The Tenacity of the Text

Some Thoughts on Isaiah 11:6 and “the Mandela Effect”

The other day a coworker of mine asked if I read the Bible and proceeded to share with me some things that he’d heard about Isaiah 11:6 on a YouTube video claiming to provide “…the three best and most detailed examples of the Mandela Effect.” [time mark 1:27] And In the course of the brief exchange I asked him to send me a link to the video – which has resulted in further conversation and this post that you are now reading.

The Mandela Effect(?)

The video in question kind of opens with a summary of the concept of this theory. And as far as I can tell – considering I had no active knowledge of this concept until watching the video – the event that gave the theory its name does seem somewhat puzzling… Especially when only equipped with the minimal information provided by the video.

However, since my concern is more related to the text of Scripture, as far as this theory goes I will simply offer a short list of thoughts and/or questions regarding said subject and leave the rest to the reader’s opinion and/or knowledge/research.

1: it seems to me that this theory assumes the infallibility of a person’s memory – simply based upon the “vividness” and/or “detail” of the mistaken memory – and this assumption is apparently validated by “many total strangers” having the same mistaken “memory.”

2: building further on this assumption of infallible human memory, it seems this theory is more imaginatively pointless than it is thoughtfully helpful (no offense intended to those who believe or have further studied the idea). After all, if such a theory were actually fact – and we had experienced intersection of dimensions and/or timelines – what could we possibly do about it?

3: from a slightly different angle – but in a similar vein as my question ending the previous point – the proponents and conceivers of this theory seem to be coming from a completely secular-humanist and/or materialistic (if not occult) worldview. Now this thought would mean more to a disciple of Jesus than anyone else – but the point stands that this theory ignores or outright denies the existence of a Sovereign Creator working all things according to the council of His own will.

These were just a few of the more poignant of my thoughts as I watched the first portion of the video. But I would prefer to specifically focus on the second part that the creators of the video titled “Biblical Changes.”

Changes to the Bible? [time mark 6:12]

The first difficulty I had with this section was the language about “Biblical changes” with no qualifications or basis given for the presumptive phrasing. Obviously the discussion of Isaiah 11:6 would be considered an example – but one verse is hardly sufficient to warrant language implying more than a few actual changes to the text of the Bible.

In fact, the first real example cited (outside of a general statement about ‘many Christians misremembering the verse’) is a post by a user on a site called “Reddit” claiming to have gone to “three different churches” to ask ministers about the verse and finding that the people the Reddit person talked to misremembered the verse. [time mark 7:35]

I would submit to the reader several ideas/questions at this point: 1) what evidence can the Reddit user give for their story? What churches did they go to? Who were the ministers? What denomination were the churches? 2) what do three unverifiable examples prove about the “changing” of an ancient, historically verifiable text? 3) should we really allow the mistakes of people’s fallible, often prone to or capable of malfunction minds to cause us to assume the text of an ancient set of books has been changed? 4) does this one story really give the video warrant to say “even those within ecclesiastical institutions incorrectly remember the verse” [time mark 7:30] as if this mistake were a normative thing across Christianity? (NOTE: That may not have been the intent of those who made the video, but it was still implied by their choice of words and the method of presenting the data)

Again, I realize my thoughts would not necessarily be significant to one who is not a disciple of Jesus – but I believe my questions are valid and deserving of consideration by anyone interested in fact/truth.

The next phrase (with no substantiation) that I would think any critically thinking person would take issue with came at time mark 8:15 – “Christians are becoming increasingly worried about what this passage change means…”

Now, again, what grounds are there for assuming that the passage has been changed? I would submit to the reader that subjective human thoughts are no basis upon which to question ANY historically verifiable reality. More important and directly relative to the quote, however, is what documentation do the makers of this video have for such a statement? I, for one, have never even heard of people making this mistake before watching this video… and I follow enough “Christian sources” online that I’m pretty sure I would have heard of this before if it was an actual concern among the greater Christian community – as implied by the statement.

The video follows this statement with some odd thoughts of what the significance would be if the passage had been changed which I will simply provide some of my own thoughts about and leave the video alone for the rest of this post. However, the reader is obviously free to watch the video in its entirety and come to there own conclusions.

Context and Concept of Isaiah 11:6

1: If one will read the entirety of Isaiah, they will see that chapter 11 is a prophetic text – and it seems to me to be of a particularly eschatological bent, although the beginning sets it up as ultimately messianic in nature. The concept of verses 6-9, namely the perfect peace that will be on God’s mountain/kingdom, is set up by verse 6: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (ESV) The context – and simply the entirety of the verse – taken into consideration removes any need to question the “significance” of the animals depicted. The obvious thrice-emphasized Hebrew parallelism of “wolf and lamb,” “leopard and kid,” and “lion and calf,” make it clear that the verse is simply putting forth the removal of predator and prey distinctions in this land where there is perfect peace (I.e. No natural indicators of struggle and death). The rest of the context of the chapter does not allow for any “secret/hidden” interpretation or meaning to the animals used in the illustration. (NOTE: the parallel passage in Isaiah 65:25 is another indication of the simplicity of the intended meaning)

2: Even if we were to consider this idea that the animals depicted have a “deeper meaning” – there would be no definitive precedent to indicate what that meaning would be. Though Christ is called the “Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) there are plenty of illustrations in scripture that utilize a lion (as well as a wolf) as a ferocious and terrible beast (Isaiah 5:29, Ezekiel 22:27, Psalm 17:12), and the only other illustration I know of in the Bible utilizing a wolf is in connection with false prophets/teachers (Acts 20:29-30, Matthew 7:15)… so there would really be no reason to note such a supposed “change” in the first place.

3: in humoring the video – my wife and I came up with a few potential possibilities for why this mistake of memory is made: 1) the popular “worship song” How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin has “Lion and the lamb” as one of its refrains… 2) the imagery of Jesus in the Bible not only utilizes a lamb (Revelation 5:6, etc.) but Jesus is also given the title of “the Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5)… and these are just two very commonly experienced/known things among Christians and in “Christian culture” that could reasonably explain the common mistake of misremembering Isaiah 11:6. However, even if these didn’t explain the phenomenon – there is still not enough grounds to claim changes have been made to an ancient text when all you’ve got is a potentially freaky case of common mistaken memory.

Final Note

No intended offense is meant against my coworker or the makers of the video that sparked this post, but it must be made clear to the reader that ancient, orthodox Christianity holds to none of the superstitions or confidence in mankind’s own thoughts and/or memories that seem to have given rise to the presentation in the video linked to above.

The good news of the Son of God taking on human flesh and living a perfect life to fulfill the demands of the Law of God, dying upon the cross to satisfy the Wrath of God and take away the sins of His people, and being buried and rising again on the third day to prove His Work acceptable and His people Justified before God denies any possible confidence in the thoughts and intentions of mankind.

No matter what we encounter that seems unexplainable, these things remain self evident; everything we see and interact with was made and is owned by a Thrice-Holy God, the whole of humanity desires and does nothing but that which is evil, and there is no way for man to stand clean before his Maker unless the Maker first does something to cleanse him… which He has.

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