In Matthew 5:5, as part of what now is referred to as ‘The Beatitudes’, Jesus famously declares,
“Happy the meek — because they shall inherit the land (YLT).”
The ‘New King James Version (NKJV)’ and other popular interpretive translations of the Bible (translations that do not only translate words from the original language to English, but that attempt to convey what they consider to be meaning of the words that are translated) interpret Matthew 5:5 as follows:
“Blessed are the meek — for they shall inherit the earth (NKJV).”
It is straightforward that there exist two major differences between the verbatim translation of the ‘Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)’ of the Bible, and the interpretive translation of the NKJV, namely, substitution of the word, ‘Blessed’ for ‘Happy’, and the word ‘Earth’ for ‘Land’. We shall leave a discussion of juxtaposition of the words, ‘Blessed’ and ‘Happy’ for another time. In this post, I focus on a juxtaposition of the words, ‘Earth’ and ‘Land’.
Is there, within language of Christian Scriptures, any difference of meaning or import between the words, ‘Land’ and ‘Earth’?
If we merely read colloquially, as such, do not seek deeper meanings, absent myths, man does not live in the sea, and asymptotically, ‘Land’ equates to ‘Earth’. If we only read colloquially, we declare that Christian Scriptures are not inherently spiritual, as such do not embark on any quest for discovery of spiritual meaning in the words that we read. Given there then is not arrival at any sort of expertise at discussion of any spiritual meanings in Christian Scriptures, we arrive at appropriateness of rendering of such reading, as ‘colloquial’.
In context of a colloquial reading, we read merely out of some ‘literal curiosity’, as opposed to exercise of ‘spiritual curiosity’. Given the Bible is acknowledged by experts in the English language to comprise of some of the best prose ever written by man, a case can be made for a literary approach to reading of Christian Scriptures.
The Bible consists of some of the best prose ever penned by man, as such, can be read primarily for literary pleasure.
Part of the beauty and popularity of Psalms 23 is the fact that it is representative of some of the most beautiful prose and symbolism that can be found in Christian Scriptures.
Suppose, however, that we read Christian Scriptures in context of exercise of spiritual curiosity?
Given spiritual curiosity does not negate literary curiosity, we still are able to derive literary pleasure from our reading, but yet are open to arrival at spiritual insights that have pragmatic use for improving of the living of daily life. Given we exercise discretion, equivalently, ‘reasoning derived discrimination’ in our reading, we do not swallow what we read ‘hook, line, and sinker’, as such are not at any risk of being brainwashed by our reading of Christian Scriptures.
If then, we come to Christian Scriptures with an open mind, and with the intent to practice reasoning derived discrimination in our reading, given we leave ourselves open to two benefits — literary pleasure and spiritual wisdom for daily living — clearly, it is better to read the Bible in context of spiritual curiosity, as opposed to merely for literary pleasure.
It is more advantageous to read the Bible out of spiritual curiosity, and yet with reasoning derived discrimination than to read the Bible merely for literary pleasure.
A system of spirituality whose main goal is not provision of spiritual wisdom that has pragmatic use for daily living ought to be considered a waste of time.
Even ancient Greek philosophers — Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca etc. — agreed that philosophy has value only if it helps us arrive at insights into ‘how to live’.
In context of a reading of the Bible out of spiritual curiosity, we arrive at the inference that, in Christian Scriptures, the words, ‘Land’ and ‘Earth’ do not have the same spiritual connotation. The reasoning and evidence are as follows.
First, God expressly declares that those who believe in the name of Jesus inherit ‘New Heavens and New Earth’. Well, if it is new heavens and new earth that are inherited, it simultaneously cannot be the case that the meek — those who believe in the name of Jesus — inherit the current earth. The evidence from the Scriptures?
Waiting for and hasting to the presence of the day of God, by which the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements with burning heat shall melt; and for new heavens and a new earth according to His promise we do wait, in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:12–13).
