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The Sermon on the Mount [1] is a fascinating portion that not only amazed the audience who listened attentively to Jesus (Mat.7: 28-29), but continues to amaze many people to this day. Moreover, even those who claim to be skeptical testify to its ethical depth, although it should be emphasized that its content goes beyond a simple code of ethics. Moreover, it should be noted that this speech has been the object of different interpretations, or to put it better, has been the victim of different interpretations [2] . Victim in the sense that these interpretations did not allow us to grasp the very meaning of this discourse. We believe that, despite the different theological and social interpretations offered, this discourse has only one true meaning, that which Jesus himself gave it. The latter can be found by scanning the text and taking into account the context of Scripture in general.

It is, moreover, important to point out that our reflection will put emphasis on the concept that loads the signifier "happy" of the first section of this discourse, called the beatitudes, where the Lord Jesus taught specifically about happiness. . Concerning the beatitudes, two elements must be considered. First, “happy” is the word that opens Jesus' speech (Mat.5: 3). Second, this word is repeated about nine (9) times (Mat.5: 3-11) in an orderly and rewarding progression; which gives it a particular aspect in the body of the text. If the Sermon on the Mount constitutes the foundation on which the ministry of Jesus Christ and the apostles are built [3] , it is possible to say that the beatitudes are considered as the framework on which the rest of the sermon is built. This is due to the fact that the descriptive elements of the beatitudes and of what constitutes the character or nature of the Christian as a whole are decisive in being, for example, the salt of the earth or the light of the world. We must be humble to recognize that we must totally depend on God, and therefore recognize that we must bring our needs to him in prayer (Mat.6: 19-34). One must be a meek (Mat.5: 5) to practice temperance and reconciliation (Mat.5: 21-26). One must love peace (Mat.5: 9) to practice righteousness (Mat.6: 1-4).

In addition, it is important to point out that, long before we go into detail, the terms in which Jesus explains happiness sound shocking to the world today as it was in its day. Jesus affirms that happiness is for those who are “poor in spirit”, “afflicted”, “meek”, “merciful”… How can a poor in spirit or a afflicted one be happy? Christ's speech is disturbing in the context of today's societies in that it uses words that are outside the lexical field of happiness. Among other things, an analysis of Marxist sociology could see in this speech words that mask human reality and invite men and women to accept their material conditions of existence under the pretext of the inheritance of eternal life. However, such an analysis would label the beatitudes with a discourse of resignation. However, it should be said that the limit of such an analysis would be found in the fact that it takes this discourse out of its context. While the sociologist emphasizes the social dimension, Jesus himself is in a spiritual context which implies a fundamental relationship of man with his creator God.

Other fields of knowledge have investigated this concept of happiness since the human being, for a long time, has always been in a ceaseless quest for happiness. It is a fundamental part of his life. However, in this reflection, we will mainly focus on the content of the teaching of Jesus. To do so, we believe it is important to take a detour through a comparative analysis, by exposing other points of view, in order to see how Jesus' discourse is particular. Thus, we have chosen two perspectives: the new philosophical age, and classical philosophy. As we will see, the New Philosophical Age is not a movement derived from classical philosophy. On the contrary, he rejects the latter. Because, according to this movement, happiness cannot be grasped by rational philosophy or by science. As for classical philosophy, the discourse is not, however, homogeneous. We have two major currents of investigation on the concept of happiness which are: happiness as virtue (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) and happiness as pleasure (Epicurus). Thus, our reflection will be subdivided into two points. In the first point, we will present the perspectives retained above. In the second point, it will be a question of presenting the teaching of Jesus on happiness.

