Hard Sayings of Jesus by FF Bruce


Matthew 5:21-22—“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,£ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother£ will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,£’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

  • This is first of a series of statements in which Jesus makes the requirements of the law more radical than the strict letter might indicate.
  • Quoting the sixth commandment, Jesus then added the hard saying about the penalty incurred by one who says to another, “You fool.”
  • Jesus points out that when one commits murder, it springs from the angry thought.
  • It is in the mind that the crime is first committed and judgment is incurred.  The earthly court cannot take action against the angry thought, but the heavenly court can—and does.
  • “But I say to you”—Jesus, being who and what He is, can issue directives that rank with the honored law.
  • Jesus words make no distinction between righteous and unrighteous anger: anyone who is angry with his brother exposes himself to judgment.
  • The prophet Jonah, “I do well to be angry.”  Jonah 4:9.
  • There is no saying where unchecked anger may end.  “If you are angry but do not sin—Eph 4:26; that is “if you are angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin; let sunset put an end to your anger, for otherwise it will provide the devil with an opportunity which he will not be slow to seize.”
  • Evidently, to insult one’s brother is more serious than to be angry with him.  This is clearly so: angry thought can be checked, but the insult once spoken cannot be recalled and may cause violent resentment.
  • The person insulted may retaliate with a fatal blow, for which in fact if not in law the victim of the blow may be as much to blame as the one who strikes it.
  • The actual insult mentioned by Jesus is the word “Raca”—the precise meaning of it is disputed; it is probably an Aramaic word meaning something like “imbecile” but was plainly regarded as a deadly insult.
  • But “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.”  From this we gather that ‘you fool’ is a deadlier insult than “raca”, whatever Raca may mean.  For “the hell of fire” (RSV) or “the fire of hell” (NIV) is the most severe penalty of all.
  • The “hell of fire” is the fiery Gehenna—the valley on the south side of Jerusalem which, after the return from Babylonian exile, served as the city’s rubbish dump and public incinerator.  In due course, it came to be used as a symbol of the destruction of the wicked after death.