Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jesus’ Kind Counsel

Unkind, burning words of offence.
James 3:6

In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus provided much valuable counsel on practical living. This blog post though will focus on verse 22 and will point out some unique textual challenges contained in it:

Matthew 5:22 in the NET Bible:

But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults [27] a brother will be brought before the council, [29] and whoever says ‘Fool’ [30] will be sent to fiery hell. [32]
[27] tn Grk “whoever says to his brother ‘Raca,’” an Aramaic word of contempt or abuse meaning “fool” or “empty head.”
More primitive translations like the KJV retain the calque Raca in the text untranslated, leaving the English reader high and dry as to its meaning.
[29] tn Grk “the Sanhedrin.”
[30] tn The meaning of the term μωρός (mwros) is somewhat disputed. Most take it to mean, following the Syriac versions, “you fool,” although some have argued that it represents a transliteration into Greek of the Hebrew term מוֹרֵה (moreh) “rebel” (Deut 21:18, 20; cf. BDAG 663 s.v. μωρός c).
BDAG refers to sources that say “it has been held to be a transliteration of מוֹרֵה rebel (Dt 21:18, 20)”.

So perhaps we have two transliterated legal terms in this verse, Raca and Moreh, the latter being Hellenized to moros. However Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew has “fool.”
[32] tn Grk “the Gehenna of fire.”
sn The word translated hell is “Gehenna” (γέεννα, geenna), a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”). This was the valley along the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (cf. Jer 7:31; 19:5-6; 32:35), and it came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned. In the intertestamental period, it came to be used symbolically as the place of divine punishment (cf. 1 En. 27:2, 90:26; 4 Ezra 7:36).
(1 En. is 1 Enoch or the Book of Enoch, an important literary work of Second Temple Judaism. 4 Ezra however is a post-Temple production.)

Note how the NET Bible here admits that Gehenna, which was translated as “hell,” is symbolic of “the place of divine punishment” as Second Temple Jews understood. Since the translation of “hell” though conjures up a literal place of torment, it can be seen as a contradictory, cognitively dissonant (mis)translation. Additionally, this footnote on Gehenna is repeated for James 3:6 where Gehenna is found, but where the NET Bible has it translated again as “hell.” Again, Jesus’ Second Temple Jewish audience would not have thought of “Hellfire” but would have thought symbolically of the place of divine punishment of annihilation. Fire burns rubbish up, it does not sustain it.

Matthew 5:22 in the RNWT with Reference Bible footnotes:

However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; and whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt [1] will be accountable to the Supreme Court; [2] whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna. [3]
[1] “An unspeakable word of contempt.” Gr., Rha·ka′; J17 [Christian Greek Scriptures, Heb., by Franz Delitzsch, London, 1981 ed], Re·qaʼ′, an Aram. word of contempt.
[2] Or, “the Sanhedrin.”
[3] … (Heb.), גיהנם (geh·hin·nom′, “valley of Hinnom”). The place for burning refuse outside of Jerusalem.
Additionally, compare these notes with the RNWT Study Bible notes:
continues wrathful: Jesus associates such a wrong attitude with hatred that can lead to actual murder. (1Jo 3:15) Ultimately, God may judge the person as being a murderer.

an unspeakable word of contempt: This expression renders the Greek word rha·kaʹ (possibly derived from Hebrew or Aramaic), meaning “empty” or “empty-headed.” Someone addressing a fellow worshipper with such a derogatory term would not only be nurturing hatred in his heart but also be giving vent to it by contemptible speech.

the Supreme Court: The full Sanhedrin—the judicial body in Jerusalem made up of the high priest and 70 elders and scribes. The Jews considered its rulings to be final.—See Glossary, “Sanhedrin.” [The Jewish high court in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, it was made up of 71 members, including the high priest and others who had held the office of high priest, members of the high priestly families, elders, tribal and family heads, and scribes.—Mr 15:1; Ac 5:34; 23:1, 6.]

You despicable fool: The Greek word for this expression sounded like a Hebrew term meaning “rebellious” or “mutinous.” It designates a person as morally worthless and an apostate. To address a fellow man in this way was tantamount to saying that he should receive a punishment fit for a rebel against God, that is, everlasting destruction.

Gehenna: This term comes from the Hebrew words geh hin·nomʹ, meaning “valley of Hinnom,” which lay to the W and S of ancient Jerusalem. By Jesus’ day, the valley had become a place for burning refuse, so the word “Gehenna” was a fitting symbol of complete destruction.
Thus we can see how these notes compare and harmonize with the NET Bible notes.

Matthew 5:22 in The Hebraic-Roots Version Scriptures:

But I tell you, that whoever shall be enraged against his brother, he will be condemned to the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, You are nothing: [387] he will be condemned to the council of the synagogue. And whoever says to him, You impious one: he will be condemned to the fire of Gey Hinnom.
[387] Following the Hebrew of Munster and the Aramaic (Old Syriac and Peshitta), which have RQA “nothing”. The Greek translator simply transliterated the word RQA “raka” into the Greek. The DuTillet Hebrew reads: RAyH “evil one.”
So in this translation Raca is translated as “nothing.” This certainly is an unkind, contemptuous and incendiary rebuke! Lastly, this translation, like the RNWT, left גיהנם untranslated.

In conclusion, we see that Raca should be consigned to footnotes and not stand in the main text lacking an explanation. However, a Mormon passage in the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 12:22, reads very similar to Matthew 5:22 in the 1611 KJV, which both use “Raca.” This clearly constitutes yet another bullet hole through the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church. For instead of enlightening its readers, it used the anachronistic Aramaic legal term that the characters in the Book of Mormon story would be unfamiliar with.[1] Therefore the Book of Mormon cannot be a product of modern divine revelation. A similar bullet hole through the LDS Church is its use of “Lucifer” for Satan in its extrabiblical scriptures.[2]

Lastly, Matthew 5:22 is not talking about eternal torture in Hellfire, but is symbolic for eternal destruction. Indeed, we can be thankful that God is not so unkind and unjust to torture someone forever over such an offence clearly not meriting a punishment of eternal torture. Instead, Jesus’ counsel was kind and driven by righteous indignation over unjust evil.

Soothing kindness
Proverbs 15:23

[1] The characters in 3 Nephi are supposed to be descendants of Hebrew-speaking Jews who escaped the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. They would not be familiar with the Aramaic legal term of Jesus’ time. The same reasoning holds true with other characters in the Book of Mormon story.

[2] See: Is Satan Lucifer?

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