The “new philosophical age” and the classical philosophy on Happiness

From the outset, it is first of all important to point out that the New Age Philosophy is not to be confused with classical philosophy. This is a field of knowledge which produces paradigms, theories and concepts, making it possible to rationally investigate any object. It is a rational system of knowledge. While the new philosophical age is preferably a movement that offers a certain vision and belief in life that it is possible to find Happiness. We must also admit, among other things, that there is more than the two points of view that we choose to present within the framework of this reflection, such as economics and psychology. But, in order to shorten the details of the knowledge available on the concept, we have simply chosen to explore two areas, one unscientific, but important in terms of topicality and the other rational, as already mentioned above. .

a- The new philosophical age

The new philosophical age is neither a new paradigm nor a science derived from classical philosophy, as was the case with the humanities. On the other hand, the sociologist Maarten C. Berg describes it as a pseudo-religion [4] . It is a certain spiritualistic belief and practice related to a way of life in which people intend to achieve happiness. While it is true that the material dimension of happiness can be considered important, it is not an indispensable condition. The “New Age Philosophy” is a spiritual belief that believes that happiness, defined as a stage of life satisfaction and a level of well-being, is something that goes beyond the rational world. It cannot be understood or grasped by the fields of scientific and rational knowledge.

This perspective is formed from a diverse range of spiritual beliefs. It sustains itself in various esoteric spiritual sources and offers a vast field that the individual can explore for himself in order to achieve and experience his own happiness. If it is true that happiness is something immaterial which cannot be grasped by rational knowledge of the world, the individual, who sets out to conquer it, must experience it in the present time: here and now. The New Philosophical Age offers a set of principles which Berg sums up as follows:
The New Age Movement is a pseudo-religion that emphasizes the quality of life here and now. The top ten recommendations for a happy life are: (1) become spiritual; (2) be genuine; (3) know yourself; (4) be connected with the world; (5) meditate; (6) think positively; (7) Take control; (8) live healthily; (9) live in simplicity; (10) follow your intuition [5] .

These elements, stated in summary, give us a more or less clear idea of the perspective of the new age in relation to happiness. The key to living happily in this life is the spiritual dimension. This is itself a combined form of spiritual beliefs, which invite the individual to continually practice introspection. This perspective also advocates the idea of the power of inner energy and positive thinking.

b- Classical philosophy

Classical philosophy, for its part, is a system of rational knowledge aimed at investigating rigorously, conceptually and according to a tradition of research, an object and a domain of human life. Happiness has been and is until now an important object of philosophical investigation.

In the tradition of Greek philosophy, passing through Socrates to arrive at Aristotle, this notion has been analyzed as an unconditional element of human life. According to Socrates, happiness is not an external condition like having money. It is an internal condition. Not only is happiness an internal condition, it is also the ultimate end of human life. Gregory Vlastos has made it known, in this regard, that this Socrates conception of happiness “becomes axiomatic for subsequent moralists of classical antiquity. According to them, happiness is desired by all human beings as the ultimate end of all their rational acts [6] ”. And, as the ultimate end, happiness can of course make people wise to use external goods correctly. Like Socrates, Plato regards this notion as the end of the ends of human life. Heybron sums up the Platonic view by writing that Plato “believed that happiness (eudaimonia) is the only end of all human actions and therefore sought to show how we should live if we are to achieve that end” [7] . So to speak, happiness is the ultimate goal towards which all human activities and actions converge. For Aristotle too, happiness is good. In fact, according to these three aforementioned authors, happiness is the ultimate virtue, identified as the good that every human being must pursue and obtain.

However, the Epicurean philosophical tradition does not regard happiness as good. In Epicurean logic, it is made up of pleasure. In this case, virtue is not good but pleasure. This does not coexist with pain or grief. They are mutually exclusive. The presence of happiness necessarily implies the absence of pain. Vastos sums up the epicurists' perspective as follows: “identify happiness with pleasure and the absence of pain, arguing that this virtue should be preferred to vice because it is only more plausible to produce hedonic benefit [ 8] ”.

Critical considerations

The brief account of these two great paradigms on happiness traces the outline of two great traditions of research in the field of classical philosophy, which until now are in order. However, if it is true that the two take a different path, for the same object of reflection (happiness as virtue), it is necessary to emphasize that there is a common ground due to the fact that in both In this case, happiness can be achieved through human effort, and indeed it is its focus. Everything is centered on human capacity. In this sense, there is also no watertight barrier between rational philosophy and the movement of the new philosophical age. Both argue, in fact, that the focal point is the ability that humans possess to pursue and achieve their own happiness. Not only is the human being the subject capable of pursuing and obtaining his happiness, but this happiness is essentially terrestrial, in the sense that it must be lived here and now. So to speak, what differs the New Age of Philosophy from classical philosophy is that the latter suggests the path of rationality, while the former suggests the path of spiritualism to reach it.

