Ben Affleck on the Bible

This post was written by Demian Farnworth, who authors Fallen and Flawed, at the beginning of this month. I have re-posted it here in its entirety with his permission. Please head to his site to leave comments.

Ben Affleck never read the Bible as a child.

So, as an adult he expected it to be loaded with fire and brimstone…

Ripe with weeping and gnashing teeth.

Naturally this notion was only reinforced as he encountered one angry, hateful person after another who claimed to represent all Christians.

This stereotype held until he actually read the Bible.

In fact, this is what he said about reading the Gospel According to Matthew in an August 2008 Oprah magazine:

“Reading the Bible disabused me of any sense that a hateful person could represent this faith. The book is beautiful and exquisitely written–but it is characterized by one quality that colors every page: love.”

He went on to say that reading the Bible made it harder for him to accept the “damaging and small minded beliefs” that people promote in the name of Christian values.

I wonder if he had Fred Phelps in mind when he said that.

Where I’m Going with This

Often on this blog I here non-believers write the Bible off as a collection of hallucinogenic babbling from the mental fringe.

Indeed in my own experience as a non-believer I made outlandish claims about the perversity of the Bible…without ever reading it…so I’m inclined to believe neither have they.

At least not carefully.

Yet honest people like Richard Dawkins read the OT and shake their head in disbelief at what they deem a volatile, childish tyrant.

What gives? The New Testament gives.

Sinclair Ferguson writes, “You cannot open the pages of the New Testament without realizing that one of the things that makes it so ‘new’, in every way, is that here men and women call God ‘Father.’”

This conviction of intimacy with the creator of the universe lies at the heart of our faith. And it suggest we humbly read the Bible in it’s entirety…

And we understand the OT through the lens of Christ.

Reading Matthew obviously had an impact on Ben Affleck. But I don’t know if Ben Affleck is a true believer.

To be sure, he anticipates the question in the article when he says he considers his religious beliefs private matters.

But he nonetheless is moved by it. Perhaps no more than a deep interest in social justice as indicated by his involvement in genocide recovery.

Your Turn

But what about you: What was your first encounter with the Bible like? With the New Testament? With a particular Gospel?

Did you view it as a majestic piece of literature that can stand on it’s own feet [as I once did during a "Bible as Literature" course]?

Or were you appalled by what you read?

Or did you tear your clothes in grief like Josiah who said, “For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us”?

What'd you think? 

Book Review: Jesus Lives by Sarah Youn

Sarah Young. Jesus Lives: Seeing His Love in Your Life. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009, 359 pp.

This is a devotional book that is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to the reader. It is also written with a very specific topic in mind—the unfailing love of Jesus Christ. Each of the devotions is designed to bring you to understand that love and experience it in a new and/or fresh way. Life brings with it many challenges and difficulties that may cause us to question the love of our Savior. Sarah Young hopes to help those who use this devotional to “’see’ His Love in [those] moments of our lives.”

The layout of this devotional is topical. This is different from a great majority of devotionals available that take the format of lining out the devotions according to the calendar. Of the 180 devotions contained in the book, some of the topics on which you can find devotions are: Adversity, emptiness, His forgiveness, idolatry, prayer, sorrow, worship, etc.

All in all, this is a wonderful devotional book. I like how the author writes as though Jesus were speaking directly to the reader. The other thing I really like about this book was that every devotional was accompanied by several Scriptures to meditate and reflect upon as you read the “message from Christ.”

I am typically not big on devotional materials as I think they very often times tend to simply give Christians the feeling that they have spent time in the Word of God when they have only read one verse. This devotional is slightly different than most and has some value for those who would like something to help them with understanding certain topics better. For example, if someone is struggling with trials in their life, there are five devotions that address that very topic. And each of those devotionals will point them to several places in the Scriptures that will help them better understand trials. Therefore, I don’t think this is a devotional that one would sit down and read from cover to cover; but I think it is one of those books you turn to at different points in your life when you need a fresh perspective on something.

I am a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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Are Christmas Trees Idols?

I have seen a lot on the Internet of late about Christmas. One of the hot topics is the origin of the Christmas tree. What bothers me most about a lot of what I have read is that many people appear to simply throw assertions out with nothing to support their claims. Such as this comment by @Deathiepants, "Come on, let's be honest. A Christmas tree is just an Asherah pole anyway." No support given to support the claim, just the assertion that Christmas trees are Asherah poles. I read a Jewish cite condemning Christmas and Christmas trees. I even read an article from a Christian claiming that the entire tradition of Christmas is pagan and that God commands we not celebrate it at all. That being said, there are a great number of websites that cite credible sources regarding the origin of the Christmas tree—an excellent example is

There is no hard evidence which reveals exactly how the tradition of bringing an evergreen tree indoors and decorating it became intertwined with the Christmas celebration. There are a few facts that seem to indicate it came from a Germanic background. In this tradition, the evergreen tree was decorated with apples to recall the Garden of Eden and were popularly known as “Paradise Trees.” However, there were also traditions from many different cultures that would bring boughs of evergreen branches into their homes during the winter. The best explanation seems to be that the tradition was born out of Queen Victoria’s urging of Prince Albert to decorate a tree in 1848. This appears to be one of the singular acts that brought the Christmas tree into mainline Christmas tradition.

The claim that Christmas trees are really just Ashera poles bothers me because it is an assertion with no support. What is interesting is that many of those who claim this look to the Bible to try and claim support. The passage they regularly cite is Jeremiah 10:2-5, which reads:
This is what the Lord says: Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.
At this point, the claim is along the lines of “God condemns the putting up of pagan (Christmas) trees with this plain Bible command!” So does the Bible condemn Christmas trees? Well, when one takes this passage in context that is not what God was condemning at all.

The cultures around the nation of Israel (and even Israel at times) would create gods to worship. One of the typical methods of doing this was to cut a tree down from the forest and carve it into the rough shape of the idol they were making. Then, they would cover the idol with gold or silver. This is similar to our modern day gold plating. It is cheaper to use an inferior metal for the bulk of something, and then cover it in a coating of the more expensive precious metal. Can you imagine trying to build a seven-foot statue of Zeus from solid gold to be placed in all of the temples erected to worship him across the Greek and Roman empires? It would be nearly impossible to locate that much gold and keep people from trying to steal the statues. Neither could many other ancient cultures when creating the images they worshiped. The wood served as the bulk of the idol while the precious metals and stones were then fashioned as a covering.

This is clearly seen when you look at some of the other biblical passages that address using trees to make idols. Isaiah 41:7 mentions the craftsmen “nailing down” the idol so it will not topple, just as it is in Jeremiah 10. A much longer treatment is given in Isaiah 44:12-20. In fact, the Bible uses sarcasm when condemning idol worship in this passage. Another place that mentions them using silver and gold when fashioning their idols is Isaiah 46:5-7 where individuals weigh out gold and silver and hire a craftsman to fashion a god(s) for them to worship.

It is abundantly clear that Jeremiah 10 is not condemning Christmas trees. What is being condemned is idol worship. There is no doubt about this when one considers the other passages mentioned. Besides, if they were worshiping the tree itself, why cut it down? Why not simply go out into the woods and worship the tree in all of its glory as many of the nature religions do?

