Wednesday, May 27, 2020
In 2013 the American Bible Society commissioned the Barna Group to conduct a survey. The focus of the survey was American’s attitudes and actions relating to the Bible. The results were published under the title The State of the Bible, 2013. The report reveals a tremendous disparity between what people say, and what they actually do, when it comes to the Bible. For example, although 88% of American adults reported that their household contained a Bible, and on average there were 4.4 Bibles per household, only half of those surveyed were characterized as Bible readers. This designation was itself rather generous considering that among the 50% of American adults characterized as Bible readers, 9% said they read the bible no more than 3 to 4 times a year, and an additional 7% read it on average once a month.
The Barna Group survey reported that 47% of Americans STRONGLY AGREE that the Bible contains EVERYTHING a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. Additionally, more than half of adults (56%) believe the Bible has too little influence in U.S. society today. Nevertheless, only 13% of those surveyed said they read the Bible daily. Another 20% stated that they are weekly Bible readers.
It may sound impressive to hear that a full third of American adults read their Bibles either daily, or weekly, but it should be kept in mind that among religiously minded people there is a tendency to dramatically overstate their actual participation in spiritual activity. As a case in point, among those deemed to be “Bible readers,” the survey reported that 13% could not identify the Bible version they read and 39% (more than a third) of those who identified themselves as practicing Protestants could not name the first five books of the Bible. The survey also reported that 58% of Americans wrongly thought that John the Baptist was one of the twelve apostles. (Protestants did no better than Catholics on this question.) These facts reveal a very low level of familiarity with the Scriptures among a significant number of people identified as Bible readers.
Not surprisingly, the survey reported that the number one frustration relating to the Bible was not having enough time to read it. The complete survey can be viewed at the following link.
As I reflected upon the results of this survey I was reminded of the following words of Christ.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
If you want to know the true value a person places upon something, do not listen to their claims, instead observe their actions. The person making the loudest and boldest declaration of their love and reverence for the Bible may in fact spend very little time reading and meditating upon the Scriptures. Yahweh sees beyond the boasting of man’s speech. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Intentions are not actions.
When Christ addressed the churches of Asia Minor in the opening chapters of Revelation, He began His comments with the repeated statement, “I know your deeds.”
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write... “I know your deeds...”
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write... “I know your deeds...”
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write... “I know your deeds...”
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write... “I know your deeds.”
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write... “I know your deeds...”
To the church in America Yahshua will judge no differently. He will not judge the church in America, or any other nation, on its confession. He will judge them on their deeds. When Yahshua reveals that which His people deemed to be valuable, He will look at where they focused their time and attention.
Some years back an e-mail began circulating that posed the question, “What if we began to treat our Bibles the way we treat our cell phones?” This was followed by additional questions.
• What if we carried it with us everywhere?
• What if we turned back to get it if we forgot it?
• What if we checked it for messages throughout the day?
• What if we used it in case of an emergency?
• What if we spent an hour or more using it each day?
Like the cell phone, the Bible is a communication device. It is called “the word of God” for good reason. The Bible is one of the chief instruments Yahweh uses to speak to His people. Much is revealed as a person compares their behavior regarding their cell phone and that regarding their Bible.
Recognizing that a cell phone allows an individual to stay in communication with other people, and the Bible assists them in staying in touch with God, which one do you grab before you go out the door in the morning? If you have previously experienced God speaking to you through the pages of Scriptures, would you not want to check the Bible often to see if Yahweh has some new message for you? Are not Yahweh’s messages more important than those received from friends, family, and other people?
When was the last time you turned back to get your Bible when you realized you did not have it with you? Have you ever turned back to get your cell phone when you realized you did not have it on your person? If you encountered an emergency situation, would you be more likely to call out to God first, or reach for your phone and call somebody to help you?
When was the last time you received a word from the Father as you read the Bible? When was the last time you received new revelation when meditating upon a passage of Scripture? When did you last sense your heavenly Father speaking as the Bible was opened before you? Is it possible that there is a correlation between the time you spend in the word of God and the frequency with which you hear His voice?
Have you ever heard God speak something to you that you did not want to hear, or hear Him give you some direction you did not want to obey, so you tuned Him out? Do you avoid reading the Bible because it might lead to conviction that God wants to change things in your life? I admit that I am at times prone to silencing my phone when someone calls me and I do not want to talk to them at the moment. Have you considered that an absence of Bible reading is man’s way of silencing God’s voice? It is like setting your cell phone to mute.
There can be no more effective way to mute the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Bible than to not read it. Leave the Bible on the shelf to collect dust and it will speak to no one.
One attribute of those whom the Father has used in spiritually powerful ways is that they meditated regularly on the words of God recorded in Scripture.
Psalms 119:24, 99
Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors... I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.
The apostle Paul gave the following wise encouragement and counsel to Timothy.
II Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Yahshua. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work
Paul himself remained an avid student of the Scriptures until the end of his life. In the same letter, Paul instructed Timothy to bring him the Scriptures he had left in Troas.
II Timothy 4:13
When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.
Seeing that the Bible holds so much potential for advancement to spiritual maturity and understanding of the ways of God, should Christians not clamor out for it as if it were a great and valued treasure? A recent phenomenon has been observed as people line up outside of stores selling the latest iPhone or Android based smart phone. Some camp out for days in anticipation of a new model phone being released. What if people showed the same enthusiasm for purchasing a new Bible? What if crowds clamored with outstretched hands, pleading to be given a copy of the word of God?
I began this teaching series by sharing about my delight and excitement at having received my first Bible in my youth. That little, brown, leather bound KJV Bible was treasured by me. I always knew where it was at. I carried it with me more than any other possession I owned at the time. I read it often and considered myself fortunate to have received such a valuable and useful gift.
When in recent years I was twice put in jail my great desire was to have a copy of the Scriptures to read as I spent 20 hours a day in a cell. When the Father led me through many distressing experiences, fears, and trials, beginning in 1999 and continuing for a period of years, my prize possession was my Bible. In it I sought comfort, encouragement, strength, wisdom, and direction. Through many wilderness journeys I have kept Yahweh’s Book close at hand. It is the nearest tangible connection I have to the One who created me. It is a book I have loved and treasured from my youth and I continue to treasure it to this day. It is my prayer that you might as well.
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063
Sunday, May 24, 2020
Divine truth is exceedingly precious. In the same way that man places his treasures under lock and key, so does Yahweh. The treasures of the kingdom of God are not carnal things like silver, gold, and precious gems. In the treasury of heaven are hidden divine mysteries and the knowledge of the Holy One. Yahweh does not permit anyone to stroll into His treasure house and freely take what they will. The entrance into the storehouse of wisdom, knowledge, and divine secrets is a guarded one.
Having read the previous two chapters, it would be a mistake to conclude that all that is needed to obtain spiritual wisdom and the understanding of divine mysteries are the Scriptures and various tools to aid in their study. If that were true, Bible Colleges and Seminaries would be able to offer a money-back guarantee that all students who pass through their doors will leave possessing the great truths, and divine treasures, of the kingdom of God. The evidence proves such a thought to be a lie. There is great apostasy among the institutions of Biblical learning. Men who spend years learning about Biblical exegesis (critical explanation) and Scriptural hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) often come away doubting even the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead, and other seminal truths of the faith. How can this be?
Yahweh has linked together obedience to His will and access to His storehouse of truth. Just as there are laws that govern nature, such as the law of gravity, there are inviolable laws in the kingdom of God. One of these laws is expressed in the following words of the Messiah.
