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Matthew 5:22 New International Version

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

English Standard Version

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Berean Study Bible

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to the fire of hell.

NASB 1995

“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.

NASB seems to give more degree of certainty of the hellish outcome than NIV. What is the proper translation?

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  • KJV has “without cause” in Mat 5:22. That has to be important because Jesus himself called people “fools” a couple of times. In Luke 11:40 he says it to the Pharisees and in Luke 24:25 he says it to the disciples. – Constantthin Jul 2 at 23:41
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Here is my translation of Matt 5:22 with the parallel structure highlighted:

But I say to you:

  • everyone being angry with his brother will be liable to the judgement
  • but whoever shall say to his brother, "Raka" will be liable to the Sanhedrin
  • but whoever shall say "Fool" will be liable to the Gehenna of fire

The matter at issue here is the Greek adjective ἔνοχος (enochos) translated "liable" three times above. The word only occurs 10 times in the NT, Matt 5:21, 22 (three times), 26:66, Mark 3:29, 14:64, 1 Cor 11:27, Heb 2:15, James 2:10.

BDAG gives this meaning:

  1. pertaining to being held in or constrained, subject to, eg, Heb 2:15
  2. pertaining to being required to give an account for something held against one, liable, answerable, guilty, eg, (a) with dative: Matt 5:21, 22; (b) with genitive: Matt 26:66, Mark 14:64 3:29; etc.

Thus, Jesus' three-fold statement of consequences is just that - a statement that the consequences of these actions makes one culpable and required to give an account and so defend oneself.

This is in stark contrast to Jesus' statement in John 5:24 -

Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life.

Thus, Jesus is giving good advice - we cannot and will be unable to defend ourselves in any heavenly judgement. The only way to avoid this is to trust Jesus and the problem of judgement is removed. Then (back to Matt 5), when we become followers of Jesus, we will want to reconcile with our enemies:

Matt 5:23 - So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

The Expositor's Greek Testament offers this comment on Matt 5:22 -

Matthew 5:22. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν. Christ supplies the defect, as a painter fills in a rude outline of a picture (σκιαγραφίαν), says Theophy. He goes back on the roots of crime in the feelings: anger, contempt, etc.—πᾶς … αὐτοῦ. Every one; universal interdict of angry passion.—ἀδελφῷ: not in blood (the classical meaning) or in faith, but by common humanity. The implied doctrine is that every man is my brother; companion doctrine to the universal Fatherhood of God (Matthew 5:45).—εἰκῆ is of course a gloss; qualification of the interdict against anger may be required, but it was not Christ’s habit to supply qualifications. His aim was to impress the main idea, anger a deadly sin.—κρίσει, here as in Matthew 5:21. The reference is to the provincial court of seven (Deuteronomy 16:18, 2 Chronicles 19:5, Joseph. Ant. iv. 8, 14) possessing power to punish capital offences by the sword. Christ’s words are of course not to be taken literally as if He were enacting that the angry man be tried as a criminal. So understood He would be simply introducing an extension of legalism. He deserves to go before the seven, He says, meaning he is as great an offender as the homicide who is actually tried by them.

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