Does the Bible have any value to modern man?
It would not be going too far to say that, without the influence of the Bible on society, the slide in morals that started back in the early sixties would have begun much sooner. Of course, bad morals have been around a lot longer than since the sixties, but this most recent swing in the pendulum for America started about then.
Your beliefs ultimately determine your actions. If you believe in treating people as you want to be treated, you will set a good example for others to follow. This is the message of the Bible. However, if you ignore others, mistreat them, and take what is not yours, you set an example which is all too quickly followed by those who have no concept that that type of activity is wrong. Not wrong as only in that God disapproves, but wrong as in if the same thing happens to you, you get angry - and often try to get even.
A book of guidance
Essentially, the Bible has two messages for us. First, we are fallen. Our righteousness, no matter what we do, is like filthy rags before God's righteousness. Nothing we can do will change that. If you do not accept this, then you have no path to Him. If you think Jesus will save you because you are "good", then good luck.
Second, if you accept the gift of Christ, His death in place of the one we deserve, and do what God said to do to show your acceptance of that gift, then He will save you. Notice I didn't say "you will be saved", but "He will save you." That's the only way it can happen. There is nothing you can do but accept the gift and follow Him. People seem to forget the follow Him part and wind up inserting their own plans for their own life.
Think about it. If there are no standard rules of conduct, rules that apply the same to everyone, then we can all do what we want, pretty much without punity. In a conversation with an atheist about this, he was offended that I "implied" that there was no standard of conduct for those who do not believe in God. What happened to "survival of the fittest"?
So, in answer to the question, "How do you set the rules?" He said, "Well, everyone knows it is wrong to kill because it is common sense. The community determines what is right and wrong." The obvious question then was, "Does everyone vote on what the rules are?" He said that there is a chosen committee and usually everyone agrees to follow whatever they decide. What happened the evolutionary "kill or be killed" and to the "strongest controlling the rest"? We have evidently evolved beyond that.
Who makes the rules for the society?
Can you see where this is going? For democratic societies, it may work for a while, but look at where this country is now. The "committee" is setting (and changing) laws and rules of conduct (think LGBTQ), establishing rules which literally most of the country does not want nor gets the chance to approve or disapprove. Also, if rules are set by committee in your community, and you visit another community with different rules, do their rules apply to you, or can you just continue following your own community's rules? How will you know if you are breaking one of their rules?
And, for totalitarian communities, what the people think does not even matter (oops, what does that mean for America?). The people do what the ruling person or party establishes as the rules or they are punished. And, who is the "committee" for the country in general? The media? There is a small percentage of people with a huge amount of influence over what a majority of the country thinks. Since few take the time to research the issue for the truth, or think through what the media is saying, whatever you see on TV or read on social media becomes the dominant train of thought.
The source of rules that work
With that in mind, look around you at all the societies and communities of the world. For the most part, even if they refuse to admit it, their fundamental rules of society are based on the same set of right and wrong values. Any guesses as to where they came from? They are from rules that have been established for millennia. Sure, if there are no standard rules, common sense will tell you that if you murder someone and are not punished, you become a target of their loved ones. If you steal from someone with impunity, then someone can steal from you. The result of that is that might makes right. So the one with the power walks all over the rest. However, when you have a common standard of conduct, everyone knows how to act and how to handle those who do not act that way. This is beginning to change in America as the bible-based standards upon which the country was founded are slowly being removed or ignored.
Taking this concept a little further, if you teach the youth that they are the result of fermenting pond scum and mating beasts, with no set of standards to follow, they will eventually see no problem in acting that way. If they don't like the rules, they lobby their community and change them. All they need is a majority of the voting people to do so, and they can walk on the rest of society. So, if 51% of the voters want to approve gay marriage, the rest of us have to conform. No common standard, just a wielding of power like the survival of the strongest. God figured this out for us so we would not have to go through the problems that naturally must follow that line of reasoning, but for some reason we have to see what trouble we can get into by trying it for ourselves.
Now, a lot of you are saying that the Bible is just a lot of stories about people warring with each other, killing, adultering, idolizing, and a lot of other unGodly things. Well, it is, kind of. I even had a Seventh-Day Adventist counselor tell me that the Genesis stories are merely children's stories and did not really happen. Hogwash.
