The B-I-B-L-E

 

The B-I-B-L-E
Chapter 1:
 How Do I Know The B-I-B-L-E is God’s Word?
“The B-I-B-L-E, it is God’s Word to me.
I will obey God’s Holy Word, the B-I-B-L-E!”
That’s what I teach the children in our Preschool/Kindergarten chapels! A simple, child-like trust in the Bible is essential. Jesus himself said, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10.15)." He meant that we should have that child-like faith in God’s Word, the Bible.
A little child believes the Bible is God’s Word. So do we! Unlike little children, we can dig deeper into why we believe the Bible is God’s Word.
Chapter 1: How Do I Know The B-I-B-L-E is God’s Word?
How did it all start?
The best place to find out about how the Bible came to be is to look at the experience of the first prophet, Moses. God doesn’t change—his method of revealing his will for us does not change. Like any well-run institution, there should be a set of governing principles set out quite early in the game. Let’s go to the beginning of prophecy, a familiar story, Exodus 3-4. Have we overlooked something?
Read Exodus 3.1-11
Why does God refer to himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?”
God refers to his previous appearances to his people, oral stories Moses would have learned and known from his parents.
What is Moses’ reaction to God?
He hides his face.
Why has God appeared to Moses?
He wants Moses to be his spokesman to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt.
What is Moses’ objection?
He is a nothing. Neither the Pharaoh nor the Israelites will listen to him.
Read Exodus 3.12-22
What is Moses’ objection now?
He doesn’t know God’s name.
Why is God so “chatty” with Moses?
The I AM God who is always there shows he is always there, because he is intimately acquainted with the suffering of his people.
How can Moses know what the future will hold?
God has told him.
Read Exodus 4.1-9
What is Moses’ objection now?
They won’t believe that God has sent him.
How will Moses be able to prove that he really has been sent by God?
God allows him to perform two miracles—his staff will turn into a snake, his hand will become leprous.
Read Exodus 4.10-12
What is Moses’ objection now?
I can’t speak.
What does the Lord promise to do for Moses?
God himself will help him speak.
Read Exodus 4.13-17
What is Moses’ real hang-up?
He doesn’t want to go—send somebody else!
Explain Moses’ relationship to Aaron in light of God’s relationship with Moses.
As God tells Moses what to say, Moses will tell Aaron what to say. As Moses’ is God’s prophet, so Aaron will be “Moses’ prophet.”
What does Exodus 3.1-4.17 say about the Bible?
It is God’s words given to man through spokesmen (prophets).
 
Apply these passages to Moses’ experience in light of Exodus 3-4.
Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit 2 Peter 1.21
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2.13
Moses did not want to be a prophet—God selected him. Moses did not have to come up with his own thoughts or words; God gave him the very words to deliver to the Pharaoh and the words to speak to the Israelites.
 
Looking at Moses’ “installation” as God’s prophet, what could you come up with as the three marks of a prophet?
 
1.Does miracles
 
2.Accurately predicts the future
 
3.Speaks according to God’s words
 
How Do I Know Whether He is a Prophet?
God didn’t leave it up to our insight to come up with the marks of a prophet. He clearly gives them to us through Moses. In Deuteronomy Moses goes through all the laws God has already given the Children of Israel with a view to the future when they will live in the Promised Land and Moses will be gone.
At Mount Sinai, God spoke to Moses in the hearing of the Children of Israel, “so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you (Exodus 19.9).” But the Children of Israel could not stand the sound. They begged Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die (20.19).”
Moses predicted that the Lord would continue to use prophets to speak to the people. But the certification that Moses had was not going to be repeated. Sinai was a one-shot event. How could people know if a prophet had really risen among them? God gave them the marks of a prophet.
 
Read Deuteronomy 18.17-22
17 The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."
21 You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
How are coming prophets going to be exactly like Moses?
They will speak prophecies that agree with Moses, since they, too are prophets of the same God.
What is one sign that the people will know the prophet is from God?
He will predict the future.
 
How would the people know that a prophet is not from God?
If the false prophet tells them to worship other gods.
 
This was so important, Moses had already covered the same ground earlier, in Deuteronomy 13.1-5
1If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, 2and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," 3you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. 4It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
What added mark of a prophet is mention in these words of Moses?
He will accurately foretell the future.
So, let’s review and get the three marks of a prophet:
1. Does Miracles_____________________________
2. Accurately Predicts the Future____________
3. Speaks according to God’s words
 
Of the three marks of a prophet, what one is the essential one?
Speaks according to God’s words.
It Worked!
Consider the following incidents to show these marks served God’s people well.
17Then Micaiah answered, "I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, 'These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.'"
26The king of Israel then ordered, "Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city 27and say, 'This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison until I return safely.'"
28Micaiah declared, "If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me." He added, "Mark my words, all you people!"
34But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, "Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I've been wounded." 35All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. 1 Kings 22:17, 26-28, 34-35
 
What do you suppose happened to Micaiah and why?
He was released from prison because Ahab had not returned from battle, having died there, as Micaiah had predicted.
——————————————————————
For additional reference, see Isaiah 37.33-37
What About the Apostles?
The apostles held a very specific job in God’s plan of salvation. Look at these passages to find out what their job was.
When the apostles were going to fill Judas Iscariot’s place, Peter puts forth the qualifications of an apostle:
 
“It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection Acts 1.21-22.
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1.8
 
