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Frequently Asked Questions about the Bible
This document covers the following questions:
This FAQ reflects the author's Christian beliefs, reverence for God, and a great respect for God's Holy Word, the Bible. I believe that the Holy Bible was inspired by God, who had His servants speak, write, and preserve His word. The Bible reflects the style of the many people involved, but it is from God, and should be respected as such.
What is the Holy Bible?
The Holy Bible is God's written word to mankind. It has been written over thousands of years by many people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and miraculously preserved until today. There are many ancient documents, but those in the Holy Bible are of great importance to Jews and Christians, because they explain the way to fellowship with God and the way to live.
What is in the Bible?
The Holy Bible is a collection of books. These are arranged in the Old Testament (before Jesus Christ) and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the same books as the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, and consists of 3 or 4 main sections:
- The Law (Torah), called the 5 Books of Moses. These are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These tell about creation, the patriarchs, the miraculous way that God broke the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and more.
- History. These tell how God has intervened, interacted, and taught people through history. God's mixture of justice, mercy, and love are clearly seen in these books.
- Wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs), also called the poetic books include prayers, great wisdom, and some prophesy. Many of the things written in the Psalms were fulfilled by Jesus, the Messiah. The history and wisdom literature books combined are referred to as "The Writings" (Kethuvim).
- The Prophets (Nevi'im). These contain God's Word to His people, both in terms of current activities and in predicting future events.
The New Testament consists of 4 sections:
- The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell about Jesus' life and teaching.
- Acts records the history of the early church and some of the miracles done by the Holy Spirit.
- The Letters (also called the Epistles) contain important teaching for those who follow Jesus Christ.
- Revelation is a book of prophesy that tells about what is going to happen, as well as sending some warning messages to the current assemblies of Christians.
For more information, open up a Bible or access on our web site choices of Bible Versions click here and please read God's Word daily.
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. The New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek. There are a few passages in Aramaic and Chaldean. Because languages continually evolve, and people speak many languages, the Holy Bible is being translated by many groups, with the goal of providing a copy to everyone in their own language.
What is God's name?
Although there is only one true God, He is called by many names in the Holy Bible. In Hebrew, God's most common proper name is represented by the 4 consonants YOD HE WAW HE, which is usually written "Yahweh" in English. Sometimes "Jehovah" is used, which is what you get when you combine the vowels for "Adonai" (Lord) with the consonants for "Yahweh." This name is sometimes rendered "LORD" in English translations, not to be confused with "Lord" (the rendition of "Adonai") -- note the small capital letters in one and not the other. Trust me, God knows who you are talking to when you pray, so please don't sweat this one too much.
Why do different versions of the Holy Bible differ in some details?
This is a troubling question for some people. After all, it is important to know exactly what God intended, isn't it?
God, in His sovereign will, chose to entrust His Holy, perfect word to human, fallible scribes (past and present) and translators (past and present). That means that some copies of the Bible have minor copying errors in them. This applies both to the original languages and to translations. Computers help modern scribes, but errors still creep in. For example, if you have the Bible Explorer CD-ROM, there is a whole sentence missing from John 21:17 in the ASV. That sentence is there in my paper copy of the ASV, but not on the CD-ROM. Scribes manually copying manuscripts sometimes made this kind of mistake, too. The process of trying to reconstruct what the original said from a set of copies that all differ in some details is called "textual criticism."
Right now, we have 3 main schools of thought as to what the original Greek New Testament was: the "Textus Receptus," the "Majority Text," and the "UBS" text. The "Textus Receptus" (received text) is essentially that which underlies the KJV. The "Majority Text" basically follows what the majority of currently existing manuscripts say. The "UBS" text gives greater weight to a relatively few manuscripts written on "older" media, even when they disagree with the majority. The good news is that all 3 of these agree VERY closely, and they don't disagree in any way that affects any major doctrine. All 3 certainly agree with respect to the central Good News about Jesus Christ being God's Son in the flesh, who died for our sin, but rose again, thus giving us hope in the promise of eternal life. In fact the Textus Receptus and Majority Text are basically the same in most places. The UBS text seems to have several small "dropouts" with respect to the Majority Text, like John 5:4. (Look for it in a footnote in the NIV). It also casts doubt on Mark 16:9-20 by bracketing it, even though there are ONLY 2 significant manuscripts that leave it out. Nevertheless, the UBS text seems to have developed quite a following, today, even though the Majority Text makes more sense to me.
