I think every human has at some point in their life, in one way or another, wanted an answer to the question “Why were we born?”.
The Bible gives us the answer.
In simple terms, we study the Bible to find out why we are here, where we are going, and what is likely to happen to us in the short and long term. The stories from history help us to learn from the past, and should help us to avoid making the same mistakes. The prophesies that are yet to be fulfilled, help us to have some idea of where the world is headed. By coming to understand that God is fully in control of world events, helps us to sleep at night. From the Bible we can learn that, while God is in charge overall, He has allowed man to go his own way for a time so that he can learn the lesson of:
Pro 14:12 NET. There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way that leads to death.
The majority of people in the world today are making their own choices about how to live (Eph2:1-3). Those choices may come from their feelings, from some sort of religious instruction, or by just watching TV and the world (influenced by Satan) around them. No doubt many feel “right” about what they are doing, but, as I understand it, unless God comes first in their lives, they will die without obtaining a place in the first resurrection, and hence being at the start of the Millennium.
Every man and woman, at the end of their life, will be judged by what they have done with the life given to them by God.
Rev 20:13 NET The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds.
In the Bible we come face to face with a God who claims responsibility for creating the universe, the earth, and all living things (Isa 45:5,7,12). It stands to reason, that if He created all this, then He is the best one to teach us why. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that God wants to put His Holy Spirit in us to the point where we can become like God – but still retain our individuality – and then take our place within the God family.
Eph 3:14-21 NET.
(14) For this reason I kneel before the Father, (15) from whom every [or “the whole” - see KJV] family in heaven and on the earth is named.(16) I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love,(18) you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,(19) and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (20) Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, (21) to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
We study the Bible because it contains the words from our Makers mouth, and He tells us how to live life, and why we should strive to create character before our short human life comes to an end.
One of the major proofs that God has inspired His prophets as they wrote some parts of the books of the Bible, is the fact that God - who is in control of all things - has made predictions through a number of different men living at different times, about what is going to happen, and then He brought it about exactly as He said. He announced through Daniel the four world ruling empires, and we are now waiting for the last resurrection of the fourth. Many of the prophecies given by God are very specific and detailed, and way beyond man's ability to duplicate. There have been many books and booklets written about the proof of the Bible, and are no doubt worth taking a look at if you have any concerns about what place the Bible should have in your life.
No other book that I am aware of, comes close to the Bible for detailing the plan of God.
However, that does not mean that reading and studying the Bible is easy.
The reasons I am about to give as to why I think people have problems understanding the Bible, come out of personal experience, and are not intended to be taken as some sort of "defining document". Getting the Bible into the right perspective has worked for me, I hope it will for you. If you find another model to follow that works better for you, then please use it.
First I will try to describe two extremes that people go to with the Bible. The first extreme is where the Bible is placed so high on a pedestal, that "every word in our English language Bibles is even closer to the truth than the original". The people who say that the King James Version is the only Bible to read are an example of this "reverence" for a particular English language Bible. Some people feel that every English word is so "God breathed" that they would never consider the possibility of some verses being completely at odds with the bulk of the Bible. They then have to come up with convoluted explanations trying to make every thing fit.
The other extreme is to take the Bible as a collection of "fairy tales" or stories made up by "religious" people. Others say that there were some events to base the stories on, but these have been embellished over the years. To some, the Bible makes interesting reading, but they don't see the power of God backing up the laws and principles He has inspired men to record.
I feel we need the middle ground between these two extremes. We need to have reverence for the power of God that very much controls the destiny of the nations of the world, but we also need to have the understanding that not every thought conveyed by our English Bibles reflects the intended meaning of the original authors (which may have been lost through copy errors or mistranslation), and we need to understand that not every word is "God breathed", or inspired by God. Some of the books included in our English Bible are the words of men recording what they saw, thought or understood at the time.
Also we should understand that the Bible uses "figures of speech". "Mountains" can be mountains, or they can be kingdoms or governments, and so on. Reading Appendix 6 in the Companion Bible will give you some idea of the many different "figures of speech" used in the Bible. I would like to quote from the fourth paragraph - "Figures are never used but for the sake of emphasis. They can never, therefore, be ignored. Ignorance of Figures of speech has lead to the grossest errors, which have been caused either from taking literally what is figurative, or taking figurative what is literal."