"So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."
If God has given you truth and you have obeyed the truth, conforming your life to the light you have received, Yahweh will grant you access to more truth. However, if you have disobeyed the truth then further truth will be withheld from you. In fact, those who are hearers, but not doers, of the word of God will find that even that which they once possessed will be taken from them.
Have you ever observed the life of a carnal believer who is living an unholy life, justifying his/her actions despite what they know to be the will of God? Have you never observed such an one come to a point in their life where they deny the truth they once possessed, even turning away from their profession of being a Christian? Those who are given the light of truth, but choose to walk in disobedience will find that their understanding will become darkened. The knowledge of God will be restricted. They will never advance past elementary truths, and they will be in danger of losing those as well.
The Bible reveals that spiritual truth comes from the Father. To some men truth it is withheld, while to others free access is granted. Those who are outside the kingdom of God, strangers to the Holy Spirit of promise, are unable to understand, or receive, spiritual truth.
I Corinthians 2:12-14
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Being born of the Spirit of God is a prerequisite for receiving the thoughts of God. Yet, spiritual birth alone is insufficient to guarantee that the Christian will be granted access to divine truth. If a Christian walks like a natural man, they will be treated like a natural man. The mysteries of God will remain mysteries to them. Carnal Christians often behave as scoffers when divine truth is spoken to them.
In the book of Isaiah, the prophet declared to the people of Israel that Yahweh had removed from them discernment and wisdom because they were walking in sin and had embraced idolatry.
For Yahweh has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers. And the entire vision shall be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, "Please read this," he will say, "I cannot, for it is sealed." Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read." Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be concealed."
Yahweh will do the same thing to Christians who do not surrender their lives to follow the path He has chosen for their perfecting. There are myriads of Christians who seek to serve both God and mammon. Having come to confess faith in Christ, there is little fundamental change in the course of their lives. They continue to pursue the desires of their soul. They work where they choose, live where they choose, date or marry whomever they please, pursue worldly entertainment as they did before coming to Christ, spend money on whatever their soul desires. They then wonder why the Bible remains such a closed book to them.
Worse yet, many who have rejected Christ’s invitation to “take up YOUR cross and follow Me,” gravitate to preachers and churches that teach falsehood, where there is no mention of the cost of discipleship. They are self-deceived, believing that the no-cost Christianity, and materialistic doctrine of personal fulfillment and prosperity they are hearing are “the deep things of God.” These are blind followers of blind leaders.
“And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
It is both just and wise for Yahweh to withhold truth from those who are unfaithful. Yahweh will always bring to a Christian some test of truth to see whether they will obey, accepting the consequences no matter how costly. For some, the test may be something as simple as separating themselves from cultural holidays that are pagan in origin. Year after year the Spirit of Christ has directed me to teach publicly about the idolatrous origins of Christmas and the traditions that are associated with it. It is quite costly for a Christian to separate themselves from idolatry when it is something their soul loves. It is all the more difficult when one recognizes that a spouse, children, or other family members, friends, work associates, or fellow Christians will object, sometimes vehemently. Following Christ in the way of truth often leads to separation from those close to our hearts.
Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
I have people write to me frequently who declare the Bible to be a closed book to them. They relate to me how they can read Scriptures and not get anything out of them. Some sit down to study the Scriptures and cannot even recall the passage they just read. In such cases I never ask the person if they are using the best Bible study tools. The issue is not one of access to the right information. It is a matter of having a veil over one’s understanding, placed there because of some failure to obey the truth that God has already given to them.
Many Christians would vociferously deny that there is any link between participating in Christmas festivities and their ability to glean truth from the Scriptures. Yet, if God has called you to separate yourself from that which is unclean, and you refuse to do so, He is both just and wise to withhold from you further truth.
Many men and women have married a person that the Holy Spirit told them not to marry. Some have adopted a lifestyle that is sinful. It is reported that a large percentage of Christian men are viewing pornography regularly on the Internet, or on television. When Christians walk as natural men, engaging willfully in sinful behavior, Yahweh will treat them as natural men. Access to His most holy things will be restricted from them.
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you,” declares Yahweh, “and I will restore your fortunes...”
Yahweh never intended all mankind to be granted understanding of His word. We see this clearly in the ministry of Christ. Yahshua knew who the Father had given to Him to be His disciples, and who had not. Though all the Jews were religious and claimed to be followers of Yahweh, the Son of God made a clear demarcation between His disciples and the rest of the Jews.
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”
Christ spoke all things to the multitudes in parables. Similarly, the Bible has been given to the masses of humanity, but it is a veiled book. During the years of His ministry Yahshua would take His disciples apart to some private place and explain to them the meaning of the parables. The masses of people who heard the parables got no such explanation.
And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.
A critical matter is revealed when one understands the criteria for being a disciple. Yahshua spelled out the qualifications for being His disciple so that no one would be in doubt.
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Being a disciple is a costly proposition. A man or woman must yield the control of their life to Christ. They must agree to go where He says go, and to do what He says do. They cannot claim anything in this world as their own. All they possess, their very life, must be placed in the hands of God for Him to determine what to do with it.
It was men and women who had embraced the cost of discipleship that He took aside to explain to them the mysteries of His kingdom. It is such men and women who continue to be granted access to God’s most holy things today.
It has ever been a remnant who have heeded the invitation to “Come, take up your cross, and follow Me.” These are accounted as true disciples. To such ones the Bible is a rich banquet. They are given permission to eat from a table of truth and divine mysteries that is restricted to others.
Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefitted. We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.
Note how the apostle compares doctrines to food. He then states that the altar of divine truth is restricted. “Those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” from this altar. This is a parable, for the tabernacle is a symbol for man’s body.
I Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit...
Those who “serve the tabernacle” are those who serve the flesh. If you would dine on the truths of Yahweh’s kingdom, if you would be a partaker of His holy things, you must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. You must accept the invitation of Christ and follow in His steps.
The pride of man would entertain the thought that anyone can be a possessor of divine truth. It is nothing more than humanism to believe that all one needs is a Bible, some tools and some training, and they can plumb the depths of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Yahweh’s kingdom does not function along such lines. Yahweh grants wisdom and understanding to whom He pleases, and He withholds the same from those He has determined should not have access to His divine mysteries.
If you love truth you will show your love by your willingness to suffer for it. If you are faithful with the little you have been given, Yahweh will give you more.
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Accordance Bible Software Screen Shot
(Image shows Accordance Bible study software with Bible passage, commentary, Greek New Testament, Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon, map, geographic coordinates, and personal notes panes open.)
“But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
The introduction of the computer has revolutionized man’s pursuit of knowledge in all fields of study. This is as true of the study of the Scriptures, as it is of the fields of biology, physics, or mathematics. Computer based tools have been developed that would inspire awe in the passionate Bible student of past centuries. No longer do men and women need to travel the world to study in the great libraries of universities, or the museums of nations. Nor do they have to pore over faded manuscripts by the light of a candle, or lantern. Gone are the days when a Bible scholar such as Erasmus was fortunate to have access to only a handful of incomplete manuscripts to create a translation into another language. Computer based Bible study resources are readily available today that bring together vast volumes of literature, commentary, and reference material on the Scriptures. Such a collection, though common today, would have been the envy of many ancient ecclesiastical schools. Neither is this material so expensive as to be out of reach of the majority of people. There are excellent computer based resources that are freely distributed at no cost to the user.