God created the world, set up some rules, then told us about what He did through Moses, Joshua and the first five books of the Bible. We probably did not get all the stories that happened to everyone on the earth, just the ones that matter to give us the story. Then He started showing us what happens to us when we ignore His rules that He said would make our lives better if we followed them. Invariably, when we go off on our own we get greedy, lustful, and mean. When we repented, things were happy for a while and then the cycle started again.
Stories with a purpose
Looking at today, we have the same cycle, but now fewer people are even acknowledging that He is there, or that He matters any more because "we have been saved from all the sins we will ever commit", so they do not follow His rules. Then, when their lives fall apart because of how they are acting, they have no where to go to get back on track, so they make up new rules - usually even more lenient. That is where the Bible comes in - to remind us of the track that is available for us.
We need the Bible to make us think about what we are doing. That requires two things to happen; people must believe that God sent the Bible to us for a reason, and they must read the Bible for what it actually says.
This second point is the one that seems to be the hardest for people to understand. Once people have heard pastors and TV preachers make some broad statements about the freedom they now have in Christ, those statements become the bedrock of their beliefs and the foundation of their faith. This is not a problem when the pastor has the truth from the Bible, the Bible is clear, and it agrees with the pastor. However, often there is no investigation of these statements by the hearer. When they read the Bible, they interpret what they read in the context of the preacher or evangelist, and add what they read to that basis. This can cause a problem if the issue is not considered in context with the rest of God's word.
"He is wise because he went to school for this"
The common response here is, "But the pastor has studied this for years and knows what he is saying is the truth." OK, let's say you are new to the Christian faith. You attend a Bible study at the home of the pastor of a friend who is a member of a church you have not yet attended, but they seem like nice, solid people. You sit in on the study session and you like what you hear. After the session, you ask where the church is so you can visit. You are told it is the Mormon church at the corner of 5th and Main. Would you feel this is the same as if it had been the Catholic church downtown? How about the Seventh-Day Adventist church? The Baptists?
They are all "smart", but not educated
If you know anything about these churches, the pastors have all gone to school and studied the Bible extensively. However, since at one time or another I have been a registered member of all of these churches and many others, I can absolutely guarantee you that they do not all preach the same thing. Oh, they were reading the same Bible, but what they "learned" is often very different from that of the others. So, if they preach different things that conflict with each other, which one is speaking the truth? Now for the bottom line - how do you find out?
Now, this is not advocating for one of these over the other, but you can see from this scenario that being educated does not equate to being right. Without picking one of the four churches above, can you see that there is a huge difference in their teachings, some absolutely contradictory, but they all claim to base their views on the Bible? Some add other "foundation" books, but they have all considered their positions to be solid and right. If God meant for people to all go their own way, He would not have established extensive sets of rules for human conduct. We call it the Bible.
One rule for all people, for all time
There is one standard that God spoke, with one line of thought, one set of acceptable actions, and one set of rules. How can anyone say this? Well, He claimed one people in history, took them under His "wing", and spoke to them directly once and then (because of their own request) through one man - Moses. These were to be His example to the world of how to live a righteous life.
Through this one man He let the people know to not follow the ways of the people whose lands they entered. There were other men later, but they all used the same standard - the writings of Moses. Looking back through history, "everyone" says, "Yeah, but that was in the Old Testament." They claim that when Jesus came as a man, He "did away with all the old rules" and we can pretty much do what we want as long as "we do it in love".These people say there are no hard and fast rules any more, so all of these churches can be right.
"But, aren't we all 'Free in Christ' "?
Well, how can opposing truths both be right? Is there no longer such a thing as "right" or "wrong"? Reading through the New Testament, we find Paul saying harsh things like:
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)
We are 'free in Christ', but free to do what? Choose our own list of right and wrong? Treat others as we want to? Choose the part of God's instruction we like and discard the rest? Well, yes. That's what we are free to do, but often that direction is not necessarily 'in Christ'! We are responsible for our choices. Jesus did not give us a free ride - we are to act in Him, like Him, as Him. We really should ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?", but then keep it in context of the only real standard - the Bible. We should not make up something that we think He would do because that is what we would do.
Simple logic reveals that there are commandments that show that if broken by "wrongdoers", will lead to the loss of eternal life with God. This passage does not say that you have to commit all of the acts listed, but that any of them will cause that loss. For those who say that these are only the last six of the ten commandments, remember that idolaters worship other "gods" or even themselves and violate the first one. And, men who have sex with men are not even listed in the ten, so is that now approved by God? Where do you draw the line? God drew it in the words of Moses, so we should stick with what God said and try to stay within His limits, not those of just any "studied" preacher who seems to blatantly contradict God's intent. We should use His word as passed on in the Bible.