What was the job description of an apostle and what were the requirements?
The Apostles were to witness to people about what they had witnessed Jesus doing.
Does this also include writing, like the prophets did?
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. John 17.20
Jesus clearly here, praying for all who believe the Apostolic message, shows an awareness of their written message which will last to the end of the world.
How were the apostles different from the prophets?
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Hebrews 1.1-2
The prophets pointed forward to a Savior who was coming. The apostles pointed backwards to the Savior who had come.
How were the apostles exactly like the prophets?
The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. Mark 16.20
Their message was confirmed by miracles.
Did They Know They Were Writing the Bible?
Consider these passages before you answer.
Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria: Isaiah 37.33
“This is what the Lord says” appears in the Old Testament over 400 times!
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Colossians 4.16
The word of the Lord came to me. Ezekiel 34.1
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father. Galatians 1.1
“You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. John 11.50-51
 
Did they?
The believing and appointed prophets did know what they were saying was from the Lord. The unbelievers whom the Holy Spirit used to communicate truths of God did not know what they were saying was God’s Word.
Did They Know?
Did They Know They Were Hearing the Writers of the Bible?
Consider these passages before you answer.
When you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually, the word of God. 1 Thessalonians 2.13
 
Consider these fallen Old Testament people in exile from Jerusalem who aren’t even believers!
 
3He said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation, 4obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says.' 5And whether they listen or fail to listen-for they are a rebellious house-they will know that a prophet has been among them. Ezekiel 2.3-5
 
And then there’s wicked King Jehoikim.
 
22It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. 23Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe's knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah 36:22-26
 
Did they?
The believers knew, as the Thessalonians and believing exiles show. Even with the unbelievers, there is a recognition there is a man of God there, for they will know a prophet is among them and the evil king shows particular hostility towards Jeremiah, in spite of advisors’ caution.
The Canon
Canon is a Greek loan word which means “rule.” A papyrus reed was used as a means of measurement and then the word became used for something “that measured up,” an accepted list. The accepted list of books of the Bible is called the canon.
Here’s how historians say the canon formed.
 
The Old Testament
Following the fall of Jerusalem, rabbis and scribes gathered in the town of Jamnia under the leadership of Rabbi Akiba. The Old Testament canon was set with the Torah (the first five books of Moses), the Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) and the Writings (Joshua-Song of songs). The Apocrypha, included in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, was excluded. The Hebrew Masoretic text follows this canon and excludes the Apocrypha.
 
The New Testament
Under attack by heretics who not only wanted to deny the Old Testament, but much of the New Testament, the early Christian church wrestled with the issue of what was God’s Word and what wasn’t. It easily followed the leading of Jamnia with the Old Testament. In church councils in Rome, Hippo and Carthage from 382-419 AD it fixed the New Testament canon in its present form.
 
Objections
Modern religious scholars insinuate many books (like the Gospel of Thomas) were left out of the Bible because, “history is written by the victors.” Differing doctrinal viewpoints struggled for supremacy in the New Testament Church—through the political power of the councils, the canon came about.
Luther objected to James. He felt it went contrary to the teachings of the Bible on salvation by faith alone. He wrote, “I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief books.” Luther’s Works.35.397 He later softened his view to “I cannot include him among the chief books.” He did, however, include James seamlessly into his German translation of the Bible among the rest of the New Testament writings. He also included the Apocrypha, though he set them off from the rest of the Old Testament.
Can you see a danger in this way of approaching what should be and what shouldn’t be “in” the Bible?
Our reason becomes the judge of what should be and what should not be in the Bible.
Can you see a better way of what should be and what should not be in the Bible?
Let the words speak for themselves and convince us they are God’s Words, belonging in the Bible and let us receive the words of trusted prophets and apostles.
You Be the Judge and Put the Writings to the Test!
 
Should the following be in the Bible? (put a ! before Y or N for your response)
 
! Y   N          Books written by an apostle
! Y   N          Books written by Moses
! Y   N          Books written by an accepted prophet
! Y  N          “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
  Y! N          Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life. Jesus said: Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males.
Verbal Inspiration
“Are you conservative or liberal?” What it boils down to is “What is the Bible?” Every denomination is split on this issue. One side answers, “The Bible is the Word of God.” The other side, loathe to say, “We don’t believe that stuff, anymore,” says, “The Bible contains the Word of God.”
 
What does the Bible have to say for itself?
Look at these passages and check (with an x)  the appropriate column.
 
Is         Contains
_x__    ___             When you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually, the word of God. 1 Thessalonians 2.13
_x__    ___             Your word is truth. John 17.7
_x__    ___             All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3.17
_x__    ___             These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Revelation 2.8
How can a church be “liberal” and still claim to believe the Bible?
It is really a dishonest claim. One cannot reject the Bible because of particular beliefs and yet claim to be a Bible-believing church. You either believe the Bible is God’s Word and live according to it, or you believe it is the word of men and do what you want, if you can find more relevant and authoritative men to follow.
 
Chapter 2: Does The B-I-B-L-E Talk to Me?
 
“I just don’t understand the Bible. It’s so complicated. Some people read it one way, others another way. I guess you have to be a PhD in religion to understand it all!”
 
