Is calling someone fool more grave than murder?

Good day.

This is another Bible passage that I’d like to share. Again, most of the inputs are taken from BibleScholars.org.

This is about what Yeshua means in Matthew 5:21-26, when he said about being subject to judgment.

What does judgment mean in this context?  Is it the final judgment in the end days? Or is it something else?

Please walk with me in this journey of trying to understand the context of what Yeshua (Jesus) meant in this passage.

Without a knowledge of Hebrew, it is quite difficult to understand its context.  And thus, it might be wise to learn from Hebrew scholars themselves rather than just relying on the English translation to better understand the meaning and its context.

Below is the passage in Matthew 5:21-26:

21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

 

Note that in the Hebrew text of Matthew, the word judgment is bet din for this verse: “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:.”

For the 1st part of the next verse: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council,” the word in English texts are usually translated as council, court, or judgment.  In Hebrew, it is san herding (Sanhedrin).

And then for the next part of that same verse: “but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire,” the word fool in Hebrew is naval, and the word hell is gehinom.

Why are those words significant?  Without understanding the Hebrew context, we would have no idea of what was really implied.

According to Dr. Blizzard, who has a Ph.D. in Hebrew studies, there are three Sanhedrin (or  Sanhedrins):

  • The first and small Sanhedrin is called the bet din, translated in English as judgment in verse 21;
  • The second Sanhedrin is composed of 23 judges;
  • The third Sanhedrin consists of 71 members.

It was explained that:

Each Sanhedrin judges certain specific offenses and all of the laws regarding the number of judges and a specific offenses each Sanhedrin judges are listed in the tractate Sanhedrin. This is the first injunction referring to a transgression of such offense that the one violating the injunction is deemed worthy of eternal punishment.

But what is naval, which is translated as fool?  What made calling another person, “you fool” far worst than murder?

In the Tanakh (called Old Testament by Christians), the word fool is apparently used to describe an atheist:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Again according to Hebrew Bible scholars,  “The fact it mentions the naval is a specific indication that this information was communicated originally, not in Greek but Hebrew… In biblical literature the statement ‘there is no god’ is made by the naval (f00l), i.e. the morally corrupt person who, while acknowledging the existence of a creator, refused to believe that he was at all interested in the actions of his creature… TheRabbis define the atheist as one who affirmed ‘there is no judgement and no judge (gen.R.266)’ in the universe irrespective of his disbelief in the existence of God.”

With that, we may now have a clearer perspective why calling “you fool” has more gravity.

Personally, I would say that murder is judged in a human court and punished in a human prison; while living as an atheist or naming someone an atheist is judged not in our human court and punished not in our human prison.

If we continue reading the rest of the verses, we are invited to be forgiving and sensible.  In a way, verse 25 supports that the word judgment in verse 21 is indeed the Sanhedrin.

 

Whether you and I would consider the context that we have discussed — we all know that to forgive sets both parties free.  The forgiven is set free, not perhaps of the punishment and verdict, yet of the guilt; while the one who forgives is set free of that hatred that can seriously kill not just the soul, but also the body and the mind.

 

 

 

About BibleScholars.org:

BibleScholars.org is the website of Dr. Roy B. Blizzard.  He is President of Bible Scholars, which is an Austin-based corporation dedicated to biblical research and education.  Dr. Blizzard has a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

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