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Genesis 1:27; 9:1-7; Mt. 5:21-22 Notes

Genesis Resources 1:27; 9:1-7; Mt. 5:21-22 Notes-Sanctity of Life


27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Several things distinguish this creative account in vv. 26-28 from those that preceded it. They depict this as the capstone moment of creation-the apex-the highest order of creation:

  • It is the lengthiest, most detailed, and most repetitive of the creative accounts.
  • It substitutes "Let us" for the earlier "Let there" or "Let the" formulae.
  • Unlike other living creatures, which were created in the aid of "the waters" (v. 20) or "the earth" (v. 24), there is no external agency involved in the creation of humans.
  • While other creatures were created "of every kind," humans are created "in our image."

"in our image (selem), after our likeness" (kid·mu·te·nu) (v. 26b).  Selem (image) means "an image, a likeness, a statue, a model, a drawing, a shadow" (Baker and Carpenter, 952). Kings of that era often distributed their image through coins or statues to their subjects in far-reaching places who would never see the king in person. In many places, people referred to the king as "the image of God."

"The visual metaphor of the image of God in humankind is that of a polished mirror with no cracks.... We are created to reflect back to God God's own justice, grace and mercy" (Towner, 27)-and to reflect something of God's character to society at large. "In God's eyes all of mankind is royal. All of humanity is related to God, not just the king" (Hamilton, 135).

This language is echoed in chapter 5, which reiterates that adam was made "in God's likeness" (5:1) and then recounts the birth of Seth, who was born "in his (Adam's) own likeness, after his image" (5:3).

"in our image" (sal·me) (v. 26a). What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

  • It must have to do with something more than physical likeness, because "God is spirit" (John 4:24)-although there might be a physical resemblance between humans and the angelic host. "The 'image' refers to the entire human being, not to some part, such as the will" (Fretheim, 345).
  • It must have to do, at least in part, with spiritual likeness-the capacity for love, forgiveness, grace, generosity-etc., etc., etc.
  • God's decision to make humankind in his image is followed immediately by the decision to give humans dominion over all the living creatures (v. 26), so an essential part of being created in God's image must have to do with the proper exercise of dominion. If the image of God is to be faithfully reflected in us, we must be caring stewards of that over which we have been given dominion.

"In God's image he created him; male and female he created them" (v. 27). This is a remarkable sentence to come out of a patriarchal society where men are honored and women are not. This sentence puts men and women on a par at creation-on a par by God's intent. The second account of creation, the Yahwistic account (2:4b ff.), has a very different sequence. In that account, God creates the man first-then the garden with vegetation and water-then the animals and birds-and finally the woman.

1B. What does Gen. 1:27 mean?

Context Summary:  Genesis 1:26-31 describes the origin of human beings, the most unique of all God's creations. As with other aspects of the creation account, very few details are given. The information we are given, however, is unmistakable. Man is uniquely created ''in the image'' of God, invested with authority over the earth, and commanded to reproduce. These points each establish critical aspects of the Christian worldview, and the proper attitude towards humanity. As with other portions of this chapter, debates over certain details do not override the central truth: man is the purposeful creation of the One True God, and represents something special in this universe as a result.

The blueprint for Genesis chapter 1 is God speaking His intent, then creating. In the previous verse, God decreed what should be made and why. Now in this verse, He makes the first of all human beings. The verse is written with a poetic structure of three lines. God creates man in his own image. In the image of God man is created. God creates both male and female.

One meaning of being created in the image of God is mankind's unique capacity for moral and rational awareness. God made humans to be inherently different from animals. He built into us some of His own qualities; we share with Him the experience of personality, truth, beauty, meaning, will, and reason. These attributes allow us to relate to God in ways other created beings cannot. Another meaning is that humans were meant to stand as the image of God's authority on the earth as we rule over and subdue the rest of His creation.

That we are made by God, in the image of God, is what gives all men and women deep value. That point is echoed throughout the Bible. James, for instance, points out that we ought not curse human beings because they (we) are made in God's likeness (James 3:9). Those who bear God's image should not be treated disrespectfully or discarded easily. It is not surprising, or illogical, to see that cultures which reject the idea of man's creation in the image of God are cultures which terrorize and abuse other human beings.