Ever felt that way? Everybody does, at times. Either we just don’t keep up with the nuts and bolts of our Christian knowledge and are sucker-punched by the devil so we don’t know where to turn, or we listen waaaay to much to the superstar religious guru of the day who knows all the answers and will reveal it to poor slobs like us.
Contrary to what people think, the Bible is clear and sufficient.
Chapter 2: Does The B-I-B-L-E Talk to Me?
The Bible Talks Jesus
The Apostle John must have had some tense moments when he wrote his Gospel. Matthew, Mark and Luke had already “hit the bookstands” and his Gospel wasn’t anything like theirs. The Holy Spirit evidently decided telling the same story over three times was enough! There were other things Jesus did and said which should be recorded for future generations. So he led John to write a unique Gospel. John takes five entire chapters out of a 21 chapter book to tell of the events that took place during Jesus’ last night on earth. At the end of his Gospel he writes a defense of his work.
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21.25
Can’t write down everything! (Remember that—we’ll come back to it later.) Well, why did he write down what he did?
John wrote a second, earlier defense of his Gospel, a defense which tells us why he wrote his Gospel. It could just as well be the reason why the entire Bible was written.
 
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20.30-31
Just looking at John’s words, explain why some things are in the Bible and other items that we might really like to know about, aren’t!
Everything that we need to know to get to heaven, believing in Jesus, is written in the Bible. The stuff we’d like to know out of idle curiosity is not necessary for us to know and is not in the Bible.
Now discuss your answer in light of these burning issues.
Extraterrestrial life—the Bible says nothing about it.
Dinosaurs—the Bible says nothing about them.
Lost Tribes of Israel—the Bible says the Ten Tribes of Israel were lost because they didn’t believe in the Lord.
Jesus’ boyhood—the Bible only tells us about the incident in the Temple to show us Jesus now knows he is the Savior of the world. This will help him lead the perfect life during his teen years.
Date of the Last Day—the Bible says nothing about it.
Are there dogs in heaven?—the Bible says nothing about them.
 
But does the Bible talk Jesus? Explain Jesus’ view of it. He told the religious scholars of his day,
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me. John 5.39
Yes! The Bible talks Jesus, because they testify about Jesus.
What connection do the following have to Jesus and the way to heaven?
Creation (Genesis 1-2)—this is what life in heaven will be like, perfect harmony and fellowship with all and with God
The Fall (Genesis 3)—Jesus is the Savior from sin who will crush the serpent’s head
Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-28)—Jesus will come from Jacob’s side of the family tree
The Exodus—as Moses led the Children out of Egypt to the Promised Land, Jesus leads us out of this world, enslaved by sin, to our heavenly Promised Land
The Return from Exile—as God brought back the Jews “from the dead” of exile that Jesus might be born in Jewish Bethlehem, God will bring us back from the grave because of Jesus.
 
Can you pick out the events in Jesus’ life these verses point to?
 


murder of the innocents
A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more. Jeremiah 31.15
Virgin Mary
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7.14
Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout daughter of Jerusalem! Your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9.13
Pilate and Herod put Jesus on trial
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord. Psalm 2.1
Jesus’ words on the cross
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22.1

 What connection to Jesus do stories like Daniel in the Lion’s Den and Joseph in Egypt have to do with Jesus?
They show us how, for the sake of the Savior, people kept holding on to their faith which would lead to heaven. Only that would keep Daniel faithful in the face of certain death. Only that would keep Joseph believing. They show us how God deals with people in terms of his Gospel love through Jesus.
The Bible Clearly Talks to Me
Look at the following passages and put together a consistent teaching concerning the clarity of Scripture.
From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus 2 Timothy 3.15
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. Matthew 11.25-26
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  Psalm 119.105
How clear is it?
So clear an infant and children can understand it. It is so clear it shows us absolutely the moral way we should walk.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4.3-5
Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. John 8.43-37
Why do some people and groups think the Bible is not clear?
The don’t like what it says to them and they do not believe in God. That is why they cannot hear what God is saying to them.
Interpret these passages and settle the religious controversies of years! (For extra credit can you tell which group doesn’t see these passages so clearly?)
 
This is my body given for you. Luke 22.19
Baptists
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28.19
Baptists
Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 1.29
Baptists
It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2.8-9
Baptists
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2.16-17
Methodists
The bishop must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife. 1 Timothy 3.2
Roman Catholics
Great! (You are soooo good!) Now logically explain these passages.
 
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1.3
No way to logically explain creation out of nothing—especially light!
I and the Father are One. John 10.30
No way to logically explain the unity between God the Father and God the Son.
The virgin will be with child. Isaiah 7.14
No way to logically explain the Virgin Birth.
What’s the problem? You an unbeliever? (Before you let me condemn you, find comfort in these passages—and then give me a full answer.)
His (Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3.16
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. Isaiah 55.8
Many clear truths of the Bible go beyond our frail, human logic and we cannot really understand them. We simply accept and confess them.
Now we get into a real issue. How do we know what God is telling us? His ways are not our ways, his thoughts not our thoughts! How can human language possibly be expressive enough to communicate heavenly truths to us? Evolved language cannot communicate heavenly truths.
Is the language of the Bible up to the task?
Before you react, look at these Scriptures.
Who gave man his mouth?   Is it not I, the Lord? Exodus 4.11
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2.13
God created language for man—language did not evolve from man’s efforts. As a gift from God, language can convey exactly what God wants to convey to people. And besides, the Holy Spirit teaches us what to say.
Consider how effective the words of Scripture are in these two cases:
But about the resurrection of the dead-have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. Matthew 22.31-33
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ.   Galatians 3.16-17
Jesus uses a single word, “am” to prove the resurrection—if there were no resurrection, God would have had to say “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” for they would be dead and gone. But they are alive with God in heaven, so he still is their God.
Paul proves from God’s promise to Abraham that there would be one Savior (seed), not many.
All I Need to Know
Remember John’s gripe—you couldn’t write down everything Jesus did? How do we know the Holy Spirit has written down enough? There are churches that believe the Holy Spirit has not written down enough, that there is either continuing revelation through a living prophet or that there is a treasure trove of the unwritten teachings of Jesus that the apostles passed on verbally and are still in that form in the church until they are officially brought out into the public in the written teachings of the church.
 
