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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

The diversity in the conceptions of folly is strikingly illustrated by the use in the writings of the Apostolic Church of the terms ‘fool’ and ‘foolish,’ translating the Greek words ἅφρων, μωρός, ἅσοφοι, ἀνόητος, ἀσύνετος, and related forms.

1. There appears to be a reference to folly as intentional clownishness in  Ephesians 5:4. The Christian must avoid ‘foolish talking or jesting’ (μωρολογία καὶ εὐτραπελία).

2. Unseemly and undignified conduct is folly. Thus St. Paul, vindicating his apostleship, is reluctantly led to a self-commendation, such as, in other circumstances, only a fool in the folly of boasting would offer ( 2 Corinthians 11:16;  2 Corinthians 11:18;  2 Corinthians 11:21;  2 Corinthians 12:11; cf.  2 Corinthians 5:13). There is, however, a deeper folly-unwarranted boasting ( 2 Corinthians 12:6). Twice in these 2 Cor. passages a certain play on the idea of folly is presented. St. Paul in self-defence is compelled to speak as a fool, yet are not the real fools the Corinthians, ironically φρόνιμοι, for tolerating fools, namely the false teachers? ( 2 Corinthians 11:17;  2 Corinthians 11:19-20). Again the Apostle, having acknowledged ‘I speak as a fool’ (in my boasting), presently comes to the mere supposition that these false teachers are servants of Christ-the sense of the parenthesis changes-‘Now indeed, I do speak out of my mind’ ( 2 Corinthians 11:21;  2 Corinthians 11:23).

3. The term ‘fool’ (ἅφρων), signifying mental stupidity, is applied to the imaginary controversialist of  1 Corinthians 15:36, who finds unnecessary difficulties in the Resurrection (cf. the ‘foolish controversies’ of  1 Timothy 6:4,  2 Timothy 2:23,  Titus 3:9).

4. The ‘foolish Galatians’ (ἀνόητοι) appear to be rebuked for bad judgment, rather than for moral perverseness. They must be ‘bewitched’ to have so readily accepted another teaching ( Galatians 3:1-3).

5. Instances of moral folly are provided by those who live without regard to the chief end of life. These are ἅσοφοι and ἅφρονες ( Ephesians 5:15-17). Foolish are the lusts of the rich ( 1 Timothy 6:9), and the unregenerate life is one of foolishness ( Titus 3:3).

6. Heathenism supplied a conspicuous and illuminating case of moral and intellectual folly ( Romans 1:18 f.; cf.  Romans 2:20). To St. Paul, the worship of wood and stone indicated an underlying moral defect of liking for the unreal rather than for the real-for make-belief rather than for belief ( Romans 2:25), which found expression in morality as well as in worship ( Romans 2:24 f.). This moral folly led to intellectual foolishness, which ‘learned disputations’ disguised and fostered. There must be a moral element in sane intellectual judgment (cf.  2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, and Carlyle’s comment upon Napoleon: ‘He did not know true from false now when he looked at them,-the fearfulest penalty a man pays for yielding to untruth of heart’ [ Heroes and Hero-worship , 1872, ‘The Hero as King,’ p. 221]).

7. In the judgment of the critical Greek intellectualists, the preaching of ‘Christ crucified’ was folly ( 1 Corinthians 1:18;  1 Corinthians 1:21;  1 Corinthians 1:23;  1 Corinthians 1:25). A gospel centred in the person of an ignominiously executed criminal, and finding indeed a mystic value in that death, was likely to provoke the contempt of a highly philosophical community. In contrast, St. Paul presents, as the true norm whereby wisdom and folly are to be judged, a mystic γνῶσις: to the unspiritual, foolishness ( 1 Corinthians 2:14), but to the initiated, the power and wisdom of God ( 1 Corinthians 2:6;  1 Corinthians 2:10;  1 Corinthians 1:24;  1 Corinthians 1:30)-a presentation which invites comparison with the γνῶσις of the Mysteries. Probably the distinction here suggested is that between the intuitional, mystic experience of God and His power, and the intellectual theorizing about God and His dealings with the world. Religious ‘wisdom’ must be judged primarily in terms of spiritual experience rather than of theology. At the same time, St. Paul had no love for obscurantism (1 Corinthians 14).

