Sunday, June 7, 2020
A Reflection on the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, Verses 16-18, N.A.B.
By: Larry T. Smith
Scene from an adult Bible study class:
A student seated in the front row raised her hand and said, “I’m going to buy a new Bible, which one do you recommend?”
The instructor said, “Make sure that it is a Catholic Bible with footnotes and cross-references.”
She replied, “How many different Catholic Bibles are there?”
“Present day Catholic liturgy uses the New American Bible. But any Catholic Bible such as the Douai-Rheims, the Confraternity Edition, the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, the New American Bible Revised Edition, the New Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition, the Jerusalem Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible are all acceptable for study.”
A student sitting in the middle row, put down his pen and asked, “Why are there so many different editions?”
“The purpose of a new edition or version is to improve readability, to make Scripture language easier for us to understand, but sometimes a newer version can blur the meaning of the original written work. The Douai-Rheims and the Jerusalem Bible are closest to the original Greek text.”
“Can you give us an example of how the meaning might be blurred,” he asked.
“Sure, the following reading is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, Verses 16-18, New American Bible.”
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
“And the following reading is from the Douai-Rheims Bible.”
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. 17For God did not send his Son into the world in order to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18He who believes in him is not judged; but he who does not believe is already judged, because he does not believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
“The New American Bible was published in 1970; the Douai-Rheims was published in 1955. What is one of the main differences in the two versions?”
An eager student in the middle of the back row blurted out, “The New American Bible says that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world and the Douai-Rheims says that Jesus didn’t come to judge the world.”
“Correct! In fairness, the Greek word κρίνείν can mean either condemnation or judgement. So, both Bible versions are correct, but we probably don’t think of condemnation and judgement as having the same meaning.”
Wide-eyed, the same student said, “Well, if Jesus isn’t going to judge us, who will?”
“Neither the Son nor the Father will act as our judge; we are our own judges. If we refuse to believe in the Son, we condemn ourselves.”
“When will the judgement take place?”
“The judgement time is now as we are faced with the revelation of the Father in the Son.” The instructor continued, “In his book, The Gospel of John, Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B. writes: ‘The association of realized eschatology with a theology of self-judgement is one of the Fourth Gospels contributions to Christian thought. One does not wait till the end of time (traditional eschatology) for the return of the Son of Man who will exercise a final judgment (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). One judges oneself by the acceptance or refusal or the revelation of God in and through Jesus Christ and by the good and bad deeds that flow from this decision.’”
The instructor went on, “Whereas the Gospel of Matthew puts judgment at the end of time, the Gospel of John emphasizes that we are judged on a daily basis by our response to Jesus Christ; the world will be judged at the end of time (traditional eschatology). That being so, the Gospel of John stresses the importance of the response of the believer, not the sovereign action of God.”
“How can we know that we are responding to Jesus’ revelation of God in ways that will be pleasing to God?”
“Think of it this way: When God looks at us, he wants to see a reflection of himself.”
Another students exclaimed, “How can we learn to be like God?”
The instructor smiled, “He has given us two primary sets of guidelines for our spiritual journeys. First He gave us the Ten Commandments, then He gave us The Beatitudes:”
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
6Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 5:3-10 N.A.B.
“Jesus changes lives. The ultimate test is to ask ourselves how belief in Jesus and his revelations of the Father has changed our daily lives. The more we allow Him to change our lives, the more we will begin to resemble Him.”