By Herschel E. Patton
Many are so branded, even in the Bible. It is not a coveted designation. You may be one only in someone’s mind, or you may be one in actuality. Webster defines a fool as “(1) a simpleton; (2) a professional buffoon; (3) one made to appear foolish; a dupe – v.i. 1. To play the fool; to trifle. 2. Colloq. To tamper; to waste time. 3. Archaic. To act as a jester.”
Those who accept inspiration as their standard can better discern concerning themselves and others by observing the meaning and use of the term as used in scripture.
Without Reason: Lack Of Commonsense Perception
Jesus referred to some hypocritical Pharisees who criticized Him for not keeping their traditions as fools (Luke 11:40). The same term was used in describing a covetous man who trusted in the abundance of his possessions, without regard for God, others, or eternity (Luke 12:20). The Greek word translated fool in these references is aphron.
Aphron “signifies without reason (a negative, phren the mind), want of mental sanity and sobriety, a reckless and inconsiderate habit of mind (Hort), or the lack of commonsense perception of the reality of things natural and spiritual . . . or the imprudent ordering of one’s life in regard to salvation” (G. Vos, in Hasting’s Bible Dictionary); it is mostly translated “foolish” or “foolish ones” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words, pp. 113-114).
In both cases mentioned above, the hypocritical Pharisees and the covetous man, there was present a reckless (illogical) reasoning, a lack of commonsense perception concerning things material and spiritual, and this “foolish” thinking was ordering their lives. Jesus said they were “fools” (aphron).
In our generation, as in theirs, there are religious people who are often found attacking (opposing) truth and trying to establish their own way with sophistry and wanton reason. Notice some examples.
One is baptized in order to be saved, for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). “But, Jesus said he that believeth not shall be damned and didn’t say he that is not baptized shall be damned!” (Logic suggests that when two conditions of salvation are stated, one doesn’t have to disobey both to be damned – just one will be enough.) “For the remission of sins in Acts 2:38 means `because of.”‘ (Then “repentance” is also “because of.”) “What if one is killed in a wreck on his way to be baptized?” (What if one is killed on his way to faith or repentance?) “What about the thief on the cross?” (How could he be an example of the “new birth” when he lived and died before the Great Commission which commanded baptism in the name of Christ went into effect?)
There is one body (Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:12-14) or church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23). “But, our fathers and thousands in every age believed in `many churches’!” (How can this alter God’s word?) “Jesus is the vine and churches are the branches (Jno. 15:1-6).” (The text says “ye,” v. 5; “a man,” v. 6, constitutes the branches.) “Rev. 1:4 speaks of the `seven churches of Asia’, so seven or seven hundred it doesn’t matter!” (The seven churches of Asia were congregations, located in named cities – v. 11, and all subject to the same teaching [“of the one Spirit” 1:7, 11, 17, 29, 2:6, 13, 22].)
“And whatever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:17). “But, I think if a thing is a good work, whether the Lord authorizes it or not, it will be acceptable.” (Regardless of human thought, it still can not be “of faith” [Rom. 10:17], “of Truth” [Jn. 17:17], or “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”) “Our fellowship hall, ballfield and team, kindergarten, school, Society, Institution, Camp, etc. are `good works’ and God’s word doesn’t say ‘thou shah not.'” (He does, however, tell us not to go beyond what is written, add to or take from it [1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8; Rev. 22:18-19].)
“Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15). “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). “I just can’t neglect my business, position, recreation, retirement, fun, etc. for Bible Study, Church, and personal evangelism. Surely, God would not expect me to do this!” (Look once again at the man the Lord called a fool in Luke 12:20.)
“Preacher! You are talking about me. I make these arguments and so act. Are you saying I’m a fool?” If you are not, you will be able to discern your true condition the truth – and properly order your life.
“Did Jesus say something about calling one a fool?” Jesus did, indeed, say “. . . whosoever shall say to his brother Raca, shall be in danger of the Council, but whosoever shall say, Thou fool (morns – Gk.), shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22).
Morns (fool): “Here the word means normally worthless, a scoundrel, a more serious reproach than `Raca.’ The latter scorns a man’s mind and calls him stupid; `morns’ scorns his heart and character . . .” (Vine’s, Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words, p. 114).
Man cannot look into the heart of his fellows and pass sentence upon them; only the Lord can do this. Man is forbidden to thus do. When the Lord, however, declares someone morns, that person is truly that kind of fool, a morally worthless person. Jesus used this term in pronouncing woes upon the tradition bound, hypocritical scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:17, 19) and the virgins that “took no oil with them”, being found unprepared when the bridegroom came (Matt. 25:2, 3, 8). Paul and his fellowworkers were thus viewed in the eyes of their opponents (1 Cor. 4:10).
From the use and meaning of this word in Scripture we can see the depth to which those sink who act unreasonably, without common sense perception (fool aphron), and how the Lord sees them.
Anoetos is another Greek word translated “fool” in scripture and signifies “not understanding.” Jesus said, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe . .” (Luke 24:25). In Rom. 1:21, the word is translated “foolish” heart, and the Galatians were said to be “foolish” (Gal. 3:1, 3). All of us are often “foolish” from this standpoint, but should study to understand. If we do not, we will soon be acting foolishly (aphron) and become morally worthless (morns) before God.
“I may be a fool in the eyes of Bible believers, but how do I know the Bible is reliable or that there is a God who cares?” “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
Truth Magazine XXIV: 40, pp. 641, 651
October 9, 1980