About the Holy Bible: also called “The Canon of Scripture” known to Christians as the “Word of God”

What is the Bible About? - It is about Jesus Christ

Old testament - Jesus Christ is predicted

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Gospels - Jesus Christ is revealed

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"

So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 16:13-17

Acts of the Apostles- Jesus Christ is preached

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED BY YOU BUILDERS, WHICH HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Acts 4:8-12

Episles - Jesus Christ is explained

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

1 Timothy 2:1-6

Revelation - Jesus Christ is expected (future)

Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true." And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. "Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

" "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

Revelation 22:6-14

Part 1: How to read the Bible

General principles

 “If in this book you choose to look
Five things observe with care
Of whom it speaks,
To whom it speaks
Why and When and Where”

AND

I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant's Child, 1902

The modern method of reading and interpreting the Bible has led to gross apostasy in the Church. Little expository preaching do we hear, and indeed, I believe few have read the Scriptures sufficiently to be able to preach verse by verse. Moreover, the tools needed to understand the plain meaning of each verse have not been provided to preachers by modern Seminaries and Bible Colleges. However, more damaging is the modern ideology of making Scripture (and indeed any primary document such as our constitution) to say what we want it to say rather than what the author intended. There is only one way to read the Bible, summarised by David Cooper thus:

“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” [1]

What does plain sense mean?

Plain sense is what it says; read the words as one would ordinarily and usually read the words; read them exactly as they literally mean, UNLESS there are clear indicators from the context of the sentences, paragraphs, chapter and book that indicate otherwise. Therefore take each Bible passage in its plain sense, unless there is some indication that it is a symbol or figure of speech. Put another way:

“When the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense lest you believe nonsense.”

A warning from Bernard Ramm; “To say the principle meaning of the Bible is a second sense meaning and that principle method of interpretation is spiritualizing is to open the door to almost uncontrolled speculation and imagination. For this reason we have insisted that the control in interpretation is the literal method.”[2]

This means the most important element in interpreting a passage of Scripture is knowing its context. If the context is unknown, the PLAIN SENSE is the only interpretation of the passage – i.e. it’s literal meaning!

A warning from Charles Spurgeon – for Christians

"You may have Bibles in your houses, as I trust you all have, but what is the Bible but a dead letter without Christ? Ah! I would you could all say what a poor woman once said. "I have Christ here," as she put her hand on the Bible, "and I have Christ here," as she put her hand on her heart, "and I have Christ there," as she raised up her eyes towards heaven; but if you have not Christ in the heart, you will not find Christ in the Book, for he is discovered there in his sweetness, and his blessedness, and his excellence, only by those who know Him and love him in their hearts".[3]

Endnotes

[1] David L. Cooper, The World’s Greatest Library Graphically Illustrated (Los Angeles: Biblical Research Society, 1970), 11.

[2] Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3d ed. (Boston: W.A. Wilde, 1956; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 65.

[3] Spurgeon, CH (1915) A Solemn Deprival, published on 19th August 1915, accessed from Spurgeon Ministries, Bath Road Baptist Church (most of Spurgeon’s sermons can be found online e.g.
< http://www.spurgeon.org > (accessed 26 January 2017).

Part 2: Origins of the Bible

The bible was written by 40 different authors over 1500 years. A summary here cannot even begin to touch on this topic nor can it do it any justice. However, it is an amazing fact, attesting the guidance of the Holy Spirit in preserving and collating the 66 books that make up the Bible. For the inquiring mind, it is recommended you begin with authors such as FF Bruce who has authored many works on this matter. In the book "The Origin of the Bible" FF Bruce writes [2]:

"The word "Bible" is derived through Latin from the Greek word biblia (books), specifically the books that are acknowledged as canonical by the Christian church. The earliest Christian use of ta biblia (the books) in this sense is said to be 2 Clement 2:14 (c. A.D. 150): "the books and the apostles declare that the church … has existed from the beginning." (Compare Dan. 9:2, "I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures," where the reference is to the corpus of Old Testament prophetic writings.) Greek biblion (of which biblia is the plural) is a diminutive of biblos, which in practice denotes any kind of written document, but originally one written on papyrus.