Jesus on Happiness

Probably, the crowd that listened to Jesus on Happiness was already familiar with this word. No doubt the scribes and the Pharisees used to lecture this same generation on the secrets of happiness. It is possible that the Jews were aware of the statements of classical Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato on Happiness, knowing that the Greeks had a great intellectual influence on the Romans who besieged the Israelite territory of the time. But, it turns out that the terms in which Jesus described and explained happiness were singular. Because, Matthew reported that the crowd was amazed after listening to his speech. From this point, the legitimate question that must be asked is: how is Jesus' discourse on happiness different from these predecessors?

To answer in a simple and clear manner, we would say that the mode of approach and the terms in which Jesus chose to harangue constitutes what fundamentally differentiates his words from others. First, the difference is significant from the point of view of the method: where the proponents of the New Age movement and those of classical philosophy show that the human being is capable of attaining happiness, Christ's discourse invites the human being to step aside and confess his incapacity. Second, definitively, happiness from Christ's perspective is the joy provided by God Himself, and this cannot be achieved through human effort. Moreover, being understood as a type of joy deposited by the Holy Spirit in the life of those who trust in God, this happiness is circumscribed in eternity. Being spiritual and eternal in nature, this type of happiness cannot be affected by time circumstances and difficulties. In the first volume of his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, John Macarthur gives a relevant explanation of the very concept of happiness. So he wrote:

Makarios… means happy, privileged, blessed. Homer used this word to describe a rich man, Plato used it for one who is successful in business. But Homer and Hesiod spoke of the Greek gods as being happy from within because they were unaffected by the world of men who were themselves subject to poverty, sickness, weakness, misfortune and misery. dead. So, the full meaning of the term was about inner satisfaction that was unaffected by the circumstances. It is this type of happiness that God desires for his children; a level of joy and well-being that does not depend on physical and temporal circumstances (cf. Phil.4: 11-13) [9] .

As we have just seen, this joy does not come from man and cannot be conquered by him either. Incidentally, this word is also used as one of the characteristics of God (Ps. 68:35, 72: 18; 1 Tim. 1:11, 6:15). Macarthur for his part affirms that “the word happy is often used for God himself […] [10] ”. In this case, as part of the character of God, he or she who is in communion with him will enjoy this privilege. James M. Boice, in this same line of thought, points out three elements about this type of happiness taught by Jesus. First, happiness is a free gift from God (James 1: 16-17) [11] ; second, it is possible with the forgiveness of sins [12] (Ps. 32: 1-2), and third, this happiness is possible to be experienced when the Christian lives the life of Christ which is only possible through the Holy Spirit. [13] . These three elements that Boice mentioned imply that one must be born again (John 3: 3, 5) and justified by faith (Rom. 5: 1) to enjoy this happiness. This happiness depends only on God. This descends from Heaven, taking human form, to bring happiness to mankind because there is absolutely nothing man can do to acquire it (John 1:14; Phil. 2: 5-8). The illusion of religions and human knowledge is to give man the impression that he can achieve happiness on his own. The teaching of Christ asserts that it is impossible for man to achieve happiness as God sees it.

Although it must be recognized that man is a capable subject, in the sense that he is a reasonable and moral being, as a creature of God; however, it is important to point out that he has a sin-corrupted nature that draws him away from his perfect and holy Creator. This is why his acts are futile when it comes to considering them in relation to his creator. The only way for him to enjoy this happiness is to recognize that he can do absolutely nothing except witness to his incapacity and cry out for God's help. This is in fact what Jesus Christ underlines in the first beatitude: “happy are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5: 3). This poverty is neither financial nor intellectual but spiritual. This allows man to recognize his state of sin, which puts him in a miserable condition, of humiliation and of total incapacity in the face of his creator. In this sense, Nietzcche, with his idea of ​​“superman, comes up against this first principle taught by Jesus. Because, according to him, the superman is described as the man who, because he is continually creating himself, will one day succeed in taking the place of God [14] . The superman is self-sufficient and does not need any divine intervention. Moreover, according to him, God is only an invention to weaken human beings.

