Monday, October 24, 2011

Can I Trust My Translation (Part 1)

Biblegems # 59

Question: I use the NIV, along with the KJV and other translations. How can I be sure if the translations I use are accurate, according to the original Greek and Hebrew?

My first word of advice is to avoid all those angry posts and websites on the internet (as well as books, tracts and print articles) that condemn modern Bible translations because they may not conform to the KJV. Bible translations flourished and accurately conveyed the Word of God long before the KJV was published in 1611.

I thank God for the King James Bible. It is beautiful in its style and has been used by God for generations in leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it uses 17th century English, and cannot speak to the Chinese, the French or Russian speaking people. Language is fluid and changes over time; archaic English is increasingly difficult for modern English speaking people to understand.

The real issue is one of integrity. Does the translation you use accurately convey the meaning of the original languages of the Old and New Testaments? For the average Bible reader, the answer can usually be found in the “Introduction” pages in the front of your Bible. If your paperback edition does not have an Introduction, find a hard back or leather bound edition. The Introduction should tell you Who did the translation, Why they believed a new translation was needed, What Greek and Hebrew manuscripts they relied upon the most, and How they decided to translate difficult or unclear words or concepts.

All of the above affect the way your Bible version reads and how accurate it is. But the most important factors are What Hebrew and Greek manuscripts the translators used and How they decided to translate difficult passages.

For example, look at Mark 2:9 in three translations, compared to a literal, word for word translation of the Greek:

Literal Greek Translation1: And they, hearing the king, went and — Look! — a star, which they had seen in the east, went ahead of them until it came to the place over where the child was.

KJV:         When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

NIV         After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

CEV         The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

Each of these translations aimed at bringing the Greek into the English language in a way that preserves accuracy and at the same time reads and sounds like the English language spoken at the time of the translation.

(Next week will be part 2 of this article)

Resources: 1 Nestle-Aland 26 at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yikes! Am I In A Cult?

Biblegems # 58
Jesus said, “There will be many false messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children. Take care, I have warned you!” (Mark 13:22, 23)

Have you ever been accused of being in a cult because you attend a church that does not belong to a familiar denomination or, perhaps, because of the Bible translation your church uses? This Biblegems blog should help you discern if you are in a healthy, Christ-centered church or in a cult.

First, we need to know what we mean by the term “cult.” As we use the term today, a cult refers to a group that has split away from one or more core doctrines of the Christian faith. Those key doctrines are listed below. Sometimes “cult” is used to describe a group, religious or not, that has a controlling, dictator-type leader who uses manipulative techniques to keep his followers loyal, and often keeps his followers isolated from the outside world. It is not uncommon for both of these types (bad doctrine and manipulative leader) to found in one group.

The Bible does not use the word “cult” at all. It is a modern term. But the concept is very scriptural, usually identified with false teachers and false prophets. For example, the apostle Peter writes: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2Pet. 2:1).

So what are the “destructive heresies” Peter is referring to? Below is a list of basic Bible doctrines that are fundamental to true Christian teaching. As you go through the list, ask yourself (and if necessary, ask your church leaders) where your church stands on these doctrines. Christians can disagree on many secondary issues, but the doctrines below are fundamental to biblical Christianity.

1. GOD. There is one God, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Dt 6:4; Matt. 5:48; 28:19).

2. JESUS. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. He died on the cross for our sins, was resurrected on the third day and is now at the right hand of God as our great High Priest. He will come again to establish His eternal kingdom, righteousness and peace (Phil. 2:6-11; Lk. 1:34–38, 21:27; I Pt. 3:18; Heb. 2:9, 8:1, 10:37; Rom. 5:9; Acts 2:23–24; Matt. 26:64; Tit. 2:11–14).

3. The BIBLE. The Old and New Testaments, inspired by God and without error as originally given, are the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men (2 Pt. 1:20–21; 2 Tim. 3:15–16).