A term synonymous with "the Bible" is "the writings" or "the Scriptures" (Greek hai graphai, ta grammata), frequently used in the New Testament to denote the Old Testament documents in whole or in part. For example, Matthew 21:42 says, "Have you never read in the Scriptures?" (en tais graphais). The parallel passage, Mark 12:10, has the singular, referring to the particular text quoted, "Haven't you read this Scripture?" (ten graphen tauten). 2 Timothy 3:15 speaks of "the Holy or sacred writings" (ta hiera grammata), and the next verse says, "All Scripture is God– breathed" (pasa graphe theopneustos). In 2 Peter 3:16 "all" the letters of Paul are included along with "the other Scriptures" (has loipas graphas ), by which the Old Testament writings and probably also the Gospels are meant.

Footnotes

1. The Canon of Scripture (1988) FF Bruce published by Inter–varsity.

2. FF Bruce "The Bible" in Philip W. Comfort (Editor) (2003) The Origin of the Bible, Tyndale House, USA (obtaining a copy is well worth it)

3. New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (1981) FF Bruce < http://www.bible.ca/b-new-testament-documents-f-f-bruce.htm > published by InterVarsity (assessed 26 January 2017)

4. The Canon of the New Testament (1981) FF Bruce available on line at: < http://www.bible–researcher.com/bruce1.html > (accessed 26 January 2017).

Part 3: The Authority of the Bible

When considering so called 'evidence’ of Scripture such as scientific, archaeological or prophetic we must be careful in the way we interpret such. It is usual for some folk to consider the authority of the Canon of Scripture based on external evidences, when Scripture stands or falls in its own internal evidence. The authority of Scripture is given by Scripture itself, nothing else need determine this; as revealed by the Holy Spirit. The essence of this is the fact that "by faith you are saved". Notwithstanding, Scripture itself notes that more than one witness is required to determine the truthfulness of a testimony. This is fulfilled in the Holy Spirit who authenticates the authority of Scripture. For the non–Christian, that is, one without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, no amount of evidence will produce peace in terms of the authority of the canon – there will always be doubt. This arises because unless there is communion between your spirit and the Holy Spirit no authentication can occur.

It is right and proper that Scripture is used to determine the authenticity of evidence, whether scientific or otherwise, not the other way around. However, it is interesting for the enquiring mind to consider what man has discovered about his universe and compare it with Scripture. For the weak in faith it is also enlightening to find that the prophetic word has been borne out – cities that were deemed to fall by Scripture have indeed fallen, and nations deemed to rise and fall have also done so, and so on and so forth. It is important to note that, especially for history, the interpretation is always dynamic – history is interpreted in light of the culture, knowledge and prejudices of the time. Dating is always problematic and fills reams of paper, for instance those pertaining to Egyptian history. For a Christian, external evidences only highlight the truthfulness of the nature of the word of God.

Further elaboration of this topic is found at:

The Authority of the Canon of Scripture – A defence

The Authority of the Canon of Scripture – Fulfilment of Prophecy

Part 4: Which translation version to read

The controversy

The debate over bible translation versions is essentially an English speakers’ debate which occurs at two levels. At one level many hold that the King James translation is simply the best – it has been around for 400 years and has a remarkable history, affecting many aspects of our lives, both secular and spiritual. One only need to read secular literature to see the number of times phrases, quotes and themes are reproduced; indeed our English language is full of quotes from the Bible. This arises because, especially for the Old Testament translation, the King James Translators often took the literal rather than interpretative approach giving rise to a number of new English idioms. For example: “to stand in awe” (Psalm 4:4), “to fall flat on his face” (Numbers 22:31) etc. In some cases the KJV is the best English translation; however, English is inferior to Greek in many ways (and Hebrew). There is no way English verbs can replicate the diversity and beauty of Greek verbs – English simply cannot replace the Greek – but this can be worked around. One thing going for the KJV is that it attempts to render the aspect of  Greek verbs correctly, within the limitations of English – the modern translators, as do modern English speakers, tend to forgo the subtleties of the verb's aspect and often the tense as well.

Read more

At other level, some hold the King James translation as being the "inspired word of God" and no other translation can testify to this. This is a lie simply because Scripture itself does not record this fact, nor does it record how the Canon is to be preserved or indeed the language it should be written in. Jesus quotes from the Septuagint, a poor Greek rending, but he also clearly knows the Law in the Hebrew language. Notwithstanding, the Canon will be preserved, within God’s economy, forever as Jesus states: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). This is interesting in itself – Jesus uses terms describing the Hebrew alphabet to state that Scripture is everlasting, since the jot and tittle are elements of the Hebrew alphabet. To me this suggests that it is the original extant version of the Canon which is being preserved, not some translation.