All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14.25-26
What is the “all things” Jesus is talking about and (thinking about what we’ve already covered) where do you expect to find these “all things?”
The Holy Spirit has taught the disciples all the things they needed to tell people about how to get to heaven and how to lead a godly life. They have written all these things down in the Bible.
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1.19-21
What was the role of apostle? How do you know they would write it down?
The apostle was to tell what he knew about Jesus from eye-witness experience, validating the promises of the prophets. The apostles are put in parallel with the written prophets. As the prophets wrote, so the apostles would write.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. Revelation 22.18
How would you feel about a church that says there are two streams of tradition, the written tradition of Jesus and the apostles, which we have in the New Testament, and the unwritten tradition of Jesus and the apostles, which is preserved in the church?
It would make me uncomfortable—John’s Revelation says there will be no more Scripture, so don’t add or subtract from it, or else!
Consider the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16.19-31. What is the point of the parable?
All Lazarus’ brothers need to escape ending up in the fires of hell is to believe the written Word of God, Moses and Prophets. Someone rising from the dead will not convince them.
When caught without an answer to the Lutheran Reformers, the Roman Catholic Church issued a series of decrees from its Council of Trent. A scholarly and thoroughly biblical Lutheran, Martin Chemnitz (the old saying was, without the second Martin, the work of the first Martin would have been lost) responded to the Doctrines and Decrees of the Council of Trent. He absolutely and exhaustively tore apart Trent’s assertion that, yes, the written tradition is all sufficient for getting to heaven (as you Lutherans say), but it is not all sufficient for leading a moral life here on earth.
Can you paraphrase Trent’s position?
The Bible tells us all we need to get to heaven, but we need the unwritten tradition of Jesus and the Apostles (as kept by the Pope and Church) to know how to live a moral life here on earth.
Now, in a lot less words than Martin Chemnitz, can you answer the Council of Trent on this point from the basis of the following Bible passage?
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. 2 Timothy 3.16-17
Every good work means everything we can possibly do for moral living on earth.
The Languages of the Bible
The Bible was written in three languages, Hebrew (most of the Old Testament), Aramaic (primarily portions of Ezra and Daniel) and Greek, the New Testament. In very different ways, these languages were well chosen.
The Old Testament
Biblical Hebrew is classical Hebrew. The language of modern day Israel is literally resurrected Biblical Hebrew. The Hebrew language is not rich in vocabulary, it focuses on verbs (with most nouns being formed from the verbs) and has no written vowels! If English were written like Hebrew, “Lord” would look like LRD. Only by remembering what the unwritten vowels were and going by context could you know it was “Lord” instead of “lard” or “lurid.” This would be instrumental in the transmission of the text (we’ll cover that next week).
The beauty of Hebrew, however, was Hebrew poetry, the type of Hebrew most of the prophets wrote in. Hebrew poetry was not based on rhyme, but on repetition of thought in different words!
Here’s an examples:
"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Isaiah 29.13-14
Why would it be rather easy to figure out what the Hebrew poet was saying?
He says the same thing two times in different words.
The New Testament
The Greek of the Bible is known as Koine (common) Greek. It was not the classical Greek of Sophocles and Socrates (the language that the comedy writer Aristophanes mocked as being indecipherable), but spoken Greek, the language of the common man. But what a language it was! It had seven tenses of the verb (we only have six), five different moods of the verb, all instantly recognizable by their various forms, and complete declensions for every noun! By putting it all together you knew exactly what it said! And, by the time of Christ, this was the world language. Greek had a rich vocabulary. For example, there were three words for “love.” (We’ve got only one!) If you wanted to clearly express yourself, the Greek language allowed you to express every nuance, emotion and tone. If Old Testament Hebrew was a sledgehammer, New Testament Greek was the modern symphony orchestra.
 
