What puts pitchforks and torches into the hands of Republicans is Christian fundamentalism. It teaches that the Bible is inerrant. That means it makes no mistakes. When you read it you are reading the words of GOD! No exceptions.
I’ve always found that thinking primitive, foolish and wrong. Jesus himself second guessed the messages of what we call the “Old Testament” all the time driving the rabbi’s of his time crazy. According to the inerrant Bible they got the Romans to crucify him for it.
As a Presbyterian I learned early about the New Revised Standard Bible I was given back in third grade. That was 1958. I still have it. Scholars had been pouring over it for decades (centuries really) and the NRSV scholars footnoted the Bible like crazy pointing out how the often poorly educated monks of the early church often made mistakes in the translations of older Bibles they were hand copying thus passing all sorts of eccentricities on to future generations as later copyists kept the mistakes and made new ones for later scholars to puzzle over.
The current crop of evangelists in the “conservative” church don’t like to admit that our Bibles today are somewhat tatty remnants of ancient manuscripts that preserve ancient eccentricities. The Bible is God’s word. (Anyone who picks up a half dozen different versions of the Bible will find that most passages in all these Bibles differ from one another.)
But today I learned that apparently that there has come to be one exception to this for the fundementalists: John 7:53-8:11
I did a very cursory Google Search on the John Passage and found, sure enough a fundamentalist explanation that describes this passage as a “rare” example of something dubious. This would mean that Jesus’s mercy towards the fallen women who was about to be stoned to death is not to be taken very seriously by good Christians.
I find this exception remarkable. This is not merely a parable teaching like the Prodigal Son but an example of Jesus living his teachings. And yet to the othewise inerrantist Christians this story is a humbug.
From a heavily footnoted website I found this scholar who says the inerrantists claims are threadbare. He has a lot of evidence to back up this claim:
The Westcott-Hort based NIV has this misleading statement concerning the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11: “[The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11].” What are these so called “earliest” and “most reliable” manuscripts which do not have the pericope de adultera? They are Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both 4th century manuscripts. Those who reject the pericope de adultera do so on a presuppositional bias that these 2 codices which omit it are superior manuscripts.
Are the above codices really reliable? According to Dean Burgon, a godly and renowned Bible defender of the last century, the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are among “the most corrupt copies in existence.” Burgon wrote, “I am able to demonstrate that every one of them singly is in a high degree corrupt, and is condemned upon evidence older than itself” (for a full discussion, refer to John William Burgon’s The Revision Revised [Collingswood NJ: The Bible For Today, 1981 reprint], 548 pp). Although the above two codices may be “earliest” they are by no means “most reliable.”
There is abundant evidence in support of the authenticity of the pericope de adultera. John 7:53-8:11 is found (1) in many Greek uncials and minuscules mainly of the Majority or Byzantine text-type, (2) in the ancient versions or translations: Old Latin, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopic, and (3) in the writings of the Church Fathers: Didascalia, Ambrosiaster, Apostolic Constitutions, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine.
Jerome (AD 340-420), the translator of the Latin Bible called the Vulgate, said this about the pericope de adultera: “. . . in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord.” Jerome considered the pericope genuine, and included it in his Vulgate.
Self-styled textual critics who arrogantly say: “This text has no place in Scripture; I will never preach from it!,” should rather heed these wise words of Calvin: “it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”
My political question to God’s Own Party is this: If the crowd that took over and redefined what it is to be a Republican believes that the thousands of different versions of Biblical passages are no big deal except the one that shows the mercy of Jesus how can I believe you when you tell me what it means to be a “Republican?”
Call this Christian exceptionalism. It teaches the “prosperity gospel.” This is the perfect gospel for the GOP’s “1 percent.” If you earned it, it is God’s will and Grover Norquist will defend to your nation’s death your right not to have it taxed.
As a youngster I was an agnostic but I took the principal messages of Jesus pretty seriously including the story about the rich young man who asked Jesus how to get into heaven. Jesus told him to give all his riches to the poor and added for emphasis that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom.
In one of my first encounters with a Republican in Duluth who railed against taxes and the poor I mentioned this teaching. I was shocked when she told me that I had completely misunderstood the teaching. It seems that there was a famous doorway in Jerusalem that was very low and required a camel rider to dismount before getting through it. I was told this was what Jesus was referring to. One had simply to humble oneself not give away their treasure to get to heaven. Being a good Christian was no more difficult than dismounting from a camel.
I can’t claim to be a Christian. I’m fairly confident that the practitioners of the “prosperity gospel” don’t have much of a claim on the Church either. They’re just nouveau Republicans.