Sunday, 25 January 2015

THE TRUTH BEHIND A MISSING VERSE: JOHN 5:4



The Bible is a collection of books. These books differ depending on which faith you belong to; whether a Judaist, or Ethiopian orthodox church member, or a catholic, or a protestant. Though of divine origin, the Bible has gone through the human process of writing and editing.
The Bible has survived, thanks to God by the hard work of scribes. These scribes hand copied everything from time to time just to ensure that the writings don’t get destroyed with the corruptible materials they find themselves on. This leaves room for mistakes, biases and even practical decisions of what to do with what a previous copyist did.
The inspired books of the Bible were not originally written in English. There are over 3,000 original manuscripts from which the English Bible (or Bibles of other languages) has been translated from. Translating the Bible is a money-making business for both those who believe in and those who don’t believe in the words of the holy Scriptures. Translating the scriptures from these original manuscripts into modern languages is no easy work.
John 5 is one of the treasured chapters of the Bible to me. It is only in that chapter that we note Jesus’ unconventional conduct: He (Jesus) ‘refused’ to stop to conduct a healing crusade when a great multitude lay at the pool seeking healing. Why would He heal one man and slip away? Why didn’t He ask the others whether they wanted his healing prowess compared to the healing the pool provided? Didn’t He love the others? Clearly John 5 tells us how God’s love or power work by His wisdom!
There are many verses and words in contention as many new (or best) manuscripts are discovered. If you have purchased as of late the latest versions of some modern translations, you will realise that some verses have been deleted from the Bible. Other translations maintained these verses by italicizing them with footnotes; hinting that they were not found in the best manuscripts. One of such verses is John5:4. (The other verses are: Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 23:17; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; and Romans 16:24 )
Palaeographers or Bible scholars have realised that in much older manuscripts (two dozen of them) this verse comes with an asterisk. Asterisk marks by verses are usually use to warn the next copyist or scribe (who would copy the manuscript) that the asterisked verse was likely not original. It might have been a copying error or introduce by copyist base on his biases.
Interestingly, some Bible scholars also believe that verse 4 was added due to superstition or folklore about angels.
The truth is that the other verses of John 5 don’t hold any disputing or disagreement with the notion of a stirring of the pool. Yet the one whose duty it was to stir the water we are not explicitly informed by these same verses whereas verse 4 asserts the stirring was done by an angel.
By and large, removing verse 4 from the Chapter does not change the theme or import of the messages of the chapter. The import of the message is about Jesus, his love, glory, dominion, healing power, grace, compassion and healing wisdom. Whoever stirred the pool we’ll never know but can only speculate for now. Till we meet Jesus in person for the answer; or wait till archaeological findings prove otherwise, we are allowed to speculate.
John might have originally not included the angel stirring of the waters for reasons only known to him. The scriptures focus on Jesus the healer and not any angel per se. This therefore gives us no reason to doubt the record we have about Jesus in the gospels. Whether the pool of Bethesda was stirred by an angel or an unknown force does not bring us deliverance or healing in any way. That information doesn’t change our salvation status a bit.
What all this teaches us is that we must ensure the content of our preaching and teaching of the scripture is securely grounded in text; pure and original for that matter. God causes men to spend their lives on searching and discovering the originality of the Biblical knowledge; if we can’t spend much time in learning them then what else can we do. 

 
Copyright © 2011. Jacob Nana Kwesi Dapaah.
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