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What Are the Beatitudes? - Definition & Meaning

What Are the Beatitudes? - Definition & Meaning
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  • 0:04 The Beatitudes
  • 1:19 The Meaning of the Beatitudes
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Deanna Reid

Deanna has taught at the elementary and middle school level and has a Master's degree in Elementary Education K-8.

There are eight Beatitudes found within the Christian Bible. In this lesson, we'll explain what the Beatitudes are and explain their significance to the Christian religion.

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes are a series of blessings that are found in the fifth chapter of Matthew in the Christian Bible. These blessings were given by Jesus to his disciples during the Sermon on the Mount. Each blessing offers a future reward to the person possessing a specific character quality. The word 'beatitudes' is derived from beatitudo, a Latin word meaning 'blessedness;' hence, the name is used to refer to this biblical passage where each verse begins with the word 'blessed.' In this lesson, we'll examine the eight Beatitudes and analyze the meaning of each.

Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount photo

In the Beatitudes, Jesus is describing the characteristics of the ideal follower of Christ and the blessings he or she will receive, both on Earth and in Heaven. However, there is evidence that this section of the Bible has influenced people of other religious beliefs. For example, Mahatma Gandhi, although born into the Hindu religion, wrote about the significance of these verses. In his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, Gandhi disclosed that he read the entire Bible, but was moved by 'the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart.' The Beatitudes are also accepted as a lesson in social justice by some readers who choose to read the verses from a literary standpoint instead of a religious one.

The Meaning of the Beatitudes

Vintage Beatitudes
Vintage Beatitudes photo

The first two blessings and the last blessing appear to be contradictory to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word blessing, which is 'something that helps you or brings happiness.' The basic biblical connotation of these three verses is that, while these blessings appear to sound more like curses during the earthly life, the rewards for enduring these hardships is Heaven.

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