4. Man. Man, created in the image and likeness of God, fell through disobedience, resulting in physical and spiritual death. All men are born with a sinful nature, are separated from the life of God, and can be saved only through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who die without Christ will exist forever in hell, while those who trust in Jesus will exist forever in heaven (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 3:23;1 Cor.15:20–23; Rev 21: 1–4, 8).

5. Salvation. Salvation has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men, and those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, receive the gift of eternal life, and become the children of God (Tit. 3:4–7).

6. The CHURCH. The Church consists of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, and are born again of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the Head of the Church, which has been commissioned by Him to go into all the world as a witness, preaching the gospel to all nations (Eph. 1:22–23; Matt. 28:19–20; Acts 2:41–47).

7. Christ’s Return. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be personal and visible (Heb. 10:37; Lk. 21:27; Tit. 2:11–14).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Jesus' Name

Biblegems #57
If we are to pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, do my prayers become null and void when I am praying to Jesus and end it with “in Jesus' name, amen”?

Jesus is the name given to us by which we know and approach God at the most intimate and personal level. Keeping our relationship to God personal is what Jesus had in mind even with regard to baptism when He taught us to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. "Jesus" is the personal name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

When you, as a follower of Jesus, pray to the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, whether you use Jesus' name or not, God knows who you are talking to. He's not interested in correct formulas; He's interested in you! The role of the Holy Spirit is to direct us to Jesus, and Jesus always directs us to our heavenly Father. That's why we pray "in Jesus' name": "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).

“God the Father” is a description, not a name. It’s accurate, but it is not personal. It’s like saying “Bob the teacher” or “Margaret the librarian”… accurate, but not personal. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is descriptive of God in His character (He is holy) and of His nature (He is Spirit). That’s like saying “the good-natured man.” It describes someone’s character (good-natured) and his nature (human, male).

Even in the Old Testament, when God revealed Himself by name to Moses at the burning bush—“Yahweh,” i.e., “I Am Who I Am”— (Ex. 3:14), He gave a name which described His relationship to Moses and the Hebrew people: “I Am the One who always exists, and who will be with you always.” This name was, and is, personal. In fact, it was so personal, so holy, that the Jewish people would not say it aloud or even spell it out completely, but only use the consonants: YHWH.

Consequently, when Jesus declared to the Jewish people of His day, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), they understood Jesus was identifying himself with God and they attempted to stone him to death for blasphemy. In effect, Jesus was saying, ‘I am the great “I Am” in human form.’ God in flesh—the final and complete revelation of God that would provide salvation not only to the Hebrew people but to the whole world.

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The 4 Spirits of Zechariah 6

Biblegems #56
I was reading in Zechariah today and something just caught my attention. In Zec 6 it is talking about the four spirits...when explaining where each one was going, it did not mention the fourth, which would be the one going to the east. Is there a reason for this and is it ever explained somewhere else? Thanks for taking your time to help those who want to know the Lord's Word in better detail.

The four spirits of Zechariah chapter six refer to angels of God’s judgment upon the rebellious nations of the earth, especially those who come against Israel in the Last Days just before Jesus’ Return. The scene in Zechariah’s vision seems to be the same one described in Revelation 6:1-8:
(1) I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” (2)I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (3) When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” (4) Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. (5) When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. (6) Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (7) When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” (8) I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

All four spirits are described in Zechariah as “coming out from between the two mountains” (1), indicating that they were carrying out God’s judgment from heaven over the entire earth.

The spirit identified by the red horses represents worldwide war (Rev. 6:4), as Revelation 6 picks up where Zechariah leaves off. The black horses represent starvation and death as a result of this war (Rev. 6:5-6). The “pale” or “dappled” horses represent death on a massive scale, not only from war but from diseases and disruptions throughout earth’s collapsing societies (Rev. 6:8). The white horses symbolize God’s victories over His enemies as Jesus returns in power and glory with His vast army of angels (Rev. 6:2; 19:11, 14; Matt 24:30-31).

As Jesus Himself reminds us, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk. 21:28).