John 3:16 – Fact or Fiction?

On May 29, 2012, in Apologetics, by july

This is a response to Debunking Christianity’s post entitled Why John 3:16 is a Lie in its Biblical Context

Harry McCall raises four objections in the post which I would quickly summarize here:

  1. The text “For God So Loved The World” is inconsistent with 1 John 2:15 which says “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Further, the flood in Noah’s days is a confirmation that God hates the world.
  2. The text “… He gave us His begotten Son…” is incoherent as Job 1:6 and Genesis 6:2 shows that God has other “sons”.  Further, he says that one cannot use the Greek word monogene as a defense because monogene means the only begotten yet prior to Jesus’ birth there are already sons as shown in those two verses.
  3. The text “… that whoever believes in Him shall not perish…” is a contradiction to Mark 9:44-48 in that it talks about torment and not death of the unbelievers while perish means total destruction.  In theology, this is called the doctrine of Annihilationism commonly espoused by Jehovah’s witness.
  4. The text “… have eternal life…” is simply a means for Christians to gain converts because of the low average life expectancy of people in Jesus time.  The average during those time is about 30-35 years old.

But are these coherent? Do we have good reasons to believe that all that has been said against John 3:16 should be taken seriously? I think we don’t.  As I often do, I do not use the Bible to destroy the arguments of atheists unless a reference is mandatory.  Rather, I simply use logic and reason… for it is only through this medium that both sides agree.  Further, I simply treat the Bible as a set of ancient historical documents when debating with atheists and nothing more.  It is thus evident that I am not a Bible thumping Christian who believes the Bible is true because it says so.  Rather, it is because logic and reason well supports the document in question.

Why Challenge 1 Fails:

Every time one reads a statement, it is imperative that the words used are to be checked in context.  The word world can be used in many ways.  For instance, it can be used to mean “all the people living in it”.  In another instance it can be used to mean the “planet earth.”  In other instances it can even mean “a planet” (ex. Neptune, the frozen world).  It can even be used as a unit of measurement (worlds apart).

Now this is common knowledge.  When we say someone “hit” the road, we can either mean that he is literally smashing the road or it can mean that he is travelling by land, and the only way to understand the true meaning of it is if the word is taken in context.

Notice that the context by which the author used the word “world” in John 3:16 is different from 1 John 2:15.  It is almost comical to have the same author use the same word to mean the same thing when the context is different!  John 3:16 is obviously talking about the people in the world.   This is evident as early as the first two verses of John 3.   Now 1 John 2:15 talks about worldly desires—things that are contrary to the Spirit.  Notice how 1 John2:16 confirms it.  The verse describes the word “world” in the context of its difference with the Spirit—Lust and Pride.  So to assume that the same word mean the same in two different context is to turn a blind eye on common sense.

Now what about the flood? Just because God participates in the taking of life of someone doesn’t mean that he hates them.  God loved Jesus yet also planned his death.  People who allowed their loved ones to die through euthanasia do so not on the intent of hate but rather mercy.  Notice that in the flood Narrative, God never said that he’s taking their lives because He hates them.  Rather, “the earth is filled with violence because of them” – (Genesis 6:13). To say that God took the lives of the people because he hates them is an inference to something that was never said in the Bible.  It is an assumption that is famished of justification.

Why Challenge 2 Fails:

What the atheist fail to note here is the way Jesus is distinguished among other “sons”.  John 3:16 uses the word monogene in order to denote Jesus being the only begotten Son (as used elsewhere such as Luke 7:12, Luke 9:38 etc).  To be the only begotten Son is not the same as to be a son.  For a son can be an adopted son among others (ex. Ephesians 1:5).  To say that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God while Him having other sons is not a contradiction.  The Bible sustains this perfectly through Mary,  the only human being conceived by God (Matthew 1:20).  The word “begotten” is vital here, for it means that God begets Jesus… and so Jesus is distinguished in that He is the only Son by which God begets.  All other sons of God became sons through other means.  The atheist is put in a VERY difficult position here.  He has to show that one cannot have a begotten Son and an adopted Son at the same time.  A position that is impossible to sustain.

Why Challenge 3 Fails:

This presupposes that the word perish is synonymous to annihilation.  But this is not the case in Christianity.  There is no evidence whatsoever that the Bible teaches that the Spirit of those who die will be annihilated.  On the contrary, the Bible is littered with verses that affirms an eternal torment when the Spirit perishes.

It is extremely foolish for Jesus to have the word perish mean annihilation in this verse and then speak the parable in Luke 16:19-31.  It is nothing less than bizarre to think that Jesus, who constantly teaches about the eternality of torment of a perished soul (ex. Matthew 25:46, Matthew 13:36-41), believes that the soul will be annihilated.  The difficulty of sustaining this challenge is that the atheist has to prove that Jesus used the word perish to mean annihilation while at the same time proving that Jesus believes that those who suffer for eternity has a different state of the soul.

