What if the Bible isn’t what we’re told it is?
Is it truly the “word of God,” as so many of the faithful hear it proclaimed, each Sunday? The answer is, well, maybe.
There is a movement, today, that believes the Bible has been doctored over various editions and translations over the years. When the New Testament was translated from its original Greek to English, for example, those who did the work could choose from six or eight different words for one particular Greek word and chose the word “fear” … to “fear God.” Yet, one of the more common words in English for that same Greek word is “love.” Why choose fear?
“I think that example of love and fear is a really good one,” said Wake Forest School of Divinity Assistant Professor of the New Testament, Katherine Shaner. “Because fear, of course, is about respect, it's about admiration. Love is also about those things. Fear probably had a different contextual meaning 300 years ago in English.”
Wake Forest School of Divinity assistant professor John Senior said that is a pitfall that can’t be avoided.
“All translation is political - not political in the sense of Democrat or Republican - but political in terms of we always read with ideas of what community should be about,” Senior said.
A group that calls itself “The Conservative Bible Project” feels the Bible has been hijacked by those on the political left over the years. The Conservative Bible Project says it doesn’t want to turn the Bible conservative, it says its name implies they want to conserve what the Bible was, in its original form.
They feel it makes Jesus out to be a progressive, political figure. Senior says it’s hard to deny that Jesus was just that.
“He wasn't a Democrat, he wasn't a Republican, but he was, absolutely, a political figure,” Senior said. In his advocacy for the Kingdom of God, he says Jesus commands his followers to, “embrace the lives of the marginalized, those who are most excluded, most vulnerable in society, put them at the center and asks us to arrange our lives as though that reality is, as Jesus said, 'Here now.' What would our lives look like if we really believed that the community space that we're building reflects commitments to the least, the lost, the left out? That's what the Kingdom of God is. So, there's no doubt Jesus was a political figure.”
Those who feel the Bible has been altered also talk about entire passages that were added. For example, there is no evidence that Jesus ever said, as he was being crucified, “Forgive them, father, they know not what they do.”
“That particular quotation has been in our Biblical text, in the Gospel of Luke, since the third or fourth century,” Shaner said. “And because it's been there, we can't ignore it - we can't just throw it out.”
No matter where you come down on this issue, Shaner says you shouldn’t lose sleep over how the Bible was put together nor anything you may find in it.
“It's not the only way we know God in our world,” she said. “Because, if it were the only way we knew God in our world, God wouldn't be alive, God wouldn't be acting, would be moving through our world and through our communities of faith.”
See what one early influencer of the Bible wanted in – and kept out – in this edition of the Buckley Report.