John 3:16 – Now what do you say to THAT,
you stupid heathen?
(Part 2 of Dr. Laurence Brown’s refutation of John 3:16)
Our lives are clouded with eternal truths and intriguing cosmic mysteries. How do food factories remove the little bits from chunky peanut butter for those who want it creamy? Why do all of us (now, don’t deny it) wake up late on Sunday mornings, with an irresistible desire to wax nose-hairs off of a lop-eared bunny? And if E=MC2, what do A, I, O and U equal? Wheel of Fortune charges the same price to buy any of the vowels, so shouldn’t Einstein’s famous theory of matter and energy acknowledge the equivalent value of all vowels? What do game show hosts know that he didn’t? But maybe it doesn’t matter. Or it doesn’t energy. Then again, Einstein might not have known the difference between his A’s and an “O”-shaped hole in his alphabet.
These are issues of the unseen – intriguing complexities mortal human minds can never fully comprehend. Add to this list one more great mystery: Why do Bible translators use capital letters for pronouns (as opposed to novice, or even “serious amateur” nouns), when these pronouns refer to Jesus Christ?
In the first episode of this masterfully executed scholastic series of scintillating intellectual analysis, we discussed . . . Okay, pause that. Yes, I do have a raging ego, but no, I don’t have a mouse in my pocket. The “we” in the previous sentence refers to me (or should I say “me, myself and I” – would that excuse use of the plural?). Think of “we” as polite audience inclusion, an outdated literary pleasantry, or inappropriate use of the royal plural. “We” is “me.” But that pretty much proves my point. Why is the “w” capitalized and the “m” isn’t? Literary convention, obviously. But where is the literary convention that requires a midsentence “he” to be capitalized when it refers to Jesus Christ, but not when it refers to other people? There isn’t one. That isn’t literary convention – it’s linguistic dishonesty, based on doctrinal prejudice.
Here’s what happened.
As the old Latin proverb goes: Corruptio optimi pessima. Cover your nose with a hankie when you say that. Pinch and wiggle both nostrils to get the itch out, so it doesn’t sneak up on you and make you sneeze it out again. But as I said, Corruptio optimi pessima. It’s not exactly Carpe deim (Seize the day). It’s not even Carpe biggus schnoz-us unt squeeze-us. No, it’s really just a catchy proverb that floats around quotation books, the sole purpose of which is to make authors sound sophisticated and intelligent (or, at least, to make us sound more intelligent than our audience and *cough, cough* at this particular moment, that’s you, friend).
It’s like that old joke that when you and your best friend are being chased by a bear, you don’t have to out-run the bear; you just have to outrun your friend. So, Corruptio optimi pessima is Latin, it sounds cool, it makes nood-nick (vulgar Latin for “moldy, gum-headed”) guys like me sound intelligent. Is it working? I hope so. In college, I was less a Bachelor of Arts than an orphan of it, and my “art” was so messy and incomprehensible it was more like an abstract representation of stuttering flatulence on canvas. Instead of a BA, Cornell should have given me an OMA: Orphan of Modern Art, although as far as the college might be concerned, OMA could equally be an Islamic twist on OMG – “Oh . . . My . . . Allah, please let his children attend other universities.”
So . . . Corruptio optimi pessima. It means something, right? It must. I mentioned it for a reason, it’s just that . . . where was I? Oh, yeah. The best, when corrupted, becomes the worst. But wait a minute . . . take a bite of the sacred fruit of the tree of knowledge (or don’t – please don’t), and ask yourself if the Bible really is the “best.” Corrupted, yes. Mistranslated in places, un-huh. But are the so-called original scriptures the “best”? Well, let’s see now . . . the New Testament is translated from over 5,700 Greek manuscripts, despite the fact that, “no two of these manuscripts are exactly alike in all their particulars. . . . And some of these differences are significant.”[i] So maybe they are not the “best.” But whatever they are, translation has made them worse. I think we can agree on that.
Now, here’s the problem. We started this series discussing John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Note the selective capitalization of “he” and “him” in reference to Jesus Christ. Koiné Greek, the language from which the New Testament is predominantly translated, does not have capital letters (see New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol 13, p. 431). So the not-so-original manuscripts from which the Bible is translated do not refer to Jesus Christ in capital letters. Rather, the Bible translators capitalized “he” and “him” to conform to their doctrinal “makes Jesus look like God” convictions. In the language of Stephen Colbert, this logic eats itself. Capitalization in Bible translation is more the result of religious conviction than of scholastic accuracy, conceived more out of doctrine than faithfulness to biblical narratives. For a blatant example, compare Matthew 21:9 with Psalm 118:26. Psalm 118:26 writes of an uncapitalized “he”: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” However, when Matthew 21:9 quotes Psalm 118:26, referring to Jesus as the “he” who “comes in the name of the LORD,” the Bible translators conveniently converted the lowercase “he” of Psalm 118:26 to a capitalized “He” in an effort to make Jesus appear divine. Lest a person make excuses, this is not a typographical error; Matthew 23:39 duplicates this exaggeration. The problem is, this textual manipulation is blatant. Genetic analysis of the stains on the fabric of religious history is simply not necessary, for the verdict is obvious—someone has defiled the text. And lest a person defend the Bible on the basis of this being a very small corruption, any group who takes the Bible for a book of guidance finds themselves painted into a corner by the biblical caution that, “he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). How, then, does this quote apply to the Bible scribes and translators? For if they, having been unjust in what is least, means they are, according to their own scripture, “unjust also in much,” how can we trust the rest of their work?
Wow. That was a mouthful. That was a change in tone. Come to think of it, that was an excerpt from my book, MisGod’ed. Which currently is being translated into multiple languages, all available for free download on my website, LevelTruth.com. But corruptio optimi pessima, so carpe your wallet and readi iti in the original English.
You can now return to waxing your bunny.
[i] Ehrman, Bart D. 2005. Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press. p. 78.