 
Chapter 3: Is My B-I-B-L-E Reliable?
Latin is a dead language,
As dead as dead can be.
First it killed the Romans.
Now it’s killing me.
I heard that chant a lot from my seniors when I taught Vergil’s Aeneid at Michigan Lutheran Seminary. Though it was a classic, you had to feel sorry for the kids. It was hard for them to relate to, their culture was so different from that of 1st century Rome. And you had to wonder about the text itself. Was that what Vergil really wrote as you looked at half-finished lines and educated guesses as to what the missing words should be?
Some say the same of the Bible. They dismiss it as an ancient collection of writings of interest only to those with an antiquarian bent. Who even knows what it says, much less what it really means?
Relevancy and reliability are two sides of the same coin.
Chapter 3: Is My B-I-B-L-E Reliable?
As Relevant as the Day It was Written
The Bible consistently claims relevancy for itself. It says it is important for every single person in the world, for those who were, who are and who are to come. This was the central assumption of God’s promise to Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12.3).” This is the presupposition for opening words of Isaiah’s writings, “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1.2).” The Bible is the word of revelation from God for everyone everywhere. Yet the world considers the Bible as dead as Vergil’s Aeneid.
Look at these situations in the Bible and explain how they were relevant, even though other people considered them irrelevant.
And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." Mark 7.9-13
The words of Moses, 1500 years old, were still relevant and commanded that first century (AD) Jews take care of aging mother and father, no matter what later traditions came up with.
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. John 17.20
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24.14
Jesus says his Gospel will create faith in the hearts of people to come and will be in the world until the end of the world, always relevant.
Here’s one that is especially noteworthy. The second half of Isaiah is devoted to the days to come. It is almost as if it is a totally different book! While Isaiah 1 starts with the Lord’s complaint against his Old Testament people and their hopeless, irreparable condition, Isaiah 40 starts out with a message of comfort to God’s forgiven people. We hear the voice of John the Baptist preparing the way for the Savior, and then God turns to Isaiah and tells him to add his voice, to “cry out.” And Isaiah doesn’t know what he could possibly say that would make a difference.
A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40.6-8
God’s Word will always be in the world and will always be relevant.
What makes this passage so wonderful is the ending Peter gives to it when he quotes it.
And this is the word that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1.25
And that Gospel has now come to us and touched us, creating faith in our hearts. How much more relevant can it get?
For a moment think about the human condition. What is really wrong with man? What is man’s future? How can God affect that future? This is the heart of relevancy. 
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6.23
Explain how the Bible stacks up.
Man will always be sinful, always be separated from God and headed for eternal death by nature. He wants to be free from that but does not know how. Through the Bible God gives the gift of eternal life in Jesus.
If the Bible is so relevant, how come so much of what is taught in pulpits and classes is irrelevant? Do you consider the Gospel ministry as a whole or in its various parts, which is being carried out at this church as irrelevant? Why or why not?
Some things churches get into have absolutely nothing to do with getting to heaven or living according to the Ten Commandments. Granted, the church is well-suited to mobilize people to help with various causes, but if this social work overshadows the proclamation of the Gospel and the guidance it gives for Christian living, the church is just busying itself with things that will become irrelevant. All false teaching is irrelevant. Think of how many churches were trying to rile their people up that the end of the world might be coming January 1, 2000!
As Reliable as the Day It was Written
In the first chapter we covered Verbal Inspiration. Every word the apostles and prophets wrote down was true and without error. It was just the way God the Holy Spirit wanted it to be written to communicate the exact message God wanted to get across.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24.35
What does this passage say about the dependability of God’s Word?
God’s Word is always dependable. It will last throughout the history of the world.
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5.18-19
What directions do these words of Jesus have for people who will “publish” the Bible?
Publishers of the Bible have to be very careful not to do a slipshod job. Every word is important. Even switching out letters could be disastrous.
Its Transmission
The Bible has been preserved for most of its history without the benefits of the printing press. From 1500 B.C. (Moses) to 100 A.D. (John) men of God we would call scribes, copied the Bible out by hand on sheepskin scrolls (vellum), or on a writing material made by physically binding reed fibers together (papyrus). We have the papyrus in two forms, codices—papyrus pages bound together in books, a fairly new invention and infinitely beneficial if you were smuggling Bibles under the nose of persecuting Roman authorities!—and papyri, individual papyrus pages. Even though the scribes were trained, it must have been daunting work. Let’s try our hand at it.
One group can only print consonants—this is what the Hebrew scribes were doing. One group can only print in capital letters (uncials). The last group can only print in small letters (minuscules). Listen closely, because I’m not going to repeat myself! Oh, and to save precious space, no spaces, no punctuation.
 
So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there--
so that they will go and fall backward,
be injured and snared and captured. Isaiah 28.13
 
(use a blank page—
no peeking on the next page!)
 
 
CONSONANTS
STHNTHWRDFTHLRDTTHMWLLBCM
DNDDDNDD
RLNRLRLNRL
LTTLHRLTTLTHR
STHTTHYWLLGNDFLLBCKWRD
BNJRDNDSNRDNDCPTRD
 
LARGELETTERS
SothenthewordoftheLORDtothemwillbecome
Doanddodoanddo
ruleonruleruleonrule
alittleherealittlethere
sothattheywillgoandfallbackward
beinjuredandsnaredandcaptured
 
small letters
sothenthewordofthelordothemwillbecome
doanddodoanddo
ruleonruleruleonrule
alittleherealittlethere
sothattheywillgoandfallbackward
Beinjuredandsnaredandcaptured
 
