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Matthew 5:22 : The Insult “Fool” and the Interpretation of the Law in Christian and Rabbinic Sources

Matthieu 5 : 22 : L’insulte « insensé » et l’interprétation de la Loi dans les sources chrétiennes et rabbiniques
Michal Bar-Asher Siegal
p. 5-23

Abstracts

The use of sources outside the New Testament, from the writings of Qumran to those of the rabbis, can help clarify the semantic and theological field in which Matthew 5:22 should be understood. This article claims that the correct interpretation of the Law stood at the center of arguments between different groups in the late Second Temple period and later; that the insults raka “empty” and mōre “fool” are connected to this polemical environment; and that it is within this setting that the Sermon on the Mount should be understood.

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Author's notes

I am grateful to the following people with whom I discussed parts of this paper : Laura Nasrallah, Nathan Eubank and Vered Noam. I would especially like to thank Katell Berthelot, Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal, Tobias Nicklas and the participants of the “Law and Lawlessness in Early Judaism and Christianity,” the first Lautenschläger colloquium, Oxford University (August 2015), who read drafts of this paper and offered many helpful comments. In quoting from rabbinic sources, I use the MS versions as copied in the Historical Dictionary website, Ma’agarim, of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

Text / excerpt

Cairn

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Outline

Fool” and doreshe haḥalaqot
Doreshe ḥalaqot and req
“It is not an empty matter for you” in rabbinic literature
“Our Full Torah”
“Fool” in rabbinic literature
Matthew 5:22 and the misinterpretation of the Law

Text / first lines

In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously announces that he has not come “to abolish the law or the prophets,” but rather “to fulfill” the law. According to this literary depiction, his contemporaries, the scribes and Pharisees, were not doing it right. Jesus, therefore, asks that his listeners exceed their righteousness. He provides several examples to illustrate his point, calling for a “shift from a casuistic criminal law to a moral rule.” In Jesus’ list, the sin of adultery begins with a lustful look, and he urges his followers to avoid oaths. The first example, however, addresses insults to others (Matt 5:22):

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister is liable to judgment. Whoever says to his brother or sister, “Raka” (Ῥακά), is liable to the council (συνεδρίῳ). Whoever says, “Fool!” (Μωρέ) is liable to the hell of fire (γ...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, « Matthew 5:22 : The Insult “Fool” and the Interpretation of the Law in Christian and Rabbinic Sources », Revue de l’histoire des religions, 1 | 2017, 5-23.

Electronic reference

Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, « Matthew 5:22 : The Insult “Fool” and the Interpretation of the Law in Christian and Rabbinic Sources », Revue de l’histoire des religions [Online], 1 | 2017, Online since 01 March 2019, connection on 18 October 2017. URL : http://rhr.revues.org/8651 ; DOI : 10.4000/rhr.8651

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About the author

Michal Bar-Asher Siegal

Ben Gurion University of the Negev
bsmichal@bgu.ac.il

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Copyright

Tous droits réservés

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