Bible Study - doesn't always work
Yes, even Bible study causes some problems when it comes to different versions and some contradictory interpretations, but one who is diligent can find the issues and learn the truth by studying the languages from which the originals were translated or using interlinear books to see the intended meaning of the words. We cannot get all the answers right, but we can find the claims that are wrong enough to conflict with the rest of the story and point them out to others. It is a journey, not a destination, and the only way we can get started is through the Message that God Himself gave us - The Bible.
As Paul found out...
At this point, a warning should probably be issued. If you study the word as it was written and discover some of what God is really saying, when you mention the possibilities to others you will be shouted down, ignored, called arrogant and a "fanatic", and told to shut up or at least compromise. And all this before anyone even tries to study to confirm or deny what you are saying! People do not want to be wrong in their beliefs. The only alternative is that "you" must be wrong!
So how do you make sure that you are not chasing a wild goose? First, if you really want to know the Truth, you can find out for yourself. Short of that, you can hope that your pastor knows and will pass it on to you in a "Bible study", or at least let you know where to find the truth in the Bible. It has become painfully obvious that trusting your pastor doesn't always work as well as people think it does.
"I know its wrong, but..."
My conversations with church pastors shows that some will stop short of thorough, or even serious, investigation even if they suspect their interpretation is wrong. They tend to fall back on what they were told in the seminary. They have even stated that they know what they were taught is wrong, but that's what they were taught and they have to stay within the guidelines of their "church". Seriously, this has actually occured with an active pastor! That leaves only personal study if you really want to be sure what you believe is the truth. Remember the Bereans. It's not really that hard, but there are still some problems with even this approach.
There are a lot of Bible versions out there, with many that conflict directly with others, so at most, only one of them can be right on any particular conflicted point, and perhaps none of them are right. The closest thing you can do to reading the originals is to find an interlinear Bible translated from the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek words of the original languages used to write the books and see the direct English translation at the same time.
If you're worried about the cost, you can find them at Goodwill or other places with used books for about $5. You may even want to get several of the major Bible versions so you can see the different wording and actual words used that can affect the interpretation.
Please note that this is not an endorsement any particular version, only the ability to compare versions for a wider understanding of verse contexts. If you don't have the different versions, you can go to Bible Hub, or a similar site, and see the wording of various verses in most of the versions available on the market, often on the same page for easy comparison.
Testing what you find
Now, how do you go about "studying" and finding the "real" statements of the Bible? I can only give you some examples and let you research them on your own. Just leading you through the steps, you can claim that I am only giving you my interpretation. So let's set up some examples that were eye-openers for me.
If you happen to have access to an NLT (New Living Translation) Bible, look up John 3:13, the very words of Jesus. You will see the verse as:
"No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven."
Note the words "and returned". Now, try the NIV (New International Version) or the KJV (King James Version) for the same verse, and you find:
"13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man. (NIV)"
"13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (KJV)"
This small difference in wording could create a huge difference in people's beliefs. Think not? Many people feel that good people go to Heaven when they die, but that none have returned. Some feel that Enoch and Elijah were taken straight to Heaven without dying, but that they have not returned. Which version supports this idea? The NLT, by not giving an accurate statement allows for people going to Heaven, just not returning to earth.
But, how do we know which is the correct statement? In fact, most versions do translate this verse translate correctly, which you will shortly see for yourself, but this will allow you to see why we need to check when we see something awry.
Now, open any Greek Interlinear Bible that contains the books of the New Testament (or you can use an online Interlinear at a site like Bible Hub), and look up John 3:13. Here is a picture of what Bible Hub shows:
There is a statement that no one has gone into Heaven, except Jesus. There is no mention of any human returning, or just hanging out, or not returning. In fact, the passage says that only Jesus has gone to Heaven and He has come down from Heaven. Whatever else you feel the passage says, it does not support humans going to Heaven.
One more test
Another good example for practice is the Rapture. The concept is that at some time in the future, before the end of the Tribulation (most say before the beginning of it), the church will be taken to Heaven so they do not have to endure the wrath of the AntiChrist. Your understanding may differ a little, but whatever you believe about it, see if you can find out the source of the information that is the foundation of your beliefs. Once you find out that, see what you can find out about what the Bible says about the Rapture.