1C. Gen. 1:27 in relation to sanctity of life

 The phrase "sanctity of life" reflects the belief that, because people are made in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27), human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times. While God gave humanity the authority to kill and eat other forms of life (Gen. 9:3), the murdering of other human beings is expressly forbidden, with the penalty being death (Gen. 9:6).

Humanity was created in God's image, but sin has corrupted that image. There is nothing inherently sacred in fallen man. The sanctity of human life is not due to the fact that we are such wonderful and good beings. The only reason the sanctity of life applies to humanity is the fact that God created us in His image and set us apart from all other forms of life. Although that image has indeed been marred by sin, His image is still present in humanity. We are like God, and that likeness means that human life is always to be treated with dignity and respect. The sanctity of life means that humanity is more sacred than the rest of creation. Human life is not holy in the same sense that God is holy. Only God is holy in and of Himself. Human life is only holy in the sense of being "set apart" from all other life created by God. Many apply the sanctity of life to issues like abortion and euthanasia, and, while it definitely applies to those issues, it applies to much more.

The sanctity of life should motivate us to combat all forms of evil and injustice that are perpetuated against human life. Violence, abuse, oppression, human trafficking, and many other evils are also violations of the sanctity of life.

2. Gen. 9:1-7 - - Sanctity of Life - Cole

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it.  And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man.  "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.  "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it."

We live in a day when human life is no longer regarded as sacred. The devaluing of life is spreading not only through violence in the ghettos, but also through abortion on demand, which results in the deaths of 1.5 million babies in America each year. On the other end of life, the push for euthanasia is further eroding the sanctity of human life.

All of these problems stem from the erosion of the Bible as the standard for truth in our society. If you throw out the Bible and accept evolution, then man is just an animal and there is no basis for human morality, other than cultural norms. Without the Bible, there is no basis for affirming that humans are created in the image of God and that human life is thus sacred. For the survival of our nation and culture, we desperately need to understand and proclaim the biblical truth regarding the sanctity of human life.

Context:  When Noah and his family emerged from the ark, all human and animal life, except for that on the ark, had been destroyed. It was a new beginning for the human race which God had judged because of its corruption and violence (6:11-13). It is significant that one of the first things God affirmed to Noah was the sanctity of human life. God wanted to establish a foundation for the proper view of human life before the earth was repopulated. Our text shows that since God values human life, so must we.

God blessed Noah and his sons (9:1). God's blessing here provided for the propagation, priority, and protection of human life. Verses 1 and 7 show that human life is to be propagated to promote God's purposes on the earth. Verses 2-4 show that human life has priority over animal life. And verses 5 and 6 ordain that human life is to be protected through capital punishment for murder. These verses raise some controversial issues. I encourage you to wrestle with the totality of Scripture in arriving at your conclusions.

1. Since God values human life, He ordained it to be propagated to promote His purposes (9:1, 7).

In Genesis 1:28, God blessed Adam and Eve, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply." This blessing involved their raising godly offspring who would be stewards for God on earth. Here, starting over after the flood, God repeats the blessing for Noah and his sons. Godly families are at the heart of what God is doing on this earth, because it is in this context that children are loved, come to know God, and are trained in His ways. Thus God ordained the propagation of the human race through families to promote His purposes.

These verses raise the question: What about birth control? The text seems to say (and many sincere Christians take it to mean) that God's people should have as many children as possible. How you apply this can greatly affect your life!

First, we need to understand that Genesis 9:1 & 7, although they sound like commands, are really a form of God's blessing. God is saying, "May you be fruitful and fill the earth." Even though He had just wiped out everyone on earth because of their sin, God is reaffirming human life by giving this blessing to Noah and his sons. This blessing was given (both here and in Genesis 1) when the world was not populated. Now that the world is not in need of increased population and birth control is a medical option, it can be argued that we need prayerfully to plan how many such blessings we produce!