8. The evil of the intellectual ism within the Church, indicated in 1 Cor., was not that it challenged the distinctive forms of Christian faith, but that it gave rise to the bitterness of religious controversy-sacrificed the love which never failed in value for the sake of the mere forms of knowledge, which at the best necessarily passed away in the coming of greater light ( 1 Corinthians 13:11). Let these childishly ( 1 Corinthians 3:1;  1 Corinthians 3:3) ‘wise’ become ‘fools’ that they may gain the wisdom of the childlike ( 1 Corinthians 3:18-23).

9. ‘Fools for Christ’s sake’-so St. Paul describes himself and his fellow-evangelists in  1 Corinthians 4:10. The epithet may have been applied on account of the ‘foolishness’ of the preaching (7); the contrast, however, with the φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ, prudentes in Christo , suggests that the reference is to the worldly-wiseman’s view of the sanctified ‘abandon’ of St. Paul and his kindred spirits, their flinging aside of policy and cunning, their counting as nought the things which the world deems precious. The Apostle is actually regarded by Festus as out of his mind ( Acts 26:24).

H. Bulcock.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

FOOL . The Heb. language is rich in words which express various kinds of folly. 1. The kesîl is glib of tongue, ‘his mouth is his destruction’ (  Proverbs 18:7; cf.   Proverbs 9:13;   Proverbs 14:33 ); in   Ecclesiastes 5:1 f. ‘the sacrifice of fools’ is offered by him who is rash with his mouth. But such an one is ‘light-hearted, thoughtless and noisy rather than vicious.’ 2. The sâkhâl manifests his folly not in speech, but in action; it was after David had numbered the people that he reproached himself for acting ‘very foolishly’ (  2 Samuel 24:10 ). Consequences prove that fools of this class have blundered in their calculations (  Genesis 31:28 ,   1 Samuel 13:13 ,   Isaiah 44:25 ). 3. The ’evîl is stupid, impatient of reproof, often sullen and quarrelsome. He despises wisdom and instruction (  Proverbs 1:7; cf.   Proverbs 15:5 ), is soon angry (  Proverbs 12:16;   Proverbs 27:3 ), and may sometimes be described as sinful (  Proverbs 5:22 f.,   Proverbs 24:9 ). 4. The folly of the nâbhâl is never mere intellectual deficiency or stupidity; it is a moral fault, sometimes a crime, always a sin. ‘To commit folly’ is a euphemism for gross unchastity (  Deuteronomy 22:21 ,   Jeremiah 29:23 ); the word is used also of sacrilege (  Joshua 7:15 ), of blasphemy (  Psalms 74:18 ), as well as of impiety in general (  Deuteronomy 32:6 ,   Psalms 14:1 ). These words are sometimes employed in a more general sense; to determine the shade of meaning applicable in any passage, a study of the context is essential. For further details see Kennedy, Hebrew Synonyms , p. 29 ff.

In the NT the Gr. words for ‘fool’ describe him as ‘deficient in understanding’ ( Luke 24:25 ), ‘unwise’ (  Ephesians 5:16 ), ‘senseless’ (  Luke 12:20 ), ‘unintelligent’ (  Romans 1:21 ). The Gr. word which corresponds to the ‘impious fool’ of the OT is found in   Matthew 5:22 : Raca expresses ‘contempt for a man’s head = you stupid!’ But ‘fool’ ( môre ) expresses ‘contempt for his heart and character = you scoundrell’ (Bruce, EGT [Note: Expositor’s Greek Testament.] , in loc. ). If môre were ‘a Hebrew expression of condemnation’ (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ), it would ‘enjoy the distinction of being the only pure Hebrew word in the Greek Testament’ (Field, Notes on the Translation of NT , p. 3). A ‘ pure Hebrew word’ means a word not taken from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and not Aramaic.

J. G. Tasker.

King James Dictionary [3]

FOOL, n. Heb.

