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Luke 24:25: Did Jesus call his disciples fools?

Muslims are referring to a number of Gospel verses to deny the divinity of Jesus. One of them is the following one: “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). Did Jesus really call his disciples fools or wicked people?

1. Original word for fool doesn’t mean wickedness

"How foolish you are” doesn’t mean that Jesus called his disciples wicked people. The Greek word ἀνόητοι (anoētoi) is another word than mωρέ (mōre), that has been used in Matthew 5:22 and 23:17 for “foolish” and is connected with wickedness. Jesus said: “And anyone who says, "You fool (mωρέ)!" will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). Jesus used a word that doesn’t call his disciples wicked people, but wanted to guide them to get more understanding about the Scriptures. In Luke 24:25 the word ἀνόητοι means “weakness or dullness” in relation to correct his disciples that they didn’t see what he had himself so clearly predicted, and what had been foretold by the prophets [1].

2. The disciples had difficulties to learn about Jesus in the Scriptures

“Slow to believe” means not fast to discover or understanding and a bit lazy to learn. The disciples were doubting about the words of Jesus and didn’t trust his promises. The disciples had suffered so much in the time Jesus was separated from them, that they had lost prophecies of Jesus. They had forgotten the Jesus’ prediction that he had to die and will rise from the dead (Luke 9:22). Therefore Jesus didn’t use a word to downplay his disciples, but encouraged them to grow in Scripture knowledge.

3. Conclusion

Jesus did not call his disciples fools, but coached his pupils to grow in the spiritual knowledge of the Bible. The word “fool” is just an unfortunate translation. Jesus had compassion with his disciples and his reaction to them was justified because they didn’t understand the true meaning of the Scripture.

Notes

1. Albert Barnes, Robert Frew (ed), Notes on the New Testament: Explanatory and Practical. Vol. II – Luke and John, Blackie and Son, London, 1868, Luke 24.

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