----- Original Message -----
From: <Jim Moretz>
To: <Steve Locks>
Sent: 26 January 2000 03:12
Subject: Your comments on foolery
The contradictions you try to present in the foolery section of "crazy stuff
in the Bible" is not as clear cut as one might think. The issue lies in the
original language. In Matthew 5:22, the Greek word rendered "fool" in English
is "Raca." Matthew 5:22 is the only place in the NT that this word is used.
There has been great debate over how to translate this word. So much so that
the New International Version uses the transliteration instead of trying to
render what has been a meaningless translation. What is known about "Raca" is
that is was an extreme term of derision. "Aphron," on the other hand, which
is used in Luke 11:40 and 12:20 is a term that refers to an unwillingness to
use one's mental faculties to understand. A cognate of this word is used by
Jesus in Mark 7:22 as he is delineating things which come from the inside and
make a person unclean. "Aphron" suggests that humans have the inherent
ability to perceive the truth. When we refuse to use our "common sense," as
it were, we enter into a state of folly, or foolishness (aphrosune). The use
of this term is an expression of positive thought toward another person. You
know they have the ability, but they refuse to use it. "Raca" dehumanizes and
allows people to be treated in sub-human terms.
I have read enough of your site not to try to "reconvert" you. However, I
am responding to your sincere request that if you have missed the point on an
issue you would like to know. You may still find it unfair of Jesus to use
such language, but you cannot fairly compare "Raca" with anything else. Jesus
would never have used that term.
----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Locks
To: Jim Moretz
Sent: 28 January 2000 00:59
Subject: Re: Your comments on foolery
Thanks for your comments.
You are right, I haven't been entirely fair here as the original words are
more subtle than the common translations often found. Following your email I did some research at the
"All-in-One Biblical Resources Search" at http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre/multibib.htm and confirmed your email as a good point and I will link to this email exchange from the "foolery" section so that people can see there are subtleties involved.
Nevertheless, I think I still also have a point worth making if you'll bare with me.
First, on the detail.
<< In Matthew 5:22, the Greek word rendered "fool" in English
is "Raca." >>
As far as I understand, the use of "raca" is not for the
word "fool" which is instead "moros" (English etymology of "moron")
in the original. i.e. the passage should read:
egw de legw umin oti paV o orgizomenoV tw adelfw autou enocoV estai th krisei oV d an eiph tw adelfw autou raka (raca) enocoV estai tw sunedriw oV d an eiph mwre ("more" = fool, from "moros" [mwros] = foolish) enocoV estai eiV thn geennan tou puroV
However, "Young's literal" translates this not as "fool" but as "rebel," whilst "raca" seems to be "empty fellow."
but I -- I say to you, that every one who is angry at his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment, and whoever may say to his brother, Empty fellow! shall be in danger of the sanhedrim, and whoever may say, Rebel! shall be in danger of the gehenna of the fire.
However I am not sure that this is correct as mwre definitely is ancient Greek for "fool" (I checked this with a native Greek friend and a Greek dictionary). This doesn't spoil your main point though.
Meanwhile many other groups of biblical scholars are quite content to let it read as "fool"
"...anyone who says to his brother 'Raca' is answerable to the Sanhedrin [the
Council]. But anyone who says 'You fool' will be in danger of the hell fire "
But *I* say unto you, that every one that is lightly angry with his brother shall be subject to the judgement; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be subject to [be called before] the sanhedrim; but whosoever shall say, Fool, shall be subject to the penalty of the hell of fire.
But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgement. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
This similar treatment by different groups also seems to be happening with "aphron" (afrwn) which Young's literal translates as "unthinking" whereas all the others are content with "fool." This happens with all the other passages you mentioned.
So you have a good point, which I concede although it is unfortunate that if it is really important then so many scholars have missed it when it seems so obvious in the Greek. Not that Jesus spoke Greek of course, so I could not be certain that Greek speakers were not making similar mistakes with Aramaic words, but I can only conjecture here at the moment. Nevertheless, the oldest texts are Greek so I understand.
Nevertheless, the Psalmists are translated in Young's Literal as claiming atheists are "fools" which is the action so condemned in Matthew. So you are not totally off the hook!
But maybe it is even more complicated....
