By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – When quarterback Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass Sunday to secure an overtime victory for his Denver Broncos over the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers, some saw a biblical connection.
The completion gave Tebow, an outspoken evangelical Christian whose penchant for last-minute heroics have given him a reputation as a miracle worker, 316 passing yards for the game. His ten completions averaged 31.6 yards a piece.
Those figures inspired plenty of conversation and debate about a connection some saw to one of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16.
The New Testament verse is held up by Christians around the globe because it neatly summarizes some key points of Christianity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)
In the third chapter in the Gospel of John, Jesus is having a late night discussion with a Pharisee, one of the Jewish teachers of the law, named Nicodemus. The chapter is also where the expression "born again" originates.
Jesus tells Nicodemus: "...no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." In his longer explanation of that idea, Jesus gets to the core of his message in verse 3:16.
The verse is popular with Christians looking to share their faith because it's short and information-packed: God loves humankind, man has sinned and is destined for eternal punishment, but eternal live awaits all who believe in God's son, Jesus.
John 3:16 also has a long history with football and pop culture.
During last year's Super Bowl, the Fixed Point Foundation, which promotes Christianity in the public square, tried to buy an advertisement pushing people to a website to learn about John 3:16 but the ad was was rejected.
The spot showed people watching a football game noticing the phrase John 3:16 on a player's eye black - a sticker or grease that players wear under the eyes to reduce glare from the sun. A man in the ad says he's going to look up the verse, while the ad directed viewers to www.lookup316.com.
At the time, Fixed Point Executive Director Larry Taunton told CNN that Fox Sports said it rejected his commercial because it contained "religious doctrine," though Taunton said the ad avoided featuring the actual words of the verse.
“Increasingly religion and Christianity is treated like smoking – you can do it but only in designated areas,” Taunton said. “They were saying there’s no place for (faith) in the public square. There’s a place for the soft core porn of Go-Daddy, violent movie trailers, and irresponsible drinking, but not for faith."
As a workaround, the Fixed Point Foundation ran its ad on Fox stations locally in Birmingham, Alabama and Washington, DC during the Super Bowl.
Tebow wore Bible verses on his eye black when he quarterbacked the Florida Gators in college. In the 2009 BCS championship game, he wrote John 3:16 on his eye black. After he left college football for the NFL in 2010, the NCAA banned players from writing on their eye black, which some have called the "Tebow rule."
John 3:16 came into the pop culture view in the late 1970s and early 1980s at sporting events, when a man named Rollen Stewart would don a rainbow colored afro wig and a John 3:16 T-shirt. He was especially good at getting himself in front of the cameras at sporting and big cultural events, including the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Stewart grew increasingly fanatical about his crusade. In 1992 he took a maid hostage with a loaded gun at a Los Angeles hotel, demanding a national press conference to proclaim his new message that the end of the world was near.
He plastered John 3:16 on hotel windows. CNN reported at the time that it took a SWAT team nine hours to free the woman.
At his sentencing hearing Stewart had to be removed from court when he would not let the judge speak. As deputies were dragging him out of the courtroom he screamed, "Don't take me out, I said. God sends love to the world. Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they're doing. They know not what they're doing, Lord."
That last phrase is also biblical, attributed to Jesus while he was praying for his executioners as he hung on the cross.
Stewart was convicted and sent to prison in 1993 on three counts of hostage taking and is currently serving three life sentences at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California.
Despite Stewart's story, many sports fans continue the tradition of evangelizing at sports games by holding up John 3:16 on placards.
Seriously? Do people seriously believe that God is taking time out of his/her busy schedule to make sure that Tim Tebow throws a miracle throw? And, if they do, what statement does that make? God cares more about football than world peace, the end of hunger, the people in drought stricken areas praying for rain!! Seriously! And, Tim Tebow is only half of the equation. The receiver is the second, and most important part of the equation. Without the receiver to catch the "miracle" throw, there is no, well, miracle. Tim Tebow may have a talent for throwing, but the receiver also has a talent for catching that should be acknowledged as well. Just sayin' . . .
If God cared about football, Notre Dame would be undefeated.
@David: Jerry Sandusky would've been the defensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish too.
SeanNJ, he probably should have been a Priest.
You're kidding, right? If one believes or even knows anything of God of the Bible, it's that He is ominpotent and omnipresent (among other things). Such a God does not need to take 'time out' to accomplish anything.
All one has to do is look at the book of Job to see what crazy, self-centered, brutal things the God of the Bible will do, and for the most childish of reasons, too.
