The Watchtower of 2006, 2/15 “Questions From Readers” article asks this: What three dangers was Jesus warning against at Matthew 5:22?
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ warned his followers: “I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.”—Matthew 5:22.
Jesus used things familiar to the Jews—the court of justice, the Supreme Court, and the fiery Gehenna—to convey to them the increasing severity of the punishments for sins of increasing seriousness.
First, Jesus said that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to “the court of justice,” the local court. According to tradition, these courts were set up in cities with an adult male population of 120 or more. (Matthew 10:17; Mark 13:9) The judges at such a court had authority to render judgment, even on murder cases. (Deuteronomy 16:18; 19:12; 21:1, 2) Thus, Jesus was showing that a person who harbors smoldering wrath against his brother is committing a serious sin.
Jesus next said that a person who “addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court.” The Greek word rha·ka′ (footnote) rendered “an unspeakable word of contempt” means “empty” or “empty-headed.” According to The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, that word was “a term of reproach used by the Jews in the time of Christ.” Jesus was thus warning against the seriousness of expressing hatred toward a countryman with a derogatory term of contempt. Jesus was as much as saying that a person using such a word would be judged not just by a local court but by the Supreme Court, the full Sanhedrin—the judicial body in Jerusalem made up of the high priest and 70 older men and scribes.—Mark 15:1.
Finally, Jesus explained that if a person addresses another, “You despicable fool!” he would be liable to the fiery Gehenna. The word “Gehenna” comes from the Hebrew words geh hin·nom′, meaning “valley of Hinnom,” which lay to the west and south of ancient Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, the valley had become a place for burning refuse, including the bodies of vile criminals who were considered undeserving of a decent burial. So the word “Gehenna” was a fitting symbol of complete destruction.
What, then, did the expression “despicable fool” signify? The word used here sounded similar to a Hebrew term that means “rebellious,” or “mutinous.” It designates a person as morally worthless, an apostate and a rebel against God. So the person addressing his fellow as a “despicable fool” is as much as saying that his brother should receive a punishment fit for a rebel against God, everlasting destruction. From God’s standpoint, the one uttering such a condemnation against another could merit that severe sentence—everlasting destruction—himself.—Deuteronomy 19:17-19.
Consequently, Jesus was setting a higher standard for his followers than that found in the principles behind the Mosaic Law. While people believed that a murderer would be “accountable to the court of justice,” Jesus went further. He taught that his followers should avoid even harboring animosity against their brothers.—Matthew 5:21, 22.”
Watchtower 1979 11/1
“In his widely known Sermon on the Mount, the Leader of Jehovah’s Witnesses, namely, Jesus Christ, said, among other things: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’ . . . You heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You must not murder; but whoever commits a murder will be accountable to the court of justice.’ However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” Gehenna figuratively pictured eternal destruction, for Jesus later said to his disciples: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt. 5:9, 21, 22; 10:28) Consequently, the witnesses of Jehovah have always sought to be peaceable in a mixed-up world and have always avoided murderous tendencies even in wrathfulness and violent speech.”
Watchtower 1978 4/15
“Jesus then went a step farther, saying: “Whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” (Matt. 5:22c) The Greek word rendered “you despicable fool” is mōré. A similar-sounding Hebrew term (moreh) means “rebellious,” “mutinous.” Whereas raca suggests intellectual stupidity, mōré designates one as morally worthless, an apostate and rebel against God. In his Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations, John Lightfoot points out: “‘Raca’ denotes indeed ‘morosity, and lightness of manners and life:’ but ‘fool’ judgeth bitterly of the spiritual and eternal state, and decreeth a man to certain destruction.”
Persons who would denounce their fellow in such a way would be “liable to the fiery Gehenna.” Here Jesus refers to the Valley of Hinnom (Hebrew, Gei Hinnom) near Jerusalem, which became a garbage dump where fires continually burned to consume refuse and carcasses that were thrown into it. According to the Greek Lexicon by Liddell and Scott, in that valley “the corpses of the worst malefactors were burnt.” If the fires of Gehenna did not wholly consume those carcasses, worms and maggots that bred there would finish the job.—Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:47, 48.
Jesus used Gehenna as a fitting symbol of eternal destruction. Since a person who would condemn his fellow as a “despicable fool” worthy of Gehenna would be desiring everlasting destruction for that one, from God’s standpoint the one uttering such a condemnation brings that severe sentence upon himself.—Compare Deuteronomy 19:17-19.”
Watchtower 1976 12/1
“Jesus Christ made it clear that wrong use of the tongue could bring such a serious consequence. He said: “Whoever says [to his brother], ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” (Matt. 5:22) Yes, one who wrongly judges and condemns his brother as a “despicable fool,” that is, a morally worthless person, would rightly be liable to the judgment of Gehenna. Why? Because by thus condemning his brother, he would be pronouncing that one as deserving the judgment of Gehenna. In his heart, he would be desiring such a terrible judgment for his brother. Thereby he himself would become liable to the adverse judgment he wished for his brother. This possible penalty would harmonize with the stipulation of the Mosaic law requiring that a false witness receive the very same punishment that the accused would have received had he been found guilty.—Deut. 19:17-21.”
Watchtower 1954 6/15
Words are dangerous tools. And Jesus warned his disciples to be careful as to the use of them: “Whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” He further added that “the good man out of his good treasure sends out good things, whereas the wicked man out of his wicked treasure sends out wicked things. I tell you that every unprofitable saying that men speak, they will render an account concerning it on Judgment Day; for by your words you will be vindicated, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 5:22; 12:35-37, NW) A Christian who is well mannered will not call his brother a fool, or stupid, or other uncomplimentary names.
We here at JW Struggle and I am sure, all those who read these pages, hope the Watchtower will repent from their hateful name calling and slander against us, their fellow brothers in Christ. We hope they will consider the above comments they made on this subject in the past. Calling someone an “apostate”, “empty well” or “mentally diseased” among other things as they did in the 2011 9/11 Watchtower Study is the same as calling them a “despicable fool”. They clearly established that in their above comments. Even if it were true Jesus made no allowance for such judgmental harsh words. We fear for our brothers at the Watchtower and those who follow their conduct in this. We pray Jesus will not throw them literally into “Gehenna”. Let us all pray that our brothers at the Watchtower see how wrong they are and have been for years beating their brothers as they seem to believe our master is delaying. They are bitter because God has not made the words of these “servants” come true. Isaiah 44:26, “the One making the word of his servant come true, and the One that carries out completely the counsel of his own messengers.”
Your brother in Christ,