My own study of the Scriptures took a leap forward when I acquired my first copy of the program PC Study Bible from Biblesoft back in the 1990s. I continue to use this program, having upgraded it when each new version has come out (the current version is PC Study Bible 5). Not only did this computer based Bible software make it much easier for me to locate passages of Scripture by searching on a word or two, to find passages on a specific topic, and to access Strong’s Greek and Hebrew definitions more easily, but it brought to me study resources I did not previously possess.
One of the tools that has most transformed my personal study of the Scriptures is the Interlinear Bible on computer. Now, when I am studying a passage of Scripture, I can quickly switch to the Interlinear view and see what Hebrew and Greek words correspond to the English text.
PC Study Bible 5 with Interlinear Bible Pane Opened
(Click on any image to view larger)
In the screen shot above I have opened the Interlinear Bible to display the Scripture from Daniel 12:4 that is cited at the beginning of this post. You will note that the English text is displayed. Underneath each English word is the Strong’s Concordance number. Below the Strong’s number is a transliteration of the Hebrew or Greek word into English. With this view opened, I can click on any of the Strong’s numbers and the entry for that word will be opened in another pane.
Also, by right clicking any of the Strong’s numbers, a pop-up menu appears that provides me with a number of other tools. Among the most useful of these tools, and the one I use most often in my studies, is the Englishman’s Concordance Search. By choosing this option I can see a list of every place in the Bible where a specific Hebrew or Greek word occurs. This is a valuable tool, for it permits me to see whether the word in question has other shades of meaning, and whether the Bible translators rendered it consistently into English.
Interlinear View Showing Pop-Up Menu Options
There are times when the Strong’s dictionary definition of a word contains some error, or is deficient in not showing the full range of meaning of a specific Hebrew or Greek word. This makes it necessary for the student of the Scriptures to look at all of the occurrences of a Hebrew or Greek word in order to establish its meaning from the context in which it appears. For example, yesterday a brother in Christ e-mailed me regarding the Strong’s definition for the Greek word “aionios” found in Jude 1:7.
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
In the original Greek, the word translated as “eternal” in the KJV Bible is “aionios.” Following is Strong’s definition.
aionios (ahee-o'-nee-os); from NT:165; perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well):
KJV - eternal, for ever, everlasting, world (began).
Readers who are familiar with my book God’s Plan of the Ages will realize that I teach that this is an errant translation of this Greek word. If I relied solely upon the Strong’s definition of this word, I would be hindered from arriving at the truth. There are other resources available, however. I mentioned in the previous chapter that, prior to James Strong producing his concordance, Robert Young published Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible. Young provides a very different definition for this Greek word. Following is his concise entry.
aionios, Age lasting
The discerning student will recognize at once that not only are Strong’s and Young’s definitions different, they are contradictory. Something cannot be “perpetual,” which is to say “never ending,” and also be “age lasting.” An age has a definite beginning and an end. Robert Young also produced a Literal Bible translation. Following is the verse as it appears in his Bible version.
as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these, having given themselves to whoredom, and gone after other flesh, have been set before — an example, of fire age-during, justice suffering.
[Young’s Literal Translation]
Everywhere throughout Young’s Literal Translation, Robert Young has consistently rendered the Greek word “aion” and its variant forms as indicating an age. The Bible student is therefore left with a quandary. Is James Strong’s definition correct, or is Robert Young’s definition correct, or are both wrong? Not being a Greek scholar, how would a Christian test the matter? One way to do so is to look at every place in the Bible where the word “aion” and its variants occur, and see what is revealed. It should become apparent from the context in which the word is found whether one, or both, of these definitions are inaccurate. I examined the Scriptures to see where this word occurred, listing the results of my study in the book God’s Plan of the Ages. Consider how nonsensical the following Scriptures would be if we use Strong’s definition of aion to mean “a period of time without end,” or “eternal.”
That in the eternities (aions) to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from eternities (aions) and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints...
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the eternity (aion) of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the eternities (aions)...
Since the eternity (aion) began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If, however, we use Robert Young’s definition of aion as denoting an “age” then the verses above become intelligible.
This reveals an issue that Bible students need to bear in mind. Even as men have introduced errors into the Scriptures over the millennia, they have also introduced errors into their commentaries and Bible study resources. In my reply to the brother who wrote to me yesterday, I shared the following comment.
I would make mention of the fact that Mr. Strong was a Methodist minister. No doubt, had he embraced, and taught, the doctrine of the reconciliation of all men, he would not have remained a Methodist minister very long. I am not suggesting that Mr. Strong compromised truth to maintain his standing with the Methodists. What I would suggest, however, is that Mr. Strong was influenced by, and aligned with, Methodist doctrine, and this doctrine rejected the reconciliation of the creation back to God the Father. Denominationalism is a great snare. It leads to factions, and causes men to be fitted with blinders, unable to receive any teaching or doctrine outside of that which is endorsed by their particular sect of Christianity. Paul condemned such divisions in the church in his first letter to the Corinthians.
To be clear, James Strong did concede that some forms of the word “aion” do mean an age. In fact, the root word of aionios, and all similar variants is the Greek word “aion.” Mr. Strong has given us this definition of the word.
aion (ahee-ohn'); from the same as NT:104; properly, an age; by extension, perpetuity (also past); by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):
KJV - age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-] ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end).
James Strong declared that the proper meaning of the Greek word aion is “an age.” Nevertheless, he was not consistent in acknowledging this fact when providing definitions for the variant forms of this word.
One of the immense benefits of having Bible study tools readily available on the individual level is that the student of the Scriptures is set free from denominational and doctrinal bias. Rather than having to attend seminary, or Bible college, and have a professor tell them how the Bible should be rightly interpreted, the man or woman who yearns for spiritual truth is able to investigate matters themselves.
In addition to the tools already listed that are part of the PC Study Bible software program, I have a number of different Bible dictionaries to choose from. It can prove profitable to check the entries in these dictionaries to ascertain the meaning of a word. Following are some examples.
an indefinite period (Ephesians 2:7 Ephesians 3:5,21; Colossians 1:26)...
(Easton's Bible Dictionary)
A period of time characterized by a certain stage of development of God's grand scheme of redemption (aion) (Ephesians 2:7; 3:5).
(Fausset's Bible Dictionary)
we have the plural as the translation of aion, properly "duration," "the course or flow of time," "an age or period of the world..."
(International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia)
An era or specified period of time during which certain related events come to pass. As used in the New Testament, age generally refers to the present era, as opposed to the future age. According to the apostle Paul, Satan is "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4). But the age to come will belong to Jesus Christ and His rule of justice and righteousness (Hebrews 6:5).
(Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
Although one of the common features of Bible study software are the commentaries, and PC Study Bible comes with a number of them, I rarely refer to them in the course of my research. In general I have not found them helpful. They rarely contain deeper spiritual insights into the word, and are far more likely to contain personal opinion and denominational bias than some of the other Bible study tools.
Maps, and photographs of places and objects named in the Bible are a common feature of many Bible study programs. Additionally, one may find a large number of other features that vary from one software suite to another. A final tool I will make mention of that has been of great help to me is The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Whenever I have a verse from the Bible pulled up, I can click on the link for The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and I will be shown a list of phrases from the verse along with numerous references to other Bible passages that are related in topic. This provides a quick method to find other passages of Scripture on a specific subject.