Out of interest, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibc.htm
"It is often stated that Jesus never commented about homosexuality. A case
can be made that he refers to gays in this verse. On the surface, the verse
seems to condemn individuals who treat others with contempt and call them
names. Hatred of others is considered here as serious to God as an overt act
of murder. "Raca" is defined in the NIV as an Aramaic term of contempt. But
"raca" "rakha" and similar terms in various Semitic languages also carry the
meaning of effeminacy or weakness - terms frequently used to refer to
homosexuals. The word "Moros" which is translated as "fool" has a number of
meanings, including both sexual aggressor and homosexual aggressor. One
could argue that Jesus was condemning homophobia in this passage; but it
would be a weak case at best, because of the multiplicity of meanings of the
key words. "
So as for what the passage really means, as you say, it is debatable. Certainly if it is important it has not been deemed that scripture can be understood by the uneducated such as "prostitutes and tax-collectors" who are meant to be entering the kingdom of heaven before us. I think it is a shame if so much study is required in order to be persuaded that the bible is saying less cruel and hypocritical things than it seems. Even with much study this is often still not enough. With your email I received yet another from an ex-professional Christian. He said "[I] have run the gamut from Pentecostal to United Methodist minister. I have two Master Degrees from two seminaries, including Princeton Theological Seminary. It was there that I began the long journey of deconversion." http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/jeff_kindle.html
It doesn't seem that any amount of study is guaranteed to make the bible secure enough for belief. There are many similar cases available through my website, and I am currently compiling a big list of similar ex-professional Christians. I have books of collected stories from such people (see my booklinks) and Dan Barker is writing another collection of stories from ex-clergy. There must be something up if all these people are not convinced by their scholarship to remain Christians.
However, the most disturbing part of this passage is the part you did not comment on. It is not the apparent contradiction in the bible that is really disturbing, but the sentiments involved. You said: << Jesus
would never have used that term. >> My guess is that this is mostly a statement of faith in Jesus' perfection. The gospel writers also have Jesus saying "And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool (or whatever), shall be in danger of hell fire (whatever that means)" and one can add to this the other passages I have about Jesus' unforgiving remarks on my page http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/babble.html as well the Gospel accounts of Jesus' references to 'hypocrites', 'blind guides', 'whitewashed tombs', 'snakes', 'broods of vipers' etc. There is further discussion at http://users.uniserve.com/~tfrisen/Jesuscha.html
about Jesus' contradictions and moral character.
I appreciate that some biblical errancy is straw man stuff or weak, such as some of Donald Morgan's list http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/christianity/errancy.html however much is not so easily tackled, and although a full discussion is only really appropriate on lists such as errancy http://www.infidels.org/electronic/email/secular.html#errancy I can at least testify that from my researches, trying to reconcile biblical passages is a common starting point down the road to leaving Christianity.
Meanwhile, back in hell(!!), as I said in my story:
"The fact that Jesus, as depicted in the gospels, believed in hell is to me such a serious religious problem that it was one of the things that finally broke up my Christianity. What was going on in this book! As a liberally natured Christian I had never really believed in the existence of hell, or at least I shied away from hell thoughts, as it did not fit with my idea of a loving God. Rather I thought all this hell talk must mean something else. But the problem was that there was so much of it in the NT and the fact that God seemed to allow the doctrine to be so popular within the church did bother me very much, as did the fact that if Jesus & St. Paul etc. really didn't believe in literal hell then the fact that they didn't make it abundantly transparent that they meant something else was just utterly culpable irresponsibility to me, so abhorrent is the merest sniff of that doctrine and so dreadful the consequences of Christians believing it down the ages. "
This is the real problem with the passage you picked me up on. The contradiction, apparent or otherwise, is useful to show how little the bible can be taken at face value. Inerrancy research is full of pitfalls, but the real moral problem is far worse than this. You may have seen me discuss this a little at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/henry_quon.html which also contains other material of relevance so I will leave you to refer to that if you wish (including the meaning of "hell" (geennan)), rather than repeat it here.
Although I have not discussed the subtleties of translation, I think the important point is well made by highlighting such passages. It is indeed unfair of Jesus (as reported by the gospel writers) to use such language especially, if he were divine, in knowing the problems it would cause down the millennia. This is good evidence against his divinity.
From Steven Carr's site at http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/case.htm
"Jesus taught about the Flood. There was no Flood. Would not a great teacher not have known that?