At this point, I must tell you that I am not condoning nor condemning the practice of putting up Christmas trees. I can tell you that real Christmas trees smell great, but I hate having to clean up all of the needles left behind when it is time to take them down. What I can say is that Christmas trees most certainly have some roots in pagan worship practices. The choice to place a Christmas tree in your home or not is a choice that your family will have to make. I only wanted to make it clear that the Bible does not expressly forbid Christmas trees. I think that there would still be nay-sayers if Jesus’ birth was celebrated almost any other day of the year. Somewhere, someone would find some connection to a pagan celebration and then explain that we shouldn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus.

As for me and my house, we will most certainly celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. For without the advent of Jesus, there could not have been the greatest gift of all time—salvation.

Back to "Christmas: Separating the Fact from the Fiction"
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Is December 25th really Jesus birthday?

There are not very many people who forgo celebrating Christmas in some way, shape, or form. But what is Christmas all about? Christmas is truly supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. This naturally leads many people to ask the question, “Was Jesus born on December 25th?”

The short answer to that question is quite simply no; Jesus was not born on the 25th day of December. In fact, it is most likely that Jesus wasn’t even born anywhere close to December. We do not have an exact date for the birth of Jesus, but what we do have are some pretty good clues as to the season of his birth.

There are two major clues found in the Scriptures concerning the date of Jesus’ birth. The first is mentioned in Luke 2:1. This verse mentions the reason Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, where Jesus would be born. There was a census given by the Roman Empire that required everyone to return to his or her ancestral home. For Joseph, this was Bethlehem.

The exact date of this census is somewhat hard to determine because Luke’s choice of wording. He mentions the governor Quirinius. However, there is some confusion as to whether or not the census was issued during Quirinius’ governorship or if it was before his time as governor. This is because Quirinius became governor (4 AD) after Herod I had died (4 BC). This would have made the claim in Matthew 2:7-8, 16 about Herod seeking out the Christ child rather difficult as Herod would have been dead if the census was issued during the governorship of Quirinius. The most likely explanation is that the phrase “the first census” is better translated as “the census before Quirinius”—just as the same Greek word was translated in John 1:15.

Nevertheless, the Romans would never have ordered a census to be conducted in the middle of the winter. Not only would it have been difficult for the people to travel and be counted, but also it would have been difficult for the officials of the Empire to travel about and conduct the census and gather the results.

The second major clue as to the birth of Jesus is found in Luke 2:8—And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. The sheepherders would not have been found in the open fields in December. It would have been much too cold and the fields would not have enough vegetation to support their flocks. The shepherds would only have been found in the fields from about the end of March to the beginning of September.

Taking these two pieces of Biblical evidence together, it can only be concluded that Jesus was not born in December, much less the 25th day of the month. But this is not really any surprise; biblical scholars have known for many years that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. At this point, you might be wondering to yourself why we celebrate the birth of Christ on a day that we know isn’t correct. It is because of a couple of things that did take place on and around this date.

There was a Roman emperor who ruled about 150 years before Jesus was born. Antiochus IV is responsible for creating some of the historical traditions that eventually led to Christmas being celebrated on December 25. The story goes that Antiochus began to utterly despise the Jews. He began outlawing many Jewish religious rituals. If that wasn’t enough, he also required them to begin worshiping the Greek gods.

Antiochus went so far as to seize the temple. Then he proceeded to dedicate the temple to Zeus. In an official act of commencement, he slaughteed a pig on the altar to indicate the temple was dedicated to Zeus from that point forward. This was also a way that Antiochus was thumbing his nose at the Jews because pigs were detestable to them. For Antiochus, it was not enough to take the temple from them (their national religious symbol), but he had performed an act of desecration as well by slaughtering the pig. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the day that Antiochus performed this sacrifice was December 25th. This began a rebellion by the Jewish people known as the Maccabean Revolt.

Eventually the rebellion was successful and Jerusalem was recaptured. Before restoring proper worship in the temple, the Jews removed all traces of idol worship from the temple and held a ceremony to mark its cleansing and dedication back to the worship of Yahweh. Part of this celebration was lighting the menorah. Due to the rebellion, there was only enough oil to burn the lights for one day. The day of this celebration was the 25th of Kislev. However, the Talmud records that the candles miraculously burned for eight days. This sparked an annual celebration known as Hanukkah. This is also known as the fest of dedication or the festival of lights.

This celebration is mentioned in the Bible. It is found in John 10:22. Jesus was teaching in the temple courts. Specifically, what was known as Solomon’s Colonnade. At this point, the Jews approach him and ask, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” They were asking a very specific question. They wanted Jesus to state whether or not He was the Messiah, God in the flesh. This is particularly interesting as Hanukkah marked a time of renewed Jewish nationalism as they remembered a time of their ancestors overcoming an empire and restoring Israel to national independence. They believed the Messiah would also bring the nation of Israel independence. So their question naturally flowed from the celebration. At this point, Jesus clearly proclaimed, “I and the Father are one.” Thus indicating that he was the Messiah.

Even more interesting is the fact that the passages directly preceding this one are clearly intended to demonstrate that while Hanukkah was not a festival established in the Old Testament, Jesus still fulfilled it. In John 8:12 Jesus declared, “I am the true light.” Then in Chapter 9, John records Jesus’ healing of the man born blind. In other words, Jesus brought light into this man’s life of darkness.

It is for these reasons that it is certainly fitting and proper that we would celebrate the birth of Christ, the coming of “the light of life” (Jn 8:12). It is a time when Jesus proclaimed his message of salvation, his message of freedom from spiritual darkness. December 25th is a time to tell our children, family, and friends how we used "to be darkness, but now [we] are light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8). It is a time to proclaim the gospel of salvation with renewed fervency.

Back to "Christmas: Separating the Fact from the Fiction"
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Three Kings: What Your Sunday School Teacher Didn't Tell You

There is a guest author posting today here at Mr. Hyde's Blog. His name is Demian Farnworth and he is the keynote blogger for Fallen and Flawed. He is kicking off the series titled "Christmas: Separating the Fact from the Fiction." After you finish reading his post, you should head on over to Fallen and Flawed and check out his blog.

Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

Do those names sound familiar? Should, they're the names of the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

Only problem, the Bible never names the three kings. In fact, the Bible never specifies how many kings actually visit the baby Jesus.

Yes, it specifies three gifts: frankincense, gold and myrrh, but Matthew 2:2-12, which narrates the visit of the kings, allows for the visitation of a hundred kings.

It's that wide open.

And while we're on the topic, those kings...well, they weren't actually kings. That's right. The Bible states "Magi from the east came to Jerusalem."

Well, how did they become kings then? The most popular theory suggests that after 350 A. D. someone wanted to endorse the role of Christian monarchs--and voila, the magi became kings.

But what's a magi? Think Zoroastrian priest. In Latin, the singular form of magi--magos--refers to the religious caste in which Zoroaster was born.

The biblical equivalent would be the religious caste of Levi.

What did Zoroaster and his priests caste do? They studied astronomy, medicine and mathematics--and, you guessed it, astrology--the art of interpreting how stars influence human affairs.

So, where did the those names come from? Well you have to wait about 500 years before the names crop up in a Greek manuscript found in Alexandria.

After that, they just stuck.