Although I use PC Study Bible as my software of choice, it is not necessarily the best program available. Other programs may be more suitable to an individual depending on their specific needs and their budget. Two highly regarded programs are Accordance, which was originally developed for the Apple Macintosh, and Bibleworks which was developed for Microsoft operating systems. Accordance has recently come out with a native version of their software that runs on Windows, and BibleWorks can be run on Macintosh computers by using an emulator. Both are reportedly excellent products offering full-featured suites that are priced around $350 dollars. The price will be higher or lower depending upon which level of the product one chooses.
One of the recent additions to BibleWorks 9 is their BibleWorks Manuscript Project. Following is a press release on this offering.
BibleWorks 9 on Tablet Computer
BibleWorks 9 Exegetical Software Offers Breakthrough Resources
NORFOLK,Va June 28 - Bible students, teachers, pastors and scholars are in for a treat with the launch of BibleWorks 9. It introduced one of the most comprehensive resources for studying the original texts of the Greek New Testament -- the BibleWorks Manuscript Project.
The first installment of the BibleWorks Manuscript Project contains new e-transcriptions and complete image sets of seven of the most widely studied Greek New Testament manuscripts -- Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus and GA1141. The images of these ancient copies of the New Testament are also hot-linked -- allowing users to quickly find specific verses -- giving unprecedented access to the early text. The morphological tagging of manuscripts is an ongoing project and updates will be provided to users as they become available.
BibleWorks 9 also includes several important Greek e-texts and revisions – all enhanced for computer analysis. They include the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine text with Robinson 2010 morphology; Westcott-Hort with diacritics, variant readings and morphology; Scriveners with diacritics, variant readings and morphology, Trinitarian Bible Society Greek New Testament, and the Tregelles New Testament. With a click of the mouse button, BibleWorks users can quickly highlight differences between Greek texts in the main window.
“BibleWorks 9 takes a giant leap forward in terms of opening up the world of textual variants and text criticism,” said Dr. David deSilva, the Trustees' Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary. “Even more exciting, the transcribed texts of the major uncial witnesses can be selected as display versions. I can read the critical text, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and others side-by-side, such that the historic witnesses come alive as real texts, and not just as symbols at the bottom of the page of the print edition of the critical text.”
BibleWorks has also added the exhaustive New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center for New TestamentTextual Studies (CNTTS). In BibleWorks, when studying any New Testament Greek text in the main window, the information from the Critical Apparatus updates allows users to see minor and major differences between hundreds of manuscripts dating from the 2nd through 15th centuries. Plus, in the BibleWorks version, every manuscript is categorized in easy-to-read matrixes by Aland categories and time periods.
Not every student of the Bible would make use of this exceptional feature of BibleWorks 9, but for those doing exegetical studies, or developing new Bible translations, such a tool is a remarkable development. Of course, any student of the Scriptures may make use of this tool. If they wanted to compare variants in the ancient manuscripts of the Bible there is no better tool I am aware of to do so. Following is a video illustrating some of the features of this program.
You can also view features of Accordance Bible software in the following video.
The Bible study software that will work best for you will depend on your specific needs. You should clearly identify what you want to do with the software, and make your purchase choice accordingly. There are many Bible Study software programs available. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the best known titles.
Computer Based Bible Study Software
e-Bible by Thomas Nelson
Logos Bible Software
PC Study Bible
Free Bible Study Software
The Sword Project for Windows
Free Internet Bible Study Resources
Blue Letter Bible
Most of the software programs listed above have additional resources (Bible versions, commentaries, etc.) that can be added to them at cost. This is true even of the free programs listed above. Although the core program and a substantial set of resources are included with the free programs, many Bible and reference work publishers will not allow their books to be distributed free of charge. Therefore, this additional material may be acquired for a fee determined by the publisher and the software distributor.
Additionally, it should be noted that many of the programs listed have versions of their software available to run on multiple platforms including Windows, iOS (Macintosh, iPad, iPhone), Android, and Linux. Not all software vendors support all of these platforms. To find if your device has a program available, check with the software developer.
We live in an hour when knowledge of all kinds is increasing, and is being made readily available to the individual. When it comes to having access to a wealth of Biblical translations and study tools, this generation is truly rich. How much value you place on the knowledge of God and His holy word will determine the amount of time you invest in the quest for truth.
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063
Sunday, May 17, 2020
II Timothy 2:15
Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.
If what has been shared in this teaching series has caused you to be daunted by all of the obstacles that hinder arriving at the true knowledge of the word of God, I have a word of exhortation for you. Yahweh never intended for spiritual truth to come easily to His people. It is well within Yahweh’s ability to have preserved a flawless text of the Scriptures down to this day, but He chose not to do so. Instead, He has permitted His words to be obscured by thousands of years of creeping error, the result of the fallibility of copyists and the shortcomings of translators.
The fact that no perfect copy of the Bible exists, either in the original languages, or in translations to other tongues, requires that those who love truth must work to obtain it. Those who demonstrate the most diligence, as a workman that needs not be ashamed, will be rewarded with discoveries and revelations that men of lesser ambition only dream about.
In the writing Divorced From Truth I wrote about the excuses men often give regarding Bible study. What was shared is worth repeating.
It requires patient study to rightly divide the word of God. I know Christian men who have spent hundreds, and even thousands of dollars, upon some hobby. Men who are hunting, fishing, automobile, stereo, ham radio, sports, and bicycling enthusiasts have often spent a great deal of money, devoted great amounts of time, and educated themselves to become both knowledgeable and skillful in the area of their interest. Yet these same men will often argue that they are unable to apply the same attention to the study of Scriptures.
People of God, the truth is that men will pursue that which is important to them. Our actions reveal what is in our hearts. If a man will buy a fishing boat costing thousands of dollars, a truck to pull it with, equip it with rods and reels and bait and tackle, and spend the money for licenses and fuel; if he will read the fishing magazines, and study where the fish are, when they are feeding, what they are biting; if he will find others with similar interests and spend hours conversing with them, learning new things, and increasing his knowledge and skill, but will not apply the same devotion to study of the Bible, it is not because he is incapable, or does not have the skills necessary. It is because he does not have the desire.
Christ did not go down to the local seminary, or university to choose His disciples. He chose fishermen, a tax collector, a political zealot, and other common men. These men traded a passion for other things for a passion for knowing God. This led them to apply themselves with great devotion to new interests. We read of these men:
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
These men did not reason that they lacked the ability to study the word of God in order to teach it accurately. They did not say, “I am a fisherman, not a Bible scholar.” They became Bible scholars, devoting themselves to its study and teaching, relying upon the Spirit of Christ to instruct them as they did so, and they were able to lay a foundation upon which the church of God could be firmly established.
There is no less need in this hour for men and women to manifest a similar devotion to Christ and to the study of His word.
Solomon speaks in magnificent terms of the pursuit of wisdom and understanding. He uses analogies that evoke images of hunting for buried treasure, of passionately crying out to God to be granted that wisdom which an ardent soul fervently desires. Solomon demonstrates that the acquisition of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are the most worthy of pursuits, and should involve a man’s entire being.
My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God.
Do not these words reveal that the pursuit of the knowledge of God should be embraced with an unflinching resolve that will not be turned back?
In another writing I spoke of the effort men have expended in the pursuit of gold. The obstacles overcome, and the perseverance manifested by many men as they have sought that which is highly valued in this world is legendary. Of how much greater value are the secrets of the Almighty? Following is an excerpt from the book The Divine Quest.