Another source of differences in Bible versions come from the fact that there is more than one way to translate the same thing, depending on style, target vocabulary, translation philosophy, etc. These differences are generally not difficult to deal with though, because they mean the same thing. For example:
But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. -- James 1:22 (WEB, RSV)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. -- James 1:22 (NIV)
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. -- James 1:22 (NAB)
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. -- James 1:22 (NASB95)
You get the idea...
Which English translation of the Holy Bible is best?
Which one do you read and apply to your life?
Here are a few of the best:
- The New King James Version (NKJV) is good for those who are used to the KJV, but want something in Modern English. The New Testament is based on the Textus Receptus, but has footnotes where the UBS and Majority Text differ.
- The New International Version (NIV) is the best-selling English Bible. Its New Testament is based on the UBS Greek text. Its language is easy to read, and its accuracy is well respected. I often read from this aloud to my family. This is the Bible my third grade son reads regularly. It is not widely available on line, due to copyright restrictions.
- Todays New International Version (TNIV) is a language update of the NIV. This translation attempts to be more gender-inclusive in its language than the NIV, but does not compromise in the masculine nature of God the Father.
- The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update (NASB95) is an excellent translation, with wording that is more literal than the NIV, and which holds to the style of the original more closely. The NASB is well known for paying close attention to tenses of words, etc. It is based on the UBS4 Greek text.
- The New American Standard Bible (1977) is almost as good as the NASB95, except that it reverts to archaic English in the Psalms and in the language of prayer, and is a little harder to read. It is not widely available on line, due to copyright restrictions.
- The World English Bible (WEB) is a revision of the ASV of 1901 into Modern English. The New Testament is revised to reflect the Majority Text. God's name in the Old Testament is rendered as "Yahweh" instead of "Jehovah" because that is widely regarded to be more correct. This is an all-volunteer project still in progress. The purpose of the WEB is to put an accurate, whole, Modern English Bible into the Public Domain.
- The Amplified Bible (Amp) is excellent for detailed study of a passage. It seeks to reveal the full richness of the underlying Greek and Hebrew, and often reveals insights that you might miss in reading a more conventional translation. This isn't real good for reading aloud (because of its punctuation and wordiness), but I recommend that you get one for study to set along side one of the above translations. The Amplified Old Testament is not available in any electronic form, because of copyright and greed issues between the copyright owners. The Amplified New Testament is available from Logos.
- The New English Translation (NET) is a scholarly translation with extensive notes. Copyrighted.
Here are some other translations that are worth considering:
- The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is an accurate, readable translation based on the UBS4 Greek text. Copyrighted.
- The English Standard Version (ESV) is an accurate, readable, literal translation based on the UBS4 Greek text. Copyrighted.
- God's Word is a fresh, new translation from the God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. It is easy to read and well done. Copyrighted.
- The New Living Translation (NLT) is a thought-for-thought translation that seeks to retain the readability of The Living Bible, but with greater accuracy. Copyrighted.
- The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is another hybrid Modern/Archaic English Bible. (Archaic in the Psalms and in prayer, as if God only spoke Elizabethan English.) It is pretty well trusted, though. The RSV is copyrighted.
- The New International Reader's Version (NIrV) is a simplified (3rd grade level) Bible that is based on the NIV. It is the best limited vocabulary Bible I have seen. Copyrighted.
- The New Century Version (NCV) is a fairly free translation that reads like a newspaper. It is targeted at the 3rd grade reading level. Copyrighted.