Why Challenge 4 Fails:

Suppose the world will exist a hundred years hence… and scientists would discover means to increase the average life expectancy of man to say… 120 years.  Can people living a hundred years hence say that Christianity offered eternal life simply because it is a good selling point in light of the “short” life expectancy we have in the 21st century?


Life expectancy has nothing to do with eternality of life.  Whether one lives for half a century or a century has nothing to do with eternal life.  Besides, in the days of Jesus, what evidence does the atheist have to believe that people in those days thought that they’re life expectancy is so low and therefore it is imperative to bend their knees to Christ?

Any professor convinced of such would have been laughed out of the room.

At the end of the day, one sees the emptiness of atheism.  In a desperate attempt to explain away John 3:16, the atheist has to go through unwarranted absurdity in order to justify an unsustainable worldview.  Such a position is nothing more than sandcastles built on seashores.  It isn’t good… it doesn’t last.



A follow up can be found here as a response to Harry’s comment below.


3 Responses to “John 3:16 – Fact or Fiction?”

  1. Harry McCall says:

    Below are my replies to “ToBelieveOrNotTo. To save space, you can go to his blog for his complaints:

    Why your solution 1 fails. Greek has two words for our planet: Earth γῆς as used in John 3: 31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And κόσμος (κόσμον) as used in John 3: 16.

    Stated: “Just because God participates in the taking of life of someone doesn’t mean that he hates them.” Read the Passover killing of the Egyptian first born, the slaughter of the Israelites by God during the 40 year exodus and conquest of Canaan with the killing of the Canaanites in Joshua. Hate from God is the factor for death here.

    Both the deaths of Jesus and euthanasia have the cause for the death base on love (if Jesus did give himself willingly). You built up a straw man example then failed to follow your own line of reason!

    Why your logic in Point 2 fails: Genesis 6:4 “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Since the Hebrew Bible has NO “Mrs. God”, just who did God (Yahweh) have sex with to product children?? Unless you accept Bill Dever’s thesis in his book “Did God Have a Wife” where Yahweh was simply another ancient Near Eastern God with a wife / wives, then the Bible God could ONLY have children via human women! We know the Greek God Zeus (just like God in Matthew and Luke) produce Semi-divine/mortal offspring with human women, one of which is Hercules – who like Jesus – had supernatural powers.

    Your statement: “To be the only begotten Son is not the same as to be a son. “ begs the question. By your reasoning, since Zeus had 69 children with human women, he could only claim one, Hercules, as his Only Begotten and the rest are bastards!!! The Biblical God then needs to “man up” and take responsibility for his erotic escapades!

    Why your logic in point 3 fails: You didn’t address either the Greek word “ἀπόληται” used in the aorist tense or that exist no more. Your statement is totally contradictory: “…the Bible is littered with verses that affirms an eternal torment when the Spirit perishes.” If the “Spirit perishes”, then the spirit is no more, period!!

    Why your logic in point 3 fails again: Luke 16: 19 -31 is nothing more than what we moderns call the “Social Gospel”. None of the doctrinal world for salvation occurs in this section; sin, forgiveness, salvation, and atonement, evil. The Rich man goes to Hades because he did share his wealth with Lazarus, that’s all!

    Matt. 25: 46 is totally based on works and NOT faith, thus all good people in all religions are saved with eternal life.
    Matt. 13: 36 – 41 the clause “will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” would only apply if the damned had teeth. Thus, sinners with dentures will be exempt! If you want to play the literal card, then let’s be consistent!

    Why your logic in point 4 fails: Of about 100 graves archeologist excavated in Alexandria, Egypt; around the frist century CE, only two had the bones date to have lived to age 50. The rest died in their teens and early twenties.
    I would suggest you read some of the field reports of Lawrence Stager (Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel) at Harvard. He never gets “laughed out of the room.” with his facts!

    In conclusion: At the end of the day, your church dogmas built on an apologetic harmonizing of the Bible is nothing short that gullibility. You are nothing but what is left of a mind than holds to church doctrine which has been programmed all its life. In the end, you have paid a huge mental price in dogmatic faith for nothing.

    Harry McCall

  2. AlienisGod says:

    We must believe the word of the bible for it is written by God using man as a medium. It is an example for all us to follow.

    When God was angered, God flooded the whole world and only left Noah and his family to live. Noah and his family were the only humans alive, Noah’s next duty was to repopulate the world because it was God’s wish for the mankind. Noah’s family had no choice but to commit incest. Through that incest, other races came by. The Black, Whites, Asians.

  3. Michal Mcqueary says:

    Like a praise head it’ll be important that you just think about the actual dilemma connected with regardless of whether the unbeliever might be part of your own worship system. Now i’m normally inquired this particular issue

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