If you look at this picture for more than a second, it seems fairly obvious that this picture is a Photoshop job. But of course, one can never be sure of these things these days. The line between what is real and what isn’t has become so blurred, that most of what we see isn’t real, even though we think it is.
Of course, that blurring of reality isn’t confined to Photoshopped pictures of beautiful young women. There are plenty of things that we believe to be true that flat out aren’t. I was taught that Pluto was a planet. For most of recorded history, people knew that earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. Then there’s the whole issue of things Jesus did and didn’t actually say.
I’m not a member of the Jesus Seminar. In fact, I think the idea of grown men playing with colored marbles and determining the validity of a two-thousand year old document is ludicrous, but that isn’t to say that every word that is printed in red in your handy-dandy Bible actually came form the lips of Jesus. As far as we know, nobody was taking notes as Jesus spoke, so at best we have the recollections of his closest friends. We can assume that they are fairly close in recalling what Jesus said, especially those sayings that took on legs like the Beatitudes or the Lord’ Prayer, but by the time these things were written down, communities of Christians were worshiping, praying, and theologizing (See, Apostle Paul, The). There are some things that made it into scripture that are obviously liturgical texts and statements of faith that were developed after Jesus had ascended to the right hand of his Father.
I think John 3:16-17 is one of these things. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” In fact, as my handy dandy Study Bible tells me, verses 16-21 are all of questionable origin.
Does that make them any less powerful? Not to me. John 3:16-17 are, whether Jesus said them or not, some of the most beautiful and powerful words in the Christian faith. God loves the world. God desires to redeem the world, not condemn it to death. God sent his son to accomplish that task. Aside from “Jesus is Lord,” there is perhaps no better creed or statement of faith than John 3:16-17. As the old Phyllis Tickle story goes, “It is so beautiful that it has just got to be true – whether it happened or not.”