QUALITY CONTROL:
There should be 99 letters in the consonants only group, with the 25th letter at the end of the first line, the 50th letter marked the third L in the fourth line, the 75th letter the K of line 5. If you don’t have that, tear up your copy and start all over again! That’s how the Hebrew scribes did it!
Since Hebrew Christians also copied the New Testament, we infer their quality control measures were similarly effective.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Incredibly, the oldest Hebrew version of the Old Testament we have comes from the Leningrad library and dates to 1008 AD! We have a copy of only the prophets from 985, Cairo, and we also have fragments of Old Testaments from another Cairo synagogue—they were meant to be destroyed but were overlooked.
The reason for this is that whenever Scriptures became tattered and worn, the Jews would burn them to avoid treating them like trash—sort of the same way Americans are supposed to discard old Old Glory in the fire.
So the oldest witnesses we have to the Hebrew text are translations! The most important was the Greek translation, the Septuagint, which dates back to 225 B.C. Since it was viewed as a translation, however, many different versions dating from 150 AD existed. Unfortunately, here, too, we only have codices from the 300s AD (from the Vatican library and the Monastery at Mt. Sinai).
Many wondered if we could really be sure we had Hebrew close to what was originally written!
Then the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. In 1947 supposedly a Palestinian shepherd idly threw some rocks into a cave near the Dead Sea. Upon hearing pottery breaking, he wedged his way in and discovered scrolls with ancient writing on it. Biblical scholars, alerted by the sudden (and lucrative) trade of selling apparently ancient manuscripts on the antiquities market, launched a series of explorations which discovered ten caves in which ancient writings, dating to the time of Christ, were stored in clay pots. Some scrolls had deteriorated to barely recognizable scraps. Others, like the Isaiah Scroll, were fairly intact for a reasonable span of text.
When the texts of the Dead Sea scrolls that contained books of the Bible (Isaiah, partial Psalms, commentary on Habakkuk) were compared to the Masoretic (accepted Hebrew) text, it was found that the Dead Sea Scrolls either lined up very closely with the accepted text or had variants that followed other translations or educated guesses of modern scholars. It reinforced the confidence Bible believing Christians had that the Hebrew text we base our translations on is an accurate text. The Jews were literally that good in transmitting the text.
 
Before we get too far along, let’s take a brief look at some of these witnesses.
The New Testament
When we come to the New Testament, we have a wealth of early manuscripts in various forms. Here is a chart, showing their age.
 
 
In addition to these Greek texts, early translations (Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Vulgate) are of some use.
In the 20th century there have been two schools of thought. One emphasized the Byzantine text. The other played up Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. The King James was translated from the harmonized Byzantine text known as the Textus Receptus (Received Text) compiled by Luther’s respected foe, Erasmus, in 1516. As more texts were discovered and more scholarship was done, earlier witnesses were promoted.
The following should be noted.
We have over 5000 Greek manuscripts alone, no two of which agree exactly. (remember my Vergil’s Aeneid? 9 manuscripts!)
Many of the witnesses contain only parts of the Bible. (Time is hard on books.)
Geographically distant witnesses may be influenced by a common source.
 
Here are the rules to decide which reading should be adopted:
  • The earlier witness is the better witness.
  • The most wide spread reading is the better reading.
  • Families count more than individual witnesses.
—————————————————————
If the above rules do not give you a “fuzzy” feeling about which reading should be adopted, use these rules (kind of like the NFL formula for wild card playoff spots!):
  • The more difficult reading is the better reading
  • The shorter the better.
  • The different reading is the better reading.
  • Does it “sound” like the author?
 
There are perhaps 20,000 different readings of the Greek New Testament. Some simply point to all these differences and say we can never be sure we have the true Bible. A huge number of differences is this:
Jesus Christ
Christ Jesus
How big a doctrinal problem is this?
Not big at all—there is no difference in meaning from the different word order.
Here’s another one, John 1.3-4
Without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life.
Without him nothing was made. What has been made in him was life.
This one is based solely upon the lack of punctuation! The first is the correct reading—John likes to start sentences with “In.” The second reading insinuates false teaching, that Jesus was only Jesus because of something “in” him.
How difficult was this one to sniff out?
Not too tough, because we always think of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life.
Finally we get a reading with some meat! 1 John 5.7-8
For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood.
For there are three that testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth: the Spirit, the water and the blood.
The first reading is shorter. Tellingly, the second reading occurs in none of the witnesses we have mentioned. It occurs only in four late editions of the Vulgate, two of which are SCRIBBLED IN THE MARGIN BY A 16TH CENTURY HAND! Erasmus, putting together his Textus Receptus of 1516, correctly omitted it. He was attacked for leaving out the “three heavenly witnesses,” so he said if he could find one Greek manuscript with that reading, he would put it in. By the way, this had become the official reading of the current edition of the Vulgate in Erasmus’ day. Within weeks, a Greek manuscript was “found” with the papally-sanctioned reading—dated 1520! Erasmus, true to his word, included it in his 1522 edition, though he complained bitterly. Tellingly, it was not quietly dropped from Catholic translations of the Bible until 1965. Prior to that the explanation was given, “The Holy See reserves to itself the right to pass finally on the present reading.”
What does this show about the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church up until recent (post Vatican II) times?
They can make the Bible what they want it to be. Textual rules are secondary to the wishes of the Pope.
How might you imagine this attitude to impact its interpretation of the Bible?
They can also interpret the Bible any way the Pope wants to, too.
You really have to be an “expert” to sort your way through this stuff. How does the fact that “experts” do sort their way through this stuff affect your attitude towards the reliability of your B-I-B-L-E?
Once the experts are done with it and largely agree, we can be quite certain we have the Bible that the original authors wrote down.
 
Chapter 4: How Do I Use My B-I-B-L-E?
 