Chilkoot Pass, 1898
Consider how much effort man has expended in his search for gold, this perishable metal that is precious to man. Wars have been fought over gold and entire nations have given themselves to the pursuit of it. Men have risked life and limb to recover gold that was lost in ancient shipwrecks. Men and women have cast all to the wind and embarked with great rigor and under the harshest of conditions when they have merely heard a rumor of gold.
There are many incredible tales of men who have sought for gold. Vast migrations of men have ensued when gold was discovered in some remote area. It is reported that in 1897-1898 that 20,000 to 30,000 men traversed the Chilkoot Pass on their way to the Yukon gold fields of Canada. A more remote area for prospecting can hardly be imagined. The Chilkoot Pass was itself over 500 miles from the gold fields, yet its rigors are typical of the hardships men and women endured in their search for this prized metal.
The Chilkoot Trail stretches for 33 miles from Dyea to Lake Bennett. The Trail was rough, steep, and snow covered. The destination was Lake Bennett where the prospectors would have to build a boat to travel 550 miles down river to Dawson and the gold fields. The Canadian government knew that many hardships lay ahead for the gold seekers, and they required each person to carry a ton of goods up the pass, enough to last them approximately one year. This had the benefit of saving many lives, but it was an arduous task.
On average a man could carry about seventy pounds worth of supplies on his back, and this required that he would have to make the journey up and down the pass about thirty times. It took an average of several months for each man to carry his quota up the mountainous terrain. With all the trips back and forth along the trail, some men had to walk upwards of 2,000 miles, and half of this walk was with a heavy load on their back. All told, some gold seekers traveled nearly 5,000 miles from their homes to get to the gold fields.
The summit of the pass was reached with a final climb up 1,200 steps that were cut into the ice. These were called the “golden stairs.” The gold seeker had to leave his supplies at the top of the pass and mark his spot with a tall stake so that he could find it in the deep snow that was falling. Over seventy feet of snow was recorded in the years mentioned, and at one point the snow built up so deep along the trail that when a few warm days occurred in April a tremendous avalanche occurred that buried 63 people. As soon as the bodies were dug out and carried downhill, the trek began again.
All this time men and women were having to live in the most primitive of accommodations. They slept in tents in the frigid weather, and lived on the most basic of diets. Once the prospectors reached the lake with their supplies they had to build a boat which was a task most had never done before. Trees for miles around the lake were cut down, and each board had to be hand sawn using a whipsaw, a two man saw, and this was more back breaking labor. This was no small boat that had to be constructed, for it had to carry a ton of supplies. Many men worked in teams and were therefore transporting two tons of goods.
How were men able to bring themselves to endure such rigors? They had their eye on the prize set before them. They dreamed of gold and all that it could buy them. How much greater is the prize that lies ahead of the overcomer in Christ? It is of immeasurably greater value. Should we not be willing to endure some hardship as we pursue this faith which Yahweh so highly esteems? The apostle Paul stated that the suffering that is the portion of the saints in Christ is not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in the ages to come.
There were those among the gold seekers who traveled the Chilkoot Pass on the way to the Yukon who became millionaires. The satisfaction that was theirs upon receiving the prize they sought was made all the sweeter as they recounted the arduous path they trod to attain it. There were also many men and women who arrived at the Pass, and upon seeing the great difficulty of it, they turned back and returned home. Those who endured had a satisfaction that could not be bought. I can imagine them telling their children and grandchildren of the struggle, the suffering, and the final victory they achieved. Yet all this was merely in pursuit of the gold that perishes.
How much do you value truth? What estimate do you place upon the apprehension of the mysteries of God? What are you willing to expend in order to uncover the treasures of darkness and to obtain the hidden wealth of secret places?
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
“I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places...”
Guidebook for Klondike Gold Seekers
Even as men who seek for gold and hidden treasure have tools to use to aid in the acquisition of that which they seek, so too will the man or woman who seeks to uncover the mysteries of God hidden in His word be benefitted by making skillful use of the proper tools. In this age of computers and the Internet, there are a great many resources available to aid in the quest for learning. In my early years I did not have computer based tools available to me. The personal computer had not yet been developed. What I did have, I made ready use of.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
One of the books that I often employed in my study of the Scriptures was Strong’s Concordance. This hefty book lists every occurrence of every Hebrew and Greek word in the Bible. In its early days, it was keyed to the King James Version of the Bible. Now you can find a Strong’s Concordance keyed to a much wider assortment of Bible translations, including the New King James Bible, New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version.
When a reader first opens a copy of Strong’s Concordance, understanding how to use it may appear difficult, but it is actually quite simple with a little coaching. Strong’s Concordance is divided into two main sections. The first section is the concordance. The second section consists of Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. Following is a page image from the concordance section.
Suppose you were reading through the King James Bible and you came across the word “sorcerers” in Revelation 21:8. If you wanted to know what word was used in the original Bible manuscripts you would look up the word in the concordance where all words found in the KJV Bible are listed alphabetically. Note in the expanded shot that there are six occurrences of the word “sorcerers in the KJV Bible. They are listed in the order in which they appear. The concordance provides a snippet of each verse where the word is found, as well as the book, chapter, and verse reference.
To the far right is a number that identifies the word listing in the Hebrew or Greek dictionary at the back of the Strong’s Concordance. The Bible student using this reference needs to be aware that the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries both start with the number 1 and advance from there. If for example you see the number 5332, as is observed next to the Revelation 21:8 reference above, you would need to determine if this word is in the Hebrew dictionary, or the Greek dictionary. As long as you understand that the Old Testament books were written in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek, and you know which books belong to each testament, you should have no problem.
As a child growing up I remember attending children’s church where we were taught a song that recited all 66 books of Bible in the order in which they appear. Because I was taught this song, I can still recite the books of the Bible in order to this day. This made it quite easy for me to recognize which books belonged to the Old Testament, and which ones were in the New Testament. In children’s church we frequently held Bible drills where the teacher would call out a Bible reference and the first child who could find the passage in their Bible would stand up and read it. I was very competitive as a child, and practiced looking up passages in the Bible. Some children had an advantage by having Bibles with tabs to indicate where the various books of the Bible were, but I did not need them as I could find the books very quickly.
As a youth, I did occasionally get confused when doing Bible studies, and would look up a word number in the wrong dictionary in Strong’s Concordance. This could lead to confusing results. For example, if I were to look up the number 5332 in the Hebrew Dictionary section of Strong’s Concordance I would find the following listing:
netsach (nay'-tsakh); probably identical with OT:5331, through the idea of brilliancy of color; juice of the grape (as blood red):
KJV - blood, strength.
This definition has nothing to do with sorcery. In order to find the proper definition I would first have to recognize that the book of Revelation is in the New Testament. Since the New Testament was written in Greek, I should look for the number 5332 in the Greek dictionary, not in the Hebrew dictionary. Upon doing so, I would find the following entry.
pharmakeus (far-mak-yoos'); from pharmakon (a drug, i.e. spell-giving potion); a druggist ("pharmacist") or poisoner, i.e. (by extension) a magician:
KJV - sorcerer.
It is easy to see what a powerful Bible study tool this reference book can be. Much revelation can be gleaned from observing the Greek word that is translated into English as “sorcerers.” It is the same word that the Greeks used to describe a pharmacist, or druggist. Hmmm..... Discoveries such as this can lead to much insight, both into ancient times, as well as the present.
