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Ask the Patriarch 238
What does it mean to believe "on" Jesus

from: Dr. Halle

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Funny name of your site, AKA, a "site for sore eyes."

Say, the Jesus Mysteries site is not available. Any idea why? Have Freke and Gandy gone to the Happy Hunting Ground?

Have you possibly an answer to this question? What is the deal with the Christian Fundamentalists insisting on believing "on Jesus?" What does this literally mean in the original languages? I have wondered for many years.

Since I already have your ear...Any recommendations re sources that particularly cover the source of many of the weaknesses of Fundamentalist/Literalist Christianity, such as the absolute obsession with sin (and especially inherent or "original" sin), shame, eternal damnation to hell, and the nutty idea that one can be saved vicariously via acceptance of J.C. and his sacrifice?

I happen to feel some affinity with Christianity, but have come to see that much of this--apparently--was co-opted from the Mystery Religions, and a lot of the "good stuff," like mystical or Gnostic elements got "left on the cutting room floor," and there was wholesale selection and/or altering of texts according to a particular agenda, through the years. And, of course, the sin junk was emphasized. And, yes, whatever value the N.T. contains, is allegorical, not literal.

The Patriarch replies:

Dr. Halle:

Thank you for your comments. You have a long question, so I'll split it in two and give my opinion on original sin in the next article. But I'll deal with your first two issues here.

I don't know why Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy dropped the Jesus Mysteries website referred to in Meditation 249 - the book is still available and you would think they would want to publicize it. Both are still alive and active. Freke has a website which advises of his current interests, and there is also a Jesus Mysteries discussion group for those who wish to exchange ideas on the book. I have now updated Meditation 249 to reflect this.

Now let's move on to believing "on" Jesus.

This really relates to the 1611 King James version of the Bible - which many fundamentalists claim is the only authoritative version. And it is the KJV that is the primary source of believing on Jesus.

We see this formula in Jesus's own words in John 6:47:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

And we see it again in Acts 16:31

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Now a fundamentalist who uses this archaic construction might argue that the wording remains valid today because "Jesus is the foundation upon which I build my Christian faith." But, as Jesus is necessarily part and parcel of that Christian faith, this really amounts to the circular "My faith is built upon my faith."

If we look at some examples of more recent translations of the Bible, the on is gone in most translations.

John 6:47

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. (New American Standard)

For sure, I tell you, he who puts his trust in Me has life that lasts forever. (New Life)

Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth in Me hath everlasting life. (21st Century King James)

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, he who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, relies on, and has faith in Me] has (now possesses) eternal life. (Amplified Bible)

Acts 16:31

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (New American Standard)

They said, “Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your family will be saved from the punishment of sin.” (New Life)

And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (21st Century King James)

And they answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping] and you will be saved, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well. (Amplified Bible)

Interestingly (or perhaps not) the New King James version (which is different from the 21st Century King James quoted above) goes for in in John and retains on in Acts. I will not hazard a guess as to the rationale.

I'm just going to conclude by quoting from the Preface to my personal hard copy (presented for perfect Sunday School attendance) 1953 Revised Standard Edition (which uses in in both cases above.)

A major reason for revision of the King James Version, which is valid for both the Old Testament and the New Testament is the change since 1611 in English usage. Many forms of expression have become archaic while still generally intelligible ... (list of examples) ... Other words are obsolete and no longer understood by the common reader. The greatest problem, however, is presented by the English words which are still in constant use but now convey a different meaning from that which they had in 1611 and in the King James Version.


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