“The Ecstasy of the gods” – Happiness in the Sermon on the Mount

As we’ve put together our series entitled, “What Jesus Said About Happiness,” we have discovered lots of wonderful things. This blog entry is about one of those discoveries. We hope you find it as wonderful as we have.


Many readers will know that the New Testament was written in Greek. Therefore, what we read in English are translations, of which we have many. When the scholars first translated the Sermon on the Mount from Greek to English, their first task was to translate the word, “makarios.”

This was problematic. You see, there is no English word that properly gives the meaning of ‘makarios.” As you read it in the King James Version, you see the word “blessed” in italics. This is how translators denote words for which there is no direct translation.

In the beginning, it is said that many wanted to use the word, “happy,” as we now see in several other translations. However, the early scholars saw the word “happy” as too trivial, and in the end, chose “blessed” instead. Therefore, we discover, that though makarios does mean both “happy” and “blessed,” it actually means much more.

The Ecstasy of the Gods

Makarios wasn’t originally a word associated with Jehovah or the Jewish religion at all. On the contrary, this was a word the Greeks used to describe a place in their own mythology. This was a place or state of complete fulfillment and joy beyond human experience or understanding. To the Greeks, makarios meant “the ecstasy of the gods.”

This supernatural state was only available, in their minds, to supernatural beings. They believed they might taste it, but to live in it was impossible. Humans were bound to the earth, to its circumstances, and to the whim of the gods themselves. Makarios was reserved for those without such bondage.

Permanent Joy

William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, writes his conclusions on this wonderful word. You can hear his own joy as he writes:

“Makarios then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. … The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. “No one,” said Jesus, “will take your joy from you” (Jn.16:22). The Beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.”

At Seasons Hospice in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we are here for you through all the seasons of life. Our prayer for you is that you experience this permanent joy that nothing in the world can ever take away. If you or a loved one are in need of hospice or palliative care or have questions of any kind, please do not hesitate to call us at 918-745-0222. Our caring and professional staff will be here to speak with you and help you find the care you need.


Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash

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