Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Friday, April 8, 2011

Easter Soul Prep Day 8: Would the REAL Bible please stand up!

We're having a good conversation about John, and I haven't responded yet to all of the comments or discussion, but I will do that in the next few days.

John 8 is most known for the opening 11 verses. Depending on the translation of the Bible you have, you will have some kind of note like: "The earliest manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11."

This requires a much more in depth discussion, but let me attempt to put it into a concise few statements. At the heart of the matter is this question: How did we get the Bible we have today?

1) The Bible is a compilation of many different parts. For the New Testament, there are many letters and historical accounts. Each was written at a different time, in a different place, on a different piece of papyrus.
2) We do not have any original pieces of those parts. The earliest pieces we have were copies of copies. These weren't scanned or xeroxed. They were hand copied.
3) In some cases, we have multiple fragments of the same letter or account. Mostly, they are the same. Sometimes, they are different. Which one is the 'right' one? Which one reads like the original?

At the heart of this, we want to know 2 things:
1) What John said. If someone else added to it later, it's not part of what John originally said.


2) What God wants us to know. This is more important than what John originally said or didn't say. But the it's much more subjective.

What this note in your Bible means is that John's original Gospel probably did not include this account of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Does that mean it didn't happen? NO. It simply means it probably wasn't in the original manuscript that John wrote.

This is NOT the only time this happens. We've already noted it in 5:3 (same thing). You can see another example in Matthew 18:11 and in what we call the 'second ending of Mark', where the earliest manuscripts end Mark with v.8, but others keep going.

So, what are we to do with these texts?

I believe that none of them are inconsistent with the message that Jesus gave us or the word God wants to give to us now. I have taught about John 8:1-11 many times and I personally believe it's a story that really happened.

But you shouldn't proceed in ignorance: there are some texts in the Bible that are worth looking at with extra effort. What we want to know is what God wants us to know. No more and no less.

John 8 doesn't end with v. 11. It continues with some very rich teachings. Note especially v.58. when Jesus says "before Abraham was born, I am!", he is clearly communicating his status as God. It would be worthwhile for you to look at Exodus 3:13-14. These verses would be well known by the Pharisees and other faithful Jews, and they would immediately come to mind as Jesus spoke those words. They knew exactly what he was implying.


Ginger said...

I was really struck in this chapter by how many times Jesus claimed to be "I am". I'm not sure he was implying he was God...he was outright announcing it.

I don't know if it just the way I'm interpreting things for this read through John, but Jesus comes across almost irritated to me in most of his conversations...especially about who he is. I feel like he's saying, "Why don't they get it? Don't they know God at all?" For me, it the first time i've notice his conversations.

Brian C. Hughes said...

Most scholars believe that John's Gospel was written to combat a problem called gnosticism. (pronounced Nost-icism) We get our word 'knowledge' from the root word of 'gnostic'. Gnostics believed that all flesh was evil. Therefore, God would not come 'in the flesh' because God could not embody evil. Jesus, then, was not real. He looked like a man, but was more like a hologram. You could put your finger through him. God could not be flesh.

John wants to put this myth to rest. Jesus was flesh and blood - he was real. Jesus' repeated statements about being God and frustration about them not getting it is a reflection of what John is trying to communicate.

There is a LOT written about this and you can find a lot of material on it if you want to go deeper here.