Changing one word in the New Testament could help the church reform itself and redefine its mission. But will anyone listen? Late in the twentieth century, popular study Bibles began suggesting the beloved concept of “eternal life” means something other than living forever in Paradise. Here are comments from popular Bible translations that explain the meanings of specific passages mentioning “eternal life”:
Eternal life is a present possession, not something the believer will only obtain later. (NIV Study Bible, 1985, on John 3:36)
Eternal life: used here for the first time in John, this term stresses quality of life rather than duration. (NASB, 1995, on John 3:36)
Eleven out of forty-two times, eternal life is presented as something to be attained. (NKJV Study Bible, 1997, on Romans 6:23)
There has been no attempt to justify why commentators suggested this, and few people in positions of religious leadership seem to have paid attention to it. However, I just received the new book by David Bentley Hart, published by Yale University Press, The New Testament: A Translation, and I’m pleased to see that he made a big step that helps to validate my proposal about the translation of aiónios zoa. Supposedly he removes church doctrines developed later that have been interpreted into the text, but I’m not endorsing his book yet because I haven’t read its translation beyond some parts that speak about eternal life.
My book provides a full explanation for the validity of suggesting aiónios refers to a period of time in the present age. It justifies why aiónios should always mean in the present age and it shows the impact it makes on the message of the New Testament. The change has no effect on theologies about getting into Paradise but it offers expanded guidance to people in their lives today, offering the church a means to become increasingly relevant to life in this world. You’ll see that when aiónios zoa is applied according to its first century meaning, the New Testament comes to life in surprising ways.
I self-publish my books to keep the costs down to readers. My ebook is $3.99 on Amazon and the paperback is $9.99. If you don’t agree that I’ve provided a rational and scholarly explanation for this, and if it doesn’t encourage you to rethink your focus in religion and in life, I’ll give you your money back.
Here are some comments I’ve received from beta-readers:
I am taking you up on your invitation for feedback. Overall, I think that your book is a brilliant, and potentially revolutionary, reinterpretation of the familiar teachings of Jesus. Understanding the Greek words in their original context makes the Gospel more believable, authentic, and relevant for the everyday people for whom it was written. My hope is that this new understanding, so well researched and explained in your book, would permeate the church and the wider culture over time. David K., Monterey , CA
This book deserves a wider audience, even a national publisher, for it addresses important issues of how we read scripture as well (albeit in a different way) as does the work of folks like John Shelby Spong. Your question, “Is the church capable of dealing with the fallout that a significant change to the emphasis of its book of authority would create” is one I have been asking myself and worrying about as I read progressive Christian authors. I hope you are correct in suggesting that we might be able to do this “with humility and grace,” but both of those qualities seem in such desperately short supply these days. Ken W., Murray, KY
Officially, the book will be released on October 31. I know, it’s a little dramatic. But the church needs to work harder at reforming its theology and its focus to life on earth. It’s still stuck in the fourth and sixteenth centuries. Preorder it today and it will be delivered to your device in a few days. Then let me know your thoughts about it.