Gone are the days when a person is expected to read his or her Bible as a matter of their daily routine. Reasons are many. The cares and pleasures of this world. Double income families mean doubly hard working families tend to try to escape the dream life they have made for themselves with frequent get-away weekends. (If your life is so great, why do you have to get away?) It works that way with our faith, too, with all these busy things to do. We live in metropolitan areas now, so the kid’s sports are not handled by the schools after school any more and left up to the kids for fun, but adults run the leagues which play for keeps and practice after dark, so we’ve got to run the kids here and there, putting on twenty thousand leagues a year on the family car in hopes we have the next sports superstar in the back seat.
And another problem is that people are not instructed on how to use their Bible. In one class we can’t do much about the other reasons, but I think we can handle this.
Chapter 4: How Do I Use My B-I-B-L-E?
Pick the Translation that is Best for You
———————————————————————————————
A Word about Translations
We realize the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Since we are not conversant in theses languages (though your church body hopes its pastors are, for we spend a lot of time and money making them learn Hebrew and Greek), we need translations. Every good translation honestly attempts to take the pictures and meanings the words carry in the original language and carry them over into the new language, “the receptor language.” When Luther was translating the Bible into German, the hardest parts for him to translate were the Old Testament ceremonial laws. He would go down to the butcher’s shop to make sure he was getting the right German word for what Moses was describing.
Every word carries a picture with it and, unfortunately, no translation can really do it justice. Let me give you an example.
The Hebrew word for sin is katah, ???.
A fancy Hebrew dictionary will let you know that katah means “to miss the mark.” You may think of a guy shooting arrows at a target and he misses not only the bull’s eye, but even the target itself, as the arrow is sticking out of the bale of hay. katah means more than that. It means to miss the mark so badly you are positively a present danger and threat to yourself and everyone around you. A drunk swinging a loaded gun around—that’s katah!
Every comparison limps. Translators strive not to limp so badly in putting the ideas into the receptor language that their translation falls on its face.
———————————————————————————————
Ever since the 1950s there have been a wealth of Bible translations out there. Just a small sampling includes:
  • The King James Version (KJV)—the good old version going back to 1611
  • The Revised Standard Version (RSV)
  • The Revised King James Version (RKJV)
  • The New International Version (NIV)
  • The New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • The Jerusalem Bible (Roman Catholic)
  • The New English Bible (Church of England)
 
Unless you are over 50 and are an English major, you should not be reading the KJV. Our language has changed so much from the days of William Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English.
Except for the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, and perhaps some off the wall churches, no church body has an “official” version of the Bible. They use the version they feel most comfortable with—so should you.
In a day when you can pick up a paperback copy of the Bible for under the cost of two Happy Meals at McDonalds, spend the cash to try them out for yourself. Keep the one you like the most.
Try to avoid “paraphrases” of the Bible. They are not translations but rewordings of another translation. It’s like hearsay evidence in court.
Here’s an example of good and bad translations—but you be the judge!
Indicate your judgment in the blanks using the following scale:
False    Poor     OK       Good    Excellent
John 1.1
Excellent In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. KJV (also NIV, RSV, Jerusalem Bible, NASB)
OK     When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. NEB
False In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness)
Explain your reasoning.
The first flows nicely and says Jesus (the Word) is God. The last is absolutely false, for it says Jesus is a god, denying the Holy Trinity. The middle one just doesn’t leave me with a good feeling. It doesn’t flow all that well, either.
Why would someone deliberately mistranslate the Bible?
They do not accept what the words of the Bible clearly teach, so they are going to put their own teachings into the Bible by changing what it says.
Now try this one, from the “I know that my Redeemer lives,” passage.
Vaakar     yori        niqpu             zoth       umibsari           ekzeh   Eloha.
And after my flesh is struck off            this    and from my flesh I will see   God.
False    Poor     OK       Good    Excellent
Job 19.26
False Even after my skin is flayed, yet without my flesh I shall see God. NASB, 1973 edition
Excellent And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. NIV
Poor   And I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself. NEB
Excellent And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. KJV
Explain your reasoning—remember! What else do you have to look for when picking a good translation (think about the third mark of a prophet!)
The first is false because it denies the bodily resurrection. The excellent translations flow nicely and proclaim the bodily resurrection. The poor translation might infer a bodily resurrection, but not necessarily.
Sometimes the translation has a subtle bias because of the team of translators. It may or may not be deliberate, but taken as a whole, it is unfortunate. The NIV is a case in point. It is a good translation, but has some “Baptist” leanings, namely that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of all people (he only died for the believers) and that a person can be saved by their own power or choice.
Here’s two examples of a problem with translation. The first is the conclusion of Peter’s Pentecost sermon.
 

 

False    Poor     OK       Good    Excellent
Acts 2.40
False Save yourselves from this crooked age. NEB
False Save yourselves from this untoward generation. KJV
False Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. NIV
OK     Be saved from this perverse generation. NASB
Why didn’t you like the most accurate translation?
We don’t talk like that in the English language. You can save yourself or someone else can save you, but to give the command “Be saved!” doesn’t make a lot of sense in our language.
Why did the NEB, KJV and NIV agree on their translation of “be saved”?
It is the way we speak in English.
What might this infer about how a person becomes a Christian?
We actually have the power to save ourselves, that we can decide to believe in Jesus or choose to become a Christian, which is false—the Holy Spirit chooses us and by grace gives us faith.
The last example is something that grinds my craw every Christmas. It’s the angel’s message recorded in Luke.
 