Jesus taught that some people were in a 'synagogue of Satan'. Great teachers do not use antisemitisms.
Jesus called his enemies 'hypocrites', 'blind guides', 'whitewashed tombs', 'snakes', 'broods of vipers'.
Jesus promised the people of Capernaum that it would be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgement than for them.
Sceptics prefer the teachings in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 4:29 'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice' "
Paul (like Jesus, above) does not always use this advice. This should be expected from humans.
The point is, so much of the bible is just not humane, let alone divine. In my opinion, to put so much effort into excusing these writings in the face of so many truly cruel passages and the horrific suffering in the world is indicative of an unhealthy relationship. Christians are too often so concerned with bolstering Christianity that the neglectfulness of their god in making himself clear, or even kind, is ignored through sometimes massive effort. There is far worse in the bible than the "foolery" verses I have included which were partly chosen because they struck me as amusing rather than being completely serious. I apologise if that seems too frivolous. The later passages I have at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/babble.html are far from frivolous.
As I said in another feedback discussion, trying to build a relationship
with a silent and neglectful partner, who we excuse for cruel acts and words,
is not love. Christians jump through hoops for their god and their beliefs,
engineering experiences and emotions whilst the cool reality is that
there is silence at the other end. Christians blame themselves if they feel
something is going wrong in their Christian lives or their heartfelt and
anxious prayers are not answered, rather than blame or question the
existence of the silent god who leaves them to suffer the worst that
life can throw at them. This is exactly how abused and neglected wives
behave regarding their husbands until they either wake up or are helped
to see the relationship for the non-relationship that it is.
I will reiterate though, that these are just ideas that made me uneasy, and mostly occurred at the end of my deconversion. Most of the process was one of reading of psychology, comparative religion, history and thinking through some knotty problems that lead to my deconversion.
There is a much better way to live, but it takes a lot of courage to dare to
question ones god through fear of what he might do to you or not give you, let alone the fear of losing so much investment in Christian life to date and the psychological attachment one naturally has grown in years of a Christian environment. However, the fact that so many heavily invested sincere Christians have deconverted is compelling evidence that there is something very wrong with Christianity, even without following the resources such as those I have in my notes http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html#notes and the stories on my site.
Basically, I think you made a valid point about the "fool" quotes, but the serious problem is one of enormous moral, emotional and psychological import. Excusing such quotes is interesting and academic, but loving God in the face of what is often said in the bible and the neglect the Christian god has for the world is straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel in my opinion. You may ignore my opinion of course, but this is my website, so I will be frank. On the rare occasions that I ask questions on Christian websites, I am always very polite and restrained, as I feel I am a guest. On debate lists and my website, and when people write to me, I let it all hang out though. I hope that you don't get upset by any strong words.
I use feedback as an opportunity for amplifying my thoughts and to build up a FAQ for referring subsequent feedback to. So please don't be taken aback at a long reply - it is not meant to be personal, but rather written as a contribution to my site as well as an answer to your email.
Thanks again for writing and alerting me to not being totally fair about the foolery passages. I hope our exchange has been mutually interesting.
Leaving Christianity: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html
----- Original Message -----
From: <Jim Moretz>
To: <Steve Locks>
Sent: 28 January 2000 19:54
Subject: My hat is off to you
Your propensity for words is amazing. I don't know if I can return the favor,
and I mean that as a compliment. My first impression of your site was
misguided. You have a greater resource pool and a greater penchant for
investigation and assimilation than I would ever have imagined. You have a
great ability to state some classical "problems" with which Xianity has been
faced. (As a side note, I am now using the English X as a transliteration for
the Greek chi which, as I am sure you know, was shorthand for Christ.)
Then again, this may not be a side note at all. I have always been
repelled by those who would say that Xmas takes Christ out of Christmas. In
my estimation, there will be an American Christian Renaissance. I use the
term Renaissance instead of revival for a multiple reasons. One is sufficient
for this discussion at hand. It is unfortunate, as you mentioned, that the
Bible would mandate scholarship in order to properly understand it. However,
any document, such as the Constitution, The Origin of Species, or Das Capital
requires scholarship to understand it in essence.