It should be noted that EVERY word in the King James Bible is found in Strong’s Concordance. That is why it is called an “Exhaustive” concordance. If you had a mind to do so, you could look up every occurrence of the English words “a,” “the,” “if,” or “and.” There are thousands of listings for each word which would make it quite tedious to look them all up.
A more practical use of Strong’s Concordance might be to look up the original words translated as “God almighty” that are found in Genesis 48:3.
And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me...
As a youth, this was the type of thing that captured my interest. I wanted to know the names of God and what they mean. By looking up the words “God,” and “Almighty” in the concordance section of Strong’s reference work, I would be informed that these are the Hebrew words 410 and 7706.
'el (ale); shortened from OT:352; strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity):
KJV - God (god), goodly, great, idol, might (-y one), power, strong. Compare names in "-el."
Shadday (shad-dah'-ee); from OT:7703; the Almighty:
KJV - Almighty.
You will note that in many occurrences, the KJV Bible translators rendered a single Hebrew or Greek word with a great variety of English words. The Hebrew word “el,” aside from being translated as “God,” was also translated as “god (lower case),” “goodly,” “great,” “idol,” “might,” “mighty one,” “power,” and “strong.” The Hebrew word “Shadday,” however, was translated with only one English word.
By looking up the words “God” and “Almighty” in Strong’s Concordance I can see that Jacob told his son Joseph that “El Shadday” appeared to him. That discovery could form the basis for further study. I may want to look up every place that the Hebrew word “Shadday” appears to see if I can glean some further insight into its usage and meaning. What I would discover is that this word appears 48 times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it is used as a reference to Yahweh. No one else in the Bible is called “Shadday.”
As wonderful as Strong’s Concordance is, it can be somewhat lacking in the word definition department. The Bible student in many instances will wish that he had a more robust definition of a Hebrew or Greek word. To look for further insight a Bible student could look at Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible.
Young’s Concordance is very similar to Strong’s, but his word definitions provide shades of meaning that at times vary from Strong’s reference work. I was not aware of Young’s Concordance when I was a youth, and never had access to one. I discovered it existed when I came across an old copy some years back. This book was published in 1879 by the same man who produced Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, itself a wonderful study resource. Young’s concordance predates Strong’s which was first published in 1890.
For even more expansive definitions of Hebrew and Greek words that appear in the Bible, a dedicated Bible Dictionary is helpful. There are a great many of these available. As a youth, the one I used was Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. This book was authored by William Edwy Vine and first published as a four volume set in 1940. The word “expository” means “to expound, or explain.” Vine only produced a New Testament dictionary as he was a Greek scholar. Vine’s Dictionary is sold today with both Old Testament and New Testament words, but the Old Testament definitions are the work of other men.
To get an idea of how much fuller the word definitions are in Vine’s Expository Dictionary, following is the entry for the Greek word “pharmakia,” which is translated into English as “sorcery.”
(Eng., "pharmacy," etc.) primarily signified "the use of medicine, drugs, spells;" then, "poisoning;" then, "sorcery," Galatians 5:20, RV, "sorcery" (AV, "witchcraft"), mentioned as one of "the works of the flesh." See also Revelation 9:21; 18:23. In the Septuagint., Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18; Isaiah 47:9, 12. In "sorcery," the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.
An additional tool I used from the time of my teenage years was Halley’s Bible Handbook. This book provides a wealth of historical and contextual information about the Bible. It is also highly illustrated, containing maps and color photos of various places and objects named in the Scriptures. Dr. Henry H. Halley was an author, minister, and Bible lecturer. He was first ordained to ministry in 1898 and had a penchant for memorizing passages of Scripture. Dr. Halley could recite from memory entire books of the Bible. He was often called upon to provide recitations. He would begin by sharing background information about a book of the Bible, and then proceed to recite the book from memory. This introductory information formed the basis for his Bible handbook.
Another Bible study resource I found to be indispensable in my youth was Nave’s Topical Bible. Orville James Nave lived from 1841-1917. He served as a chaplain in the United States Army for many years. He spent fourteen years seeking to classify everything found in the Bible. His book contains 20,000 topic headings that list everything from “salvation” to “ropes.” I prefer to do topical studies of the Bible, and found a work like this immensely helpful.
These resources are still available today as printed books. I recommend them highly to anyone wanting to study the Scriptures. Beyond these Bible study tools there exists a wealth of additional resource works.
It is no longer necessary for me to carry around a stack of massive books when I want to study the Scriptures. All of these resources, and many more, can be found in one place by purchasing Bible study software, or by downloading some of the excellent free resources available online. The subject of computer based Bible study will be addressed in the next chapter. cc
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063
Thursday, May 14, 2020
(Click on Image to View Larger)
One of the disturbing facts relative to all existing Bible translations is that they are affected by the bias of the men and women who have labored to produce them. Not all such bias is the result of evil intent, or a lack of Christian character. To a large extent, translation bias is the result of men needing to make judgments about the original author’s meaning. Quite logically, men will gravitate toward interpretations of words and phrases that they believe conform to truth. A serious problem is exposed as it is observed that a great many things men believe to be true are in fact false.
When a Bible translator overlays his beliefs upon the text he is rendering into another language, the result is that errors creep into the Scriptures. It is not possible to translate an ancient book such as the Bible into modern parlance without making a great many judgments about the meaning of the text. If the Bible scholar has a deep and accurate understanding of the subject matter he is translating, then he is greatly helped in arriving at a faithful reproduction of the original documents. If, however, the Bible scholar does not have a solid understanding of the truths and facts being conveyed, or worse yet, if his understanding is fraught with falsehood, error, and misconceptions, there is a high probability that the Bible version he produces will bear the imprint of his errant beliefs.
The naive reader of the Holy Scriptures often thinks nothing of the process that was undertaken to transmit the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into English. It has been previously noted that some have so little understanding of the original authorship of the Scriptures, and the work of translation, that they mistakenly believe that Christ and His apostles spoke the King’s English. Not perceiving the human factor in producing a Bible version in the English language, the ignorant are highly susceptible to being led astray. At the very least, those who fail to recognize the human factor in Bible translation will suffer from a lack of care in maintaining a critical eye that seeks to discern between the thought of the Bible’s original authors and the errors introduced by copyists and translators.
Not all Bible bias is the result of good-hearted men failing to comprehend the original intent of the Scriptures. Some men have manifested less integrity in their labors. There are intentional deceivers, and there are men who in their pride believe they can improve upon the message of prophets, evangelists and apostles. I have encountered some truly egregious examples of men making wholesale alterations to the Scriptures in order to make them conform to their particular doctrinal beliefs. A recent example of this is observed in the Complete Jewish Bible, a translation produced by David Stern and published in 1989.
The description for this book states, “The only English translation that expresses the Bible's original and essential Jewishness from Genesis to Revelation. It reconnects Christians to their Jewish roots and Jews to their Messiah.” Such a statement sounds well and good, but along with the “essential Jewishness” that David Stern emphasizes in this translation, he also interjects his belief that Christians are subject to the Law of Moses. As I previously mentioned, this writing series cannot properly address the subject of the Law. I encourage all who have an interest in the purpose, scope, and duration of the Law to read the book Laying Down the Law.