We should also understand that word meanings have changed over time. For instance, "all" in the Bible can just mean the majority, "forever" can just mean "while the current conditions exist", and so on.
I feel the main purpose of the Gospel of Luke is to show us how much truth was lost in the first 30 years or so, by passing the truth on by "word of mouth". Luke faithfully recorded what people were saying around 30 years after it happened - and is very important historical document - but because he was not an eye witness, he has recorded many of the incidents out of sequence, and some of the original words Jesus spoke have been dropped or changed along the way.
In the first three verses of the Gospel of Luke, Luke records that he just wrote down what was "passed on" by the people of the day. People were saying that Jesus said "Blessed are the poor", but the original words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew - who was an eye witness - are "Blessed are the poor in spirit", and there is a big difference. Another example.
Luk 11:33 NET. "No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light."
He then goes on to talk about the "eye" being the "lamp of the body".
Mat 5:15-16 NET. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
The reason Jesus was talking about a lamp, and putting it where the light can be used, was to illustrate that we should have good deeds that can be seen by others. We do not learn that important principle from Luke. We can use Luke to demonstrate that passing truth on by word of mouth does not work 100%, but we should be careful about using Luke for creating doctrine. That said, there are pieces of information in the Gospel of Luke that are not recorded in any other Gospel. Other Books, at times, also just record history, or what was locally believed at the time, but can not be taken as God trying to pass on truth. Men wrote accurately their understandings, but God did not "inspire" it, or intended us to give those words equal status to the words He spoke or inspired. I feel some examples of this are Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, where we are told that they are the words of men..
At this point I might have your interest, or I might have raised your ire, and you are thinking "who gives men the right to "ignore" certain verses and words of the Bible?".
Can I suggest, it is not a matter of "right", but a matter of "need".
Because we have to get this right before we can fully explore the wealth of information God has provided for us, I am going to try and build a framework - a point of reference - so that we can see that "need" far outweighs any concern about "rights". We need to understand what parts of the Bible are "God breathed [spoken]" and can be used as our foundation for understanding the purpose of life, what verses have to either be corrected or ignored, and what verses are just passing on history.
What I am discussing here mainly applies to our English Bibles. From what I have read, other languages do not have the same amount of problems as we have with the English translations. Obviously Bibles translated into other languages from our English translations would carry the problems with them.
How I would love for everyone to go back and learn English history (and that includes myself).
It would be much easier to explain the problems we have with our current English language Bibles if you understood the history of England and Europe. If you have the inclination , take time out and follow it up.
English was not spoken/written till after about 600 AD. The Norman invasion of 1066 AD had a lot to do with holding back a full translation of the Bible, as English was only used by the peasant farmers for a further 300 years. Between 600 AD and 1382 AD only a few of the Bible books were translated into "English", and all of these were from the Latin Vulgate - not the "original" Hebrew or Greek.
For much more detail on all of this, see the "Net Bible Companion CD" available from www.bible.org, and especially "History of the English Bible" under "About the Net Bible".
John Wicliffe, in about 1382, produced the first complete English Bible.
To quote from Daniel B. Wallace, "As I said, Wycliffe did not translate from the original Greek and Hebrew. And as good as the Latin Vulgate was, there were severe shortcomings in its translation. For one thing, Latin does not have the definite article. That is a gift that the Greeks gave to Europe. But the article occurs in the Greek NT almost 20,000 times - understanding its use is vital for hundreds of passages. And yet, Wycliffe knew none of this, since he only used the Latin text as his base."
The fact that while you can translate from Greek into Latin, you can not accurately reconstruct the Greek from Latin, is significant. When they were translating from Hebrew and Greek to make the King James Bible and they found a difficult area, they would revert to translating from the Latin. Also, part of the Book of Revelation does not exist in Greek, and has to be translated from Latin. The Roman Catholic Latin Bible has had a big impact on what we have in our hands today.
While there are no known original writings (autographs) in existence today, there are thousands of "bits" of information that seem to have come from the original sources. Which "bit" you chose to make your translation from, will give a different result. Keeping it very simple, for the Greek New Testament there are two major sources of information. One is called the "Received Text" or "Byzantine Text", and the other is called the "Alexandrian Text". Both contain errors and contradictions, and both have groups who try to push their favourite "source" to the fore. Choosing the Greek source material from the over 3000 available for making a translation into English, is a much more difficult task than most people realize, and does have a bearing on the end result.