I don't think the intent of this is to say that "God is making Tebow a good football player", or "God is making it so that he's successful and wins." Tebow himself wouldn't necessarily say that, but would rather that losing and times of failure is also possible.
Rather Tebow is being bold, honest and direct about what he believes ... and it just so happens that everyone's hearing about it because he's been doing well. He'd be just as direct with what he believes if he was losing, only we wouldn't all be hearing about his faith because he wouldn't be in the news. And the deal with the numbers ... they're just numbers. Distractions. So what. I doubt he places any significance in those numbers from the game. He instead emphasized the reference in the Bible (John 3:16).
Christians claim their god is Omnipotent ( all powerful), Omniscient (all knowing) and Omnibenevolent (all good).
If god is Omnibenevolent, He would WANT every human to believe in Him.
The bible says He does:
2 Peter 3:9
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."(KJV)
1 Timothy 2:4
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (KJV)
2.) If god is Omniscient, then He would KNOW exactly how to convince anyone and everyone that He exists.
3.) If god is Omnipotent, then He would be ABLE to convince anybody and everybody that He exists.
68% of the world's population are not Christians.
Therefore, the Christian god is very unlikely to exist.
34,000 denominations. Each denomination can show you scripture, that "proves" they understand the wants of Jesus/god.
All of the denominations could not be correctly interpreting the bible. Many are contradictory.
Many of these denominations believe only their members will be saved.
If the Christian god exists, and He is all knowing and all powerful and all good, why didn't He provide a bible that could not be misinterpreted? That everyone's comprehension of His wants would be the same?
Christians believe god's purpose in creating the Bible is to guide human beings towards a knowledge of God, and to help them lead moral lives, Christians must be certain of the meaning of the Bible.
"There are in excess of 1,000 Christian faith groups in North America. They teach diverse beliefs about the nature of Jesus, God, the second coming, Heaven, Hell, the rapture, criteria for salvation, speaking in tongues, the atonement, what happens to persons after death, and dozens of other topics.
On social controversies, faith groups teach a variety of conflicting beliefs about abortion access, equal rights for ho_mo$exuals and bi$exuals, who should be eligible for marriage, the death penalty, physician assisted suicide, human $exuality topics, origins of the universe, and dozens of other topics.
The groups all base their theological teachings on the Bible. Generally speaking, the theologians in each of these faith groups are sincere, intelligent, devout, thoughtful and careful in their interpretation of the Bible. But, they come to mutually exclusive conclusions about what it teaches. Further, most are absolutely certain that their particular interpretations are correct, and that the many hundreds of faith groups which teach opposing beliefs are in error." Source: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
If the bible is ambiguous, then it cannot be said to be inerrant.
Another reason to reject the idea of a god, is because there appears to be no need for one. Each hour of each day, science fills another gap in man's knowledge, that god once filled. So far, science has found no need for a god.
Belief without a reason or evidence, is called "delusional".
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
If the Christian god so loves the world, why does he allow / cause so much suffering? Disease, famine, floods, earthquakes etc.?
a. If the Christian god is all knowing, He would be AWARE of all the suffering on earth.
b. If the Christian god is all good, He would WANT to rid the world of suffering / evil.
c. If the Christian god is all powerful, He would be ABLE to rid the world of suffering / evil.
Omniscient and omnipotent abe not compatible. If is all knowing, if the future can be known, then even god would be bound by events in the future. Everything would be predetermined.
If the Christian god, knows what will happen in the future, and does something else...then, He is not all knowing.
If the Christian god knows the future and cannot change it, then He is not all powerful.
The attributes attributed to the Christian god conflict with one another.
The Christian god with these attributes cannot exist. No being can have these attributes at the same time.
Evolution, with its evidence of transitional fossils, geological column, DNA evidence, vestigial organs etc., is very damning to the biblical Creation Story.
If god created all the organisms on the planet, then He must have created even the diseases that have caused and are causing so much death and misery for humans and animals. He would have had to fashion the tick and the flea. The mosquito and blood flukes. And worms that bore into a child's eye.
How could an all good god do such a thing? Why would He spend His time creating gruesome things to cause human suffering? Yet, these horrors exist. And if god didn't create them, who did?
Evolution explains the diversity of the planet's organisms, including the pathogens and the parasites that have caused so much human death and misery.
If Adam and Eve did not exist, then there was no original sin.
