FAITH & REFLECTION — Stories relating the origin of April Fools’ Day are nearly as numerous as the hoaxes that take place on that day. My favorite explanation was proposed by the late Joseph Boskin, professor of history at Boston University.
Boskin taught that the ritual began under the reign of Constantine when a group of court jesters told the Emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire than he could. Constantine, amused by this, appointed Kugel, one of the jesters to be King for a day. Kugel, during his one day reign, proclaimed the day to be perpetually a day for absurdity and foolishness and Constantine affirmed Kugel’s edict.
Boskin’s explanation for the founding of April Fools’ Day, finding its way into a myriad of newspapers in 1983, was read extensively and widely accepted. However, there was one glitch. Boskin had made the whole thing up! It took the newspapers and their readers a few weeks to realize that they had been the victims of Boskin’s April Fools’ joke.
The truth of the matter is, we do not like being tricked and feeling foolish; at least not with any frequency. And for that matter, being a fool is no laughing matter. Nevertheless, we use the word fool rather lightly, and that is probably all right in our cultural context. However, the Bible refers to fools, and related words like folly and foolish, in a very serious fashion.
For example, the Old Testament passage of Ecclesiastes 5:4, speaking of those making promises to God and not keeping them says “…God has no pleasure in fools…” Proverbs 14:7 adds, “Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.” Jesus, in keeping with the seriousness of the topic said in His Sermon on the Mount, “…If you call someone a fool, you are in danger of being brought before the court” (Matthew 5:22).
The reason for the solemn consideration of this matter in the Scripture has to do with the meaning of the words. “Fool” in the Old Testament was synonymous with being evil. In other words, a fool is someone who has paid no attention to God, his/her own spiritual needs or the future.
The New Testament word is only slightly less severe and could easily be translated empty head or idiot. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool Luke 12:13 – 21 is graphically illustrative of this.
Proverbs 1:7 effectively contrasts the informed with the fool. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
I personally have no objection to April Fools’ Day…but I would suggest that we not be foolish about our lives, souls, or destiny. I’m not fooling!