As I am inclined to do, I was reading over one of the many missives and other writings that argue we are, and must only be, a Christian nation. They warned of dire consequences from a loving yet jealous god if we failed to adhere to this path as set forth in the Ten Commandments and the Bible. They even included a few choice quotes from the Bible to prove God is, if not a red, white, and blue-blooded American, at least partial to—and by implication unhappy with—the USA.
The quotes—from one of the Bible versions of which there are many—attempt to serve as both illustration and proof. The authority of the Bible is never questioned. This gave me pause since I knew there are several versions of the Bible and thus I found this assumption of validity a bit disconcerting.
As it turns out, there is no such thing as The Bible. There is a plethora of versions to (pick) and choose from.
To put it in context, here’s a link detailing the many complete and partial translations just in English. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations
What are the most common versions you ask? Here’s a list by publication date—who knew the inerrant word of God could come in so many flavors.
King James Version (1611)
The English Revised Version (1885)
The American Standard Version (1901)
The Moffatt Bible (1926)
The Revised Standard Version (1952)
J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English (1958)
The Amplified Bible (1965)
The Jerusalem Bible (1966)
The New English Bible (1970)
The Living Bible (1971)
The New American Standard Bible (1971)
The Good News Bible (1976)
The New International Version (1979)
The New King James Version (1982)
Jewish New Testament (1989)
New Revised Standard Version (1989)
Contemporary English Version (1991)
The Message (2002)
Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004)
Each of these versions were specifically written to spread the word to a wider audience by reinterpreting earlier versions. One of these versions, The New Revised Standard Version, is gender neutral (can a transgender Bible be far behind?)
Kind of brings a whole new perspective to the Adam and Eve story (more on that later, but did you ever wonder why Adam and Eve have bellybuttons in all the many depictions of them?)
And, despite its name, the American Standard Bible was not part of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or any other foundational documents at the birth of the USA. It was first released in 1901 and updated in 1971.
Keep in mind the Catholic Church so zealously guarded the Latin Bible that it tried anyone who translated it into the vernacular for heresy. And we all know how well heresy trials went back then. Such actions contributed to the Reformation and a plethora of new Biblical interpretations.
So much for ancient Biblical texts. It would seem they keep changing.
What translation of the original Greek text are these various versions based on you might ask as a follow-up question?
First, to put it in context, here’s a little background on the Bible throughout history. The primary source of translation from the original Greek (there are at least these seven) are.
- Samaritan Pentateuch
- Majority Text Greek New Testament (MT-GNT)
- Dead Sea Scrolls
- Nestle Aland
- Septuagint (LXX)
- Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia for the Hebrew bible
- United Bible Society
Look up any of these translations and you’ll find there are significant differences in interpretation between them. Hardly implies infallibility.
The Protestant English Bible widely read today comprises sixty-six books. The Old Testament has thirty-nine books, the New Testament has twenty-seven books. The Catholic Bible has seventy-three books: forty-three in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. Leave it to the Catholics to drag things out. I should know, I am a recovering one.
You see the point. At least seven major translations of the original language edited into forty or fifty English versions with inconsistent numbers of books. It doesn’t exactly lend itself to instant credibility considering the tendency of humans to embrace what they believe and discard that which contradicts it.
And since the “American” version didn’t even exist until 1901 and then changed in 1971, the “American” connection to God is tenuous. I suppose we could have been based on the King James version but we went to war to eliminate our subjugation by a King, hardly seems likely we would base on country on a document created by a King.
But back to my point. If God is both a loving god and a jealous god—let alone find any evidence he favors the United States of America— how do we resolve such a conflict?
Now having read one of those versions, but not specifically recalling all the various verses (which apparently is another failing within our education system through its lack of Bible study,) I decided to refresh my memory of the concept of a “Jealous” god.
Here are some of the most prominent. I assume some iteration of each is in at least some versions of the book.
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
For the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
2 Corinthians 11:2
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 5For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
For those observant among you, you may have noticed Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9 are essentially the same. Apparently, plagiarism is as old as the Bible.
I realize I spend a great deal of time writing about the inconsistencies and misconceptions about religion. And on the whole, religiosity is not inherently a bad thing. But when a significant number of Americans embrace the concept of forcing the nation into a Christian mold, they cannot expect to ignore the contradictions in the material they use to justify such policies.
If your God is a jealous god, does that not imply the potential existence of other gods to inspire such jealousy?
If they document the very existence of your God in the Bible, shouldn’t there be one consistent text unchanged and unquestioned since it was first written?
If this country is a Christian nation, wouldn’t there be ample evidence of our acting like one, particularly in how we treat the “least among us?”
And what of those native people who lived here long before “Christians” arrived from Europe? Had God merely forgotten about their existence? Had he (or she) no better way to bring his “word” to them than through colonization, genocide, and displacement?
Ego Dominus Deus tuus. Non habebis deos alienos coram me (I am the Lord, thy God. Though shall not have false gods before me) is not in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.
Let’s keep it that way.
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3 thoughts on “A Jealous American God?”
Patriotism, AND FALSE PIETY, are the last refuges of scoundrels.
Indeed they are
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