- The Contemporary English Version (CEV) is the American Bible Society's latest English entry. It is aimed at a 3rd grade reading level, but I think it is really more like 2nd grade level. If you don't mind calling Passover "The Feast of Thin Bread," it is OK. Copyrighted.
- Today's English Version (TEV), also called the Good News Bible or Good News for Modern Man, is an older Modern English Bible from the American Bible Society. In some ways, I like it better than the CEV, but it has taken some flak for being too loose of a translation. Actually, I believe that they did fairly well with a limited vocabulary. Copyrighted.
- The Jewish New Testament is an interesting mix of Hebrew and English terminology that brings out the Jewish nature of the Rabbi called Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. Highly recommended for all Jews. Copyrighted.
- The Revised English Bible (REB) is a very readable British English (as opposed to American English) Bible, a revision of the New English Bible (NEB). It is available both with and without the Apocrypha. It has a respectable list of churches that endorse it. Some bracketed sections of the UBS4 Greek text are ommitted entirely, so don't look too hard for the story of the woman caught in adultery in this Bible. Copyrighted.
- The Philips New Testament is a free translation/paraphrase that is easy to read, and has good impact. Copyrighted.
- The Living Bible (TLB) is a paraphrase of the KJV that sacrifices accuracy for readability. Sometimes in makes a point pretty well. The flashlight in Psalms 119:105 seems a bit odd, though. Copyrighted.
- The Message is a paraphrase that claims to be a translation. It is very earthy, and is a great commentary, but not very accurate. Copyrighted.
- The King James Version (KJV), sometimes called the Authorized Version (AV) was quite revolutionary when it came out in 1611 (and was revised a few times to correct its large collection of typos). It is still very popular, in spite of its archaic and difficult to understand language. Indeed, there is a cult-like following of this translation that claim that this is the only true Word of God, superior even to the original languages. While that claim is bizarre, there are a vociferous few people on this news group who hold to that opinion. The King James Version of the Holy Bible is in the Public Domain. You can publish, copy, distribute it for free, or sell it, all without having to ask anyone's permission.
- The Webster Bible (a revision of the KJV bible) has updated spelling, but retains the same grammar and almost all of the wording of the KJV. The Webster Bible is in the Public Domain.
- The American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 is a revision of the Revised Bible, a revision of the KJV for language and to take advantage of some new (then) manuscript discoveries to allow greater accuracy. The ASV uses "Jehovah" for God's name, instead of "LORD" (which the KJV and many others use). The language of the ASV is less archaic than the KJV, but still far from modern. The ASV is in the Public Domain.
- The Young's Literal Translation (YLT) is somewhat archaic, but it is fairly well done and is freely available on line.
- The Darby Translation is another somewhat archaic translation. It is freely available on line.
- The Weymouth New Testament in Modern Speech is a decent translation of the New Testament only. It is freely available on line.
Why can't I download the Some Bible Translations?
It is probably because they are copyrighted, and the copyright owner chooses not to allow them to be given away freely.
Those who claim the Bible is full of contradictions generally only find them because they don't really read what the Bible actually says in its own context.
To really read the Bible to find out what it means, you need to read with the following questions in mind:
- What does the text say? (observation)
- What does it mean? (interpretation)
- How does it apply to me? (application)
The following guidelines are helpful in proper Bible reading:
- Scripture interprets Scripture. If an idea you get from one verse is out of line with the rest of what the Bible says, you need to reevaluate what you thought that verse said. "Let everything be established by 2 or 3 witnesses" before you make a doctrine of something.
- Literal where possible -- what it says, it means.
- Consider the form of the writing in each section (i. e. historical, narrative, parable, poetry, teaching, prediction of the future, etc.).
- Consider grammar and history. This means understanding how natural languages work in general, and at least something of how the original languages of the Bible work. It also means that it is helpful to understand the history, culture, geography, etc., of the original audience.
Where can I download and read the Bible on the Internet?
Below are our links to the different translations of Bible on our Web site http://www.biblesnet.com./bibles.html.
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