Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Fri Sep 11 11:42:56 EDT 1998

At 10:06 AM -0500 9/11/98, Edgar Foster wrote:
>First off, I wish to thank everyone who has responded to my question.
>Your comments have certainly shed abundant light on this topic for me.
>Wes Williams wrote:
>>I'm not sure why we think it necessary to distinguish MAKARIOS
>between man and God but for theological reasons, as Randy helpfully
>posted from the
>LOGOS software. We say God is loving. I see no linguistic reason why
>we should not say God is also happy. It seems straightforward. Why is
>more to this?<
>While researching this text in both lexicons and other Biblical
>literature, I found that many scholars see a need to either establish
>a strict dichotomy between "blessed" and "happy" in relation to
>MAKARIOS or they side with the "blessed" aspect of the word.
>Unwisely (I think), Zodhiates rejects translating MAKARIOS as "happy"
>for etymological reasons. Happy in his eyes, indicates a chance
>occurrence. Clearly this is an example of the etymological fallacy.
>Furthermore, while I think that looking back to the classical use of
>MAKARIOS (i.e., Aristotle, et, al.) can be informative in this case, I
>don't know that I would view the classics as normative here. The God
>of the Bible differs immensely from either the Olympian or Chtonic
>gods (B. Pascal). Whether that is a true statement or not, I like the
>point that the Interpreter's Bible makes concerning Matt. 5:3ff:
>"The Greek word rendered blessed is used in pagan literature to denote
>the highest stage of happiness and well-being, such as the gods enjoy.
>Here it stands for the Hebrew ASHRE^, "how happy!" as in Ps. 1:1;
>32:1; 112:1" (7:280-281).
>The aforementioned definition is a matter I admittedly need to do
>further study on. But the question is my mind is, can the word
>MAKARIOS carry both of these ideas simultaneously? Could God be both
>blessed and happy? Or, could he be seen as only "happy" in the context
>of 1 Tim. 1:11? This suggestion has been raised by a participant on
>this list. Maybe some might consider this type of theologia,
>"primitive anthropomorphism," but I personally think its an awesome
>thought that hO PANTOKRATWR could be "happy" or joyful in a sense
>analogous to humans.
>Any other thoughts would certainly be appreciated.

There are a couple big questions here (I really mean to stay at a very
general level here rather than get down into the nitty gritty of
theological questions) that one must resolve to one's own satisfaction
before reaching a decision on how one thinks one should convey the sense of

(1) To what extent is one comfortable representing or conceiving God in
anthropomorphic terms (and this may, of course, mean different things to
different questioners/thinkers/interpreters): this bears also on questions
of what "begetting" and "son" mean as theological terms, although I'm not
thinking of that here; this is closer to the question I raised a year or so
ago about whether it makes an awful lot of sense even to talk about
"glorifying" God, although we all DO talk about that. It has to do with the
extent to which one ascribes to God an essentially human kind of spiritual
experience of beatitude: one might say, on the one hand, that God takes
pleasure in any sort of fulfilment of "his" "intention" for creation and is
grieved at the frustration of that "intention." Martin Buber at some point
commented on the Genesis creation narrative's "Let us make humanity in our
image" as to be understood to mean not that God is anthropomorphic but that
humanity is THEOMORPHIC--and that it is our task to discover what it means
for humanity to be theomorphic, but one thing it would seem to mean is that
God is quite a bit more "humane" than humanity is.

(2) One problem with "happy" for MAKARIOS is that it ultimately reverts
etymologically to a notion of chance. Aristotle spends considerable effort
in Book 1 of the Ethics in drawing a distinction between
EUDAIMWN--"blessed" in the sense of being fulfilled with the goodness that
deity can bestow--and EUTUCHS--"fortunate" in the sense of enjoying various
sorts of fulfilment for no particular reason other than that one is
"lucky." Vergil draws a similar sort of distinction toward the end of
Georgics 2 when he describes as FELIX the man who has achieved Epicurean
"ataraxy" (and here's what Edgar Krentz was pointing at in his post earlier
this morning) and as FORTUNATUS, or sharing a lesser degree of "happiness,"
the man who communes with the gods of nature and countryside. One always
has the feeling, however, that Vergil had his stylus in his cheek when he
ordered the two terms thus.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at OR cconrad at

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