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Mounce Archive 8 — Is a "Fool" a "Stupid Person" In Biblical Theology?

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Everyone needs a sabbatical once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from this blog until later in September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some of our favorite and most popular posts for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.

As a preacher I know how tempting it can be to make the Greek fit a doozy of a rhetorical point in an English sermon.

In a post from Bill Mounce's "Mondays with Mounce" series, he tells the story about a preacher who did just that. The culprit? Trying to make the English word moron do what the Greek moros just won't do.

"What is a 'moron?'," Mounce asks. "Wikipedia say it is a 'disused term for a person with a mental age between 8 and 12,' with a slang meaning of a 'stupid person.' Is that what a 'fool' is in biblical theology?"

In other words: Is a moros a moron?

Read the excerpt below and then continue reading the full post to 1) better understand what the Greek for "fool" really means; and 2) be reminded what can happen when you stretch the Greek to fit your English sermon!

Some time ago I was listening to a sermon by a pretty good preacher. He was talking about the ending to the Sermon on the Mount and how the builders of both houses were working with the same materials, but one was wise and one was foolish; one built his house on a solid foundation and the other on sand. The storms could not destroy the first, but they washed away the latter. The person who builds on the good foundation is the person who not only hears Jesus’ words but also does them. The foolish person (Greek, moros) hears them but does not do them, does not apply them to his or her life.

The speaker stressed that in a church everyone hears the same words, fills in the same sermon notes, but that does not make them wise. All the people have the same building blocks, but the wise pew-sitter (my word) is the person who takes the words and applies them. Good point.

But in the process of making the point, he committed a basic blunder, a blunder that unfortunately has been repeated in pulpits across this land innumerable times, but one that should never be repeated. It is very easy to prevent: never define a Greek word by its English cognate. Never!

(Continue reading the full post, here)

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