Okay, if so much of what we know about the story of the Magi's is wrong, what's true? Well, we know this much: They humped it across the desert to Bethlehem following a star, found baby Jesus in a cave and bowed before him.

Then they gave him gifts fit for a king.

Gifts that were a beautiful reflection of their spiritual adoration. An adoration you and I would be wise to imitate.
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Christmas: Separating the Fact from the Fiction

Last week I placed a poll up and those of you who voted made it clear that you would like there to be a series on the myths of Christmas. I am planning to tackle as many of them as I can before Christmas, as it is upon us. So be watching for the posts in the coming days and weeks ahead.

If you have any suggestions or something you've always wondered about Christmas, please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Posts in this Series:

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America: A Pro-Choice Nation?

ProtestersThere was an article in New York Magazine last month that addressed the topic of abortion. Specifically, the question was about whether or not America really has a pro-choice majority among its citizens. I would recommend that read the article and then stop by Al Mohler's blog and read his response to it. You will thoroughly enjoy both articles and learn a lot about the current debate around abortion.
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Hanukkah: The Jewish Christmas?

Hanukkah or Chanukah is the Jewish festival of dedication. It is also known as the festival of lights. It is celebrated from the 25th of Kislev to the 3rd of Tevet. It is one of the more widely known Jewish holidays in North America because of its proximity to Christmas. However, there is still a lot of confusion by those outside the Jewish faith as to exactly what Hanukkah is and what it celebrates. Hanukkah is a festival that stems from an event in history known as the Maccabean Revolt. Antiochus IV was the ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, which was part of the remnants of Alexander the Great’s empire. Antiochus began taking great measures against traditional Jewish practices by outlawing Jewish rituals and ordering them to worship Greek gods. In 168 BC, Antiochus seized the temple and dedicated it to the worship of Zeus. At this point, it is said that Antiochus offered a pig on the altar of the temple. This sparked a revolt by the Jews that eventually succeeded in 165 BC. Upon recapturing the temple, the Jews cleansed the temple and decided to hold a ceremony to rededicate the temple to the service of the LORD. The Talmud records that at this point there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. The menorah, however, miraculously burned for eight days.

Hanukkah commemorates this miracle at the rededication of the temple with an eight day celebration and a special menorah with eight branches—one for each day of the celebration (see video below).

This is where many people’s knowledge of Hanukkah ends and where the questions begin. For this reason, I decided it most appropriate to seek out and ask these questions to a Jewish Rabbi. So I would like to introduce you to my guest, Rabbi Leonard Zukrow of the Temple Beth-El in Pensacola, FL. My questions are bold and italic, while Rabbi Zukrow's follow in normal font.

Should we call the candelabra a menorah or a hanukkiah?
The menorah is a seven branched candelabra that stood in the Temple. The Chanukah menorah, known in Hebrew as a Chanukiah is eight branched to mark the eight days of the festival. There is one additional candle known as the “shamash” which is the “helper” candle used to light the other candles.

Has the celebration of Hanukkah changed over the years?
Yes, as is the case with most Jewish festivals. We retain the core practices – in the case of Chanukah – lighting the chanukia – and we build upon and expand the observance through foods associated with the festival, songs, stories, images, and new innovations that enrich our observance.

Is gift giving part of the Hanukkah celebration?
Yes, it was a custom to receive “Chanukah gelt” – a silver coin. In North America within the “season of giving” associated with the Christmas season, gift giving has expanded with the celebration of Chanukah. Traditionally and in Israel the practice of gift giving takes place at Rosh haShanah (The New Year) and Purim (The Feast of Esther).

What is the purpose of the gifts and what is the manner in which the gifts are given? For example, does the value or number of gifts increase or decrease each day?
Again, the practice of gift giving is more an American practice and it has evolved to gift giving on each night of Chanukah. Today, many families are forgoing gifts and offering contributions to various causes and organizations in place of personal gifts.

How much of the American celebration of Christmas do Jews participate (Christmas trees, Santa Clause, Christmas lights, etc.)?
There are accounts of Jews who participate in Christmas, most common is having a tree. Those Jews who do this see the tree and the Christmas season as a secular event. As a rabbi, I want Jews to celebrate Chanukah and as a rabbi, I want Christians to truly celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. I fully support putting Christ back into Christmas, observing Christmas in church and at home. As Christmas moved into the public square it has become more secular and national, and less religious.

Is it appropriate for me (a Christian) or someone of a different faith to wish a Jew “Happy Hanukkah”?
Yes, it is welcomed. I do not have an issue with wishing you a Merry Christmas. The holiday you celebrate IS Christmas. However, I and most Jews and those who do not observe Christmas seek acknowledgement for who we are and that we are unique.

What do you feel is the most misunderstood or misrepresented aspect of Hanukkah?
That it is the “Jewish Christmas” because of the shared season and calendar. Chanukah is not a biblical holiday, it is a celebration of an historical event, similar to our Independence Day of July 4th. July 4th is a unique American festival, we mark it and have our traditions associated with it – however, for the rest of the world July 4th is another day on their calendar.

Is it okay for Christians to celebrate Hanukkah? Why or why not?
Chanukah is more like a Jewish independence day for its time, it celebrates a return to the practice of Jewish ritual life at the Temple. The Maccabees were a priestly family – they fought to re-establish the rituals of Jewish sacrifice at the Temple. Non-Jews were not obligated nor permitted to offer sacrifices at the Temple. Thus, one could assert from a limited perspective that Chanukah is a Jewish festival for Jews. There is a wonderful story of non Jews in Montana who all engaged in lighting menorahs in support of the Jews of their town who were being persecuted by anti- Semites. When non-Jews light a menorah for this purpose most Jews would welcome this.

I would like to thank Rabbi Zukrow for his willingness to participate and answer my questions. I would also like to thank everyone who submitted questions to me about Hanukkah. Hopefully everyone now has a better understanding of Hanukkah, what it celebrates, and how it is celebrated.
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New Poll

Hey everyone, I have a new poll up to see if all of you might like for me to write a series on the myths about Christmas. I know a lot of you subscribe by email and rss readers and rarely come to the actual site. So please take a minute to stop by and vote.

If there is any particular myth you might like for me to address, please feel free to leave it in the comments section of this post or email it to me at Look forward to hearing what you want.
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Book Review: The Family God Uses

Tom and Kim Blackaby. The Family God Uses: Leaving a Legacy of Influence. Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2009, 188 pp.

A lot of parents want to make sure they are raising their children up properly. As we parents so often joke about though, children don’t come with owner’s manuals. This leaves a lot of parents wondering if they are raising their children the best way possible, or is there a more effective way? Tom and Kim Blackaby give parents some guidance in one aspect of parenting—instructing them in their faith. They begin by laying the foundation of what a Godly family is and God’s design for families. Then they address how that works out in church life, in the home life, and in your interactions with your children. They finish by giving some tips to help your family become a family God uses.

