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 Changes in the Bible

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PostSubject: Changes in the Bible   Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:14 am

It is easy to find many passages in the Bible where Jesus is called Son of God. One is also able to find a few passages where Jesus calls himself the Son of God, or where he calls God his father. However, a careful study of the Bible reveals that this is the result of changes in the Bible. Jesus never claimed that he is the Son of God.
Each time an older manuscript of the Bible is discovered, many changes are required in the Bible to bring it in line with the ancient manuscripts. Mark 1:1 reads as follows:

“The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.b” (Mark 1:1, New International Version).

At the end of that verse, there is a small letter directing us to look at the footnote at the bottom of the page. There we find that some manuscripts do not have “the Son of God.” And those were ancient, reliable manuscripts. The evidence was so compelling that the editors of one Bible just simply removed the title Son of God from the verse altogether. Thus in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures the verse reads:

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1).
The title ‘Son of God’ is no longer in that verse.

Another such change had to be made in the Acts of the Apostles 8:37 in every honest translation of the Bible prepared in this century. Evidence from old manuscripts demanded that the verse be removed from all present Bibles. If you go to your New International Version Bible and look for Acts 8:37 you will not find it in the text. You will find verse number 36, and then verse 38, but not 37. If you wish to know what verse 37 used to say, you need to check the footnote at the bottom of the page. This verse used to contain a confession that Jesus is the Son of God. It had to be removed because its absence from the most ancient manuscripts meant that someone added it to the later manuscripts.
Some changes become evident just by comparing one Gospel with another in the present Bibles. You can do this investigation yourself. One example of this is the centurion’s confession that Jesus is the Son of God as reported in Mark’s Gospel as follows:

“Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

The same confession of the same centurion at the same scene, at the very moment, is reported in Luke also. But in Luke the Centurion is reported as saying:

“Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47).

In Luke the title Son of God is missing. Mark and Luke cannot both be right here. The confession is reported incorrectly in at least one Gospel.

In the next part we will look at other such changes, especially in the Gospel of Matthew.
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PostSubject: The Title “Son of God” in Matthew’s Gospel   Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:16 am

Students of the Bible will easily notice that the title Son of God is often used in Matthew without agreement from Mark and Luke. For example, what did the passers-by say at the scene of the cross? Their saying is reported in Mark 15:29-30 and also in Matthew 27:40. If you compare the two reports, you will notice that Matthew has added a phrase to the effect that Jesus is the Son of God.
We find another example of this in Matthew 14:22-33. Jesus had just miraculously fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Then he sent his disciples to the other side of the sea. After praying to God, Jesus went out miraculously walking on the sea to meet his disciples. Eventually he got into the boat with them. How did the disciples react to all this? Mark and Matthew give us two different answers. Mark says:

“And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51-52).

In Matthew, however, the disciples were not perplexed at all. They had it all figured out and they knew exactly what to do. Matthew says:

“And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God”” (Matthew 14:33).

Again, Matthew has improved the story to show that Jesus is the Son of God.
It may be useful here to see what Bible commentaries say about this difference. In Matthew’s Gospel, the New American Bible has a footnote saying as follows:

“This confession is in striking contrast to the Markan parallel where the disciples are “completely astounded”” (Revised New Testament, p. 35).

In the Pelican New Testament Commentaries, author John Fenton reminds us that in Mark the disciples were uncomprehending. Fenton then comments:

“Matthew omits this, because in his Gospel the disciples are presented as men who have been given insight” (The Gospel of Saint Matthew, p. 247).

The difference here between Matthew and Mark was pointed out also in Harper’s Bible Commentary. Commenting on Matthew, the editors say:

“Instead of reacting, as in Mark, with incomprehension, the whole crew confesses Jesus as the Son of God” (1988 edition, p. 967).

So can we know what really happened? Commenting on the same passage in Matthew’s Gospel, the Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible says:

“The presence of Matthew’s favorite phrase little faith suggests either that he has created this story or that he has reworked it to suit his purpose” (p. 627).