Most people will go to the internet, enter the term "the Rapture" and follow it to what others have written on it. Rather than take someone else's word for it, search the Bible first. Once you give up trying to find the word "Rapture" in the Bible, see what others think about where the Bible speaks of the Rapture. One of the most common series of verses used is 1 Thes 4:13-17
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)
. Fine, look at those verses and see what they say in your Bible. If someone explains them to you they will add things like "Heaven", "Tribulation", "secret", and other terms that are not mentioned in the verses themselves. Yep, heaven is mentioned, but it is the place from where Jesus descends, not as the place where everyone thinks He is taking them. But if you read them for yourself, look for what the verses actually say.
Now, after you have researched this issue and have all the information you need for making an informed decision, write down your thought about "when" this Rapture will happen, and describe briefly the series of events you expect to see happen. Now, you have researched the issue and "studied" it.
One more thing...
However, here is a little piece of information for you that you may find surprising.
There are many places to find "information" about the rapture, but if you go to any of them that actually research the idea before preaching on it, you will find that the pre-tribulation rapture is a new concept from the nineteenth century. It is not an idea preached by Paul, or any of the other apostles from the first century. An example of honest information is from A.S.K:
It may come as a surprise but the doctrine of the Rapture is not mentioned in any Christian writings, of which we have knowledge, until after the year 1830 C.E. Whether the early writers were Greek or Latin, Armenian or Coptic, Syrian or Ethiopian, English or German, orthodox or heretic, no one mentioned it before 1830 (though a sentence in Pseudo-Dionysius in about 500 C.E. could be so interpreted). Of course, those who feel the origin of the teaching is in the Bible would say that it ceased being taught for some unknown reason at the close of the apostolic age only to reappear in 1830. But if the doctrine were so clearly stated in Scripture, it seems incredible that no one should have referred to it before the 19th century.
The lateness of the doctrine does not necessarily mean the teaching is wrong (only the plain statements of the Bible can reveal that). It does show that thousands of eminent scholars over seventeen centuries (including the most astute "Christian Fathers" and those of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods) must be considered prophetic dunces for not having understood so fundamental a teaching. This lapse of seventeen centuries when no one elaborated on the doctrine must be viewed as an obstacle to accepting its reliability.
Getting the idea?
OK. Without guiding you any further, have you learned enough to show you that not everyone is honest about what they "know", or even how they know it? You have probably been told that the Rapture is taught in the Bible by Paul, described in minute detail, and that no one can question the scriptures. But the scriptures do not describe an event called the Pre- or Mid-Tribulation Rapture. Any amount of diligent study will show that this event in 1 Thes 4:13-17 is talking about the Second Coming of Christ.
There is a rapture, but...
That event has a rapture described as catching up everyone who is resurrected from the dead "in Christ", followed by the living who are "in Christ". Every detail of this passage matches with both the Old and New Testaments when they describe the second coming of Christ - right down to the loud shout and trump sounds. Check it out for yourself rather than buy a story from me, or especially from someone who has not checked, or has even just heard it from someone else. Even if it is a pastor.
Bible study is not only a way to learn about the Bible, it's a great way to find the truth instead of swallowing what is likely a line of meaningless... - well, unacceptable, contradictory "information".
If you want a different, but at least accurate according to the facts, view of the Rapture, see my page called The Rapture (See menu at the left on the main page). No, I'm not asking you to accept my word for it, just see how I approach the subject and contact me with any objections you have, if you have any.
So many Bible versions
Why are there so many Bible versions? If you don't agree with someone on their interpretation, often you can just find a different version that says what you think. If the word of God was written down so we would have it, how do we know which one is closest to the truth?
Well, the best way is to have a perfect knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and just read in the original languages. Okay, okay, we can't all do that, so there must be a better way for those of us not professors or linguists. Let's look at a few of the popular versions and see if we can come up with anything.
The "best" version?
First, let's start with what many call the "Authorized Version", the King James (we'll call it the KJV from here on). At Bible.org, you can find a very thorough article explaining many of the blatant issues with the KJV translation given by a Ph.D. and expert in Greek. Here are just the main points:
1. The translator Erasmus was hurrying to beat another translator to press, so he was back-translating from the Latin, and the finished product was filled with misspellings.
2. A later version from Erasmus resulted from a new translation from a "new" Greek manuscript produced so that Erasmus could include some "facts" that the Church wanted included.
3. There have been more than 100,000 changes in the KJV since 1611, creating curiosity as to which version was "the inspired" Bible.