I struggled to stay focused as I read this book. It is not because the book is poorly written, but because of how I learn. This book presents the material in a very personal and example driven method. Tom and Kim give the biblical principles and then show how that principle played out in their lives. So this book will strike a real chord with those who learn best from hearing how a principle was lived out in other peoples lives as opposed to simply being given the principle and how it applies to our lives and our families. I just don’t learn best like this because I feel like the principle is lost in the wealth of information given. In other words, I feel like I am looking for the light switch in a dark room that I’ve never before seen. If you are like me and learn best from simple straightforward presentation of principles, then you might struggle to read this book and learn from it. On the other hand, if you learn best from hearing how a principle was lived out in someone else life before you “get it,” then this book will be perfect for you. The book has a great message with solid biblical principles for families, which is needed in our nation of growing broken and blended families. This book can be purchased at or from the WMU bookstore.
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Flat Earth: Mid-Evil Belief?

It seems to me that the attacks on Christianity today come with greater frequency and greater fervency than I have ever before seen. There are attacks from the “New Atheists.” There are attacks from “science.” There are attacks from the pop-culture. The list could go on, but what is surprising is the veracity of those attacking. It seems that those opposing Christianity are no longer satisfied with simply stating their problem with the Christian faith and then leaving it at that. No, they would prefer to see the Christian faith exterminated. As though it were a rat infestation at a restaurant. However, these attacks have almost always existed since the dawn of the Christian faith. One of the pot shots that have somehow managed to survive through the decades is that the Church has always opposed science and tried to suppress its advancement. A very common example of this today is the notion that the mid-evil church believed that the earth was flat. The common story told in school textbooks is that this is why Christopher Columbus’ voyage was opposed; they were afraid he would sail of the edge of the earth. However, this is a fraudulent myth that has no place in history textbooks. There were no serious scholars (secular or religious) that believed the earth was flat during the Middle Ages. Matt Flanagan has posted an excellent article on his blog MandM that goes through the details of this myth and exposes for the propaganda that it is. I highly recommend following the link over to his blog and reading the entire article.
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Questions About the Bible: What is so important about the Bible anyways?

This is the post last in a series covering the FAQ’s about the Bible. I have already answered the questions (1) How can we know that the Bible is the Word of God? HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE (2) How did we get the Bible as we know it today? HERE In this post, I am going to be answering the question: What is so important about the Bible anyways? This is the so what question. In other words, so what if the Bible is the Word of God…what does that mean? We can know all those other important things about the Bible, but if we don’t understand how the Bible applies to us individually then it becomes another piece of irrelevant literature. However, the Bible is extremely important to the lives of Christians. In fact, it is absolutely essential to three areas of the Christian life—spiritual growth, maturity, and effectiveness.

The Bible is essential to our spiritual growth. Just as we grow physically in life, we grow spiritually in our Christian life. First Peter 2:2 explains how the Bible is essential to our spiritual growth: Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. Peter understood that when it comes to the Word of God, we must first have a certain kind of attitude. We should have the attitude like that of a newborn baby. If you haven’t noticed, newborns aren’t really concerned with much. Their main concern is eating, sleeping, and well you know the other thing. Here the point is that our main concern should be with that which nourishes us spiritually—the Bible. Newborns not only have a certain attitude, but they have an appetite. When they are hungry, they cry. They have a desire for nourishment, for milk. We are supposed to have a desire to read and study the Bible. We are to “crave” the Word of God in our lives. Life is hectic, it is busy, and it is full of things that take us away from reading and studying the Bible. Yet, whenever we go through a period where we have not been able to regularly spend time in the Word, there should be a desire and a craving to slow down and get back into the Word that wells up within us like hunger pains. While we may think babies eat just to eat, there is an aim. Just as there is an aim for babies, there is an aim for us when spending time with the Bible. That aim is for us to “grow up in [our] salvation.” If we don’t regularly encounter the Word of God, then we will not experience real spiritual growth.

The Bible is also essential to our spiritual maturity. Spiritual growth is growing in the knowledge of the things of God. We gain that knowledge through the Word of God. Spiritual maturity is learning to apply that knowledge to our lives. As we experience spiritual growth, we should in turn experience spiritual maturity. Hebrew 5:11-14 explains this process beautifully:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
The teaching about righteousness is that as we grow in our understanding of God’s Word, we grow in our ability live out that knowledge in our daily lives. How do we go about this process? We begin growing in our spiritual maturity through “constant use” of God’s Word “to distinguish good from evil.” Consider this, a person who has recently given their life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior struggles with questions regarding sin. They want to be obedient to Jesus and express their love for him, but they are not sure how to do this. So they may ask questions like: Is it okay for Christians to smoke? Is hell, damn, etc. curse words that I shouldn’t be using? Should I hangout with this person? There are an almost endless number of questions that new believers ask, but they all come from the fact that they still don’t know much about the Bible and what it says about how we should live. As Christians spend time reading and studying the Bible, these questions become easier to answer and almost second nature. The things which new believers often struggle with in theirs minds are not difficult for mature believers to resolve in their minds. The point of Hebrews though, is that we should all be maturing in our faith.

Finally, the Bible is essential to our spiritual effectiveness. There are four ways that the Bible aids us in becoming spiritually more effective. These four ways are listen in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The first way that it is useful is for teaching. This word more literally translates to doctrine. The Bible is useful for forming our core of beliefs. What do we believe about God? What do we believe about sin? What do we believe about __________(fill in the blank)? The Bible is useful for forming doctrine. The second way that the Bible helps us become spiritually effective is that it its usefulness for rebuking. Now, this doesn’t mean that we use the Bible to browbeat ourselves or anyone else. The Bible rebukes us all by itself; it doesn’t need our help. How does the Bible rebuke us? It tells us when and where we are out-of-bounds in our lives. It reveals to us when our lives have left the realm of obedience. The third way the Bible is essential to our spiritual effectiveness is that it not only rebukes us, but it corrects us. It tells us how to get back in-bounds when we have stepped out. It explains to us how to turn from sin and conform to God’s will. Finally, the Bible is essential to our spiritual effectiveness because it provides training in righteousness. The Bible explains how we can stay in-bounds to begin with, rather than simply showing us when we are out-of-bounds (rebuking) and how to get back in-bounds (correcting). These four things come together to make the Bible absolutely essential to our spiritual effectiveness.

Maybe you have wanted to be more effective for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. But I have to ask, what have you been doing to prepare yourself to be more effective? If you have not been spending time in the Word of God, you may well not be at a point where God can use you. Imagine that you have grown in the understanding of your profession by the same amount that you have in your Christian growth after the same number of years—what would be the outcome in your job? Oh, we spend a lot of time growing in our understand and effectiveness in every other area of our lives except the Bible. Lord, forgive us all for neglecting Your Word and strengthen our self-discipline that we might correct the error of our ways.

Do you have other questions about the Bible you would like for me to answer? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below or email them to me at
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Questions About the Bible: Did the Bible Fall Out of Heaven?

This series of posts have been tackling the frequently asked questions about the Bible. The first four posts in this series answered the question, “How can we know the Bible is the Word of God?” I used the acronym M-A-P-S as a guide to answering that question. The letters stand for Manuscript Evidence, Archeological Evidence, Prophecy, and Statistical Probability. There are still many other questions that are often asked about the Bible. One of those questions is how did we get the Bible as we know it today? This question is easily answered, but very few people actually know it.

