows even the number of the hairs on our head, also knows equally as well, that each of us is doing the best that we can in the midst of our sinful existence. He doesn’t want us to wallow in guilt and self doubt, wondering why we can’t be better people; He wants us to confess our selfish behaviors, put our past miss-steps behind us, and move on, trying to do better. But if this Beatitude is really about the guilt-less, sin-free people going to heaven when they die, then we are all lost already. Even when we accept that Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross pays the debt for our sin, we still find ourselves as being less than ‘pure in heart’. That’s why this most obvious interpretation of this Beatitude must be wrong.
So now that I’ve taken up the easy interpretation and declared it to be incorrect, the question comes back to me: What does Yeshua mean when he taught the people, saying “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Once again with the definition of pure that states that the person who is ‘pure in heart’ is free from corrupt desire we find ourselves in familiar territory. Our ‘desires’ are the motivating factors behind our actions. This means that a person who is ‘pure in heart’, ends up being the person who undertakes the things that they do with proper motivation. As we discussed in What is Sin, part 3, it is this motivation which ends up being the measure by which our actions are judged (not by the world, but by the Father). When we take an action with the motivation to do the right thing, to help and serve those around us, it can be said that we ‘live in love’. This too, is an idea that we have discussed recently.
The parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind, as we consider that he is an example of a person with proper motivation behind his actions. (I must acknowledge here that Yeshua never directly states that the Good Samaritan has good intentions, and actually doesn’t mention the man’s intentions at all. None-the-less, the fact that these motivations are important is clear, and since Yeshua also taught this fact, we can assume safely in my opinion that if he had been asked about the motivations behind the Good Samaritan’s actions, Yeshua would have declared that the Samaritan’s motivations were good, and even that he was ‘pure in heart’.) So we see in the Good Samaritan an example of a person who puts the needs of the victim ahead of his own needs. This indicates that he was being UNselfish. We have discussed the fact that when we put the needs of others ahead of our own needs, and act unselfishly, as the Good Samaritan did, then we are what Paul refers to as “spiritual man”.
The apostle Paul also writes that we are the body of Christ, and that the spirit of Christ is in us. Christ, of course is the personification of love, and John sums up this line of thought best when he writes in his first letter that “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (NIV)
It’s worth noting here that these statements can lead us to a startling conclusion. The Good Samaritan, who was putting the needs of the victim ahead of his own needs, was bing a ‘spiritual man’. The term ‘spiritual man’ alludes to Paul’s statements that the Spirit of Christ (love) is in us, and when we exhibit love through our actions, (which includes doing the actions with proper motivation) we are living in love and God is in us.
I can well imagine that as he was lying on the road losing consciousness, the victim in the parable prayed “God help me ” As we have seen through our examination of the Good Samaritan, God did help the man. The Good Samaritan in this case, as the hand of God, helped the victim; bound his wounds and saw to his needs. While some may call this conclusion blasphemous, I believe that this was exactly what Yeshua was trying to teach us in this parable, as well as in the 6th Beatitude.
This brings us back to the translation of optanomai. Looking at the lexicon entry for this Greek word, we find that it is not very long, or detailed, and yet is full of possibilities. The two short lines tell us that optanomai can mean “1) to look at, behold” and “2) to allow one’s self to be seen, to appear”. If we look at the second definition, it sums up our discussion of the Good Samaritan very well, in addition to giving us a much better interpretation of this Beatitude in terms of our knowledge of happiness, and in the midst of our daily lives. Blessed are the ‘pure in heart’, [those acting with love and concern for others as their true motivation,] for they will be seen as a part of God.
Grace and peace to you all,