If there was no original sin, then it cannot be the reason god allows so much suffering in the world. We can dump the guilt trip. If there was no original sin, then there was no need for a redeemer.
If there was no redeemer, then Christianity is a based on a false premise.
"If we cannot believe in the First Adam, why believe in the Last 1 Corinthians15:45
If the Creation story is a myth, then there is no reason to believe any of the bible.
If we evolved, there is no soul –> no afterlife –> no need of a heaven or hell.
The Christian god is no more likely to exist than unicorns, satyrs, fiery serpents, or talking snakes or Santa. And you don't believe in any of those. Or maybe you do.
I think Tebows comments and actions have very unchristian. He repeatedly says he works the hardest, trains the hardest, and is the most prepared. These comments are narcissistic, and show disrespect for the other players in the NFL. It's there something about humility in the bible?
Sorry that should say, I think Tebows comments and actions have been very unchristian.
he's telling the truth
what is he is telling the truth
judging someone's actions and words as unchristian is very unchristian as well. We all live in an imperfect world, let those who are trying to shine a little light shine it, don't condemn them to darkness as well.
On second thought, I think i'm losing it. Of course he can say those things. They guy IS the best.
"I think Tebows comments and actions have very unchristian. He repeatedly says he works the hardest, trains the hardest, and is the most prepared. These comments are narcissistic, and show disrespect for the other players in the NFL. It's there something about humility in the bible?"
False humility though is pride in itself. There's nothing wrong with saying you work hard and are well-prepared, especially if it's the truth. It's an example to others to work well at something. As far as the superlative involved, "-est", that's really just a way of speaking saying that he works as hard as he can, to the best of his ability, diligent with the time and responsibility he has.
Sorry gwf, he does not say he wants to be the best he can be. He says he works harder than everyone else. That's boostful and unchristian... I think he forgets he is not the only hard working Christian that play ball. Would you feel the same way about him, and except his public displays if his God was Allah?
@David – I don't know why we keep discussing this superlative thing. I don't really care about that. English speech makes use of that compared to others, self, or as an emphasis. Let's put that aside and say perhaps he's the most arrogant person out there (not true, just putting this to rest). Is that "non-Christian"? Since all Christians have sin and aren't perfect, they will sin, make mistakes, mess up in life and on a daily basis ... that's decidedly Christian/Biblical ... in that our faith is based on the fact that we are sinful, imperfect, and it is in this imperfect state that God loves us and we put our faith in Jesus.
Really I don't have any certain opinion of Tebow. I don't watch him play, I don't follow him, nor do I particularly care for his team. I do question why people are so vehemently opposed to him, which can't be for his skills on the field, but primarily due to him be open with what he believes. He's open and honest. He doesn't force others to believe what he believes, he just doesn't hide it. Can't you respect him for that alone? Maybe you think he should hide it? Perhaps the government should get in everyone's business and enact "don't ask don't tell" laws about anything personal in all manners of our personal and public life.
I have many Muslim friends and I respect them especially when they work hard and well at what they do and if they're strong with what they believe. As for "feeling the same way", it would be like asking if I feel the same way about someone that's not in my family compared to someone in my family. Of course not. BUT, I can still like and highly respect that person. Who can say they "like all people in the world equal" – I don't even know why we're talking about that.
Christian Taliban!!! Look out, there are here in America and intend to make you do what THEY say is right.
Well said !!
And anyway, religion poisons EVERYTHING.
The crazy thing about all this back and forth is that your exact same points and counterpoints have been hurled by others before for more than 2000 years. Pretty powerful entertainment, I say.
"Despite Stewart's story..." are you kidding me? You did not just attempt to link these two separate stories, separate people, separate mental state of mind, and separate sequence of events. You were doing so well on the story reporting exactly as it happened but then at the end you attempted to make a dreadful connection with some appalling intention.
I thought the same thing... at the end i was like.. what!? seriously... horrible reporting
It's just part of CNN"s subtle and futile attempts at attacking Christianity. It's a myth that the Belief Blog is for Christians. It's a news section functioning as an outlet for atheists to post insults and slurs. Notice how the comments section is not like the rest of the website? Here, you can post anything under and created username, an dnot have to log in using a permanent username. Hence all the slurs and insults. All the stories have some negative connotation, or they are sensasionalistic. There is never a purely positive story about Christianity. Not one.