The Bible as we know it today didn’t fall out of the sky or anything of the like. We received the Bible as we know it today through a process known as canonization. This is the process of recognizing those books that have the authority of God. Every now and then, you might hear someone refer to the “canon of Scripture.” This specifically refers to the 66 books contained in modern Bibles, but the word canon comes from a Greek word that means a reed, or rod as in a measuring rod. This is because there was a very precise rule or standard a book had to meet before it was considered Scripture. What was this standard? I’m glad you asked.

There was never a list of criteria written down where one could go and find a checklist and apply it to a book. However, there were some very clear criteria that were placed upon books of the Bible before they were accepted as Scripture. One of the first criteria was the authorship of the book. For Old Testament books, this was a question of whether or not it was written by a prophetic figure. New Testament books looked for apostolic authorship or apostolic support. The next major criterion was divine confirmation. Had God confirmed the author as being his messenger through mighty acts and deeds? This was essential because there have always been people who claim to have divine authority; these people are called false prophets in the Scriptures. Therefore, if someone had not been confirmed as a divinely appointed messenger, then there writings were rejected as Scripture. Doctrinal harmony was another criterion—did it line-up with the rest of Scriptural teaching. Many of the New Testament books began as circular letters that were read aloud in the churches and passed from church to church until every congregation had read the letter aloud. This formed the basis for another criterion for canonicity. Did churches already accept the book as possessing divine authority? All of these were important criteria when considering canonicity. However, spiritual profitability was one of the last considerations. All of those other criteria could be met in a book being considered, but it could still have lacked spiritual profitability. In other words, did the book serve to build up the church in the things of God? This is a criteria that is contained in the New Testament book 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

As you can see, there was serious consideration given to a book before it was considered canonical. This brings us to the next thing about the canon some people ask—are we still receiving Scripture today? The answer to this question is simply no. The canon of Scripture is closed. There are many reasons to come to this conclusion. The first is a theological reason. The Scriptures in the Old Testament were paving the way for Jesus Christ as they recorded God’s work among the nation of Israel, the nation from which Jesus would come. The New Testament is the written record of the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the church. There is no need for further revelation. This does not mean that God is no longer personally involved in humanity; or that people will not continue to gain new understanding of Scripture; or that because the apostles died that miracles have ceased. The other reason is historical. Because the apostles died, the divinely appointed messengers of Holy Scripture are not around to write Scripture. And historically speaking, there have not been any other messengers who have had the same divine confirmation like that of the apostles—raising the dead, speaking in tongues, healing the sick, etc. By the end of the fourth century A.D., the 66 books contained in modern translations of the Bible were the accepted canon of the Scripture.

There are still some other important things to know about the Bible as we have it today. I think many people don’t understand how the Bible is organized. It is not just a hodge-podge of books just randomly thrown together. There is a very specific organization to the 66 books of the Bible, and it is not chronological. The only chronological section of the Bible is from Genesis to 2 Kings. However, in the bookcase image above you can see that the Bible is first divided into two major sections. These are known as the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains all of the Scriptures revealed to the nation of Israel. It contains information about creation, God’s establishment of the nation of Israel, the rebellion of Israel against God, the capture and defeat of the nation of Israel by Assyria and Babylon, and the like. In short, it records God’s work in preparing the world for the appearance of Jesus. The New Testament contains all of the Scriptures revealed to the followers of Jesus. It contains information on the birth, life, and death of Jesus; the founding of the Christian church; the spread of early Christianity; and the like. The New Testament, for the most part, is not organized chronologically.

Instead of being organized chronologically, the Bible is order by groups of books and length of those books. Genesis through Deuteronomy (known as the Law) covers creation to the exodus of Israel from Egypt and their wanderings in the desert. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth all cover the taking of the Promised Land and the establishment of the nation of Israel. First Samuel to 2 Chronicles covers the history of Israel under the rulership of kings, the splitting of the nation into Israel (north) and Judah (south), the capture of Israel by the Assyrians, and the capture of Judah by the Babylonians. Ezra Nehemiah and Esther all address Israel under Persian control, which includes the decree to allow them to return and rebuild Jerusalem. So the group of books from Joshua to Esther is known as History.

Following Esther comes a group of books known as Wisdom Literature or Poetry. This is comprised of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Then there is the grouping known as the Major Prophets—Isaiah to Daniel. These books are then ordered by length of chapters. Then comes the group known as the Minor Prophets. They are not called this because they are less important but because they are generally shorter than those books contained in the Major Prophets. This concludes the Old Testament.

The New Testament (NT) begins with the collection known as the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then Acts, the History book of the NT. Following Acts is the group known as the Pauline Epistles or Paul’s Letters—Romans to Philemon. These are all letters written by the Apostle Paul and they are ordered by length and not by date of composition. Following that is the General Epistles or General Letters—Hebrews to Jude. Once again, these are then further ordered by length. The last book of the Bible is Revelation and it is known as Apocalyptic or Prophecy. Now you have a basic understanding of how the Bible is ordered.

When the different books were written though, there were no chapter and verses in the text. These were additions to the texts at a much later date to assist in referencing passages of Scripture. Cardinal Hugo was the first to add chapter divisions. He did this in the Latin Bible in 1250 A.D. On the other hand, Robert Estienne added verses to the Greek New Testament in 1551 A.D. At this point, there was still no Bible with both chapters and verses. This would not occur until 1560 A.D. when both were placed in the Geneva Bible. Why is any of this important? Because many books of the Bible were intended to be read in a single setting and the chapter and verse divisions sometimes force a break in the flow of the text. Chapter and verse divisions are helpful, but they are not inspired. Likewise, the subheadings contained in many versions of the Bible are not inspired. These are things like “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” “Paul’s Longing to Visit Rome,” etc. These are added and are not inspired. The only inspired subheadings in the Bible are those contained in the Psalms.

The Bible didn’t miraculously appear one day. It was received over a very long period of time. I think this post has shown that there is a lot more to the Bible than meets the eye. So now we have seen that we can know that the Bible is the Word of God (MAPS) and how we got the Bible as we know it today, but what is so important about the Bible anyways? It is this question that will be the focus of my next post.
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Questions About the Bible: Couldn’t Men Have Artificially Generated the Bible?

In the last few posts, I have been answering the question: How can we know the Bible is the Word of God? When beginning to answer this question, I introduced the acronym M-A-P-S as a way to remember the answer. The first post addressed the M: Manuscript Evidence; the second post addressed the A: Archeological Evidence; the third post addresses the P: Prophecy. These first three posts demonstrated that the Bible is reliable in regard to transmission, accurate in regard to historicity, and trustworthy in regard to its spiritual claims. This post is going to address the S: Statistical Probability. What exactly to I mean by statistical probability? I mean that when all the facts are in concerning the Bible, the statistical probability that men artificially generated the Bible is unlikely.

So what are the facts? To begin with, the Bible was written over a time period around 1500-2000 years. Furthermore, the Bible is a collection of 66 books written by 40 different authors in 4 different languages. Yet the Bible is one continuous story.

Considering those facts, let’s imagine that I challenge you to a task. My challenge is for you to generate a continuous story out of 66 books by 40 different authors. Let’s also imagine that as I issue this challenge to you, we are standing in the Library of Congress, which has millions of copies of books. In fact, it is estimated to contain 32 million cataloged books. Do you think you could accomplish this task? It is possible, but highly doubtful. But when one throws in the requirement that there be 4 different languages (The Library of Congress has books in 470 languages) and the books must span 1500-2000 years, it becomes impossible—even with millions of books at hand.

