Why are there so many versions or translations of the Bible? If it’s God’s word, why not only one?

Why are there so many versions or translations of the Bible? If it’s God’s word, why not only one?

  The Bible is made up of 66 writings (called books) penned by men over a span of many hundreds of years. Theologians and historians affirm that God inspired the writers and that what we read today is what God wants us to know about Him, his personality, his creation, and his plan for the world. It is also about his love of humans He made in His image, and His plan for redemption for the billions of men and women, who, through the millennia have turned their backs on God. So, is the Bible the Word of God? Yes and No.

When Paul the Apostle of Jesus wrote to his disciple, Timothy, he made clear that:

All Scripture is God-breathed (or inspired) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is not saying that God dictated every word, but rather that He inspired the men who wrote it and copied it that we might be able to access the inspired scriptures 2000 years after the life of Jesus. The books of the Bible contain poetry, historical records, prophecy and letters that teach, admonish and encourage believers.  These books were originally written down in ancient languages, including Hebrew and Greek, and later translated into Latin and many of the world’s languages. These original books were written down over the course of 1,900 years.  The last of the books, God’s Revelation to John near the end of the first century of the Christian Era. 

An early translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) into Greek is know as the Septuagint. It was made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC and adopted by the early Christian Churches. As languages changed, newer versions replaced older ones to ensure that the translation accurately conveyed the message of the original language.

Today, scholars are continually researching original manuscripts, many that predate the ones used for previous translations. They also study modern language and then create translations that they believe help the reader understand what had been originally written. Since many words in Hebrew and Greek don’t have exact parallels in English, scholars try to choose the best combination of words for the translation. In addition, since Hebrew and Greek sentence structure is different from English (and many other languages), translators have to take into account how to structure the translation to best capture the meaning of the original. Finally, translators think about the people who will be reading their work and may simplify or add clarity by introducing words not in the original.

Below are two verses from the Gospel of Mark — 5:22 and 23. These give an account of a Jewish official named Jairus who approaches Jesus with a request that Jesus heal Jairus’ daughter. The first paragraph is in the original Greek with the literal translation of each word interspersed. When you read it, you will see that the English is hard to understand.

καὶ  And  ἔρχεται  comes  εἷς  one  τῶν  of the  ἀρχισυναγώγων  synagogue rulers  ὀνόματι  named  Ἰάϊρος  Jairus  καὶ  and  ἰδὼν  having seen  αὐτὸν  Him  πίπτει  falls  πρὸς  at  τοὺς  the  πόδας  feet  αὐτοῦ  of Him  καὶ  and  παρακαλεῖ  he begs   αὐτὸν  Him  πολλὰ  much λέγων  saying  ὅτι  Τὸ  The  θυγάτριόν  little daughter μου  of me  ἐσχάτως  at the end  ἔχει  is holding  ἵνα  that  ἐλθὼν  having come  ἐπιθῇς  You would lay  τὰς  the  χεῖρας  hands  αὐτῇ  on her  ἵνα  so that σωθῇ   she might be cured  καὶ  and  ζήσῃ she shall live

When an English translation was prepared at the request of King James and published in 1611, the translation was in the vernacular of the day, and as you can read, it can be a challenge to a modern reader:

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. (King James Version)

A popular modern version of the Bible, that closely adheres to the rules of translation, helps today’s reader better understand the story. It was translated by an esteemed team of scholars:

Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (New International Version)

Another modern translation, also done from original manuscripts by a team of highly-acclaimed Bible scholars seeks to stay true to the original text, but present it in language easily understandable to readers in the twenty-first century:

Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” (English Standard Version)

Departing from the strict rules of translation, The Message takes the ideas in the original Greek and restates them in the vernacular of the day.

One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” (Message)

Compare that to a translation by a single scholar, Robert Young, in 1862 who created a literal word-for-word translation using language that was popular in his day, but is out of favor today:

and lo, there doth come one of the chiefs of the synagogue, by name Jairus, and having seen him, he doth fall at his feet, and he was calling upon him much, saying — `My little daughter is at the last extremity — that having come, thou mayest lay on her [thy] hands, so that she may be saved, and she shall live; (Youngs Literal Translation)

As you can see, all of the translations help us understand the encounter between Jairus and Jesus, but each has its place in communicating to specific audiences at different times and in different places. None claim to be words dictated to the authors or translators by God. All strive, however, to convey the inspired words of God contained in the original manuscripts.  

