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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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( ῾Ρακά ), a term of reproach used by the Jews of our Saviour's age (Matthew 5:22). Critics are agreed that it is but the Greek form of the Chaldee term רֵיקָא, ireyka' (the terminal א being the definite article, used in a vocative sense), with the sense of "worthless;" but they differ as to whether this term should be connected with the root רוּק conveying the notion of emptiness (Gesen. Thesaur. . 1279), or with one of the cognate roots רָקִק (Tholuck) or רָקִע (Ewald), conveying the notion of thinness (Olshausen, De Wette, On Matthew v, 22). The first of these views is probably correct. We may compare the use of רֵיק, vain," inJudges 9:4; 11:3, al., and of κενέ in James 2:20. Jesus, contrasting the law of Moses, which could only take notice of overt acts, with his own, which renders man amenable for his motives and feelings, says in effect: "Whosoever is rashly angry with his brother is liable to the judgment of God; whosoever calls his brother raca is liable to the judgment of the Sanhedrim; but whosoever calls him fool (μωρέ ) becomes liable to the judgment of Gehenna." To apprehend the higher criminality here attached to the term fool, which may not at first seem very obvious, it is necessary to observe that while "raca" denotes a certain looseness of life and manners, "fool" denotes a wicked and reprobate person: foolishness being in Scripture opposed to spiritual wisdom (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad loc.). (See FOOL).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Raca'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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