John 3:16 – Now what do you say to THAT,

you stupid heathen?

(Part 3 of Dr. Laurence Brown’s refutation of John 3:16)

In the first two installments of this series, we established the following:

1) John, the disciple, almost certainly did not write the gospel known as ‘John;’

2) Bible translators illegitimately capitalized ‘his’ and ‘him’ in 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”) to make Jesus look like God;

3) I like coffee and rabbits, but not necessarily in the same cup;

4) My sanity is as questionable as that of a playful puppy in a salami factory. I need to say this because, if I am ever framed for breeding lop-eared weapons of grass destruction, I’m definitely copping the insanity plea.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Children bite their fingernails, so why don’t horses chew their hooves? A good question, but one I’m afraid I can’t answer. If I were a horse, I would. Especially if my trainer told me to do something I really had to think about (now that paints an amusing picture, doesn’t it?). Maybe it has something to do with what lies under the fingernails, which in the case of kids is bad enough, but in the case of horses is . . . wait a minute, this is a family column, right? So let’s just call it gut-processed grass and disgusting. But in the end, I don’t know why horses don’t chew their hooves. What I do know are some pretty good reasons not to give a whole lot of credence to John 3:16, and the one I’ll discuss here is the simple fact that the Bible is not to be trusted.

“Why?” you ask. Okay, here is my postcard answer. If you want my full answer, you’ve got to read my book, MisGod’ed. And that means you’ve got to buy my book *big smile*, so I can score some royalties *bigger smile*, which always seem to evaporate in taxes and advertising *frown and a teary-wet sniffle*. But hey, what do you expect from a 99-cent e-book?

Cheap book plug aside, here’s the goods: According to one author:

You can and you can’t,

You shall and you shan’t,

You will and you won’t,

And you will be damned if you do,

And you will be damned if you don’t.[1]

Funny. And very apt. The Bible presents such different viewpoints that people can design a myriad religions around it, and in fact, that is exactly what they have done. Different theological camps disagree on which books should be included in the Bible. One camp’s apocrypha is another’s scripture. Even among those books that have been canonized, the many variant source texts lack uniformity. This lack of uniformity is so ubiquitous that The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states, “It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the MS [manuscript] tradition is wholly uniform.”[2]

Not one sentence? We can’t trust a single sentence of the Bible? Hard to believe.


The fact is that there are over 5700 Greek manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament.[3] Furthermore, “no two of these manuscripts are exactly alike in all their particulars…. And some of these differences are significant.”[4] Factor in roughly ten thousand manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate, add the many other ancient variants (i.e., Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Nubian, Gothic, Slavonic), and what do we have?

A lot of manuscripts.

A lot of manuscripts that fail to correspond in places and not infrequently contradict one another. Scholars estimate the number of manuscript variants in the hundreds of thousands, some estimating as high as 400,000.[5] In Bart D. Ehrman’s now famous words, “Possibly it is easiest to put the matter in comparative terms: there are more differences in our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.”[6]

How did this happen?

Poor record keeping. Dishonesty. Incompetence. Doctrinal prejudice. Take your pick.

None of the original manuscripts have survived from the early Christian period.[7]/[8] The most ancient complete manuscripts (Vatican MS. No. 1209 and the Sinaitic Syriac Codex) date from the fourth century, three hundred years after Jesus’ ministry. But the originals? Lost. And the copies of the originals? Also lost. Our most ancient manuscripts, in other words, are copies of the copies of the copies of nobody-knows-just-how-many copies of the originals.

No wonder they differ.

In the best of hands, copying errors would be no surprise. However, New Testament manuscripts were not in the best of hands. During the period of Christian origins, scribes were untrained, unreliable, incompetent, and in some cases illiterate.[9] Those who were visually impaired could have made errors with look-alike letters and words, while those who were hearing-impaired may have erred in recording scripture as it was read aloud. Frequently scribes were overworked, and hence inclined to the errors that accompany fatigue.

In the words of Metzger and Ehrman, “Since most, if not all, of them [the scribes] would have been amateurs in the art of copying, a relatively large number of mistakes no doubt crept into their texts as they reproduced them.”[10] Worse yet, some scribes allowed doctrinal prejudice to influence their transmission of scripture.[11] As Ehrman states, “The scribes who copied the texts changed them.”[12] More specifically, “The number of deliberate alterations made in the interest of doctrine is difficult to assess.”[13] And even more specifically, “In the technical parlance of textual criticism—which I retain for its significant ironies—these scribes ‘corrupted’ their texts for theological reasons.”[14]

Errors were introduced in the form of additions, deletions, substitutions and modifications, most commonly of words or lines, but occasionally of entire verses.[15] [16] In fact, “numerous changes and accretions came into the text,”[17] with the result that “all known witnesses of the New Testament are to a greater or lesser extent mixed texts, and even several of the earliest manuscripts are not free from egregious errors.”[18]

In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman presents persuasive evidence that the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:12) and the last twelve verses of Mark were not in the original gospels, but added by later scribes.[19] Furthermore, these examples “represent just two out of thousands of places in which the manuscripts of the New Testament came to be changed by scribes.”[20]

In fact, entire books of the Bible were forged.[21] This doesn’t mean their content is necessarily wrong, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s right. So which books were forged? Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude—a whopping nine of the twenty-seven New Testament books and epistles—are to one degree or another suspect.[22]

Forged books? In the Bible?

Why are we not surprised? After all, even the gospel authors are unknown. In fact, they’re anonymous.[23] And doesn’t that fill us with a warm and fuzzy feeling of scriptural security?

Now, the list goes on, but word count and column inches come into play, and I’m nearing my limit for this article. The above is only two out of sixty pages I have devoted to this subject in my book, MisGod’ed. Drop a dollah and read all about it. Or stay tuned for the next episode in this series. Can’t decide? Chew a hoof and think about it.

Copyright © 2012 Laurence B. Brown

Laurence B. Brown is an ophthalmic surgeon, a retired Air Force officer, an ordained interfaith minister, and the author of a number of books of comparative religion and reality-based fiction. His works can be found on his website,


[1] Dow, Lorenzo. Reflections on the Love of God.

[2] Buttrick, George Arthur (Ed.). 1962 (1996 Print). The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Volume 4. Nashville: Abingdon Press. pp. 594-595 (Under Text, NT).

[3] Ehrman, Bart D. 2005. Misquoting Jesus. HarperCollins. P. 88.

[4] Ehrman, Bart D. 2003. Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press. P. 78.

[5] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus. P. 89.

[6] Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. 2004. Oxford University Press. P. 12.

[7] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. P. 49.

[8] Metzger, Bruce M. 2005. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, D—Stuttgart. Introduction, p. 1.

[9] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities and Misquoting Jesus.

[10] Metzger, Bruce M. and Ehrman, Bart D. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. P. 275.

[11] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. Pp. 49, 217, 219-220.

[12] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. P. 219.

[13] Metzger, Bruce M. and Ehrman, Bart D. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. P. 265. See also Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

[14] Ehrman, Bart D. 1993. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Oxford University Press. P. xii.

[15] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. P. 220.

[16] Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Introduction, p. 3

[17] Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Introduction, p. 10.

[18] Metzger, Bruce M. and Ehrman, Bart D. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. P. 343.

[19] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus. Pp. 62-69.

[20] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus. P. 68.

[21] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. Pp. 9-11, 30, 235-6.

[22] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. P. 235.

[23] Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities. P. 3, 235. Also, see Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. P. 49.