How can you know for certain that Jesus is the Promised Messiah?

How can you know for certain that Jesus is the Promised Messiah?

The Bible is the only prophetic book that has been proven to be reliable for more than 2,000 years. This reliability can be seen both in its historical accuracy and in the way it has revealed the nature of God who exists outside of our understanding of time and space. God, who created the universe and whose interaction with the human race is laid out in 66 books and letters, sees human history from Genesis to Revelation as if it is already completed. That’s why we can trust that the prophecies contained in the Bible accurately describe past and future events. The timing of future events remains a mystery, but because hundreds of past events were predicted with accuracy we can be confident that more than 300 prophesies related to Jesus that were recorded in Biblical texts hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus are accurate and reliable.

Here we will present a few that clearly show that Jesus is the Messiah (or anointed one) who was sent by God to bring salvation to humankind.

Think about it this way for a moment. There are over eight billion people on planet Earth and a vast majority have cell phones. If we want to connect with someone, we start with a country code or area code. That alone cuts down the number of people into a specific geographic area. Then say we ‘dial’ in the next three digits and the field of possibilities greatly shrinks again. Finally, as we dial in the last four numbers we find a person we are looking to talk with. So, with only a total of 10 or 12 numbers we get the person. That’s really amazing.

Using that analogy, we can search the “Biblical prophetic phone directory” and search for the only person in history who could be the Messiah. So, let’s begin the quest and see if we can find Him.

  1. Location. Where this Messiah is to be born is a place called Bethlehem-Ephrata in Israel, a few miles south of Jerusalem. Not Bethlehem, Pa., or the other Bethlehem in northern Israel. This prophecy in Micah 5:2 is like having the country code and area code of the Messiah.
  2. Gender. Male or female? Isaiah 7:14, A virgin will bear a son who will be called Emmanuel, God with us. Now we have reduced the pool of possibilities to all the men who have or will be born in a small town in Israel.
  3. Lineage. Genesis 22:18 & 49:10, the Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and come from the line of Judah or King David. Both Mary and Joseph were from the line of David.
  4. Timing. When will the Messiah have appeared on the planet? Before 70 A.D. as that’s when the Romans destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. Jesus said that would happen and He spent considerable time at the temple. Mark13:2
  5. How did the Messiah die? Isaiah 53:12 & Psalm 22:16, Romans used crucifixion to kill the condemned. History says Jesus was killed, crucified in 30 A.D. This prophecy was made 700 years before crucifixion was adopted as a method of killing criminals.

So from these prophecies alone, we have identified the place he was born, that Messiah is a male, from the lineage of David, he lived before 70 A.D. and he was crucified by the Romans in 30 A.D. The life and death of Jesus was not only recorded in four separate accounts found in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but also by the Jewish historian Josephus and Roman historian, Tacitus.

Now for the logic and the facts. No one gets to choose the place they are born, their gender or parents or ancestors, what time they would live on the planet and how they would die. And remember these prophecies were made many hundreds of years before the Messiah was born.(Note-He just didn’t appear one day down from the heavens, although He will come again one day that way as He said so himself.)

So, the only person that could possibly fit these few prophecies as Messiah is Jesus Christ. If you are still not convinced, explore other prophecies to convince yourself of this truth. God promises to reveal the Messiah to those who diligently seek Him. Finally, remember life is full of choices but as to eternity, there are only two. Wise men and women still seek Jesus the Messiah for salvation and eternal life. He said so in John 14:16, “I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” Choose wisely.

Truth, what is it? Can it be found? Are there Objective Truths?

Truth, what is it? Can it be found? Are there Objective Truths?

Let’s begin answering this three-part question by defining truth. Truth is an assertion that can be proven through measurement. It is true, for example, that a cup can hold tea. We can prove the assertion by pouring tea into a cup and noting that it stays in the cup. Truth can also be an assertion or belief that cannot be falsified or one that is supported by a preponderance of evidence. Though no one living has seen or talked with Julius Caeser, we accept as true that he lived, ruled and was murdered because we have copies of writings of people who lived at the time of Caeser. In the same way, we know about Jesus of Nazareth because of the written and oral testimony of his contemporaries.

Finding truth can be a bit more complex especially as it relates to the great questions about life and death, why we can think and feel and love and communicate, and why the world is as it is. We’re going to present several ways that you can begin to understand some of the greatest truths in the universe. Let’s begin with nature.