Think about the language requirement for a moment. America has only been a country for a little over two hundred years. Think how much our language has changed in that short time period. Go back just two hundred more years and English becomes essentially a different language. It would be nearly impossible for the average person to sit down and try to write a sequel to a book from the 1600’s. It would take someone familiar with Old English to take on such a task. That is what one faces when trying to claim that men sat down and came up with the books of the Bible. Not only is simply a language problem over time, but then you have completely different languages in the Bible as well.

After looking at the facts surrounding the Bible, one can come away with the confidence of knowing that it is most unlikely that men sat down and invented the Bible. What is even more emboldening is taking this in conjunction with the manuscript evidence, archeological evidence, and the specific and fulfilled prophecy contained in the Bible. Looking at four of these aspects, it become clear that the Bible is most certainly the Word of God. Some of you might be thinking, “That’s great, but how did we get the Bible? Did it fall out of the sky or something?” My next post will address this very topic—just how did get the bible as we know it today?
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Book Review: Lady in Waiting for Little Girls

Jackie and Dede Kendall. Lady in Waiting for Little Girls: Strengthening the Heart of Your Princess. Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2009, 127 pp.

This book is formatted to be read and enjoyed together by a mother and daughter. It is targeted at girls from ages 5-9 with the goal of “empowering [your daughter] to comprehend, to respond, and to remember God’s Word, and to make godly choices” (pg 10). This is accomplished through 10 “Princess Choices.” These are choices such as: obedience, diligence, faith, virtue, etc.

This is a compact book that can be read easily and quickly by an adult. However, this book is very interactive. It provides tips on crafts, projects, games, and lots of other ideas of how mothers can reinforce the principles being taught. So it could take a mother and a daughter a while to finish the book. One of the things that I really like about the book also is one of the things that bothers me about it. It contains notes specifically for the mother, which can be tremendously helpful to the mother who is not sure about something like this. However, they are interspersed throughout the text and cause it to become awkward if the daughter is reading the chapter/section out loud. This is because the helpful notes to mom stand in stark contrast to the tone and style of the text before and after the notes. Also, the notes are often written in a form that could literally be read by the mother to the daughter as though it was the mother’s own words to her daughter—lending to the awkwardness of the notes. I think the book is excellent in regard to content and the presentation of that information (given the target ages of 5-9).

You can purchase this book at or the WMU online store.
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Questions About the Bible: What’s the deal with prophecy?

This is the third post of a series about the Bible—specifically some of those central and important questions asked about the Bible. The first post in this series introduced the acronym M-A-P-S as a way to remember the answer to the question, “How can we know the Bible is the Word of God?” In that first post, I discussed what the first letter represented: Manuscript Evidence. The second post addressed the A, which stands for Archeological Evidence. We saw that the Bible is trustworthy regarding its historical claims, but what about its spiritual claims? Some of the Bible’s spiritual claims are contained in its prophecies. This post is going to address the P, which stands for Prophecy. I know there is someone reading this and already thinking, “There are a lot of other ancient books that contain prophecies, what makes the Bible any different?” The difference between the Bible and other ancient books of prophecy is that the prophecies in the Bible are specific and they are fulfilled. We are going to examine just a couple of those prophecies in this post because of space constraints. My goal in this post is to demonstrate the nature of some of these prophecies and their fulfillment. It is not my intention to give an exhaustive treatment regarding all of the prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled.

With all of that being said, there is probably still someone thinking, “The Bible is not the only book to have prophecies that have been fulfilled. Nostradamus wrote many prophecies that have been fulfilled.” This argument simply does not hold water when all the facts are known. Did Nostradamus write prophecies? Yes, he wrote a lot of prophecies contained in what is known as Les Propheties. He recorded all of his prophecies in a particular form known as quatrains. He also used veiled language. He did this in a purposeful attempt to make it difficult to understand his prophecies. Why might he do this? It was to avoid persecution by the church. The method Nostradamus used in order to come by his predictions was Alchemy. During his lifetime, this was viewed in a bad light by the church and had even been condemned by the church in previous years. So the prophecies that people proclaim are so clearer fulfilled were written to avoid being understood by his contemporaries. Now we read them some 500 years removed and think we can understand them, I think not.

The prophecies in the Bible (for the most part) do not use veiled language but are very clear and easy to either demonstrate as fulfilled or false. Take for example the prophecy that the Israelites would be allowed to return the their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. This was predicted in Isaiah and Jeremiah:

I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 45:13, NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. (Jeremiah 29:10, NIV)

Isaiah’s prophecy was given roughly 150 years before the Persian King Cyrus would rise to power and issue the decree that the Israelites could return and rebuild (Ezra 1:1 ff.). Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 29 was given about 60 years before Cyrus would issue his decree. It would have been easy for the Persians to prove Isaiah and Jeremiah wrong, all it would have taken would be for (1) a king named Cyrus to never have been born (2) Cyrus to never have written the decree (3) or for it to not have been 70 years since Babylon conquered Israel. There is also no evidence that these prophesies were written after the events took place, as some have suggested.

There are also numerous prophecies concerning the Messiah or Christ to come. Estimates range into the hundreds of individual prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. The prophecy I am going to consider in this post is from Micah 5:2:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The fulfillment of this prophecy is contained in Matthew 2 and Luke 2. This prophecy was written around 700 years before Jesus Christ would be born in Bethlehem. It was also a well-known prophecy that could not have been faked, as the Jews would surely have looked to prove the truthfulness or lack thereof with any such claim.

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple that would take place in 70 A.D.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2, NIV)
When Jesus gave this prediction, the disciples understood that he was talking about things to come and they wanted to know more about it. Jesus’ prophecy was given around 30 years before the Roman government would come into Jerusalem and destroy the temple.

We have seen three different examples of prophecies from the Bible that are not just given, but were also fulfilled. The Bible contains much prophecy. The biblical prophecy that has been fulfilled stands in contrast to the prophecies given from ancient prophets who used veiled language and vague references. These first three posts have demonstrated that the Bible is reliable in regard to transmission, accurate in regard to historicity, and trustworthy in regard to its spiritual claims; however, couldn’t men have artificially generated the Bible? We will look at the possibility of that in the next post.
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Questions About the Bible: Does Archeology Disprove the Bible?

This is the second post in a series looking at the many questions surrounding the Bible. In my previous post, I began answering the question of how we can know the Bible is the Word of God. I gave the acronym M-A-P-S as a guide and a helpful way to remember the answer. I began by tackling the first letter in the acronym, which stands for Manuscript Evidence. I also answered the question of whether or not the Bible is riddled with errors—as many as 300,000. This post is going to deal with the second letter of the acronym, which stands for Archeological Evidence. Does archeology support the Bible or does it contradict the Bible?

Archeological Evidence
Before one can answer this with a simple yes or no, some things have to be understood about archeology, the Bible, and how the two relate. Archeology is a very limited field of study. It is a discipline in which one attempts to reconstruct the past through the evidence on hand. Now, this is not unlike modern forensics that has been so famously featured on shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigators. However, forensics looks at recent evidence that is often abundant whereas archeologists look at ancient evidence that is often in poor shape and is rather scarce.