As we have said before, careful study reveals that the title Son of God is not one that Jesus claimed for himself. Nor did his true disciples call him by that title.
In the next part, God willing, we will point out some other changes which Bible students should know about.
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PostSubject: Calling God “Father” in Matthew’s Gospel   Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:17 am

We have already seen in part 4 that Matthew was eager to add the title Son of God where it did not exist in Mark and Luke. Let us look at one more example of this. On one occasion, Jesus asked his disciples who they think he is. Peter’s reply is recorded in Mark (8:29), Luke (9:20) and Matthew (16:6) as follows:

In Mark: “You are the Christ”
In Luke: “You are the Christ of God”
In Matthew: “You are the Christ, son of the living God.”

Notice that Matthew has added the phrase "Son of the living God" to Peter’s declaration.
The other side of calling Jesus ‘Son of God’ is to call God ‘Father’. We find in the Gospels that the title Father is also added to the Bible in several places where it did not belong. Matthew was eager not only to call Jesus ‘Son of God’, but also to call God ‘Father’. In Matthew 10:29, Jesus called God ‘your Father’. The identical saying of Jesus is reported also in Luke with the significant difference that in Luke God is called God (see Luke 12:6).
Another example of this occurs in Matthew 10:32-33. There Jesus is reported to have said:

“So every one who acknowledges me before men. I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

The very saying of Jesus is reported also in Luke, but the title “my Father” is not there. Once again, Matthew modified the saying of Jesus to convince his readers that Jesus is the Son of God.
Another example is the following saying of Jesus:

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35).

That saying is also reported in Luke as follows:

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21)

The words vary in the two reports, but notice that in each case God was called God. But in the same saying of Jesus reported in Matthew, we will find that God is called ‘my Father’ (see Matthew 12:50). Once again, Matthew modified the saying of Jesus to help prove that Jesus is the Son of God.
We do not have space in this series to look at John’s Gospel. But in a separate series we will show, with God’s help, that even more changes occurred in John’s Gospel.
In the next part we will see that Jesus was viewed by his earliest followers as the messiah and prophet of God, but never as Son of God.
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PostSubject: Jesus is a Servant of God   Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:18 am

The book of the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible is an important piece of evidence on the present subject. This book details the activity of the disciples over a period of thirty years after Jesus was raised up. It is important to see what the disciples were saying about Jesus, and what titles they used in referring to him.
It will be quickly obvious that they often referred to him as a servant of God, but never Son of God. Peter, for example, said:

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus” (Acts 3:13).

Peter further said:

“God raised up his servant” (Acts 3:26), where the title servant refers to Jesus.

Not only Peter, but the entire group of believers viewed Jesus as God’s servant. When they raised their voices together in prayer to God, in the course of their speaking to God they called Jesus “your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed” (Acts 4:27). They repeated this title also in verse 30. Consistently, Jesus was being called servant of God by the original followers of Jesus.
Some people mistakenly thought that the disciples called Jesus Son of God. An inconsistency of translation actually helped to give this wrong impression. In the King James Bible, the translators call Jesus ‘Son of God’ in Acts 3:13, 26, and ‘child of God’ in Acts 4:27. They simply translated the Greek word paida as ‘son’ or ‘child’. But the word paida also means ‘servant’, and the present context demands this translation since the author of Acts is trying in this passage to establish that Jesus is indeed the servant of God.
The translators knew that the Greek word paida means servant. When the same word was used for David in chapter 4, verse 25, they translated it ‘servant’. Why not call Jesus also by the same title? Or, if they feel that ‘son’ is the correct translation, why not also call David ‘Son of God’? Jesus and David are both called by the same title in Greek. Why not call them by a same title in English also?
Other translators recognised this inconsistency and corrected it in the modern translations of the Bible. Therefore the New International Version of the Bible and many others call Jesus Servant of God in the verses already quoted above. Nevertheless, the fact that Jesus was God’s servant was so well known that even the King James Bible called him by this title in Matthew 12:18. Referring back to Isaiah 42:1, Matthew identified Jesus as the servant of the one true God Yahweh.
In the next part, we will see how the eagerness in some people to call Jesus ‘Son of God’ led them to invent explanations that indirectly insult God.
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PostSubject: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants   Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:20 am