God uses creation to reveal two basic truths: 1) that there is a God; and 2)that He is all powerful. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul, an apostle of Jesus, wrote: “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20). He’s saying that there any observer of nature can plainly see that only God–a brilliant designer and all-powerful builder could have created it. PauI also explained that some people chose not to accept this basic truth and will “[change] the truth of God into a lie.” Romans 1:18, 26. And for that, there will be harsh consequences.

Of course, the primary way to find God’s truth is by reading the Bible. However, God is a concealer as we learn from conveyor of wisdom who penned these words more than 2500 years ago: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” (Prov. 25:2) Why would he do that?  Typically, the truth is concealed from those persons who don’t want to listen to the truth and have hardened their hearts against it. For example, parables were used by Jesus, the Christ (Messiah or Anointed One) for the purpose of concealing truth and preventing understanding. (Matt. 13:13-15.) So, the best way to find truth is to allow the Holy Spirit to teach it to you.

The Holy Spirit will “guide” you into all truth. (John 15:26, 16:13 “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father even the Spirit of truth …When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” His guidance is not only as to Biblical truth, but to all truth. If  something is true, he will reveal it to you as being true. If something is false, he will show you that it is not true. Quietly listening to this Holy Spirit, who dwells within those who are God’s children, often brings to mind the very truths for which we are searching.

Are there objective truths? Yes. Objective truth is factual. It matches up with reality. For example, the Bible explains the location of God’s temple at the time of Christ, to be in Jerusalem. That is factual. The law of gravity is objective Truth. It is not dependent on subjective opinion. There can only be one objective truth. It can’t be “your truth” vs. “my truth.” Subjective truth, on the other hand, is rooted in the opinions of each individual and therefore may not be truth at all.

For a believer who wants to know God’s truth, he or she should start with the Bible. The Bible is a collection of 66 documents or books written through the divine inspiration of God over the course of 1500 years and preserved and translated in most of the world’s languages. Asking the Holy Spirit to open up one’s spiritual eyes, a believer will discover that Bible contains wisdom for living and an understanding of the promise of eternal life with God once he or she experiences physical death.

A believer will discover that Biblical truth is best revealed when he or she:

1.) Is spiritually healthy with no unconfessed sin;

2.) Has, to the best of his or her ability, put aside evil practices, 1Peter 2:1-2; Eph. 4:31; and Col.3:8-9; 3.)

3.) Reads with a desire to do so in order to grow up spiritually, 1Tim. 2:1; the Bible is the believer’s spiritual food: bread (Matt. 4:4), apples (Prov. 25:11), honey (Ps.19:10), meat (Heb. 5:12) and milk (1Pet. 2:2) .

4.) Prays for understanding, Ps. 119:18, 34;

5.) Trusts God to give understanding, Prov. 22:17-21 “ … written to thee … that I might make known the certainty of the Words of truth.”

6.) Believes what is read, Ps.119:160;

7.) Approaches the Word with humility; 

8.) Does not try to change what is read; For example, don’t add words to the scripture, don’t leave out words, and stay in the context;

9.) Meditates on it, think on it, day and night, Ps. 1:2, Ps. 119:15; 10.) Study it, 2Tim. 2:15; and 11.) Find from the Word itself how to understand it;

a. By comparing spiritual ideas, 1Cor. 2:12-13;

b. By dividing the Word into separate parts for further understanding, 2Tim. 2:15;

c. By determining who is speaking; for example, in the Psalms we see David speaking for himself and then David switches to speaking for the Lord, Ps. 18:20, 22-25; and

d. By studying similitudes (similarities, likeness, resemblance), Hosea 12:10; by studying contrasts (differences), Amos 3:3 .

 God’s Truths are factual and match up with reality. Creation is one of the greatest truths of the Bible. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis1 and Romans 1:20) In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. In this case the Word refers to Jesus (John 1:1). Finally, Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life no one comes to the Father but by me.” Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus? If not, why not? He is the only way to eternal life and His Word is Truth, God’s Truth. Today is the day of decision .

What is Repentance? Why is it Important?

What is Repentance? Why is it Important?

Repentance is the desire to turn away from sin and restore one’s relationship with God. Repentance is a decision of the mind and the heart from a genuine sorrow over sin. It is an initial first step when a person decides to put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is not necessarily a one-time event. In fact, it is an ongoing process after a person has been saved or born-again and becomes a new creation in Christ.