David Stern admits in the introductory material at the front of his Bible version that he has made alterations to Paul’s writings to make them more sensible and clear to Christians who are often confused when they read the apostle’s words relating to the Law of Moses. What David Stern characterizes as confusion are Paul’s many statements that affirm that the Law was given to mankind for a limited duration “until” the promised seed should come that Yahweh promised to Abraham, that seed being Yahshua. Paul in many of his writings, and with numerous arguments, testifies that the Law no longer has jurisdiction over those who are “in Christ.” Paul makes some very plain statements in this matter, such as the following.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God... But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
You cannot be any freer from something than to have died to that to which you were formerly bound. Paul is not preaching lawlessness here, for he plainly states that we were “released from th Law..., so that we “might be joined to another,” that is, to Christ. Christ becomes our Head, our Sovereign, our Shepherd to guide us in the path of righteousness that Yahweh would have us to walk. The Law contained only shadows of the will of God, but the Holy Spirit can disclose the substance of the Father’s will to those who are in Christ.
One of the ways David Stern hides the apostle Paul’s message of being loosed from the Law is by inconsistently translating the Greek word “nomos.” In Romans chapters 5 and 7, Mr. Stern renders this word as “Torah.” Yet, in chapter 6, sandwiched right between these other passages, he translates nomos as “legalism.” Why does he do this? It is because to render the word consistently as “Torah” would have led to the following translation.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under Torah, but under grace.
To make the words of Paul conform to his own doctrinal beliefs, David Stern switches up the word here, rendering it as “legalism.” This is not all, however. In Paul’s epistle to the Galatian believers he uses the expression “ergon nomos” which is properly translated as “works of the Law.” Following is how this verse appears in the New American Standard Bible.
Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.
Mr. Stern renders “ergon nomos” as “legalistic observance of Torah commands.” He gets even more expansive, in his efforts to shape the readers understanding, in the next chapter as he renders the Greek phrase “hupo nomos” (“under Law”) with the thirteen word phrase, “in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism.”
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
These are egregious examples of altering the Scriptures to make them conform to one’s doctrinal bias. David Stern is unfaithfully altering the apostle’s words because to translate them accurately leads men and women to conclusions that he does not support.
David Stern is not the only person to make such alterations to the Scriptures. I have found that those who hold to the belief that Christians are bound to the Law of Moses are particularly predisposed to playing very loose and free with the words of the apostle Paul. Recently a brother in Christ asked my opinion about the Hebraic Roots Bible.
I use the term “cult” very guardedly when referring to religious groups, for the word carries much stigma with it. Yet, the word seems befitting the group that produced this Bible translation. On their Q&A page, some of their aberrant beliefs are revealed. Following are two entries that are very troubling.
73. In this spiritual wilderness time period we are in how do we literally identify the real Laodicean members in YHWHs congregation?
Clearly, we are in the Laodicean era of the end time congregation. Laodicean means ruled by the people. We see this attitude permeated in society with social uprisings over the last 3 to 4 years and we also see it in the congregation with many false brethren forsaking elders and leadership. The Laodicean claims he is “rich and made himself rich and is in need of nothing.” These Laodiceans think they have the proper doctrine even though it is false and heresy, and they are blinded to the truth by their pride. The bible states in Mathew 7 “you will know them by their fruits.” The laodicean is bearing no fruit for Yahweh’s kingdom. Anyone denying the ordained elderhood set up by Yahweh and Yahshua and bringing their own heresies and will not repent but are held up in pride clearly are displaying a Laodicean attitude in which scripture tells us to leave such a one and mark him before the congregation (Ro 16:17).
These words reveal that this group believe there is a recognized “elderhood set up by Yahweh and Yahshua.” Of course, the leaders of this group believe they are that “elderhood.” This becomes all the more troubling in light of the following entry on the Q&A page.
69. Can you have the Holy Spirit in you without the laying on of hands?
Yahweh is not the author of confusion (I Cor 14:33), but He has a systematic way of transferring the Ruach HaChodesh (Holy Spirit) to others. He uses this as a safeguard so that his spirit will not be transferred to just anybody, but only to those that his true ministers have qualified to have truly repented of their sins and accepted the blood of Yahshua for the forgiveness of those sins. The more we know, the more accountability we have before YHWH (Lk 12:47-48). This is why YHWH does not call everyone today, and give a full knowledge of the truth, so that he can have mercy on their ignorance at a later judgment. Romans 11:32, “For YHWH hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he may have mercy upon them all.” This is why the laying on of hands and transferring of the Holy Spirit can only be done by someone who has been ordained and given the authority from YHWH (Jn 20:21-23)...
Think about it. If any baptized member had the ability to transfer YHWH’s spirit, what chaos it would have caused...
The laying on of hands is part of the baptism ceremony and one of the basic doctrines of the congregation in Heb 6:1-2. It can only be performed by a qualified Elder, who has been given the authority from YHWH, through ordination, and having hands laid on him.
Here is a group of men who claim that they alone have the power and authority to transfer Yahweh’s Spirit to other men. This is gross error, and a manifestation of pride. Undoubtedly, such a doctrine serves as a means to control the members of the church. The elders need only declare someone disqualified on any basis they choose to charge the individual who disagrees with them of not being a partaker of the Spirit of Yahweh. After all, they alone are the sole arbiters of such matters.
In answering the e-mail from the brother in Christ who asked me for my thoughts on this Bible translation, I shared the following. (http://www.coyhwh.com/en/bible.php)
I have found the phrase "Hebraic Roots" to be used as a synonym for "Torah Observant." I have yet to find anyone who claims to be a Hebraic Roots adherent who is not teaching the saints that they must keep the Law of Moses. I would be surprised if this Bible translation does not include some biased translations of Paul's teachings that would render it more "Law friendly."
A second issue I have is with the statement below that is found on this same page.
This complete bible also has the New Testament based on the original Aramaic Peshitta text, the very language that our Savior spoke. The original New Testament was not written in Greek, but Aramaic.
I find difficulty with this statement for many reasons. First, the Peshitta was written in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic that is distinct from Hebrew. It is somewhat disingenuous to refer to it as the Aramaic Peshitta. Most scholars refer to the Peshitta as the Syriac Peshitta. The reason for this is that Syriac and Hebrew, though both being dialects of Aramaic, are distinct from one another. It is therefore inaccurate to say that this is "the very language that our Savior spoke."
Thirdly, the statement that "The original New Testament was not written in Greek, but Aramaic," is a belief held only by a small minority of Bible scholars, many of whom are members of groups described as Hebraic Roots, or Messianic congregations. Those who hold to this view are influenced by a bias toward Hebrew and against Greek. The existing evidence in ancient manuscripts does not support the belief that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic. The oldest manuscripts of the New Testament, and the most complete, are written in Greek. The majority opinion among Bible scholars is that the Peshitta was translated from existing Greek manuscripts into the Syriac language. I think there should at the very least be some acknowledgment of the fact that the claim of the New Testament being written in Aramaic is highly contested. By failing to admit this, those who produced this Hebraic Roots Bible version are demonstrating their bias in the matter.
Fourthly, the Peshitta did not include the books 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. These were added centuries later because it was disputed by believers in Syria as to whether these writings ought to be included in the canon of Scripture. It is therefore disingenuous to write as if the Bible as we recognize it today was originally contained in the Peshitta.
