The Torah says, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), but the Master says that anger, hatred, insult, and public humiliation are tantamount to murder. Two forgotten sayings of Yeshua further illustrate his teaching.
He warned His disciples that murder begins with anger in the heart.
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. (Matthew 5:22)
The apostle John explained the Master’s words as follows: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The Didache interprets the teaching as follows: “Do not be an angry person, for anger leads to murder; nor be envious, nor adversarial, nor hot-tempered, for from all these things murder results” (Didache 3:2).
The Church father Jerome read Hebrew, and he had access to a copy of the now lost Jewish Gospel of the Hebrews. In his exposition on the Epistle to the Ephesians, Jerome quotes a brief passage from the Gospel of the Hebrews in which the Master says, “And never be joyful, except when you look upon your brother in love.” The otherwise unknown saying corresponds well to Yeshua’s teachings about the brotherly love. Since a word of hatred incurs the wrath of God and quarrels separate us from God, the disciple cannot have joy so long as he holds unloving or hateful thoughts against his brother.
The sages regarded publicly shaming or embarrassing a person as a grievous sin. In the no-longer extant Gospel of the Hebrews, Yeshua says that one of the most serious sins a man can commit is that of vexing his brother:
And in the Gospel which is according to the Hebrews which the Nazarenes are accustomed to read, among the worst crimes is set he who has distressed the spirit of his brother. (Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel)
Anger, quarreling, and public insults may be punished in a court of law on earth such as the local court (beit din) or even the high court (sanhedrin), but ultimately, if not in a court on earth, a person who publicly shames and insults another must pay the penalty of character assassination in the “fire of hell.” Rabbinic teaching contains similar sentiments:
- Whoever hates his neighbor is among those who shed blood. (Derech Eretz Rabba 11)
- He who publicly shames his neighbor is as though he shed blood. (b.Bava Metzia 58b)
- Better that a man throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbor to shame. (b.Bava Metzia 59b)