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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Fool (2)

FOOL.—This word occurs 6 times in the AV of the Gospels as the translation of ἀνόητος (Luke 24:25), ἄφρων (Luke 11:40, Luke 12:20), and μωρός (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 23:17; Matthew 23:19). In the RV it occurs only twice (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 23:17), being in Matthew 23:19 omitted from the text, and in the three remaining places the rendering given is ‘foolish.’ Further, μωρός occurs in Matthew 7:26; Matthew 25:2-3; Matthew 25:8, and in these places, both in AV and RV, it is translated ‘foolish.’

These three Greek words, confused more or less by the principal versions,—the Harklean Syriac and Coptic are exceptions,—are not synonyms. Ἀνόητος implies a lack of comprehension or understanding, and so is very fittingly used in Luke 24:25. Ἄφρων, signifying ‘mindless’ or ‘senseless,’ frequently carries with it, in Biblical usage (cf. its constant employment in the LXX of Proverbs), an underlying meaning of moral defect, impiety, or unbelief; while in μωρός (cf. μωραίνεσθαι, Matthew 5:13 ‘to become insipid’) the predominant meaning is ‘dull,’ ‘witless,’ ‘stupid.’

The meaning of μωρέ in Matthew 5:22 has been much discussed. Alford mentions three interpretations: (1) that it is to be understood as the ordinary Greek word for ‘fool’; (2) that it is a transliteration of the Heb. כֹרָה (môreh), meaning ‘rebel’ or ‘perverse’ (cf. Numbers 20:10), a word which is put in RVm as an alternative to ‘fool’; (3) that it bears the sense of ἄθεος according to the Heb. usage of נָבָל (nâbâl, and cf. 1 Samuel 25:25). However, there seems to be no real reason for supposing the word to be other than the Greek μωρός used in its ordinary Biblical sense.

Our Lord wished to emphasize the enormity of murder. He said, ‘Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, and Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you that whosoever is angry [the inward feeling] with his brother, is in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca [a contemptuous utterance arising from the inward anger, and probably no definite word; see Raca], shall be liable to a more solemn judgment; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool [the angry feeling formulated in a definite word of contemptuous depreciation], shall be worthy of a more dreadful doom.’ This is, in the main, Augustine’s explanation (de Serm. Dom. in Mont. i. ix.); and thus our Lord leaves it to be inferred how heinous actual murder is in His eyes.

Every use of the word ‘fool’ is not, of course, condemned. Our Lord Himself (see above) and St. Paul (Galatians 3:1) employed it in needful rebuke; but that use of it is condemned which springs from angry feelings, and which is one step on the way to violence or even to murder.

Literature.—Grimm-Thayer, Lex., under the Greek terms; Expos. Times, iv. [1893] 495, 514, xi. [1900] 381; Law, Serious Call, ch. xxi.; Dykes, Manifesto of the King, 232.

Albert Bonus.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fool (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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