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While it is possible, according to Nietszche, to rely on oneself to create one's own happiness, for Christ this state of fundamental satisfaction and joy is only possible in the recognition of our incapacity as a fallen, depraved human being. which, therefore, should lead us to ask God to save us. This happiness which is referred to in Jesus' speech came from heaven and places us in an eternal dimension, in the sense that it puts us in an eternal relationship with the Creator God. And, because he comes from above, nothing from below can affect him. Jesus himself said: “Happy will you be when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil falsely about you, because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for great will be your reward in heaven; for this is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you ”(Matthew 5: 11-22). And the apostle Paul, for his part, wrote the following: “For I have the assurance that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, neither height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ our Lord ”(Romans 8: 38-39).

conclusion and perspectives
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We have just seen that despite the methodological differences or approaches between the New Age movement and classical philosophy, there are some commonalities. Man is both the center and the means by which he himself can achieve happiness. While Jesus, for his part, shows that man, in order to enjoy this happiness, must confess that he is totally incapable of achieving it, that he can do nothing to enjoy it, except begging for favor. of God and to implore his grace. On the other hand, happiness, both from the perspective of the new philosophical age or from classical philosophy, and from the Christ perspective, is an internal joy. However, this, according to the philosophy of the new age and classical philosophy, comes from man and is inscribed in time. Yet from Christ's perspective, it comes from God and therefore spills over into eternity. Along this same line of thought, Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, offers a frame of reference that allows us to make our perspective clearer on an important concluding note.
The whole argument of this book is developed from two major concepts: life “under the Sun” (Ec.1: 3, 9, 14) and life “under the heavens” (Ec.1: 13; 2 : 3; 3: 1). In our opinion, it would be impossible to understand what sage Solomon wants to teach without these fundamental concepts.

Life "under the Sun" refers to the defined relationships between human beings on earth. These relationships are characterized by short life, meanness, loss, disappointment, injustice, crime, and oppression. According to the author, this life under the sun is characterized by “vanity” (Ec.2: 11, 23; 4: 4) and the “pursuit of the wind” (Ec.3: 4, 16; 6: 9) . It should be noted that life under the sun is that which is bounded by time and terrestrial space where the relationship seems to be mainly defined between humans.

The second, being life “under the heavens”, defines the human being in his relation to eternity. She does not apprehend him in his earthly setting only, but speaks of God and what he has done by emphasizing his relationship with him. Solomon was able to write: “I have seen what occupation God has in store for humans. He makes everything beautiful at the right time. He even put the thought of eternity in their hearts, even though man cannot understand the work that God is doing from start to finish. I recognized that their only happiness is to rejoice and do well in their lifetime, and that if a man eats and drinks and takes pleasure in all his work, it is a gift from God. I have recognized that everything that God does will last forever, without anything being added or taken away, and that God acts in this way so that we feel fear before him ”(Ec.3: 10 -14, second 21). Note that the happiness he speaks of is the work of God.

When the sage describes what is happening under the heavens, he sees the human in a dimension other than that of the futility of life. By concluding his argument from this same perspective, he invites men to fear God and to obey him (Ec.12: 13), knowing that true happiness depends on it. This type of happiness, which is neither futile nor temporal, is part of the perfect eternal relationship between human being and his creator, which relationship invites him to depend totally on God, the source of happiness. This is in a way what David teaches us in the first Psalm where he shows that the one who is happy is the one who reads and meditates on the word of God. And in the second chapter, in the twelfth verse, we continued to read: "happy are those who trust in the Lord". This same idea is also expressed in the first verse of chapter 112 of this same book: "happy the man who fears the Lord and who finds his pleasure in these commandments". If in life under the Sun everything seems to be over at physical death (Ec. 3: 16-22), it should be noted that in life under heaven we are in an eternal dimension. This dimension also invites us to understand that everything counts in the eyes of God. This is why King Solomon warns us: “for God will bring every work into judgment, and this judgment will bear on all that is hidden, whether good or bad” (Ec.12: 14).
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In light of this frame of reference developed in the book of Ecclesiastes, we can frame happiness from the perspectives of the new philosophical age and classical philosophy under the concept of "life under the sun". Being limited in time, this happiness is only vanity; while the happiness taught by Jesus is inscribed in life under heaven, that is to say, what he offers is closely related to eternity. So to speak, the happiness of man derived from living “under the sun” is fleeting and is subject to being disturbed by the circumstances of life and human injustice. Such happiness cannot be infinite joy because not only is it subject to contextual and temporal modification, but it is limited to life on earth or death. Solomon tells us: “The living, indeed, know that they will die, while the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward to wait, since their memory is forgotten. Even their love, their hatred and their zeal are already gone; they will never again take any part in anything that is done under the sun ”(Ec.9: 5-6). On the other hand, the true happiness of man, according to the teaching of Jesus Christ, can only come from God, his creator. This type of happiness is eternal and cannot be affected by the vicissitudes of life. Only those who are children of God can enjoy this happiness taught by Jesus.