Often times, what archeologists are able to locate is what would be considered garbage. Discarded pottery, utensils, and human remains comprise the majority of evidence submitted into the archeological forensic laboratory. Some of these can be quite helpful. For instance, pottery is very helpful in dating an archeological site because there are very distinct patterns on pottery through different periods. However, pottery cannot tell an archeologist about the daily life of the people who owned it nor can it disclose the religious beliefs of those people.

The limits of archeology are truly highlighted by the fact that far less than 5% of historical sites have been excavated whatsoever and far fewer have been meaningfully excavated. So we have very little in terms of the available archeological evidence on hand. Furthermore, as I noted above, most of this evidence is “left-overs” from the culture. Even more problematic is the fact that most of what archeology has discovered in the way of artifacts is not published and, therefore, is not available for review or for information purposes.

It is also important to understand how archeology and the Bible relate. The Bible was not written to be a historical record. Its purpose was not to record details in a historical light; its purpose was to record details in a theological light. The Bible deals with information about God, the spiritual realm, salvation, etc. and these are all things with which archeology cannot interact.

So where does archeology fit into the Bible? While the Bible does not primarily deal with history, it does record historical facts. This is where archeology comes into play. For example, Luke records a lot in the way of historical facts in the book of Acts located in the New Testament. Likewise, there are names of people groups, cities, kings and the like mentioned throughout the Bible. This is where archeology has aimed its sights at proving or disproving the Bible.

At this point, one must note that the possibility exists for archeology to prove the Bible false on these historical facts. However, this would only prove the Bible historically inaccurate at that singular point at best and wholly inaccurate at worst. Even more important to realize though, is that this does nothing to prove or disprove the Bibles spiritual claims—and this is the Bible’s primary focus and purpose.

While the possibility exists for archeology to show the Bible historically inaccurate, this simply has not been done at this point in time. There are many places in the Bible where it has been attempted to show that archeology demonstrates the Bible to be unreliable or wrong. Some of these examples include the Exodus event, the Hittites mentioned in the Old Testament, and Luke’s details in the book of Acts.

The Exodus Event
It has long been argued that the events as recorded in the book of Exodus could not have occurred or that they vary from the account contained in the Bible. The biggest “fact” cited in opposition to the Exodus event is that no evidence can be found which places the Israelites in Egypt—at all. There is one serious problem with this notion. The Egyptians were notorious for destroying historical records. Some of these examples include the “erasing” of Queen Hatshepsut (see left), the Hyksos rulers, and Akhenaten. With examples like these of strong revisionist history in Egypt, should it come as a surprise that there is no evidence in Egypt that the Israelites were there—slaves that eventually ruined their land and then left without as much as a skirmish.

Even though this is the case, there is a discovery that corroborates the timeline of the Exodus event. The discovery is known as Merneptah’s Stele (see right). It is a catalogue honoring Pharoah Merneptah’s military campaigns leading up to his defeat of the Libyans. The stele mentions his defeat of Israel and places them in the land of Canaan at about the same time as what is recorded in the book of Judges or possibly the end of Joshua.

The Hittites
For a long time, the naming of this and other people groups mentioned in the Old Testament (specifically Genesis) was cited because there was no evidence of them. However, recent archeological finds discovered documents and remains of what is considered to be their capital city located in modern day Turkey.

Luke’s Historical Record in Acts
For centuries, scholars attempted to show that Luke was not an accurate historian because he incorrectly used names regions, cities, routes, etc. One of the specific instances of this was Luke’s use of politarchai to describe the city officials in Thessalonica. This criticism has been shown to be unfounded since the word was inscribed in stone at the base of an arch as well as in several other inscriptions. So the argument that Luke made this word up because it was not used anywhere else simply failed to materialize in support of the claim that Luke was inaccurate when recording the names and places found in Acts.

Archeology has not proven the Bible to be historically wrong thus far. In fact, it seems quite the opposite has been the case. Where archeology and the Bible has intersected, it has demonstrated the Bible to be historically accurate. But can the Bible be trusted with its spiritual claims? It is this question I will answer in the next post.
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Questions About The Bible: 300,000 Errors?

It seems like there is no scarcity of questions regarding the receiving and transmission of the books contained in the Bible. Questions like: How can we know that the Bible is the Word of God? How did we get the Bible as we know it today? Why is the Bible so important anyways? These are important questions that deserve answers. Much of Christian practice and beliefs is rooted and founded upon the Bible. Therefore, the answers to these questions shape how a Christian will approach the Bible and then apply the truths they see contained therein to everyday life—both for the individual and the church. This will be the first post of many, which are going to be devoted entirely to answering those questions. And the first question is...

How can we know that the Bible is the Word of God?
The answer is simply M-A-P-S. This is the acronym that I like to use in order to give people a way to remember the information. One reason I particularly like giving this acronym is because nearly every Bible in print today contains a section of maps in the back.

Manuscript Evidence
Archeological Evidence
Statistical Probability

Manuscript Evidence
When one looks at the manuscript evidence regarding the Scriptures, it is abundant and convincing. For comparison, take Plato’s Tetralogies. There are only 7 copies in existence and those copies are 1,200 years removed from the time Plato penned the work. Pliny the Younger, who was a historian in the first century AD, penned his historical writings of which we only have 7 copies that are 750 years removed from the time he composed his work. Furthermore, Homer’s Iliad, which has arguably the best manuscript evidence of all the writings of the ancient world, has only 600 copies in existence that are 1,000 years removed from the original date of composition. When textual critics look at these documents they do not question the reliability of them but regard them as historically accurate.

How does the Bible stack up in comparison? The Old Testament has a great abundance of manuscript evidence—over 11,000 copies. These copies include the Septuagint (LXX), which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew texts. It also includes the Qumran texts more popularly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are some of the earliest copies we have today. There are a lot of other copies that give a wealth of information regarding the Old Testament texts. This towers over the evidence of all other ancient documents, like Homer’s Iliad, Plato, Pliny the Younger, etc. But does the New Testament also have the same abundance of information?

The New Testament also has a lot of copies available, some 5,366. The New Testament has received a lot more attention than the Old Testament. Authors such as Bart Ehrman appear to constantly be attacking the New Testament. What is interesting about these attacks is not that he argues the textual support is lacking in the way of sheer volume of copies, but that the copies have been corrupted. So you hear Ehrman and others throwing out statements similar to the following: “The New Testament contains over 300,000 errors.” That sounds like a whole lot of errors and would be reason enough to question the reliability of the New Testament. However, a quick introduction to textual criticism will help clear up this statement that seems to deal such a fatal blow to the reliability of the Bible.

Textual criticism is the study of manuscripts by comparing copies to one another in order to determine the original reading of the source document. Comparing these documents side-by-side yields a pretty good picture of what errors were introduced into the text; the more copies available and the closer those copies are to the original, the better textual critics can determine what errors were introduced. Now, how do we get a number like 300,000 when there aren’t even that many words in the New Testament (there are only 181,253 words)? It is because of the way errors are counted. Spelling errors are counted in that number. Also, if a spelling error is copied 100 times, that is 101 errors. When a word is copied twice, that is an error. How did this happen? Sometimes those copying the texts would take a break to eat, sleep, or something else and would come back and they would copy the same same word two times, consecutively. Every time this error was copied, it counts as another error. Words copied out of order are also counted as errors. Now, this might sound like a big deal at first, but English and Greek are very different in regard to grammar. Word order is not as important in Greek as English. In other words, there is not subject verb agreement necessary in the Greek; word order was used mainly for emphasis. Once again, every time this was copied, it is counted as another error. Once you understand this, it becomes easy to see how one can get to a number like 300,000 errors.

