----- Original Message -----
To: Jim Moretz
Sent: 28 January 2000 00:59
Subject: Re: Your comments on foolery
Thanks for your comments.
You are right, I haven't been entirely
fair here as the original words are
more subtle than the common translations
often found. Following your email I did some research at the
Nevertheless, I think I still also have a point worth making if you'll bare
First, on the detail.
<< In Matthew 5:22, the Greek word rendered "fool" in English
As far as I understand, the use of "raca" is not for the
which is instead "moros" (English etymology of "moron")
in the original. i.e. the passage should read:
egw de legw umin oti paV o orgizomenoV tw
adelfw autou enocoV estai th krisei oV d an eiph tw adelfw autou raka (raca)
enocoV estai tw sunedriw oV d an eiph mwre
("more" = fool, from "moros" [mwros] = foolish) enocoV estai eiV thn geennan tou
However, "Young's literal" translates this not as "fool" but as "rebel,"
whilst "raca" seems to be "empty fellow."
but I -- I say to you, that every one who is
angry at his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment, and
whoever may say to his brother, Empty fellow! shall be in danger of the
sanhedrim, and whoever may say, Rebel! shall be in danger of the gehenna of the
However I am not sure that this is correct as mwre definitely is ancient Greek for
"fool" (I checked this with a native Greek friend and a Greek dictionary). This
doesn't spoil your main point though.
Meanwhile many other groups of biblical scholars are quite content to let
it read as "fool"
"...anyone who says to his brother 'Raca' is
answerable to the Sanhedrin [the
Council]. But anyone who says 'You fool'
will be in danger of the hell fire "
But *I* say unto you, that every one that is
lightly angry with his brother shall be subject to the judgement; but whosoever
shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be subject to [be called before] the
sanhedrim; but whosoever shall say, Fool, shall be subject to the penalty of the
hell of fire.
But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother,
shall be in danger of the judgement. And whosoever shall say to his brother,
Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool,
shall be in danger of hell fire.
This similar treatment by different groups also seems to be happening with
"aphron" (afrwn) which Young's literal
translates as "unthinking" whereas all the others are content with "fool." This
happens with all the other passages you mentioned.
So you have a good point, which I concede although it is unfortunate that
if it is really important then so many scholars have missed it when it seems so
obvious in the Greek. Not that Jesus spoke Greek of course, so I could not be
certain that Greek speakers were not making similar mistakes with Aramaic
words, but I can only conjecture here at the moment. Nevertheless, the oldest
texts are Greek so I understand.
Nevertheless, the Psalmists are translated in Young's Literal as claiming
atheists are "fools" which is the action so condemned in Matthew. So you are not
totally off the hook!
But maybe it is even more complicated....
Out of interest, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibc.htm
is often stated that Jesus never commented about homosexuality. A case
made that he refers to gays in this verse. On the surface, the verse
condemn individuals who treat others with contempt and call them
Hatred of others is considered here as serious to God as an overt act
murder. "Raca" is defined in the NIV as an Aramaic term of contempt.
"raca" "rakha" and similar terms in various Semitic languages also carry
meaning of effeminacy or weakness - terms frequently used to refer
homosexuals. The word "Moros" which is translated as "fool" has a number
meanings, including both sexual aggressor and homosexual
could argue that Jesus was condemning homophobia in this
passage; but it
would be a weak case at best, because of the multiplicity of
meanings of the
key words. "
So as for what the passage really means,
as you say, it is debatable. Certainly if it is important it has not been deemed
that scripture can be understood by the uneducated such as "prostitutes and
tax-collectors" who are meant to be entering the kingdom of heaven before us. I
think it is a shame if so much study is required in order to be persuaded that
the bible is saying less cruel and hypocritical things than it seems. Even with
much study this is often still not enough. With your email I received yet
another from an ex-professional Christian. He said "[I] have run the gamut from
Pentecostal to United Methodist minister. I have two Master Degrees from two
seminaries, including Princeton Theological Seminary. It was there that I began
the long journey of deconversion."
It doesn't seem that any amount of study is guaranteed to make the bible
secure enough for belief. There are many similar cases available through my
website, and I am currently compiling a big list of similar ex-professional
Christians. I have books of collected stories from such people (see my
booklinks) and Dan Barker is writing another collection of stories from
ex-clergy. There must be something up if all these people are not convinced by
their scholarship to remain Christians.
However, the most disturbing part of this passage is the part you did not
comment on. It is not the apparent contradiction in the bible that is really
disturbing, but the sentiments involved. You said: << Jesus
have used that term. >> My guess is that this is mostly a statement of
faith in Jesus' perfection. The gospel writers also have Jesus saying "And
whosoever shall say, Thou Fool (or whatever), shall be in danger of hell fire
(whatever that means)" and one can add to this the other passages I have about
Jesus' unforgiving remarks on my page http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/babble.html
well the Gospel accounts of Jesus' references to 'hypocrites', 'blind guides',
'whitewashed tombs', 'snakes', 'broods of vipers' etc. There is further
discussion at http://users.uniserve.com/~tfrisen/Jesuscha.html
about Jesus' contradictions and moral character.
