How does calling someone an "idiot" make one bound for Gehenna? I'm sure there is something of translation, meaning, or ancient culture to be considered here.

...and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.

Matthew 5:22 (Amplified Bible)

  • Is this a point lost in translation?
  • What point was Jesus making when he said this?

3 Answers 3


It's not so much something lost in translation, though there may be some cultural factors coming into play. Jews considered the Words of the ten commandments to be minimum requirements, and beginning with Matthew 5:21, Jesus expounds on some the commandments pertaining to the relationship to other other people. The essence of the teaching in Matthew 5:21 ff is that the actual commandment not to murder is insufficient. Not only is murdering another a violation of the commandment, but even to insult another person violates the spirit of it. He then similarly expounds on others of the commandments, for example, not only is it a sin to commit adultery, but it is a sin to think about committing adultery. After making similar comments on other commandments, Jesus summarizes his points in Matthew 5:48--"You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (RSV)

To go back to the original question, merely not committing murder is imperfect, as it is the minimum required. Not insulting another person, as in calling them a fool, is perfection.

  • 2
    Great answer! I love how you drew on the context - such as adultery / looking. Great job. I love it.
    – user9485
    May 15, 2014 at 3:04
  • @brasshat. You have not answered the question because in your logic calling somebody an 'empty-head' is still perfection. Murder is placed next to 'whoever is angry with his brother without cause'. In the same way 'empty-head' is placed next to 'fool'. Both murder and irrational anger is wrong. Both speaking falsely about a person (implying they do not study?) (Exodus 20: 16) and insulting them is wrong. This is fairly well explored in modern Jewish law in the way that Jesus meant it as against the way the Pharisees applied the law. (Explore Matthew 5: 20) May 15, 2014 at 9:25
  • Actually, Gideon, my logic is that not calling someone an empty-head is perfection. Calling them an empty-head is imperfection, and tantamount to murder. In other words, Jesus was acknowledging in his teaching 2000 years ago that words do have the power to hurt.
    – brasshat
    May 15, 2014 at 11:34
  • @brasshat Amen to that. Jesus taught about (Cyber)Bullying some 2000 years ago!
    – Zoe
    May 27, 2014 at 5:57

The root of this teaching is to show us more about murder. Specifically murder that spawns from arguments and the ruthlessness of the people. There is a reason that Gehenna was translated as Hell. But for the purposes of Today's English Language. If we where to directly translate the concept would have better to translate the word as Crematory. So he starts with a teaching about people getting angry. And the dangers of casting judgment against others. The term raca was a derogatory expression meaning “air head,” insinuating a person’s stupidity or inferiority.

Translated just for you

I but say to you that everyone being angry with his brother will be liable to the judgement, and whoever shall anyhow say to his brother "Air Head" will be liable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever shall anyhow say "Fool" will be liable to the fires of the Crematory.

For the result of the offense can mean death. So he suggests that we do not offend.

Matthew 18:7 NKJV

Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

To the crowd that Jesus was speaking to, this would have been obvious that the result of the offending statement of "Fool" was a risk for death. In the case of Gehenna a death that leaves you burning on a pile of garbage.


Mat 5:22 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,G3474 shall be in danger of hell fire.

2Co 11:23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool G3912) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.





Probably form the base of G3466; dull or stupid (as if shut up), that is, heedless, (morally) blockhead, (apparently) absurd: - fool (-ish, X -ishness).

I like language studies but with this word it has no built in repugnant meaning that we can discern through translation by historical usage. Its not the equivalent of the f word or anything as far as I know.

This is my favorite kind of Bible problem one in which only Christ himself can solve. I do not claim to be him but I have this really kool recording of all the stuff I need for life in Christ called the Bible. There are other words fool used in the new testament and they are simular but they are not this exact word so its impossible to tell if they are equivocal unless they are used in a contextual exchange within reference texts of the Gospels.

With the Bible you cross reference the greek word and use its context to explain what this word fool which we are never supposed to say actually means and it turns out its close to Godless abomination.

The first rule of this kind of cross reference is that you discern who Chris is speaking to. Here it was Jews. He would have prolly been speaking in aramaic with some kind of hebrew mix. That doesn't really matter what matters is that we need to cross reference into the Old Testament.

Psa 14:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

The Old Testament describes this word or something simular to it as the equivalent of atheist but it adds abominable and without good. You can read pure evil as a translation.

Now that we understand how the word might have resonated with the crowd we can move forward into what the word actually means in the mind of Christ.

Mat 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

Mat 7:25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

Mat 7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

Mat 7:27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Here Jesus specificly says the person who is a fool is the one who refuses to do them but hears them anyways. A person who is stubborn against God.

Pro 29:1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

Jesus was referring to the man of Prov 29 who had been corrected through and by the word and those who represent the Word but refused to heed Godly counsel knowing full well it was Godly counsel. This isn't the person who questioned the validity of the teacher or the person who doubted that it was God. This is the person who knows its God yet turns away anyways.

So the equivalent translation of the word fool based on crossrfferencing is:

There is no hope you! You abomination! You never should have been born! You're destined for hell! Your stupid and moronic! You refuse to listen to anyone! You're going to burn for it! (then some cuss words too)

  • 1
    While this is an artful construction of what raca could mean, you haven't persuaded me that the precise/complete meaning of the offending word is at the heart of what Jesus is teaching us with this statement.
    – mojo
    May 15, 2014 at 3:07
  • @mojo why would i be attempting to persuade you?
    – user4060
    May 15, 2014 at 3:08
  • The question is about what Jesus means by the statement in Mt 5:22. You've developed a rich definition of raca but don't seem to be answering the question.
    – mojo
    May 15, 2014 at 3:13
  • He asked two questions Is this a point lost in translation? I said yes. What is the point Jesus is making when he said this? I so translated.
    – user4060
    May 15, 2014 at 3:14
  • While your research into the meaning behind the word fool may be correct in many forms. I feel this teaching is about a persons response to any of the forms of the word fool you have used. And how it relates to murder, directly previous to this verse is this: "“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’" (Matthew 5:21 NKJV) and also the result of being murdered (being thrown into the burning garbage pile.)[Matthew 5:22]
    – Decrypted
    May 15, 2014 at 3:46

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