In reality, there are only three places in the New Testament that have any question about authenticity. The first of these three places is found at the end of the gospel of Mark. Many newer translations make note of this fact. The New International Version (NIV) puts a line through the middle of the page after verse 8 and before verse 9 with the statement: The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20. Other translations such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) don’t make note of it in the same dramatic manner as the NIV, but they all make note with brackets or parenthesis and a note to the same effect as the NIV. The scholars have discovered that many of the earliest copies did not have these verses, but the vast majority of the later copies did contain these verses. The NIV translators felt there was enough evidence to question the authenticity of these verses, but rather than risk removing something that could possibly have been original in the text they came to the resolution to make a note that these verses were questionable. However, even if these verses were left out of the gospel of Mark, they change nothing concerning salvation; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; or that Jesus was God in the flesh.

The second place that is questioned is located in the gospel of John. The passage in question is the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by the Pharisees. Once again the NIV separates out this section with a line across the page and the statement: The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11. Just like the passage in the gospel of Mark, this passage changes no doctrine of the church whatsoever. The last place in question is found in 1 John. Here, the passage is almost certainly an addition to the text. Following is 1 John 5:7-8 quoted first as it reads in the NIV and then the KJV (emphasis mine):

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

The NIV has removed the section in question and placed it in the footnotes, just as the NASB and the HCSB has done. The ESV has just removed the questionable section altogether, even without a footnote. Some might argue that this removes a critical doctrine from the Bible, that this is a Trinitarian passage. However, the doctrine of the Trinity is contained in many other passages of the Scriptures. So just as with the other two passages, this passage does not change any doctrine of the church.

The New Testament continues to prove that it is reliable. That the alleged hundreds of thousands of errors that changed the original reading did not actually change the New Testament so as to make it unreliable. Both the Old and New Testaments are extremely reliable. One cannot simply write-off the Bible on textual critical grounds. Stand to Reason also has an excellent article on this point. In my next post we will look at the archeological evidence regarding the Bible. Has archeology proven the Bible false?
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Symbols: The Cross

There has been a lot of hubbub in the news lately about crosses. First, there has been the huge debate about the cross on the Indian reserve. More recently, Penn State has received criticism that some t-shirts they are selling to students too closely resemble a cross. Why all of this antagonism towards the simple symbol known as the cross? I think that is because the vast majority of people clearly recognize it as that symbol which represents Christianity. Much like the Yin-Yang is representative of Taoism or the Om is representative of Hinduism and the like. Is this the only meaning the cross has? Absolutely not, the cross has had numerous and varied meanings throughout the centuries; but the fact remains that the cross is almost universally associated with Christianity.

Why is the cross so important in Christianity? It is because the cross is symbolic of the hope that is present in the lives of Christians. The hope Christians have in their lives is that they will join God in heaven for all eternity because of the work that was accomplished by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion on a Roman Cross. Titus 3:4-7 speaks this clearly:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
The cross symbolizes and is a reminder of the sacrificial death of Christ. It was through his death on the cross that Christ paid the price for our sins in order that he could grant salvation to those who would accept it (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23). For this reason, we are commanded to daily take up our cross and follow him.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it—Matthew 16:24-26 (Also see, Mark 8:34-35 and Luke 9”23-24).
Jesus clearly commanded that those who would follow him must take up their cross and follow him. Some other similar places Jesus said this is in Matthew 10:38, “and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” and Luke 14: 27, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This statement by Jesus has confused many Christians. There is always the question of what does take up your cross and follow me mean? Before one can truly understand this, there has to be an understanding of what the cross was to Christ. The cross was not a punishment. Pontius Pilate even stated that he saw no reason to have Jesus crucified (Luke 23:13-14). In fact, Jesus could have prevented even being brought before Pilate. When the high priest and the Sanhedrin Council were interrogating him, he answered only one question. Matthew 26:63-66 records the question the high priest asked, Jesus’ answer, and the response of the Council:

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered.
Jesus could have simply answered, “No, I am not the Christ, the Son of God. You have the wrong guy. I am just a teacher (or prophet), but I ain’t God.” If Jesus had answered in that manner, they would have had no choice but to let him go free. However, Jesus answered the question in the affirmative. He declared that he was the Christ, the Son of God and with that answer began his journey to the cross.

Jesus chose the cross; it was his mission, his purpose for coming to earth. It was an expression of his love for us. Jesus made it clear that no one would take his life from him, but that he would lay his life down (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). One of the commands Jesus gave his disciples several times was to love one another. In John 15:12-13 and 1 John 3:16, this love is further explained by Jesus when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That is exactly what Christ did. He laid down his life for us, so that we might live (1 John 4:9).

So how do we take up our cross and follow him? Jesus made this clear as well. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” and then he followed up this statement by explaining in John 14:21“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” The way we take up our cross and follow him is through obedience to his commands. Our obedience to his commandments expresses our love and devotion to him. Furthermore, 1 John 5:3 makes it clear that his commands are not burdensome. In other words, Christ has not given us commandments for the purpose of making us miserable or commandments that he knows we could never keep. He gives them to us as a parent who loves and protects their own child by giving them rules such as “don’t play in the street,” “don’t touch the stove,” “eat your vegetables,” etc.

So we daily take up our cross as we daily strive to live our lives in obedience to the principles and directive contained in the Word of God, the Holy Bible. But before a person can begin to take up their cross, before a person can begin to understand the hope that Christians have, they must have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
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Remember Ida?

In May 2009, earlier this year, a huge story broke about a new fossil discovery. The fossil’s name was Darwinius masillae—or better known as Ida. There was a great number of news and science agencies heralding this discovery as a “missing link” between humans and lemur like primates—such as National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and even some European news agencies like The Sun. Ida even had its own website—

While there were many who were proclaiming that Ida was such an important find in regard to human evolution, there was also a fair amount of scientists who doubted that Ida beared out what was being claimed.

Now, several leading scientific journals and news agencies are reporting that Ida is nowhere close to being a link in the human evolutionary chain. Nature, Science, MSNBC, ABC, and the BBC are all running articles decrying Ida as a missing link.

There is something that bothers me about all this. When Ida was being reported as a “missing link,” the main stream media picked up the story and ran with it. Now, I am willing to bet that Ida will barely get a mention in the ticker on the bottom of the screen. Why? Because reporting that scientists have found a “missing link” is a much better story for ratings than reporting that scientists were wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope the main stream media will report this late developing part of the story as well. The reason I say this is that I fear many years ahead of people proclaiming that sceintists have shown that humans evolved from apes and asking, “Don’t you remember that fossil they discovered named Ida?”

Do you think the main stream media will report this part of the Ida story?

Am I wrong about the years to come and people still believing Ida is a “missing link”?
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