Some argue, "If children are blessings, then why not have all the blessings God will give us?" But we obviously limit other blessings God gives, such as food, sleep, material possessions, and leisure pursuits. Since the Bible requires us to provide for our children (1 Tim. 5:8 is primarily financial, but can include the emotional and spiritual), we must consider our ability to do so.

Some also argue that to use birth control is to usurp God's sovereignty and play God. But modern medicine gives us many theologically staggering options that didn't exist a few years ago. Although God has sovereignly ordained how long we live, most of us don't hesitate to use medicine to extend our lives if we have the option. The same applies to birth control. God has sovereignly ordained how many children we have, but perhaps birth control is the means He ordained of arriving at that number!

We need to distinguish between preventing conception and destroying life once conception has occurred. Before conception, no new life is involved. But once conception occurs, a new human life has been formed. It only requires time and nurture to become what all of us are. This means that certain types of birth control are immoral. Obviously abortion is unacceptable. But so are any methods which allow conception to take place but prevent implantation. They are really forms of abortion. Any form of birth control that destroys a developing human being is unacceptable for Christians.

Since no method of contraception (except abstinence) is totally effective (I know some who had children after supposedly being sterilized), any couple who chooses to have sex must accept the possible responsibility of conceiving children. This is one reason why sex must be reserved for marriage. If you choose to have sex and that choice results in the conception of a child, you've both (father and mother) just incurred a serious responsibility before God! To abort that child is to shed innocent human blood, which God condemns (9:6). So sex must be reserved for marriage, and a couple should not marry until they are able to accept the possible responsibility of children.

A main factor in determining whether or not to have children is to examine our motives. If we use birth control because children would interfere with our upwardly mobile life style, we're living for self and pleasure, not for God. We must adopt God's view of children, that they are a blessing (Gen. 9:1; Ps. 127:3-5) and reject the common worldly view, that children are a burden and a hindrance to personal pursuits. There is no question that children are a responsibility and that they interfere with my life style! But God uses my children to teach me how selfish I am and to show me the need to crucify my flesh and live under the lordship of Christ. Worldly, selfish motives are not a good basis for choosing not to have children.

Sometimes, I might add, people want to have children for selfish reasons. A couple may think that a child will shore up their shaky marriage. Perhaps the husband thinks that a baby will get his wife off his back, so he can selfishly do whatever he wants. Sometimes people want children to receive the love and attention they missed as a child. So they desperately try to meet their own emotional needs through their children, and are devastated when the children leave home. So we must examine our motives both for wanting to have children and for not wanting children.

There are some other factors to consider. The Bible's command to provide for our families (1 Tim. 5:8) includes finances, but also extends to emotional and spiritual provision. Concerning finances, we don't need to provide designer clothes and a Harvard education, but we do need to consider meeting basic needs. The physical health of both mother and father may be a consideration. Also, some women may thrive in mothering ten children (they love chaos and noise!), while others in terms of their personalities and abilities could provide well for two or three children, but a houseful would push them over the brink.

A final factor to consider is that the Bible teaches that marriage and sex in marriage have other legitimate purposes besides procreation. Marriage is for companionship and God designed the sexual union both for intimacy and pleasure. It's a deterrent to sexual temptation. Therefore, I believe that a Christian married couple may responsibly use a method of preventing conception (not abortion) if they've prayerfully and carefully weighed their motives so that their decision is not based upon selfishness, materialism, or worldly attitudes toward children.

Don't forget the point we began with, that human life is to be propagated to promote God's purposes. This means that most Christian couples should want to have as many children as they can care for, to see those children raised to love and serve Jesus Christ. While some children may not be planned, for Christians all children should be valued and loved since they are God's gift.

2. Since God values human life, He ordained it to take priority over animal life (9:2-4).

God put the fear of man on wild animals and put all animal life under man's control. He also gave permission for man to eat meat. Before the flood, man and animals may have been vegetarian (see 1:29-30). But now man is given meat for sustenance. Some may choose to be vegetarian for health reasons, but there is nothing more spiritual about not eating meat.

God ordains that man may not eat the flesh with its life, that is, its blood (9:4). This pointed ahead to the sacrificial system God would ordain under Moses: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Lev. 17:11). God requires that the soul that sins shall die. But He has graciously made provision through the shed blood of an acceptable substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that all who trust in Christ's death on their behalf do not have to face judgment.