I am currently working on a Master's in Biblical Studies at Nazarene
Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri I have a bachelor's in Xian
ministry from Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina. My MA
program is designed to prepare a person for Ph.D. work, and, until today, I
really thought that is where I was headed. Over Xmas, I accepted a call to
start a new church in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. Well, I
figured that I could pastor the new church and eventually pursue my Ph.D. at
the University of North Carolina or at Duke University. However, today I was
in my Xian ethics class and my heart could take no more. We were attempting
to define a Xian ethic in light of some of the issues that you raise. My
contention (and I have just come upon this in the past few weeks) is that
Western thought born of the Greco-Roman Renaissance and weaned on the
Enlightenment is unable to approach the Bible in ways that would effectively
answer your questions.
When Jesus told the disciples that he was sending them out as sheep among
wolves, therefore they were to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, he
sounded far more like Confucius than Plato.
As for why I believe that Jesus would never say Raca. First, let me say
that I don't know what I was saying! I surely was messed up the other day.
You are correct in that the term fool comes from mwre in Matt 5:22 and that
Jesus himself uses the term in 7:26 to describe the builder who represents
anyone who hears Jesus' words and does not do them. You are also right to be
disturbed by this. Anyone who is not disturbed has not read it. However, as
you may assume, it is my belief in the deity of Christ that reconciles this
The reason I would never try to re-convert you is simple. Any
conversation with that goal would take place on the grounds of our
conclusions. No meaningful discussion can occur in the realm of conclusions.
We must begin any discussion in the realm of presuppositions. Here are mine.
I presuppose the ontology of God. I presuppose he is perfect, thus holy, thus
good without capacity for evil. I freely admit these are presuppositions and
cannot be proven. However, the adverse position to these cannot be proven
either and must be stood upon as presuppositions.
Having said that, I return to mwre. Let me bring this into the current
discussion. I cannot legitimately say to you, Steve, "MWRE" because of your
disbelief in God. My New Testament says Blessed are those who mourn for they
will be comforted. I will also use candid words with you. You have proven to
have the capacity for intelligent conversation devoid of melodramatic
emotion. I mourn over your disbelief. I do not condescend you or pity you,
that would still be calling you mwre. I mourn for you. I have no choice. If
Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life, then those without him are dead.
That is the reality of the NT teaching, and possibly one of the ones that
repel you. Am I right? My Xian ethic is to recognize your humanity, your
dignity, and your right to attributive justice. Xianity does not make one
person more human than another. Xianity enables me to no longer view anyone
according to the flesh, but according to the Imago Dei in which they were
Organized and historical Xianity has many problems. That is why Christ
died. The solution to them is the resurrection. I know, I know, more
conclusions. I can't help myself. I really believe this stuff. I have
experienced it. Not emotional puffery that I have manufactured, but internal
substantive change wrought by an external force of purity and grace. I once
was truly lost, but now am found...
----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Locks <Steve Locks>
To: <Jim Moretz>
Sent: 31 January 2000 22:27
Subject: Re: My hat is off to you
Thanks for your kind message and your thoughts. Friends? - Yes don't worry!
I was going to respond to your email more fully, but I got side-tracked onto
other things, and since you are obviously a reflective fellow I thought it
wouldn't be appropriate to be at all confrontational. I address almost all
of what you discuss on my site at various places, so I will leave it for you
to chew over if you wish rather than having another debate. Also I am
getting too many emails at the moment from people who wish to debate
me. I would like to spend more time doing other things, especially when
much of the material raised can already be found through my site.
The only one thing I would like to say is that I do understand that you
have fine experiences and I certainly don't mean to deny that you do. In the
course of my research - particularly psychology and comparative religion - I
have come to see this is a common phenomenon. However, what Christians
experience is also experienced by those of other religions and none. It does
worry me though, that the desire to believe God is loving is so strong
despite the "troubling verses" and all the terrors of the world. That is what
I think is an engineered experience, not all the other good stuff I'm sure
you find. I really haven't lost anything in my inner life since I left
Christianity and there is no need to mourn me, just as Muslims, Hindu's
and Hare Krishna's need not morn my lost state (or yours). You can see
all this in detail on my site. None of us can please all those of different
viewpoints, so I am already reconciled to always being mourned by
That's enough! Thanks for being a gentle correspondent and I wish you
happiness and an interesting time in your journey, wherever it may
Leaving Christianity: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html