I don't think he was linking them at all... As an level headed individual. I read it as informative information about how 3:16 came to be so popular at sporting events. Did you want him to only shed a light on the bright side of Stewart's story and omit the historic facts? It's not like he suggested that Tebow will soon be taking hostages... Don't give me the liberal media crap... I live in Denver and I read every day in local news AND in national news, including CNN, about Tebow's faith and his Wish Foundation's good deeds. Why must Christians always play the persecuted?
To all of you who are so devout and like to pray publicly read Mathew 6: 5-15
excellent point, but that verse is aimed at those who evangelize too loudly and too aggressively but dont live what they preach. Although God wants us to pray quietly to him, we must also proclaim his word by being good examples.
...and here's one for you, Mt 12:37
Isaz: The verse does not say that. Jesus was speaking to the general population at the Seromon on the Mount. He was talking about making a show out of prayer, whether you believe in it or not isn't the point. People should want to know Christ through our lives, not through what we say. Not because we oppose this or don't tolerate this or that group of people. Not because we pray. That's all just lip service, even if it's sincere.
People look at benign and random things every day and desperately try to find meaning in it. This 316 nonsense is a perfect example of that.
I don't know there is something to numbers or it wouldn't have survived the tales. Things come in 3's – 7 is magic, etc. One can dismiss, but maybe there are messages waiting to be revealed. Be a window – not a door.
Moonster- Look up "confirmation bias".
leave it to a lefty to bring out a crazied fanatic and compare it to Tebow. Just can't stand it can you?
What kind of silly nonsense is that? What evidence do you have that the author is a "lefty?" Is he a "lefty" simply because he attributes the historic origin of flashing "3:16" at sporting events to the guy who, in fact, popularized the practice? Does one have to regard the 3:16 sporting gesture as pure and awesome to qualify as a "rightie?" Quit grasping a straws, you culture warmonger.
What does Matthew 6:5 say????
You miss the entire point of the verse. The religious folk in question did not believe what they were praying. They were phonies. The text is about the motive of the heart. Its not about whether they were praying while they were sitting, standing, running, in public or in private. They wanted to be noticed hoping people would like them or prefer them. Tebow's motive has nothing to do with himself.
I disagree, M. Jesus was talking about people patting you on the back for praying in public to show that you were a good Christain. That's what he means. He doesn't say anything about what you were talking about. Christ taught humility and modesty.
And I don't care about Tebow one way or the other. But that is exactly what he does. Kneel in front of a stadium of people...everybody cheers, cameras get on him. It's EXACTLY what he does.
I LOVE that you are using a verse against a verse here. You are calling him a hypocrite with Matthew 6:5, but he is doing what is say here: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thess. 5:18). You are judging his heart, a job supposed to be left for your Jesus. If anyone is a hypocrite, it is you. I really don't care either way, because it's all hogwash. I do love to see the hypocrites judge the hypocrites.
Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.
The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness", but it has come to represent the human tendency to seek patterns in random nature in general, as with gambling, paranormal phenomena, religion, and even attempts at scientific observation.
Many people suffering from mental illness behave in this manner. Tebow most likely is manic depressive.
Seems a better scripture would be Matt. 6:5-6
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
this idea that these numbers have something to do with GOD or the bible is rather silly, I can do the same with QURAN... here you go...
"And of the people is he who buys the amusement of speech to mislead [others] from the way of Allah without knowledge and who takes it in ridicule. Those will have a humiliating punishment." Surat Luqmān 31:6
lol... maybe it's a sign from ALLAH who is telling us that TEBOW is misleading people about the true GOD...
Some saw a biblical connection?
Well holy jesus cat murdering christ, it's a steaming miracle. I wish tebow would die in a bus wreck already.
That's harsh. Why does the cat have to be murdered?
Christianaphobic bigot. You must be racist.
and I don't even LIKE cats
djusmc, I'm not a racist. Funny, it takes a christian to call me names.
Hypocrite. I hope you join tebow. I mean that.
So what Tebow has been open and direct about what he believes, and he has played football better than expected. So what's the bitterness and resentment in regards to? Honesty about what somebody thinks/believes? I mean if I can't share what I believe, then what kind of country is the United States – and it's freedom of beliefs and speech. While counter to this is your right to believe he's wrong for his beliefs or speech, by the very nature of doing so, you're really saying you believe that what he believes is wrong, and your beliefs are more right, and that you really don't like for their to be this freedom. If on the other hand it's not his beliefs you take offense to but that a second-string player has been doing really well, perhaps the bitterness you feel comes out of either jealousy that you're not in his position, or frustration that your favorite choice is not playing instead?