Another lesson of these verses is that God made animals to serve people, not people to serve animals. Certainly we should protect animals from wanton destruction and be kind to animals (Prov. 12:10). But animals are given to serve us, not vice versa. In our day, the animal rights movement has often put saving animals above saving people. It's ironic that those who advocate saving baby seals also often advocate destroying human babies through abortion. And while I don't mean to disrespect a people, the Hindu religion with its sacred cows, is a pathetic example of people serving animals, when those very animals were given by God to feed hungry people.

Thus after the flood, God reestablished the value of human life by ordaining that it should be propagated to promote His purposes and that human life is to take priority over animal life.

3. Since God values human life, He ordained it to be protected through capital punishment (9:5-6).

God here ordains human government. In delegating authority to man over the highest good that man has, namely, life, God implicitly gave authority over lesser things as well. Government is given by God to check man's sin and to protect man from himself. God is saying that because man is created in God's image (though that image is marred by the fall) human life is valuable. Thus one who murders another person must pay the ultimate penalty by forfeiting his own life in exchange.

The value we place on something is reflected by what we will give in exchange for it. If I give $10,000 for a car, it shows that I think that car is valuable enough to exchange the necessary labor and time it takes me to earn that amount of money. If I take your life and our society says that I must spend seven years in prison at taxpayer expense, it reflects the value society puts on human life, which in our day doesn't seem to be very much.

In all fairness, I must say that not all evangelical Christians agree on capital punishment. Some argue that it has been replaced by Christ's ethic of love for our enemies. We are not to take vengeance. It is barbaric and brutal to kill a killer. To take a man's life is to deny him the opportunity to repent. Or if he has repented, to take his life is to kill a brother in Christ.

Also, for which crimes is capital punishment to be mandated? In the law of Moses, the death penalty was prescribed for many crimes other than premeditated murder, including fornication, adultery, rape (Deut. 22:13-27), and homosexuality (Lev. 20:13); hitting, cursing, or rebelling against one's parents (Exod. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 21:18-21); cursing God (Lev. 24:10-16); and, sabbath-breaking (Num. 15:32-36). Most of us would be dead!

Christians who oppose capital punishment also point out that God didn't always carry it out, even for murderers, such as Cain, Moses, and David. Jesus urged leniency for the woman caught in adultery, even though the law mandated death. Apart from the Bible, it is argued that the death penalty is not a deterrent, and that it is unfairly applied in our country. Also, what if a mistake is made and an innocent person is executed? For these reasons many Christians are opposed to capital punishment.

While we need to consider these points, I still think that capital punishment is to be used by governments as a means of protecting the value of human life. God says that even an animal that kills a person must pay with its life (9:5; see Exod. 21:28-32). Genesis 9:5-6 clearly shows that God highly values human life; so must we, by imposing the death penalty for murder.

The New Testament also upholds the authority of governments to impose the death penalty. In Romans 13:1-4, Paul, living under Nero's violent reign, argues that Christians must be subject to the governing authorities, because they are ordained by God to avenge wrongs and bring wrath, including the sword, upon the one who practices evil. Paul himself told Festus that if he had done anything worthy of death, he was willing to die for his crimes (Acts 25:11).

What about the arguments raised against capital punishment? Concerning love and compassion for our enemies, we need to distinguish between personal and governmental actions. If you followed that logic to its conclusion, you couldn't punish any criminal: "Let them all go, because we've got to show compassion." But what about compassion and love for the victims and their families? Concerning vengeance, personal vengeance is wrong, but the whole point of government is to replace vengeance with justice and due punishment. Just and proportionate punishment provides a foundation of ethical responsibility that gives moral significance to human actions. If you take away the death penalty, murdering someone becomes insignificant.

When opponents of capital punishment say that it is barbaric, I say, "The murderer was the barbaric one." He killed a person innocent of breaking the law, whereas the state is killing a guilty person to uphold the law. Not to make that distinction leads to the breakdown of the principle of law and justice.