1. One who is destitute of reason, or the common powers of understanding an idiot. Some persons are born fools, and are called natural fools others may become fools by some injury done to the brain. 2. In common language, a person who is somewhat deficient in intellect, but not an idiot or a person who acts absurdly one who does not exercise his reason one who pursues a course contrary to the dictates of wisdom.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

3. In scripture, fool is often used for a wicked or depraved person one who acts contrary to sound wisdom in his moral deportment one who follows his own inclinations, who prefers trifling and temporary pleasures to the service of God and eternal happiness.

The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.  Psalms 14 .

4. A weak christian a godly person who has much remaining sin and unbelief.

O fools, and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have written.  Luke 24 .

Also, one who is accounted or called a food by ungodly men.  1 Corinthians 4:10 .

5. A term of indignity and reproach.

To be thought knowing, you must first put the fool upon all mankind.

6. One who counterfeits folly a buffoon as a king's fool.

I scorn, although their drudge, to be their fool or jester.

1. To play the fool, to act the buffoon to jest to make sport. 2. To act like one void of understanding.

To put the fool on, to impose on to delude.

To make a fool of, to frustrate to defeat to disappoint.

FOOL, To trifle to toy to spend time in idleness, sport or mirth.

Is this a time for fooling?


1. To treat with contempt to disappoint to defeat to frustrate to deceive to impose on.

When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat for fooled with hope, men favor the deceit.

2. To infatuate to make foolish. 3. To cheat as, to fool one out of his money. 1. To fool away, to spend in trifles, idleness, folly, or without advantage as, to fool away time. 2. To spend for things of no value or use to expend improvidently as, to fool away money.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [4]

The term fool in Scripture language differs from what is understood in the general acceptation of the word among men. By fool we mean one that is weak in his intellect, and an idiot. But not so in the word of God. Thus in the psalms, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.." ( Psalms 14:1) But the sense is, that the wicked and ungodly have by their action said this. So again, that pride and haughtiness of men, which prompts them to reject Christ, this in Scripture language is called folly. Hence the apostle saith, "The world by wisdom knew not God; and it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." ( 1 Corinthians 1:21) By comparing two passages in Scripture together, the sense of the word is very strongly marked. Thus the prophet Isaiah saith, speaking of bad men, that"It is a people of no understanding; therefore, he that made them will not have mercy upon them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour." ( Isaiah 27:11) Now, that it might not be supposed, that this being void of understanding was the natural and unavoidable condition of idiotism, which brought upon them the displeasure of God, and for which the Lord would shew them no favour, the Holy Ghost, by his servant Job, hath very fully shewn in what that want of understanding consisted."And unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." ( Job 28:28)

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

Folly or Foolishness The term fool is to be understood sometimes according to its plain, literal meaning, as denoting a person void of understanding; but it is often used figuratively,  Psalms 38:5;  Psalms 69:5 . "The fool," that is, the impious sinner, "hath said in his heart, There is no God,"  Psalms 14:1 . "I have sinned: do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly,"  1 Chronicles 21:8 . "Fools make a mock at sin,"  Proverbs 14:9 . See also the language of Tamar to her brother Amnon: "Do not this folly; for whither shall I cause my shame to go? And as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel,"  2 Samuel 13:13; that is, Thou wilt be accounted a very wicked person. Our Lord seems to have used the term in a sense somewhat peculiar in  Matthew 5:22 : "Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." But the whole verse shows the meaning to be, that when any one of his professed disciples indulges a temper and disposition of mind contrary to charity, or that peculiar love which the brethren of Christ are bound by his law to have toward each other,  John 13:34 , not only showing anger against another without a cause, but also treating him with contemptuous language, and that with malicious intent, he shall be in danger of eternal destruction.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( v. t.) To use as a fool; to deceive in a shameful or mortifying manner; to impose upon; to cheat by inspiring foolish confidence; as, to fool one out of his money.

(2): ( n.) One who acts contrary to moral and religious wisdom; a wicked person.

(3): ( n.) A compound of gooseberries scalded and crushed, with cream; - commonly called gooseberry fool.

(4): ( n.) One destitute of reason, or of the common powers of understanding; an idiot; a natural.