(Romans 10:9&10) Why is this true? It is true because we still have a sin nature and do sin from time to time. So, in order to keep openness and joy in our personal relationship with Jesus and experience peace with God we need to repent. Repentance clears away any barriers that can inhibit a truthful dialogue and intimate personal conversation with God. That communication is called prayer and we offer our prayers in Jesus’ name because he is the only advocate and intercessor for humans with God.

John, one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus, expressed this clearly in a letter he wrote near the end of his life.

“If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

This confession is the way we clean our hearts and our minds before God much in the same way as we keep our bodies clean by washing them regularly. But the idea of repentance goes beyond confession. It incorporates the idea of turning around and walking in the other direction. Once we confess our sins, we also ask God to help us avoid sinning in that way again. As we continue our conversations with God (prayer) and allow His spirit to guide our paths we will discover that resisting temptation and turning from sin becomes progressively easier. In other words, sin loses its power over us. Our conscience is the best indicator of this transformation.

Conscience – Your Mind’s Partner

Your conscience is an essential component of being created in God’s image. The conscience is present in every human being from birth. It is the soul’s warning system, which allows human beings to contemplate their motives and actions and make moral decisions/evaluations of what is right and what is wrong. It allows and it enables a person to discern between good and evil, fact and fiction, truth and opinion and what is real and what is not .

The conscience is a companion of the mind and the heart in the soul of every person. The conscience must be informed to the highest moral and spiritual standard, which only happens when it is submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit through knowing God’s Word. The conscience plays an important roll in developing a Biblical worldview. God’s Holy Spirit is the agent that opens the conscience to truth .

(Source- John McArthur Bible Commentary, Page 1617)

Having clean minds and clean hearts is what God wants for all his children. Remember only those who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior are God’s children. Are you a child of God? If you’d like to learn more about how you can become part of God’s family, read our answer to the question: How does One Become a Christian?

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Unlike the fruits of the spirit such as love, joy, peace, gentleness, and goodness, which are compact, and point to examples of Christian character to be emulated, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are specialized, foundational skills that God in his infinite wisdom gifts to select children of God for whom he has a special calling. An example would be prophecy.

Guidance on these gifts and how they are given is found in first Corinthians 12:4-11.

There are a diversity of gifts. The manifestation of the Spirit given to each one for the profit or benefit of all: for one there is the word of wisdom… to another the word of knowledge… to another the gifts of healings… the working of miracles. In addition to these, there are the gifts of compassion, helps, administration, hospitality, teaching and even speaking in tongues for a few. One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing each one individually as He wills.

Finally, the purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the church as Christ’s body on earth. So, spiritual gifts are actually given for the common good of the church. To thrive, the church needs many attributes just like the human body requires many attributes to function effectively. God in his infinite wisdom gives different people special spiritual gifts at certain times so that the church can complete its mission before Jesus returns.

Jesus is coming back for his church. Are you ready? Do you know Him? Jesus is the only way to heaven and eternal life. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Christ-follower, check out my May 5th post: How does One become a Christian. I also encourage you to consider these passages of scripture:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:11-12

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What does it mean to think like a Christian?

What does it mean to think like a Christian?

God created man and woman as rational beings with a mind capable of logical reasoning and capable of discovering truth in all the elements of life and in the culture in which one lives. A Christian, at the moment of belief in Jesus as Savior, receives the marvelous and supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit. That gift enables a Christian to discern truth from lies by comparing competing ideas and philosophies against the Word God.

This capability enlightens the Christian to develop a viewpoint on subjects ranging from Philosophy and Biology to Politics, Law, Economics and every subject in between. When a person knows God and His Word and has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he or she can begin the journey to, ‘Think like a Christian’.

The Christian thinker searches for evidence to
1) Distinguish opinions from reality
2) Understand human nature, both its potential and limitations
3) Learn the lessons of history and the reasons for the rise and fall of civilizations, i.e. cause and effect
4) Understand the laws of nature and discern the discoveries in science and creation.

The Christian Thinker reads, examines studies and discusses the truths of the Bible to learn God’s laws and principles for living a meaningful, purposeful, and peaceful life—a life that honors God and serves and loves his neighbor as himself. Studying the Bible provides wisdom, discernment, and understanding of life’s issues. (Proverbs 1:1-7) Over time, a Christian develops a Biblical Worldview through which he or she can evaluate and respond to all the subjects within the human experience. This is what it means to, ‘Think like a Christian’. In other words, it means to see the world as Christ sees it and respond accordingly.

Image by DanaTentis from Pixabay