Jesus opened His first sermon in Matthew 5 by encouraging and comforting those coming to him by telling them of the blessings of the coming kingdom.  We call these the beatitudes.  Each began with “Blessed are…” and concluded with a promise.  I want to call your attention to the blessing in Matthew 5:5.  It is probably very familiar to you:

Blessed are the gentile, for they shall inherit the earth

As He did so often in His teaching, Jesus was alluding to the Old Testament.  The first part of Psalm 37:11 says “But the humble will inherit the land…”.   The last part of Isaiah 61:7 reads, “And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land…”.  Those who heard Jesus’ words would undoubtedly had understood that He was affirming what the Old Testament promised, that when the Kingdom comes Israel would receive the land promised to them.

Yet, some commentators see this differently.  Craig Blomberg for example writes, “The future reward echoes psalm 37:11 but generalized the promise of inheriting the land of Israel to include all of the earth.” Similarly, David Hill asserts that the idea of an actual location of the kingdom is secondary.  But is Jesus really saying that the location of the Kingdom has changed or is no longer important?  Let’s look closer.

It is widely understood among scholars that the Greek translation of the Old Testament is often quoted by Jesus and the Apostles.  Let’s compare the Greek translations of Psalm 37:11[1] and Isaiah 61:7 to Matthew 5:5.

You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to notice something is amiss.  Both Psalm 37:11 and Isaiah 61:7 use the Greek word “γῆν” which the NASB translates as “land”.  In fact the NASB also translates it as “land” in Matthew 2:20, again in 2:21, and twice again in 4:15.  So, they translate “γῆν” as “land” until we get to Matthew 5:5.  Suddenly, they changed their translation from “land” to “earth”.  

Why this change?  Well, every translation of the Bible is also an interpretation.  In Matthew 5:5 the NASB translators are not just translating “γῆν” they are interpreting it.  Their interpretation reflects their assumptions.  Like Blomberg, they assume that Jesus must be expanding the promise of the kingdom.  In their view, He just can’t be saying that Israel is going to acutally get the land promised to them when the kingdom comes.  If this were the case then their theology, which says that the church has replaced Israel and that the promise to Israel of the land is now a promise of world-wide rule for the church, begins to crumble.  So, rather than allow the verse to say what is says it needs to be reinterpreted.

Now, I don’t mean to make you distrust of your translation of the Bible.  But, I do want you to be careful.  Every responsible Bible teacher will tell you that when doing your own study it is important to compare multiple translations.  This is especially important if you don’t know the original languages. With so many Bible translations freely available on-line you have no reason not to check out a few different translations. 

Another thing you can do is pay attention to credible Bible teachers.  Jesus has given them as a gift to His church for your sake.  Now, I am not saying they are infallible or inerrant.  Every teacher needs to be held to the standard of God’s word.  What I am saying is that you ought to have some reliable teachers you listen to with discernment.  So check out guys like Robby Dean, Mark Hitchock, Tommy Ice, and Andy Woods. They generously make hour after hour of solid Bible teaching freely available online.

You can be assured.  Jesus did not radically revise the promise God has made to Israel.  That nation will possess the land promised to them when Jesus establishes His kingdom on earth.

[1] If you go look up these verses know that Psalm 37:11 in your English translation is Psalm 36:9 in your Greek version. 

2 thoughts on “The Meek Will Inherit The…What?

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