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Blessed Are The Peacemakers


“Blessed are the peace makers: for they shall be called the children of God” – 5:9, Gospel of Mathew.

The verse stated above is the seventh Beatitude in the Sermon of the Mount. This short essay will seek to compile well substantiated interpretations of the verse and discuss its usage in Literature.

Framework & Assumptions

While there is no clear consensus on what the phrase means, one might first start by setting up a framework or a set of assumptions under which the phrase might be understood.

First, the Gospel of Mathew in all likelihood was written in the period 80 – 90 AD. Therefore, the Gospel was born during the Pax Augusta, a time of peace, sparing a few struggles. It was established after the final war of the Roman Republic and lasted from 27 BC to 180 AD.

Second, during the time, the adjective “peacemaker” is known to have been used in reference to Roman Emperors who brought peace. As such it was not a very common word.

Theories

Under the assumptions described above, the following theories appear plausible and have been endorsed by various authorities.

  1. The term “peacemaker” was a reference to Augustus himself. For it was largely due to his domination over the Roman Empire that peace was possible. Very unlike the unstable time of Julius Caesar, when the former members of the Roman senate, waged a war against the dictator and self-proclaimed emperor.
  2. The phrase, perhaps, did not refer to wars but to disputes within the community. This is made plausible by the didactic, or instructive, nature of the sayings in the Sermon of the Mount. Non-violence, contained within the general notions of morality, is then stated to be the apparent theme of the verse.

Other Theories & Appearances in Literature

Some scholars find it plausible that the saying is a reference to those who are at peace with God and some others to the idea of reconciliation. These ideas have found support from lexical studies, wherein the meaning of the word is inferred from various possible translations of the verse from Greek to English.

It was adopted as the title of a book on Martin Luther King Jr. by S. Jonathan Bass perhaps because King drew a parallel between “being God’s children” and racial equality in his famous (I have a Dream) speech during the Civil War.

The verse also makes appearances in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth & Henry VI and Geoffery Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The interpretations in such cases have been that of the author’s and not necessarily in agreement with popular opinion.

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