Why can't there instead be respect at a person who's playing well, and who also happens to believe something they stand firmly behind despite the criticism they're facing? Ahh, but respect is a difficult thing to sincerely give, unless that person has conformed to your standards.
This verse is universally misinterpreted. It relies on a play on words in the original Greek. The word for "again" can also mean "from above." In the verses that follow Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus to think he means it as "again" when he says "How can I go back into my mother's womb....?" It's clear that the real meaning is not "again" but "from above" which Jesus is constantly saying throught this Gospel... that he is "from above". The mistake Nicodemus makes is not that he gives "again" a literal interpretation. His mistake is that he interprets it to mean "again" at all. And yet, all through our culture we have the "born again" Christians who apprently read it in the same mistken way.
Jesus also says in the same passage, one must be born by "water", clearly defining life as beginning at physical birth rather than conception. If christians actually read their Bible, there might be no football, but there sure as hell would be no poor people in the United States.
So what you're saying is that jesus was pushing his way back into his mother.... What an interesting mother/son relationship. I wonder if Joseph got jealous, or joined in the bedroom fun.
I love it, Bob! Great info!
born again means born again
@Phist. Uh, I hardly think the literalism of "pushing back" into womb was what he was getting at. Sometimes, when a message, a message, a life is so radical - to radical for the catatonic, self serving person to handle - what's needed is not "more education," or "better jobs" but a shift in thinking, seeing, understanding. Some of Jesus' words - like loving your neighbor, caring for the poor, dying to self - are so radical that nothing short of a "rebirth" in insight is needed to be able to get it.
bob, that explanation would kind of make sense...if Jesus and Nicodemus were *speaking* greek.
You can check out the New English Translation (NET) to see the passage translated correctly. Thanks Bob.
For the dummy who said this, "but there sure as hell would be no poor people in the United States."
Please read slowly....
Matt. 26:11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
WROB, that's the point. The word play only makes sense in Greek, not Aramaic. What that says about the authenticity of this conversation is a matter of debate, since Jesus and Nicodemus probably did not speak Greek. But it is very clear that the word play is intentional.
Thanks for the clarification.
Jesus was in fact banging his mother like a screen door while his dad fapped in the corner. Got it.
How do we know it doesn't represent Revelations 3:16?
...or Harry Potter vol. 3, page 16 (same difference)
Did this article REALLY juxtapose Tebow putting John 3:16 on his face paint with a maniac who took someone hostage that happened to do something similar???? Are they implying everyone who references John 3:16 in public is some sort of ticking time bomb waiting to happen? REALLY?
"Despite Stewart's story, many sports fans continue the tradition of evangelizing at sports games by holding up John 3:16 on placards."
I had to read that five times. Yep, he really ended the story that way.
No, you nitwit. The article simply attempts to provide some historical background on how the whole John 3:16 thing got started.
I don't see any difference.
Enough already with this Tebow crap, he'a just a spoiled, super-rich jock. New England will run him out of town
What kind of a fan are you?
Why do I not believe you're a real Denver Broncos fan?
wow. kind of harsh for a "broncos fan". as for tebow being super rich and spoiled, really? this guy didn't ask for all this nonsense. he's not out promoting "3:16 – see God is on my side...". he's just trying to use football as a "platform" to promote his faith. nothing wrong with that. now, i ask you, not that i believe it could possibly happen, but..., should the broncos actually defeat the patriots, are you going to change your tune next week?
Racist. Bigot. Christianaphobic.
You sit there, and you thump your bible and say your prayers and didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!
John 3:16 is all nice and good but:
When Jesus takes the time to repeat himself 3 times you might want to listen: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
See Mark 10:25, Matthew 19:24, Luke 18:25
But you left out the most important part at the end:
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26)
He was saying with man alone it's impossible to get to God's Kingdon- hence the need for God to intervene, hence the cross. :-)
...and one disciple respondeteth, "your exhalted riddle is a piece of cake – thou needest only a mini-camel and a ginormous needle-eye"
@Bob: I chortled loudly at that.
So are you saying the little bit at the end negates Jesus' word in 3 areas of the bible. That it is really OK to be rich and get into heaven?
That you can go ahead and ignore Jesus and purposely be rich and just get right on in? Laughable!
This is a worthless article. What is the connection between Tebow and Rollen Stewart? Total red herring.
My thoughts exactly. Way to do "unbiased journalism". Sppft!
Let me spell it out for you – they're both religious freaks.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.