There are two other factors that we should take into account when we are looking at the accuracy of our Bibles.
Men have deliberately altered words to help support their "understanding". An example of this is the word "ordain" (men giving an office to a man) in our English Bibles. It was not used in the original Hebrew and Greek documents, yet it appears in the KJV 23 times in the Old Testament and 20 in the New Testament. To get this word into our English Bibles, the translators used 12 different Hebrew words and 14 different Greek words. Other translations only use it a few times and the NEB doesn't use it at all. Again, it shows that we (those of us that can't read the original languages) are at the mercy of the translators. For more on this point, it would be worth reading "How does God Govern Through Humans?" by Norman Edwards. You can find it in the Literature List at www.servantsnews.com.
Another factor is that, at times, translators have allowed their beliefs to colour the way they have translated certain verses. A number of different groups have pushed their cause, but the biggest number of imposed translations seems to have come from the Trinitarians. The classic example would be John 1:1. Those who have a Trinity leaning, translate it to make the "logos" to be Christ, and that He is God. When the correct rules of grammar are used, the "logos" can be shown to be the wisdom, plan or grand design of God, and this plan pertains to God or is divine - as Moffatt correctly translates the last part of the verse. "Logos" is used over 300 times in the New Testament, yet is given a capital only about 10 times, and the various translations can't agree where this should be done. A very detailed account of how men have altered certain verses in the Bible can be found in the book "One God & One Lord" by Graeser, Lynn and Schoenheit, obtainable from www.BiblicalUnitarian.com.
It would be worth your while in doing some research into the origin of the King James Bible.
A brief comment, putting it in my own words. Cutting into the story - see History of KJV - The Geneva Bible of 1539 was very popular with the lower classes, but the English clergy would not use it. Instead they produced their own Bible in 1568, called the Bishop's Bible. This was done in an attempt to regain some of their "status". It was not, by all accounts, a good translation, but it started to reverse the more accurate Tyndale translation of using "congregation" instead of "church", and "elder" instead of "priest". In other words, the Bishops were trying to write the job description they wanted, rather than comply with the truth of the original Bible.
When King James came to the throne in England, he had already been the King of Scotland for over 30 years. He was a seasoned politician, and he knew that a strong church acted as a good buffer, and made his job easier. While he rejected the Pope, he admired the position and power that he held. After calling a conference with the English clergy, it became obvious to him that a new Bible translation would help cement his relationship with them. The new translation was to be based on the Bishop's Bible as much as possible and retain the "ecclesiastical" words. While indvidual manuscripts of the Hebrew and Greek were consulted (according to the Introduction in the KJV), the main source used came from four existing Bibles. The Bishop's Bible, Tyndale's Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Rheims-Douai Bible. The Stephanus Greek text of 1550 - put together in a rush and of poor quality - was used along with the standard Hebrew of the day. The Hebrew has not changed all that much over time, but the Greek has.
the end, it was as much a political document, as it was a religious
document. Having a politician (King James) make the final decision on
content, should send us the signal that all was not well with the end
I hope you can begin to see that our English Bibles we have today have quite a bit of history to them, and not all of it is good.
My best guess at this point in time, is that only a small amount of the Bible has major problems. That sounds bad, but the good news is that we still have the vast majority to work with, and by applying two rules, we can soon determine what is truth and what is error. If we want to find out why God created the universe, the earth, and ourselves, the Bible is the only book we have that records firsthand the statements of God - the one who is responsible.
Knowing that the Bible is a mixture of inspired and uninspired facts, and has been "got at" by men, and has been corrupted in a number of places, and some of the original has been lost, just means that we have to be a little more careful about what we are reading, and we should not jump to conclusions based on just one or two verses.
If you are talking with a religious person, and question one of their beliefs, they will usually point out two or three verses that "prove" their point. At that instant we don't know if these verses are genuine or are verses that have been corrupted by men. If you want to know the proof of the matter, you will have to go away and search out all the Bible has to say on the matter. We need to find out how many other verses agree or disagree with the "proof texts" given, and we especially need to know what God has said. In other words, we need to look for a theme running through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This is where a Bible search engine on a computer (such as eSword - free from www.e-sword.net) comes in handy.
A couple of examples.
