In the New Testament, the "Beatitudes" is the name for the opening verses of the "Sermon on the Mount," considered to be the heart of Jesus' teachings. Each Beatitude begins with the words "Blessed are ..." which in Latin is written beati sunt. That's why we call them the "Beatitudes," because they're a list of "beati."
There are two versions of the Beatitudes: one in Matthew 5 and another in Luke 6. Matthew's version is longer and better-known than Luke's (and there are some significant differences that we'll discuss in a minute). Here's the full text of the Beatitudes from Matthew (New Revised Standard Version):
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
For nearly 2,000 years, theologians, scholars and everyday Christians have wrestled with these nine "paradoxical" blessings, says Rebekah Eklund, a theology professor at Loyola University of Maryland and author of "The Beatitudes Through the Ages."
The Beatitudes are paradoxical, and even "countercultural," says Eklund, because they go against the standard "wins" of secular culture. Jesus blesses the poor and hungry, not the rich and comfortable. He blesses the meek and mistreated, not the strong and popular.
But if the Beatitudes are commandments, as many Christians have interpreted them, then how are we supposed to follow them? Does God really want us to be poor and hungry? Is it a sin to be rich? Or do the Beatitudes serve a different function? Let's start by taking a closer look at the two different versions of the Beatitudes and where they came from.