When I was a kid, I tried to be the best little christian I could be. As a result of that, the following words are burned into my brain:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That has been etched so deeply into my memory that I couldn’t forget it even if I wanted to. It’s like the pledge of allegiance*: while I haven’t actively thought about it for over three decades, I remember it verbatim. So, while leafing through a booklet today while I was eating lunch -one of those books that is disguised as something other than the bible. You know, it has picture of a waterfall and a title like, “Ten easy steps to change your life” or something like it, then you open it up and get Rickrolled into reading the bible. I was surprised to see this:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
I’ve added some italics to the passage above to highlight the changes. It has always been the argument of the church that the bible was the undisputed word of God. Sure, I’m talking about the gospel according to John here (purportedly written somewhere between the first and third century -depending on who you ask), but I’m also talking about the single most recognizable verse in the whole book. If they can change four words in the most recognizable verse of the bible in the forty years I’ve been alive, how can anyone believe that the rest of it isn’t, at best, paraphrased?
I can already hear the arguments, “The words have only been changed to make them easier to understand.” Or perhaps, “The words may be different, but the message is the same.” Which are both valid arguments, but which in no way change the fact that the words were altered. I’m not arguing that the message changed, only that the words changed. It may not change the meaning, but if they’re brazen enough to change this verse right in front of us, just imagine all the other ones that have changed over the millennia. Maybe the message remained the same (although that seems unlikely since we are forever watering it down to discount all the brutality, murder and sex) but it seems like the best case scenario is that it’s God’s word filtered through a game of Chinses whispers involving tens of thousands of people and lasting for hundreds of years.
*What’s funny about the pledge of allegiance is that I remember it as:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I highlighted a portion of the text there, because the way I remember it isn’t the way my Grandparents remember it:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
And even the version they remember wouldn’t be the same as the one their Grandparents remember:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I wonder how our children’s children will remember it…