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth did pass away, and the sea is not any more (Revelation 21:1).
The evidence is unequivocal, the meek do not inherit the Earth, rather inherit ‘New Heavens and New Earth’. Absent any adverse intent, with caveat in their minds that man does not live in, or on the sea, the interpretive translations adopt the word, ‘Earth’ for ‘Land’, are right colloquially, but yet obviate true spiritual essence of the word, ‘Land’.
But does the word, ‘Land’ have any spiritual connotations in context of Christian Scriptures? Thankfully, the answer to that question is a resounding, ‘Yes’. The Scriptural evidence?
Lest the land from which you brought us should say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring them to the land which He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 9:28, YLT).
The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:24, NKJV).
The Lord will open to you His good treasury the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands (Deuteronomy 28:12, RSV).
In Deuteronomy 28:12, if the people loved one another and loved God, with rain symbolizing spiritual essence, God promised that the rain of their land would be good, would be a blessing. In Deuteronomy 28:24, if the people were evil to one another and did not honor God, God promised that the rain of their land would become powder and dust, would destroy them. By this, The Father declares that an outpouring of physical rain can embed molecules (powder and dust) designed for destruction of the resources of a land.
Clearly, the word ‘Land’ is spiritual, refers to the spiritual condition of a people. Consistent with symbolism of character of a people, Deuteronomy 9:28 refers to words that could be spoken by people as words spoken by the land.
If you look carefully, you see that I have drawn spiritual characterization of the word, ‘Land’ from each of the YLT, NKJV, and RSV, meaning the characterization is not only consigned to the YLT. The evidence then is robust, can be shown not to depend on just the verbatim translation of Christian Scriptures.
Additional confirmatory Scriptural evidence?
But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for all of these abominations the men of the land did, who were before you, so that the land became defiled); lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you (Deuteronomy 18:26–28, RSV).
Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land become full of wickedness (Deuteronomy 19:29–30, RSV).
The sum of it all?
Used spiritually, the word, ‘Land’ is representative of spiritual character of a people. Whenever people are wicked, the land becomes polluted, as such rebels, then seeks to dislodge those who pollute it.
If God had not dislodged the nations who were polluting the land that He promised to Israel, the land would have gone bad. The only path to preserving the goodness of the land was for God to honor the spiritual agitation of the land for dislodgement of those who were polluting it.
Any supporting evidence for the assertion that God honors agitation of the land in respect of those who pollute the land (words in brackets supplied for facilitation of contextual understanding of the verse to follow)?
But in the fourth generation they (Abraham’s descendants) shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites (iniquity of original inhabitants of Canaan) is not yet complete (Genesis 15:16, NKJV).
Because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21, RSV).
Nature does not enjoy corruption that is induced on earth by sin, looks forward to being set free from the corruption of sin that produces decay in nature.
God says it was the land that dislodged the nations who were defeated by Israel in the promised land. Yet, it was God who, using Israel, effected the destruction of those nations. Confluence of the two assertions — both by God — establishes the spiritual inference that, whenever nature cries out to God out of its pain, this because man loves wickedness, as such, in a spiritual sense, pollutes nature, God commences plans for dislodgement of wicked man — either spiritually, physically, or both.
‘New Heavens and New Earth’ are representative of spiritual dislodgement of wicked man. The ‘meek inherit the land’ asserts eventuality of physical dislodgement of wicked man from land that still remains good.
What then it means
that, “the meek inherit the land?”
Speaking prophetically, Jesus declares that, in eventuality, ‘the land’, that is, nature, will not produce for those who consider themselves intrinsically superior to their fellow man, only will produce for those who are meek — those who, as evident in their actions, truly consider their fellow man to be of the same intrinsic value as themselves. This is to be interpreted to mean, while the produce of the land kills off or debilitates the wicked, simultaneously, it produces health and vibrancy in the meek.
The time of which Jesus spoke is NOW.