Meanwhile, back in hell(!!), as I said in my story:
"The fact that Jesus, as depicted in the gospels, believed in hell is to me
such a serious religious problem that it was one of the things that finally
broke up my Christianity. What was going on in this book! As a liberally natured
Christian I had never really believed in the existence of hell, or at least I
shied away from hell thoughts, as it did not fit with my idea of a loving God.
Rather I thought all this hell talk must mean something else. But the problem
was that there was so much of it in the NT and the fact that God seemed to allow
the doctrine to be so popular within the church did bother me very much, as did
the fact that if Jesus & St. Paul etc. really didn't believe in literal hell
then the fact that they didn't make it abundantly transparent that they meant
something else was just utterly culpable irresponsibility to me, so abhorrent is
the merest sniff of that doctrine and so dreadful the consequences of Christians
believing it down the ages. "
This is the real problem with the passage you picked me up on. The
contradiction, apparent or otherwise, is useful to show how little the bible can
be taken at face value. Inerrancy research is full of pitfalls, but the real
moral problem is far worse than this. You may have seen me discuss this a little
also contains other material of relevance so I will leave you to refer to
that if you wish (including the meaning of "hell" (geennan
)), rather than repeat it here.
Although I have not discussed the subtleties of translation, I think
the important point is well made by highlighting such passages. It is indeed
unfair of Jesus (as reported by the gospel writers) to use such language
especially, if he were divine, in knowing the problems it would cause down the
millennia. This is good evidence against his divinity.
"Jesus taught about the Flood. There was no Flood. Would not a great
teacher not have known that?
Jesus taught that some people were in a 'synagogue of Satan'. Great
teachers do not use antisemitisms.
Jesus called his enemies 'hypocrites', 'blind guides', 'whitewashed tombs',
'snakes', 'broods of vipers'.
Jesus promised the people of Capernaum that it would be more bearable for
Sodom on the day of judgement than for them.
Sceptics prefer the teachings in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 4:29 'Do
not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful
for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who
listen... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along
with every form of malice' "
Paul (like Jesus, above) does not always use this advice. This should be
expected from humans.
The point is, so much of the bible is just not humane, let alone divine. In
my opinion, to put so much effort into excusing these writings in the face of so
many truly cruel passages and the horrific suffering in the world is indicative
of an unhealthy relationship. Christians are too often so concerned with
bolstering Christianity that the neglectfulness of their god in making himself
clear, or even kind, is ignored through sometimes massive effort. There is far
worse in the bible than the "foolery" verses I have included which were partly
chosen because they struck me as amusing rather than being completely serious. I
apologise if that seems too frivolous. The later passages I have at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/babble.html
far from frivolous.
As I said in another feedback discussion, trying to build a
with a silent and neglectful partner, who we excuse for cruel acts and
is not love. Christians jump through hoops for their god and their
engineering experiences and emotions whilst the cool reality is
there is silence at the other end. Christians blame themselves if they
something is going wrong in their Christian lives or their heartfelt
anxious prayers are not answered, rather than blame or question
existence of the silent god who leaves them to suffer the worst
life can throw at them. This is exactly how abused and neglected
behave regarding their husbands until they either wake up or are
to see the relationship for the non-relationship that it is.
I will reiterate though, that these are just ideas that made me uneasy, and
mostly occurred at the end of my deconversion. Most of the process was one of
reading of psychology, comparative religion, history and thinking through some
knotty problems that lead to my deconversion.
There is a much better way to live, but it takes a lot of courage to dare
question ones god through fear of what he might do to you or not give you,
let alone the fear of losing so much investment in Christian life to date and
the psychological attachment one naturally has grown in years of a Christian
environment. However, the fact that so many heavily invested sincere Christians
have deconverted is compelling evidence that there is something very wrong with
Christianity, even without following the resources such as those I have in my
the stories on my site.
Basically, I think you made a valid point about the "fool" quotes, but the
serious problem is one of enormous moral, emotional and psychological import.
Excusing such quotes is interesting and academic, but loving God in the face of
what is often said in the bible and the neglect the Christian god has for the
world is straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel in my opinion. You may
ignore my opinion of course, but this is my website, so I will be frank. On the
rare occasions that I ask questions on Christian websites, I am always very
polite and restrained, as I feel I am a guest. On debate lists and my
website, and when people write to me, I let it all hang out though. I hope that
you don't get upset by any strong words.
I use feedback as an opportunity for amplifying my thoughts and to build up
a FAQ for referring subsequent feedback to. So please don't be taken aback at a
long reply - it is not meant to be personal, but rather written as a
contribution to my site as well as an answer to your email.
Thanks again for writing and alerting me to not being totally fair about
the foolery passages. I hope our exchange has been mutually interesting.