(5): ( n.) A person deficient in intellect; one who acts absurdly, or pursues a course contrary to the dictates of wisdom; one without judgment; a simpleton; a dolt.

(6): ( n.) One who counterfeits folly; a professional jester or buffoon; a retainer formerly kept to make sport, dressed fantastically in motley, with ridiculous accouterments.

(7): ( v. i.) To play the fool; to trifle; to toy; to spend time in idle sport or mirth.

(8): ( v. t.) To infatuate; to make foolish.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [7]

 1 Samuel 26:21 (a) This is a type of one who has heard the Word of GOD but has deliberately refused to obey it.

 Psalm 14:1 (a) This indicates GOD's thought about the man who, in spite of all the evidence available, denies the existence of a personal GOD.

 Proverbs 12:15 (a) The one who rejects the revelation of GOD and assumes his own thoughts and deductions about his path of life is a fool in GOD's sight.

 Matthew 5:22 (a) The man who mocks at the Christian who desires to live all out for GOD, and out and out for Christ in separation and consecration, and calls that Christian a fool for doing so, is condemned by GOD. He is opposed to GOD's plans.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Fool. This term, in Scripture, implies moral pravity. The fool is not merely an unreasonable, he is a sinful person.  2 Samuel 13:13;  Psalms 14:1;  Proverbs 19:1;  Proverbs 19:29;  Proverbs 20:3;  Proverbs 26:4-5;  Matthew 23:17;  Romans 1:21-22. Hence the censure of one who unjustifiably cast so great a reproach upon a brother.  Matthew 5:22.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [9]

' Ĕvı̂yl ( אֱוִיל , Strong'S #191), “fool.” This word appears primarily in the wisdom literature. A person described by 'ĕvı̂yl generally lacks wisdom; indeed, wisdom is beyond his grasp (Prov. 24:7). In another nuance, “fool” is a morally undesirable individual who despises wisdom and discipline (Prov. 1:7; 15:5). He mocks guilt (Prov. 14:9), and is quarrelsome (Prov. 20:3) and licentious (Prov. 7:22). Trying to give him instruction is futile (Prov. 16:22).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [10]

Any person who does not act wisely, that is, does not follow the warnings and requirements of God, which are founded in infinite wisdom. Hence "a fool" is put for a wicked man, an enemy or neglecter of God,  Psalm 14:1   Proverbs 19:1 . So folly is put for wickedness,  2 Samuel 13:12,13   Psalm 38:5 , foolish lusts for wicked lusts, etc. Foolish talking, foolish questions, are vain, empty, unprofitable conversation,  2 Timothy 2:23 .

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [11]

One who has not the use of reason or judgment. In Scriptures, wicked persons are often called fools, or foolish, because such act contrary to reason, trust to their own hearts, violate the laws of God, and prefer things vile, trifling, and temporal, to such as are important, divine, and eternal.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

(represented by several Hebrew and Greek words, especially נָבָל Nabal, Ἄφρων ). The "fool" of Scripture is not an idiot, but an absurd person; not one who does not reason at all, but one who reasons wrong; also any one whose conduct is not regulated by the dictates of reason and religion ( Psalms 14:1). Foolishness, therefore, is not a negative condition, but a condition of wrong action in the intellectual or sentient being, or in both ( 2 Samuel 13:12-13;  Psalms 38:5). In the book of Proverbs, however, "foolishness" appears to be sometimes used for lack of understanding, although score generally for perverseness of will. The phrase "Thou fool" ( Matthew 5:22) implies not only angry temper, by which such severe language is, prompted, but a scornful, contemptuous feeling, utterly inconsistent with the love and meekness which characterize disciples of Christ, and, of course exposing thee individual who is under its influence. to eternal punishment. (See Wisdom).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

The fool of Scripture is not an idiot, but an absurd person; not one who does not reason at all, but one who reasons wrong; also any one whose conduct is not regulated by the dictates of reason and religion. Foolishness, therefore, is not a private condition, but a condition of wrong action in the intellectual or sentient being, or in both . In the Proverbs, however, 'foolishness' appears to be sometimes used for lack of understanding, although more generally for perverseness of will.