4. 300 words in the KJV no longer have the same meaning they did at the time of the writing of that translation.
5. Some of the direct translations are in error, changing the meaning of the verse.
6. Standards of "spirituality" are given to the KJV, but these standards are only given to protect the difficulty of understanding of the KJV text.
7. This "inspired" version is accepted by many as though English is the first language of God.
8. Evangelicals prefer a different translation.
9. The KJV has altered the words of scripture, and thus the meanings, though it does not alter the doctrines of the gospel.
About this list above, after a discussion during which my grandson expressed doubt about the "100,000 changes" to the KJV in point 3 above, I did a little research. Several other sites list changes made for various reasons, with considerably fewer items in the list. It seems that these lists vary depending on what the writer considers a "worthy" change. It seems that if the change was a spelling error or simple change (i.e. "blinde" to "blind"), a change to or from italics, then the change did not count so it was not listed. These lists only include those differences that affect the "sound" of a phrase that could be heard because of the change. Even this list has 1095 changes, and the author states that there are " 'thousands' of differences" that are largely inconsequential, so they are not listed.
They all get most of it right
The NIV, my second favorite, has been accused of changing the words of the translations in order to promote cults and odd beliefs. There are claims that it promotes the concept of original sin because of its rendering of Psalm 51:5
The American Standard Version correctly translates this passage: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me."
However, the NIV translates it differently: "Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (from Truth for the World)
and Romans 1:17
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (KJV).
"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.' " (NIV). (from Truth for the World)
. However, notice that it is compared by that site to the KJV, which is itself full of issues.
The New American Standard has been criticized at Bible Researcher:
"The NASB was widely accepted by conservative churches in the years following its publication, but it was often criticized for its awkward and unnatural English. This was mostly a consequence of the version's adherence to the idioms of the original languages, whether or not they were natural in English."
Another popular version is the New Living Translation, and like all the others you can find reviews that say anything from "straight from Hell"(Jesus-Is-Savior.com)
The New Living Translation (NLT) is straight from Hell.
to "10 reasons to use it" (Christopher Scott Blog)
10 Reasons to Use the New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible
Here's my favorite
There is one Bible that was just published in 2016 that seems to be just what my wife and I were looking for. The Complete Jewish Study Bible was translated by Jews for English-speaking nations, but with the viewpoint of the Jewish person. That's good because the original manuscripts were written by Jews in Hebrew and Greek. When this Bible is compared to the other versions, it can be seen more clearly what was meant by the writer. Also, after about two weeks of reading this one, my wife (the one who recommended we get it) commented that she now understands what I have been trying to say for the last decade. Halleluyah!
(Update NOTE: My wife has since (after a few months) returned to the John MacArthur Study Bible as its comments match her view of the Biblical meanings.)
Now, before you grab a copy of this Bible and make a list of things wrong with it, there are probably flaws in it as well. The point here is that when you compare the content of the popular passages that many use that conflict with the clear meaning of the rest of the Bible, this one seems to me to get more of them right. Not just because I like it, but because the use of the language causes fewer conflicts with the rest of the Book.
Comparison gives a wider view
The bottom line is that you can find a site to tell you anything you want to hear. I think the best approach is to have several versions that you like and when you see a real difference between them, look up the questionable phrase in a good Interlinear Bible. If you don't have one, you can find them to use for free online (there is a good one at Bible Hub) or you can just use the term "interlinear" and the verse number when you search. For example, to find out what John 3:16 says in the Greek, search for "John 3:16 interlinear", and select the search result for "biblehub.com/interlinear/john/3-16.htm" (this was the first listing on the results page for Google), you get:
Now, compare what the Greek manuscript really says to the Bible versions you use. This will not make you an expert, but you will be able to get the general feel for what the Bible says in verses that people render differently. If your favorite version keeps getting it wrong, you might want find a different version. If you can get the gist of the truth, then keep your version.
However, in all matters of research, check several sources if you see anything that looks funny. The Greek interlinear is affected by tradition just like everything else in society. An example of this is shown on the Wikepdia describing the "shape of the structure on which Jesus was crucified". Note that the article is about whether or not the structure was a "cross", an incorrect translation of the original Greek word "stauros", but they used the term "crucified" which shows a bias and adherence to tradition. You can see more of what I mean on the page called Christian Cross in the main menu on the left under God/Religious. Just be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11
11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
- don't take someone else's word for it, read the Bible and check them out.
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your view.