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.
Fool – What is the difference between “raca” and “fool” in this context? Why does one result in a different punishment from the other? Can you ascertain the difference from just reading the text in English? Of course not. You have to go further. It requires study. What is Yeshua really saying here?
The word “fool” in the Greek is mōros and means foolish, impious, or godless. This is pretty close, but still too close to the other word “raca” for us to discern the difference. Let’s go further. What does the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament say about the word mōros?
[…] the folly consists of practical atheism, i.e., not thinking that God really sees and controls events. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p620)
So there’s a reference about people who don’t believe that God is concerned about the events of humanity. This is practical atheism. So it’s not just a foolish person, but one that doesn’t have a relationship with God. Can we go further?
Which Hebrew word does the Greek word, mōros, translate in the LXX? One of the common Hebrew words is nabal which means this very thing and used in Deuteronomy 32:6.
The book, Everyman’s Talmud explains it like this:
In Biblical literature the statement “There is no God” is made by the Nabal, 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 creatures. (Abraham Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, p 3)
Yeshua is using a common Jewish term to share something here. He restricts us from suggesting that another person’s relationship with God is as a nabal – nonexistent. It’s rare that anyone during that time believed in no God… but that someone believed that God didn’t care or interact with the people… that was a nabal. Don’t call others a fool suggesting that their relationship with God is incorrect. As soon as we do this, we place ourselves like God. But only He has the power to discern and judge the relationship between He and the people.