Concerning the opportunity for the murderer to repent, you could argue that a man is more likely to repent if he faces execution. But I don't see this argument as valid either way. It is sad if a truly repentant man is executed, and such factors may need to be taken into account. But God doesn't always remove the consequences for sin, even though He forgives the sinner.

Which crimes should be capital offenses? At least first degree murder ought to be in order to uphold the value of human life. I would favor either executing or castrating repeat offenders of rape and child molesting, but I can't defend that biblically. Concerning the matter that capital punishment was unevenly applied in the Old Testament, you don't build a system of justice on the exceptions. Cain and David deserved to die but were shown exceptional mercy. Moses' murder of the Egyptian could be argued to be in defense of another person. God is concerned about justice, and the death penalty should be applied evenly (not along racial lines) after a fair trial and convincing guilt.

Whether the death penalty is a deterrent or not is beside the point. If it were carried out uniformly and swiftly, I think it would be a deterrent (Deut. 21:21; Eccl. 8:11). It at least would deter the murderer from doing it again! There is always the risk that an innocent man will be executed. For that reason, proper judicial procedures must always be followed, and if there is even slight doubt, the person must not die. But we need to think about this rationally, not emotionally. Many decisions made by government leaders affect lives. A budget decision for research on disease means that some people will live and some will die. A decision to build a skyscraper or dam means that some probably will die during construction. On rare occasions a few innocent people may be killed by capital punishment, but many more innocent people would be killed by murderers who were allowed to live without capital punishment.

You'll have to think it through biblically. My conclusion is that the arguments against capital punishment are not persuasive enough to overturn the clear teaching of Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13. It's necessary to uphold the sanctity of human life.


21"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing, 'shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool, 'shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

 "You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones" (v. 21a). This begins a section often called "The Antitheses" that extends through the end of the chapter. That title is derived from Jesus practice in these verses of voicing a thesis or idea ("You have heard that it was said") and then stating an antithesis-a contrasting idea ("But I tell you").

However, if these were true antitheses, Jesus would be telling his disciples to do the opposite of the Jewish law-to kill, for instance, or to commit adultery-but that isn't what Jesus is doing. Instead, he raises the old commandment to a new level, telling his disciples not only to obey the commandment but also to exorcise the feelings and attitudes that might otherwise lead them to violate the commandment.

Six times in this chapter, Jesus uses some variant of this formula (vv. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43)-the first four being in our Gospel lesson. In each case, he contrasts what they learned from the Torah ("it was said") with his own teaching ("But I tell you"). In doing so, he is assuming a Godly prerogative.

In these antitheses, Jesus is not trying to contradict the Torah laws, but is instead trying to fulfill them-to bring his disciples into compliance, not with the letter of the law, but with the will of God that inspired the law.

As we read through these antitheses, we will become increasingly aware that we have failed miserably to meet Jesus' standards. He has set the bar impossibly high, so that we must despair of ever reaching it. We could respond in one of two ways. One way would be to lapse into despair-to give up-to say that we can never meet these impossible standards. The other way would be to allow ourselves to fall backwards into Jesus' arms-to acknowledge our guilt, but also to trust in the work of Jesus and the grace of God to bring us forgiveness and a clean slate. This second way-trusting in God's grace-is the way of the New Testament, which makes it clear that our only hope is the grace of God.

"You shall not murder" (Greek: phoneuseis-from phoneuo) (v. 21b). The original commandment is found in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews each have their own numbering systems for the Ten Commandments. This is the sixth commandment according to the Protestant and Jewish systems, and the fifth according to the Catholic system.

The original commandments are recorded in Hebrew, and the word used for "kill" or "murder" in Exodus and Deuteronomy is rasah. The Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT) uses the word phoneuo, just Matthew does in this verse. Both rasah and phoneuo indicate the intentional and unlawful taking of human life.

The Torah distinguishes between murder (intentional and unlawful) and other forms of bloodshed, and provides a procedure for determining whether bloodshed constitutes murder (Deuteronomy 17:8-13). It allows capital punishment and prescribes the death penalty for a number of offenses. It allows killing in self-defense and in wars carried out according to God's will. It differentiates between manslaughter (accidental) and murder (intentional and unauthorized), and treats them differently.

"Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment" (v. 21c). The penalty for murder is death (Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17; Numbers 35:16-17). "In danger of judgment" could mean liability both to legal action and to eternal judgment.

"But I tell you, that everyone who is angry (orgizomenos) with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (v. 22a). Jesus extends the reach of the commandment beyond the act of murder to the thoughts, feelings, and actions that cause people to commit murder. He challenges us to deal with the problem of evil while it still resides as evil thoughts or feelings in our hearts-before it finds expression in the evil works of our hands or the evil words of our mouths. He calls on us to reconcile with our brother or sister so that good feelings-Godly feelings-will overcome the evil feelings of our hearts. Once our hearts are right, we will no longer be tempted to murder, but will instead be motivated by love, which is our proper response to our neighbor (22:39) and even to our enemy (5:44).

Elsewhere Jesus said, "That which enters into the mouth doesn't defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man" (Matthew 15:11). When his disciples asked for an explanation, he said, "For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19). It is this emphasis on that which lies behind the act-the evil that resides in the heart and results in evil deeds-that underlies what Jesus has to say throughout this section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus cites three sinful feelings or behaviors: Being angry with a brother-calling a brother "Raca"-and saying, "You fool!" (v. 22).

Barclay notes that there were two Greek words for anger: thumos, which is a fiery kind of anger that flames up and then dies-and orge, which is a smoldering anger, the kind of anger that a person nurtures and keeps alive. It is orge-the kind of anger that we deliberately harbor in our hearts over long periods of time-that Jesus condemns here.

None of these three behaviors (anger, calling a person "Raca", or calling a person a fool) constitute murder, per se, but they are precursors of murderous behavior-the kinds of things that cause us to spiral out of control and commit murderous deeds. Indeed, public schools have had to crack down on students who insult other students, because that sort of behavior has inspired murderous behavior-mass killings-in school settings.

These three behaviors have a progressive quality. Anger is the first step; calling a person "Raca" is the second; and calling someone a fool is the third. Likewise, the penalties have a progressive quality.

The person who is angry is "in danger of the judgment" (v. 22). Jesus doesn't say whether this is human judgment, Godly judgment, or both. However, "in danger of the judgment" is the same penalty associated with murder (v. 21), which involves both human and Godly judgment, so it seems likely that the angry person will be subject to both. While we might wonder if humans are qualified to assess the anger of a person's heart, courts today, recognizing the threat that anger poses to civil order, routinely require people to attend anger management training.

"and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council" (sunedrio) (v. 22b). Raka is an Aramaic expression of reproach that means "empty"-in this case, "You empty-headed man!" or "You stupid man!" or "You fool!"

The person who insults brother or sister is "in danger of the council" (sunedrio-probably the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body of the Jewish people).

"Brother" could refer to a sibling, but in this context also means "fellow Christian." Jesus has a special concern for his disciples and is laying a foundation of civility intended to prevent strife and divisions within the church.

We shouldn't interpret this to mean that there are no consequences for being angry with people outside the faith. After all, Jesus calls us to love even our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us "that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven" (5:44-45).

Sunedrio can refer to any council, but in the New Testament usually means the Sanhedrin, the highest ruling body for Israel-chaired by the high priest. To be tried by the Sanhedrin would be far more serious than being tried by a local council or court.

"and whoever shall say, 'You fool!' (More-from moros-from which we get our word "moron") shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna" (v. 22c). The word Raka (v. 22b) and the word More (v. 22c) are similar in the sense that both are intended to paint someone as empty-headed or foolish. I have been unable to determine whether More is worse than Raka, but it is clear that Jesus is progressing from one level to the next in the three parts of this verse. The punishments (judgment, council, and hell of fire) are certainly progressive.