It was very clear to the earliest followers of Jesus that Jesus was a prophet like the other prophets who came before him (see Luke 4:24; John 6:14; Jn 9:17).
However, the Gospel writers were eager to teach that Jesus was not like other prophets, but that he was the Son of God. In their zeal, they did not stop to realise that their doctrine does not do justice to God. Some of what they reported in the Gospels reflect badly on God. But they did not seem to realise this. Take for example the parable of the wicked tenants reported in the first three Gospels.
The Gospels show that Jesus wanted to confront the Jews about their history of killing the prophets, and of their intention to kill him also. So he told them the following parable which clearly was about them. The story is as follows:

“A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some to the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:1-9).

In this parable, the wicked tenants represent the Jews, the servants represent the prophets whom God sent one after another; and the owner of the vineyard represents God. The son obviously represents Jesus whom God sent last of all. So Jesus is shown to be different from the prophets. He is not one of the servants. He is a beloved son. At least that is what the Gospel writers are interested in showing.
Those who will analyze this story, however, will easily notice how foolish was the behaviour of the owner of the vineyard. He sent his servants one after another and, knowing that they were beaten and killed, nevertheless sent his beloved son to the same danger. Although he had full power to act, he did nothing until his son is definitely killed. He is also ignorant of the future. He naively assumes that the wicked servants will respect his son. So can anyone compare this foolish man to God? But that is what the story does. This is why it is clearly admitted in the Pelican New Testament Commentaries, St. Mark. p. 309, that it is unlikely that Jesus told this parable.
The whole idea of God having a son is objectionable to God. God considers it an insult to speak of Him in this way. Therefore, although we love Jesus, honour him, and believe in him, we should not call him ‘Son of God’. And we should not compare God’s plan with the plan of a man so foolish as the owner of the vineyard.
Jesus was a true prophet of God; he was the Messiah; and he spoke the truth. But he never claimed to be God’s son.
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PostSubject: Evidence from the Qur’an   Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:23 am

Evidence from the Qur’an

A common mistake among people is their thinking of God as a super human being somewhere up in the sky. Then they attribute all kinds of human activity and relationships to God as if He was like human beings. Once it is clear that humans have children, such people conclude that God has children too. But God declares this idea to be false.
God tells us in His Book that there is nothing like Him (see surah 42:11). God also says that there is nothing comparable unto Him (112:4). Surely, God is not a physical being. God tells us:

"Vision comprehends Him not, but He comprehends (all) vision” (Qur’an 6:103).

God declares that those who impute sons and daughters to Him do so falsely and without knowledge (see surah 6:100). The Qur’an appeals to our reason by saying:

“The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child when he has no consort, when He created all things and is Aware of all things?” (6:101)

This is in obvious reply to those who may claim that God has a literal son or daughter, terms which in human languages mean the offspring of a pair.
Some may say, however, that God can produce a child without having a consort. In that case, you are not speaking of a child but a creature of God. In any case, God declares that He begets not, nor is He begotten (surah 112:3).
Some may say that God has adopted a child. God declares that this idea too lacks reason. Since everyone already belongs to God, what then is the point of adopting? God says:

“And they say: Allah has taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but whatsoever is in the heaven and the earth are His. All are subservient unto Him. The originator of the heavens and the earth! When He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: Be! and it is” (2:116-117).

The idea that people should be called children of God is an erroneous one. Why not call them what they are? They are mortals of God’s creating. To those who say, “We are the sons of Allah and His loved ones,” Allah tells us to say as follows: “Why then does He chastise you for your sins? Nay, you are but mortals of His creating” (5:18).
God is not like humans to need children. God declares that He is self-sufficient. He has no need for such things (Qur’an 10:68).
It just so happens that people have a tendency to regard righteous persons as children of God. But God instructs us to call them not His children, but His righteous servants. God says:

“And they say: The Beneficent has taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but (those whom they call sons) are honoured slaves; they speak not until He has spoken, and they act by His command” (21:26-27).
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