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Will you go to Hell if you call someone a “fool”?

“. . . but whosoever shall say, `Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.’”

The above quote is attributed to Yeshua and translated by King James translators (Matthew 5:22).

Over the years I have had a number of people ask if they would really go to Hell just for calling someone “a fool.” Most questions like this come from people who belonged to churches that teach their members the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Obviously, if a person’s church teaches that doctrine and if their Bible contains the above words, what else could they believe – if every word of the Bible is to be taken literally and if the Bible says if someone calls someone else a “fool” they will go to Hell, then it must be the divine truth!

Keep in mind that those same churches teach that their eternal salvation is based on “correct beliefs.” Obviously, questioning anything their church teaches would not be welcomed by those in authority and usually it is not tolerated. Before I get back in the box and address what Yeshua actually taught, I want to make sure you understand the following facts:

(1) Yeshua did not write down his teachings.

(2) None of the original manuscripts of any of the books in any Bible exist.

(3) Yeshua did not create a New Testament.

(4) Yeshua did not teach in English (King James or American).

(5) The King James Bible was created over 1,500 years after Yeshua taught.

(6) Yeshua did not create or teach the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility.

(7) Yeshua did not teach that one’s salvation is based on beliefs.

Now let’s get back in the box and consider what Yeshua actually meant when he spoke the above words. Always remember the #1 BHC Linguistic Guideline – “KEEP THINGS IN CONTEXT!” The context of the quote from Yeshua was a lesson on how to deal with anger so that it will not lead to an act of murder like the murder of Abel by Cain. He had given two previous warning signs to be used as “anger-control” measures. This is the third warning sign:

And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Valley of Hinnom.

The term “the fire of the Valley of Hinnom” is what the King James translators translated as “hell fire.” Everyone that heard Yeshua say the above words knew exactly where the Valley of Hinnom was. Look at the lower part of the map below.

 A popular teaching in evangelical circles is that the Hinnom Valley was a perpetually burning trash dump, but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence from the time of Yeshua to support that idea. The Jewish audience of Yeshua would have been familiar to the words of Jeremiah and Isaiah that were linked to the valley. 

And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. (Jeremiah 7:31–32)

Indeed! Topheth has been ready for the king for a long time now. His funeral pyre is deep and wide, with plenty of fire and wood. The breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, kindles it. (Isaiah 30:33)

And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isaiah 66:24)

For the original Jewish audience of Yeshua, they would have under the words “in danger of the fire of Valley of Hinnom” to mean “in danger of being judged by God” – the ultimate and final judge.

They would have also understood that when Yeshua used the term “fool,” he was referring to Psalm 14:1-3:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no ELOHIYM.” They are corrupt, their deeds are abominable; there is no one who does TOV. YAHWEH looks down from the skies on all mankind to see if there are any who understandany who seek ELOHIYM. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does TOV, not even one.

ELOHIYM is the word used for “the Creator” in Genesis 1:1-2:4a. The Creator measured all of His works with a standard to see they were TOVacts that preserved life, protected life, made life more functional and increased the quality of life. This is what we call the “TOV Standard.” A point Yeshua makes here is -- the Creator will use the same standard to judge mankind on the Great Day of Judgmentthat is Yeshua’s salvation message.

When people get angry they often attempt to hurt the person they are angry with through words before they resort to using physical force. Yeshua had already given his audience two warning signs so his followers would be aware of elevations in the intensity of their anger. They were getting closer to the point where they were in danger of acting like Cain. This is Yeshua’s final warning sign:

Do not say that the person you are angry with denies the existence of the Creator and the existence of those who reveal His image on Earth by doing acts of TOV. This could put you in danger of being judged by YAHWEH!

This lesson is just as relevant for 21st century Americans as it was for 1st century Jews. I hope you found this blog of value.

Shalom, Be Empowered & Do TOV,
Jim Myers

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