The person who calls his brother or sister More (moron) shall be "in danger of the fire of Gehenna."  In the Old Testament, Gehenna was the place where the wicked were punished. The name Gehenna comes from the Hebrew, ge Hinnom, which means the Valley of Hinnom.  This was a valley near Jerusalem where human sacrifice was sometimes practiced (2 Kings 23:10) and where rubbish from Jerusalem was burned in fires that never cooled.  This valley, therefore, stands as a metaphor for a place of eternal, fiery damnation.

Jesus' concern here is the real damage that we can inflict with words. While children say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," that is a lie. Words have the capacity to wound us emotionally and spiritually as surely as a knife has the capacity to wound us physically. Most of us still carry the emotional scars of words that someone said years ago. Thus Jesus' admonition about words such as Raka or More is intended to prevent inflicting real injury. While we might regard words as insignificant, Jesus is warning us that God regards them as highly significant.

James warns, "See how a small fire can spread to a large forest! And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing, and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:5b-10).

However, in other contexts, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites and fools (23:15, 17), lending credence to the idea that it is the unjustified use of such language that is the problem he is addressing here.

 3B. Mt. 5:21-22 - NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:21-22

 21"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing, 'shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

5:21 "You have heard that the ancients were told" This could be understood as "to the ancients" or "by the ancients." The first part of this verse is from the Ten Commandments, but the second part is harder to identify and may be a quote from the rabbinical schools (Shammai, the conservative, or Hillel, the liberal). This implied a rejection of Pharisaic scribal interpretation while at the same time asserting the inspiration of the OT.

  • "murder" This is a quote from the Septuagint (LXX) of Exod. 20:13 or Deut. 5:12. It is a future active indicative used as an imperative. The KJV has " kill," but this rendering is too broad in scope. The NKJV has "murder." A more accurate translation would be "nonlegal premeditated murder." In the OT there was a legal premeditated murder-the "Blood Avenger" (cf. Deuteronomy 19; Numbers 35; Joshua 20).

5:22 "But I say to you" Jesus' teaching was radically different from the rabbis of His day, whose authority was found in quoting previous Jewish teachers as their authority (cf. Matt. 7:28-29; Mark 1:22). Jesus' authority lay in Himself. He is the true revealer of the meaning of the Old Testament. Jesus is Lord of Scripture. The "I" is emphatic-"I myself and no other" or "myself (as the Son of God who knows the mind of God.)"

  • "everyone who is angry" This is a present middle participle. This was the Greek term for a settled, nurtured, non-forgiving, long term anger. This person continued to be intensely angry.
  • "with his brother" The KJV adds "without cause." This is a Greek manuscript variation. The addition is not in the early Greek manuscripts P67, א*, B, or the Vulgate. However, it is in the uncial manuscripts אc, D, K, L, W, the Diatesseron, and the early Syrian and Coptic translations. The UBS4 gives the shorter text a B rating (almost certain). The addition weakens the strong thrust of the passage.

It might be helpful at this point to explain the superscripts: the * means the oldest copy of the manuscript type that is available; the c means the later correctors of copyists. This is often represented by 1, 2, 3, etc, if there is a series of correctors; the number after P refers to the papyrus manuscript. Uncial Greek manuscripts are designated by capital letters while papyrus manuscripts are designated by numbers. For additional information, see Textual Criticism.

Raca was Aramaic for "an empty-headed person incapable of life." This section is not dealing with what specific titles one can or cannot call another person, but with a supposed believer's attitude toward others, especially covenant brothers.  The Greek term, mōros, translated "fool," was meant to reflect the Aramaic term raca. However, Jesus' word play was not to the Greek word mōros, but the primarily Hebrew word mōreh, BDB 598, which meant " rebel against God" (cf. Num. 20:10; Deut. 21:18,20; see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 42). Jesus called the Pharisees by this very term in Matt. 23:17. Not only our actions, but our motives, attitudes, and purposes determine sin against our fellow human. Murder, as far as God is concerned, can be a thought! Hatred of our brother or sister clearly shows that we do not know God (cf. 1 John. 2:9-11; 3:15, and 4:20). Socially speaking, a hateful thought is better than a death, but remember that this section of Scripture is meant to shatter all self-righteousness and pride in one's own goodness. It is possible that this three-fold expression was a sarcastic play on scribal interpretation methods.