What does the word raca mean?

“But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22). Raca is a transliteration of the Aramaic reqa’, meaning “good for nothing” or “stupid.”

Angry words come from angry hearts. Jesus taught the Jews that the very act of murder is actually rooted in an angry, murderous feeling: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…” (Matthew 5:22). The hatred that causes one person to speak insults is the same hatred that causes another to commit murder. The attitude of the heart is the same, and it’s this attitude that makes a person sin.

God, who examines the very thoughts and motives of the heart, will judge the unrighteous anger. Therefore, Jesus warned against using the word “raca” and issued another warning against those who call someone a “fool.” If Christ Himself refused to bring a “railing accusation” against the devil (Jude 9), we should refrain from doing so in regard to our fellow men. We are to leave to God the judgment and condemnation of other people and their motives.

Even the ancient Jews had strict rules against disrespecting others. According to the Talmud (Ḳiddushin 28a, Soncino ed., p. 133) a man who became guilty of slandering another by using the epithet “slave” was to be excommunicated from the synagogue for 30 days, and a man who called another “bastard” was to receive 40 lashes. In the case of a man who called another “wicked,” the one offended could “strive against,” or “touch” his life (by depriving him of subsistence, etc.). So, if the ancient Jews had such strict rules, how much more should the Christian be loving after the revelation of God’s love on the cross.

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In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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