Mauley Colas

Vice-President of Standing 4 Christ

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Reference Notes

[ 1] The Sermon on the Mount constitutes the first public discourse of Jesus of Nazareth. It covers three chapters (5,6 and 7) in the Gospel of Matthew.

[2] Authors such as Martin Llyod Jones (1976) and James Montgomery Boice (1972) have critically approached these different interpretations. In fact, there are four (4) versions that we just want to list without giving the details. First, we have the social gospel which interprets this discourse as a teaching on ethics that must be applied at the level of society in general. Second, there is a legalistic interpretation that interprets this discourse in light of the law of Moses. Third, there is an interpretation that sees this discourse as a set of high-level standardized standards that human beings will never meet and therefore should not be taken seriously. Fourth, the dispensationalist perspective holds that this discourse is not for the present tense but will be applied in the Millennium. Yet it turns out that our careful study of the Sermon on the Mount leads us to the conclusion that these four aforementioned perspectives were wrong. For more details, I recommend the aforementioned authors.

[3] Martyn Llyod-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 2nd ed Grand Rapids / Cambrigde: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976, pp.10-11.

[4] Maarten C. Berg, New age advice: ticket to happiness? In Journal Happiness Studies, vol. 8, 2008, pp 361-368.

[5] Maarten C. Berg, Op.cit., P. 374.

[6] Gregory Vlastos, Happiness and Virtue in Socrates' Moral Theory, Topoi, March 1985, Volume 4, Issue I p.4.

[7] Daniel M. Heybron, Two philosophical problems, in the study of happiness, in Journal of Happiness Studies, February 2000, p.209.

[8] Gregory Vlastos, Op.cit, p.4.

[9] John Macarthur, The MacArthur New Testament commentary, Matthew 1-7, Chicago: Moody Publishers: 1985, pp.141-142.

[10] John MacArthur, Op.Cit., P142.

[11] James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, Grand Rapids: Bakerbooks, 1972, p.16.

[12] James Montgomery Boice, Op.Cit., Pp16-17.

[13] James Montgomery Boice, Op.Cit., P.17.

[14] “Nietzsche has only one desire and one love: to bring the superman into the world. His sadness and his friendship for a friend must be that of the Superman. For that, he must speak differently. This superman is a new morning. The Superman, in the Blessed Isles, is what has taken the place of God. Nietzsche invites his disciples, his brothers as he calls them to transform themselves into fathers and ancestors of the superman. This is their best creation. He is ecstatic, then, in front of the beauty of the superman who visits him like a shadow. In paragraph 335 of Gai Savoir, Nietzsche defines the man of the future or superman as one who is constantly creating himself. How to understand this self-creation? Like the ability to overcome any fixation, like the curious willingness to take on new skills, activities and values. The Nietzschean superman is ready to endorse the most contrasting statuses and forms of life, less interested in the very content of each of them than in the exploration of his own potentialities. From this perspective, the imagination, as a means of metamorphosis, plays a decisive role ”. In L'athénien, retrieved online at: (March 13, 2017).

enfant Sourire
Particularity of the teaching of Jesus on "happiness"
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