Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Progressive Interpretation of John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

This passage is sometimes used to justify a message against non-Christians, but we used it as a starting point for a discussion about the importance of religious diversity at our first dinner and fellowship of the semester.  Below are some of our thoughts on the different translations of the verse that we read. Please click through to read each of the translations, and feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments.

A. The Message Version:
1. This translation seems to focus more on "this life" as opposed to a "next life."
2. The phrase "by believing in him (in Jesus)" we are invited to ask ourselves, "What does Jesus represent? Love and compassion." Thus, if anyone believes in that (love and compassion), they can have a "whole and lasting life."

B. Amplified Bible:
1. "God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that he [even] "gave up" His only begotten. . ." What does it mean to say that God "gave up?"
2. By adding adjectives to the phrase, "so that whoever believes" such as "trusts in, clings to, relies on," this translation opens up more options than just belief--more than dogma.
3. In the phrase "shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost)" the inclusion of the words "be lost" makes it easy for humans to relate because we have all felt lost from time to time.

C. Based on Aramaic Text:
1. The words "unity" and "diversity" in referring to the relationship in and among the divine attributes makes this translation wide open for inclusion of other faith traditions.
2. The phrase stating that Jesus, a child of Unity, was "fulfilled in all its aspects of self," is provocative on many levels--humans are invited into a state of fulfillment of self.
3. Similarly, humans are invited into "the same confidence in their own fulfillment" as Jesus, a child of Unity.
4. The phrase "continue, from world to world," is reminiscent of the Buddhist tradition and/or reincarnation.

To sum up our discoveries of the text study on John 3:16, one might say:
1. "Those who believe in love and compassion will have a whole and lasting life."
2. "Jesus is a child of Unity who loves Diversity."

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