There are over 150 Scriptures that state or support that God the Father - the "Yahveh" or "Jehovah" of the Old Testament - is the creator, and about 20 (depends on the translation) that support Christ as the creator. See the list under "Themes" in the Miscellaneous index. Obviously the Trinity concept "requires" Christ to exist before His birth, so it appears that some verses were "tweaked" to provide that information.
By looking for a theme running through the Bible, we can begin to identify some of the verses that have been contaminated.
There are six Scriptures that tell us that we are to be baptized in a name or in the name of Christ, and one Scripture that says we are to be baptized in the name of "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit". If we take the theme running through the Bible rather than just one "proof-text", the truth of the matter becomes clear.
If we accept the more than 150 verses that directly or indirectly identify God the Father as creator and sustainer, and is the only true God, then we must ignore those verses that claim that Christ is also a God. It would appear that these verses were added or have been mistranslated to support the Trinity concept that three "Gods" make up one "God". The Received or Byzantine Text is much more corrupted in this fashion than the Alexandrian Text - but it too has its problems.
One of the reasons given by people who support using only the Received Text is that it "has dozens of references to the deity of Jesus Christ". Some people are not comfortable with a sinless man - born by a miracle from God - shedding His blood to cover their sins. Only a "God" is good enough for them, so they elevate the man Jesus to be the "God" Christ. We must remember that it is God, not man, that determines what is an acceptable sacrifice. By men elevating Jesus to a "God" position, they lose the plot in that the "man" Jesus came to reveal His Father and to show us how we too can qualify to be in a position of authority in the Kingdom of God. Jesus was able to do what He did because of His close relationship with His spiritual Father, and God the Father expects us to follow His example. If we see Jesus as "God in the flesh", then what incentive do we have, knowing that we are most definitely not a "god in the flesh". Another point, if we see Jesus as a man, as he was, then we will have a much greater appreciation for what He was able to do for us.
While we might have English translations of the Bible that are less than perfect, it is still possible to extract out much truth. How much truth we will find is largely determined by our attitude and the effort we are willing to put in to find it (Mat 13:45,46).
Too many people have said too many things that are simply not true. Everything needs to be checked out for yourself (1 Thes 5:21). For example, people today say that when you die you go immediately to heaven, and are looking down on those who are still alive. The Bible says that when people die they are "asleep in the grave" - in other words, know nothing - and are waiting to hear Christ's call (John 5:25) for their resurrection at a future time.
People say that God is a loving God and is always trying to help us. The Bible says that God helps those who keep His Laws, but is an enemy to those who reject His Laws.
While Bible Commentaries will often give us good information to think about, many disagree over what certain verses mean. They can't all be right all the time.
People say the Sabbath has been done away with. The Bible says that the Sabbath has always been a requirement, and certainly will be observed during the Millennium in the Kingdom of God.
People say we don't have to keep the Ten Commandments - the Bible says they should be observed now, and will observed in the Kingdom of God. How can you possibly say that you love God and your fellow man without obeying them (the Commandments)?. Is it showing love to your neighbour to steal from him/her, commit adultery with their spouse, kill them, lie to them? Is it showing love to God to spend 10x (maybe a 1000x) more time watching TV/the computer, than talking to him (prayer) or listening to Him (Bible Study)? How can you take His name in vain - as many TV shows allow - and then expect Him to support our less than half-hearted efforts to give Him some credit for our blessings? If you support evolution, then you are totally doing away with God, and, as I see it, breaking the first commandment.
If you are going to study the Bible, then you have to do it for yourself, and not tag along with some self-promoting man or woman leader.
1. It contains instructions from our maker's mouth. The ones we are to live by (Deut 8:3,Mat 4:4).
2. It records instructions God passed on to His Prophets, as well as many prophecies for the future.
3. It explains why we were born (to become a member of the spiritual family of God), and what we need to do to get the most out of our temporary existence, called physical life.
4. It shows that while we can do nothing to "require" God to give us eternal life (that comes as a gift), there is much we can do - and should do - to get a greater reward (position in the Kingdom).
5. By understanding the Old and New Testament, we have examples from those who have gone before us, of what to do - and what not to do. Also, as we understand how God treated people in the past, we can better understand how God will treat us in the future (God does not change).
More information about studying the Bible can be found in the articles, "How to Study the Bible" and "The Christian's Life".
While this information is made freely available (Mat 10:8b) , and can be printed out, it is done with the understanding that there will only be fair and honest use of the material, and that it will be copied in full with no alterations.