As one examines the argument for an original Aramaic New Testament, there are serious obstacles. For one, much of the New Testament was written to Greek speaking Gentiles. Luke wrote both his gospel and the book of Acts, addressing them to Theophilus, which is clearly a Greek name meaning "lover of God." It is likely that Theophilus was not an individual, but a name Luke employed to denote that his writings were for all who were lovers of God. If Luke’s audience had been Hebrew speaking people, it seems unlikely that he would have chosen this Greek name to open his writings. Then there are Paul's many epistles, comprising a majority of the books of the New Testament. Paul was sent to the Gentiles, not to the Jews.
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.
Seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles)...
Why would Paul write his epistles to the Greek speaking Gentiles in Aramaic?
After writing to this brother, I looked up some Scriptures in the Hebraic Roots Bible to see how they handled Paul’s words relating to the Law. I had rightly surmised that they had made unfaithful alterations to the apostle’s words.
4 So that, my brothers, you also were made dead to the (penalty of the) Law through the body of Messiah, for you to become another's, to the One raised from the dead, so that we may bear fruit to Elohim.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin were working in our members through the Law for the bearing of fruit unto death.
6 But now we have been set free from the penalty of the Torah, having died to that in which we were held, so as for us to serve in newness
[Hebraic Roots Bible]
Note that in verse 4 the editors of this Bible version have put the words (penalty of the) in parentheses, for these words do not appear in Paul’s letter to the Romans. These are added to lead the reader to conclude that Paul had something different in mind here than he had elsewhere in this book when he wrote about the Law. Observe also that in verse 6 the phrase “penalty of the” appears again, but this time the editors failed to use parentheses to indicate that these words do not appear in the original manuscripts. The editors did the same thing in the following verse of Scripture.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the penalty of the Torah, but under grace? Let it not be!
The italics are mine. They point out that the italicized words do not exist in the original manuscripts. The great inconsistency in translating the Greek word “nomos” (Law) is revealed in the following verses.
6 But now we have been set free from the penalty of the Torah, having died to that in which we were held, so as for us to serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter.
7 What shall we say then? Is the instruction sin? Let it not be! But I did not know sin except through the Torah; for also I did not know lust except the Torah said, "You shall not lust." (Ex. 20:17)
In these two verses the translators have rendered the same Greek word in three different ways:
the penalty of the Torah
This is an example of translation bias. It is the result of the translators overlaying their doctrinal beliefs on top of the Scriptures, resulting in a translation that is unfaithful to the original manuscripts. This is all the more serious because the group producing this Bible version has labeled it “A Literal Translation.” There is no evidence of having followed a “literal” translation method in these examples. The writers are adding words to the text that are not present, and they are rendering words inconsistently in passages where Paul consistently used the same Greek word.
Similar examples of translation bias are found when looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
16 knowing that a man is not justified by works of (Levitical) Law, but that it is through faith in Yahshua Messiah, we also believed into Messiah Yahshua, that we may be justified by faith in Messiah and not by works of (Levitical) Law, because all flesh will not be justified by works of Law. (Psa. 123:2)
[Hebraic Roots Bible]
The word “Levitical” is inserted here to make it appear that Paul is speaking of something different than the entirety of the Law delivered to Moses for all the people of God. Some groups that advocate the continuance of the authority of the Law in the life of the Christian divide the Law into various divisions, such as the moral law, the law for the Levitical priesthood, and the Law of sacrifices. They then contend that Paul had only that portion of the Law relating to the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices in mind when he spoke of the Christian no longer being under the law. They declare that the moral Law continues to exert authority over the believer. Such a suggestion is readily refuted from a careful examination of Paul’s writings.
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet."
The part of the Law that says, “Thou shalt not covet” is neither the Levitical law, nor the law of sacrifices. It is the moral portion of the law. Indeed, these words are found in the Ten Commandments. It is this moral Law of which Paul declares, “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”
Brothers and sisters, these Bible translations ought to come with warning labels such as I have shown in the image at the head of this writing. The naive reader, or the Christian who will not stir himself up to examine all things carefully, will easily be led astray to embrace false doctrine by being unaware of the translation bias that is present.
Translation bias is not a new phenomenon. It has been present for thousands of years. In an earlier post I mentioned a Greek version of the Bible created by Theodotion that Origen included in the Hexapla. Theodotion was a Hellenistic Jewish scholar. He produced a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures around the year 150 A.D.. When Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, discoursed with Augustine about the Septuagint, he referred to Theodotion in very unflattering terms. Jerome stated, “Origen borrowed the things which he has added from the edition of a man who, after the passion of Christ, was a Jew and a blasphemer.” It is Theodotion whom Jerome describes as “a Jew and a blasphemer,” for Theodotion denied that Yahshua was the Messiah. Theodotion was also accused of translating the Hebrew into Greek in such a way as to obscure the prophecies of the Messiah that seemed most to speak of Yahshua as the promised one. That is serious, and reprehensible, translation bias.
King James Bible
Perhaps the most widely known example of translation bias is that observed in the writing of the King James Bible. In giving the English translators the charge to produce a new Bible translation, King James listed 15 rules that the translators were to follow. Following are the first four rules delivered to the translators, and printed in all of the early copies of the King James Bible.
1. The ordinary Bible read in the church, commonly called the Bishops’ Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit.
2. The names of the prophets, and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained as near as may be, accordingly as they are vulgarly used.
3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, namely, as the word church not to be translated congregation &c.
4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most eminent Fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place, and the analogy of faith.
None of these rules express a motive to create an excellent and accurate translation of Bible in English. Rather, each of these rules manifest the bias of man. King James wanted to preserve that which was familiar, and in harmony with the orthodox practice and teachings of the Anglican Church. Rather than following a well devised naming convention that could have brought order to the confusion found in the Bishop’s Bible, the translators were told to keep that which was familiar and common (vulgar). The ecclesiastical (religious) words preferred by the Anglican church were also to be maintained. The Greek word “eklessia” was to be translated as “church” rather than “congregation.” The Greek word “baptizo” was not to be translated at all, for the word means “to fully submerge, or immerse” and the Anglican church practiced sprinkling. The word was transliterated instead of being translated. That is to say, it was carried over in its essentially Greek form rather than its proper meaning being given in English.
All of these rules put restrictions on the translators, hindering them from producing a Bible version that was integrally faithful to the existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. One of the more offensive examples of translation bias in the King James Bible is found in the following verse from the book of Acts.
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
The Greek word being translated here is “Pascha,” which is properly translated as “Passover.” This Greek word occurs 29 times in the New Testament, and in 28 of its occurrences the KJV translators rendered it as “Passover.” There was no justifiable reason to translate the word “Pascha” as “Easter” here. Nevertheless, the Anglican Church held Easter as its highest holy day of the year, and it seemed expedient to have this holiday mentioned somewhere in the Bible, even if the translators had to insert the word where it did not belong. I do not know of another Bible version that has rendered the Greek word “Pascha” as “Easter.” Even the New King James Bible has corrected this verse to read “Passover.”
I could cite a great many more examples of translation bias, for there is not an English Bible version in existence that does not contain examples of this type of error. I do not suspect any malice, or evil intent, where most of this type of bias is found. It is the natural consequence of men translating according to their understanding and beliefs. Some translators have given a faithful rendering of a word into English even when they thought it was wrong or did not understand why a particular word was used, but the natural impulse of the human heart is to be faithful to what one believes.
It is needful for Christians to apply themselves to the study of the Scriptures, testing everything carefully. The prudent disciple of Christ will recognize the corrupting influence of man and apply themselves to dividing between that which is true and that which is false.
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