There are pros and cons to the Bible’s status as the most read book in human history. On the upside, many people are exposed to the vast wisdom it contains. On the downside, it’s easy for people to take phrases out of context or misquote them — leading to a complete misunderstanding of a verse’s meaning and intention.
John 20:29 is one verse that nonbelievers often co-opt to accuse Christians of having blind faith: “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'”
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Ah, ha! The nonbelievers are self-satisfied, as they think Jesus himself says that you are blessed if you believe “I’m the son of God without seeing hard evidence.”
Except that this line is taken out of context, and context must always be considered (along with subtext and intent) in any piece of writing or speech, biblical or otherwise.
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This line is part of the story that gave rise to the term “Doubting Thomas.” Recall that after Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to the disciples — but Thomas wasn’t with them (John 29:24-29).
“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'”
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'”
One thing is certain: Jesus definitely did not mean to “take it on faith” without additional evidence, and it’s right there in the very next verse (John 20:30-31): “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The Good Samaritan parable is particularly interesting because it is set off from Luke 10:25-37, and this is obviously done intentionally. Verses 30 to 35, which are the parable, are used as an illustration of the rest of the passage. However, when people take it out of context, the meaning of this parable is interpreted into something it is not.
You’ll recall it involves a Jew who is robbed on the road to Jericho and left for dead. A priest and Levite pass by the man and ignore him, their fellow Jew — but a Samaritan takes the man in, gives him food, and takes care of him.
This is astonishing, because the Jews disliked the Samaritans as being pagans and idol worshippers. Hence, the fact that this Samaritan stopped is the reason for the adjective “good” to modify “Samaritan.” The Samaritan not only bandaged the man, but did so using oil and wine, which were very costly, put the Jew on his own animal (meaning the Samaritan had to walk), and paid for the man’s room at the inn.
Leftists, in particular, take this passage to support their social justice narrative. Certainly the story represents good values, but that’s not the point Jesus was making. The parable is an illustration of something far greater: Jesus’ instruction to not only love thy neighbor, but to love thy enemy, because our enemy is still our neighbor — whether he lives next door or not.
Given how intolerant leftists are of conservatives — there is a particular irony in how leftists spin the story.
Lawrence Meyers is a multi-disciplinarian analyst, covering everything from faith and popular culture to public policy and finance.