by Rev. Joda Collins
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.
When studying the Bible, very little is more frustrating to the average Bible student than to be told that his or her convictions/opinions/understandings are in error because "that word (phrase or concept) is not in the original language."
The mainstream consensus is that the New Testament was written in a form of Koine Greek...." (1). "Ancient Hebrew was...the language in which most of the Old Testament was penned....A few passages in the Old Testament were written in Aramaic." (2). Imagine if you were told that you can have no confidence in the traditional understanding of John 3:16 because the word "everlasting" was not in the original Greek text and John 3:16, void of the word "everlasting" promises life to the person of faith in Christ but that life is only everlasting until one repents of all sin. Imagine if your understanding of repent was to turn from and never do it again! Or, what if you were told that "should not" is not a sure thing, but a hopeful thing. For example, a Christian should not lie, but every Christian has lied. Therefore, the promise of everlasting life is based on a foundation of an unsure hope or an impossible dream; the person with faith in Jesus should not perish, but most or some do.
The average Bible student does not know Koine Greek and even if you do the reality is that we do not have one single passage of scripture penned on the original manuscript. Every verse in every Bible is based on a copy of a copy of a copy. "...the original documents that comprise the 66 books of the Bible --...the 'autographs' -- are not in the possession of any organization (or person)." (Parenthesis mine, Joda Collins). (3).
However, do not let the fact that all Bibles are based on copies of copies of the original writings shake your foundation of faith for two reasons.
First, your confidence in God is not dependent on the written Word of God! Adam, Eve, Noah, Job or Moses did not have a Bible and they had a great relationship with God.
Second, there is a science called Textual Criticism that explains the protective and preserving hand of God over the copies of copies. Textual Criticism gives us overwhelming confidence that the Word of God remains protected and preserved from the time of the original writings to the present day.
Of course, the word "everlasting" is in John 3:16. The words "should not" in John 3:16 are a little harder to explain. The simple version is that anything that should not be, will not be and anything that should be, will be -- if the only person involved in the final decision is God. Some examples of these realities are:
"...where Christ should be born." Matthew 2:4.
"...he (Jesus) should be made manifest to Israel." John 1:31.
"...when the kingdom of God should come." Luke 17:20.
"...it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord." Luke 2:26.
"...he (God) has blinded their eyes...that they should not see...." (Parenthesis mine, Joda Collins.) John 12:40.
When "should" is used in Scripture where the fulfillment is dependent on God only, it is proper to translate "should" in the absolute positive, which is "will" and/or "shall". John 3:16 starts, "For God...." The fulfillment of everlasting life for the believer in Christ is dependent on God alone, therefore, "...God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will (shall) not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16 is not a question or an unstable hope. It is a promise from the heart of God dependent on the power of God. (In English, when the word "should" is found in Scripture followed by the word "not" and God is the only person involved in the future non-action that changes the absolute positive to an absolute negative. It "will not" happen.)
Now, back to the original question of how does the average Bible student handle the frustration of having a (real or supposed) Bible scholar say or write, "That word (phrase or concept) is not in the original text" when that word, phrase or concept is a foundation part of our faith? The answer to that is multifaceted.
1. Learn about Textual Criticism. It leads to greater confidence in the Bible in your hand. It takes less than an hour to learn enough about Textual Criticism to appreciate it.
2. Learn how to do word studies via compare and contrast within the Bible and (for the advanced student) etymology. Start as a serious student of word studies via compare and contrast within the biblical text. That effort will take you on a journey towards etymology where you can make a decision to continue to etymological concepts or not. Word studies are not easy to do, but start the process and learn. You can do it! (4). Start today. Until you learn to do word studies, if you are in Bible-based church, just trust your pastor(s).
3. Never forget the most important thing in the life of a Christian is not our theological depth of our Bible study but our vibrant personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Even a five-year old can have that relationship. Keep it simple. Jesus first. Studying the Bible facilitates our relationship with Jesus, but it is not a replacement for it.
4. Be content to be a life-long learner. Everything you learn about God and His Word opens doors to more things you never knew you did not know. Relax. If you know Jesus loves you and you have learned that the most profound events in all of the Bible are the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are aware of the three greatest and deepest theological truths already. If anyone tells you not to believe Jesus loves you or the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are not true because "such and such" verse, phrase, or concept is not in the original language, just laugh at them. They are wrong. Go eat some ice cream and then do some work to prove them wrong. Once you get some practice at it, it is reasonably easy to prove them wrong. Until then, your vibrant personal relationship with Jesus is more than enough to prove them wrong. Every other study is secondary. So, again -- be content to be a life-long learner; relax, be diligent, take it slow, do your Bible study right and enjoy it. Do not race through Bible study, relish it.
Rev. Joda Collins
I make no claim that anyone else agrees with me.
(4). https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/word-studies/how-to-study-your-bible/george-guthrie, http://www.equip.org/article/firstborn-how-to-do-a-word-study/