 

The battle is fought at the textual level! (Remember last chapter?) The witnesses are almost identical. In fact some of them are! Sinaiticus () and Vaticanus (B) have the “alternate” reading and a correction of both, adding the final sigma (s in English)! The Textus Receptus is pooh-poohed as the scholars explain why they prefer the more difficult reading. Unfortunately, this is what you get.
False    Poor     OK       Good    Excellent
Luke 2.14
Excellent Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men. KJV
Poor   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. NIV
Poor   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. RSV
Poor   Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth his peace for men on whom his favour rests. NEB
Who did Jesus come to die for?
Everybody.
Could Jesus’ work be described as bringing peace to man?
Yes! To all mankind!
According to the NIV, what interpretation could we read into the angel’s words concerning who Jesus is to die for?
Jesus came only to die for those on whom God’s favor rested, the believers, for without faith it is impossible to please God.
Why would someone distort the translation?
They want to limit Jesus’ work to only being for the believers. We call this “limited atonement” and it is a Baptist teaching.
This is pretty esoteric stuff. The regular Joe wouldn’t know this stuff. He’d have to go on the advice of “experts.” To be quite honest, no translation is perfect, and though I gripe about the NIV, I still use it.
The danger is not in the translation, but in the study guides and the footnotes that accompany the translation.
I always got a kick out of my mother’s old Catholic Bible.
 
The bishop must be married but once5. 1 Timothy 3.2
 
Footnote 5 says, “Priestly celibacy as a law is of later ecclesiastical institution.” Others had it explained to them, “He’s married—to the Church.”
What does 1 Timothy say should be permitted to the clergy?
Marriage to one woman.
What does footnote 5 say should be permitted to the clergy? Why?
No marriage, only celibacy, because that is what the church has decided.
If you get a standard Study Bible from the Christian bookstore you will probably have all sorts of study hints directing you to where the Bible teaches that:
  • Jesus will reign on earth for a thousand years
  • It is impossible for believers to fall from the faith.
  • You must make a decision to believe in Jesus.
  • Jesus only died for the believers.
If you are going to get a Study Bible, get a Lutheran one. Remember, there isn’t a “Lutheran” translation of the Bible (unless you are going to buy Luther’s German translation), but there are Lutheran explanations and guides for study in these Bibles. The best one—and I’ve got it myself, is the Concordia Self-Study Bible.
Also, don’t swallow dates put into the margins of the Bibles. I’ve seen some that say God said, “Let there be light” 4004 BC, sometime in early October!
 
In summary:
  • Get a Bible that you can read with understanding.
  • Get a Bible whose print is easy on your eyes.
  • Buy a few different versions in paperback to “try them on for size.”
  • Listen to reviews and recommendations.
  • Don’t buy a non-Lutheran study Bible.
Read It!
After all is said and done, if you get a Bible you like and you don’t read it, you might as well not have wasted your time.  And if you think you have to read the Bible bit by bit, like the pastor takes Scripture bit by bit in his sermons, you should have your head examined. Do you read the newspaper word by word, searching for deep and mysterious meanings? No! You breeze through it. This is the first mistake people make. They lose the story line and lose interest.
Read the books of the Bible like a book!
Make time to read it for about 30 minutes at a time. You will be surprised how far you will get and how much you will remember.
Read the Gospels first!
Don’t start with Genesis expecting to read the Bible from cover to cover. Unless you are immensely interested in dietary and hygienic rules for the Old Testament Jews, Exodus-Deuteronomy will put you to sleep. They don’t apply to us! Start with the Gospels and read each one of them. Then go on to the rest of the New Testament. Then hit Genesis and the other historical books. Then go to Isaiah and the rest of the prophets, then Job, Psalms, Proverbs and the historical sections of Exodus-Deuteronomy.
Don’t use those cheesy “through the Bible in a year” books or lists until you have read through the Bible, following guideline #2, a few times.
Don’t read the Bible like you are preparing to memorize it or significant verses.
Reading is reading and studying is studying. Most people who have Bible passages memorized and at the tip of their fingers take them out of context or are so arrogant nobody will listen to them anyway. You will remember much more simply by reading the Bible. If you insist on poring over the Bible word by word, make extra time for that, but not at the expense of your reading! I guarantee you will keep up the reading and drop the studying.
Mark up your Bible.
Use yellow marker or red pen to highlight or underline passages that mean a lot to you. Write in the margins. My Moslem neighbor was horrified to see my Bible laying out on the living room end-table all dog-eared and scribbled in. Her Koran (never opened) was sitting in her dining room hutch on a display stand. Who was really regarding the Scripture as holy, gladly hearing and learning it?
 
Approaches to Reading the Bible
Always read the Bible letting the Bible speak for itself. Don’t read your ideas into it. Get what God has put in it out of it.
When you read the Bible, read asking yourself if this is talking about Jesus or if it has something to do with Jesus. If you go into the Bible looking for Jesus, you will find him all over the place.
When you read the Bible, ask yourself what God is saying to you.
After you do your reading for the day, think about what you read throughout the day. You will be surprised how many times what you read can apply to situations you will face that day!
Read the Bible looking for Law and Gospel. The Law will show us what God demands from us and the consequences to pay for our failing to meet his demands. The Gospel will show us what God has done for us and the blessings which come to us through the work of Jesus. All the Bible can be boiled down to Law and Gospel.
 
Let’s try it for our last exercise. Passages that refer to Law should be marked with an “L” or an arrow up #—what we must do for God. Passages that refer to Gospel should be marked with a “G” or an arrow down $—what God has done for us .
 
#19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. #20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
$21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. $22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, #23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, $24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3.19-24
So, get a Bible you can and will read with understanding. The Holy Spirit will richly bless you over the years.
Thanks for coming to the class.