None–the–less whether the preservation of the Canon is in English or its original language, Scripture remains silent. Indeed, given the lossiness of translating any language from one to another[3] such as from Greek or Hebrew to English, English is not a good language to preserve the inspired word of God.  Therefore, logically the King James Version cannot be the “inspired” word of God in which God is preserving the God breathed words of Scripture – it is the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

The authors of the King James Version(s) never held that they were creating the "inspired word of God". The errors in the KJ translation testify to the truth of this. It is also interesting to note that many would not be able to read the 1611 version – the spelling has changed considerably since that time! Most unknowingly use a later version such as that from 1769, and most versions do not contain the Apocrypha – which is found in the 1611 version. (The rules for the translation of the King James Version) are interesting to read).

Some hold that the particular Greek texts used were the best (few argue from the Hebrew point of view) but any who have studied the manuscripts soon realise there were many limitations in the manuscripts available in 1600.

However, I note that modern translations, with some exceptions, do a good job of translating the highly dense Hebrew (i.e. a few words in Hebrew means a lot in English) and the highly specific Greek into the verb poor English.

The true inspired word–of–God is the words the 40 authors penned in the particular language they used. The amazing thing is these 40 authors that penned the words, over a period of 1500 years, and come together as a uniform coherent book. Furthermore, they have survived thousands of years.

What this author cannot understand is why the King James Version became so controversial. It was by no means the first English translation and is not the last. The Geneva Version (1560 – revised 1599) is probably more in line with fundamentalist evangelicals than the King James Version, and publically was more acceptable to fundamentalists. The King James Version in some ways was a political compromise so King James could maintain control over the bishops, parliament and church.  There is nothing in the Bible stating it is the translation to be used! The manuscripts used contained deficiencies, some of which have been overcome. Certainly there are corrupted manuscripts available, but modern translators are mindful of the history of these. The motivation for producing the KJV also is not praiseworthy – being forced to use the Bishop’s Bible as the template rather than the more accurate Geneva Bible indicates that political interference plus the underlying lust for power (Bishops versus the king) is the same then as it is now.

It also uses archaic and incomprehensible words and phrases from time to time – even for the 1600, some of these were out of date. In terms of grammar some is archaic and was outdated at the time. For instance the word ‘his’ in modern English is a singular possessive masculine, whereas in the KJV it can be a neuter possessive pronoun. That is ‘his’ is used to mean ‘belonging to it’. Some hold the KJV as superior because it uses ‘thou’, ‘thee’, and ‘thy’ when in reality these are merely the singular of the pronouns ‘ye’, ’you’ or ‘your’, respectively. Satan and people are addressed using all these forms, negating the notion of use to show the superiority of God. Furthermore, there is blurring of when these pronouns actually used and their exact purpose. For example for a time ‘thou’ was used to put down an inferior rather than highlight a superior God.

Notwithstanding, there is some majesty in the KJV and it has been around a long time (400 years in 2011) – longer than any other main–stream English translation. Many have come to the saving knowledge of Christ from this translation, and therefore it should be given its due recognition. It is however not a translation for all languages nor all peoples.

Footnotes

[3] Lossiness is a computer term used when data is transformed, or translated from one form to another usually for compression purposes. In doing so information is lost, usually fairly un–detectable, as with jpeg picture files etc., but if done enough times will reduce the quality of the data – the picture will show graininess.

The solution

If you can read Greek – learn the Greek of the Bible (Koine Greek) and if you can read Hebrew – learn the Hebrew of the Bible – both being somewhat different from what is spoken and written today. I use A Reader’s Greek New Testament 2nd Edition from Zonderman as my Greek New Testament, which apparently attempts to use the best of the Greek manuscripts. It assumes you know the first 30 most common Greek words of the NT (including their cases etc.), but has footnotes for all others and a lexicon. I have not found a Hebrew text quite so well designed, but may not have looked far enough (July 2013).

Read more

For the English reader, who is not versed in old–English, start with either the New King James Version (NKJV) (Thomas Nelson), the New International (NIV) (The Lockman Foundation) or the New American Standard Version (NABS) (The Lockman Foundation) . The English Standard Version (ESV) (Crossways Bibles, Good news Publishers) is new to me, but I am finding it to be very useful, and easy to read.

These are good renditions of the original texts. If you have problems understanding the meanings of the words, the Amplified Bible (Zondervan) is a good place to begin. If you are worried about exact word for word translation, the NKJV or NASB are probably better than the NIV, because the latter tends to explain words rather than translate word for word, hence the NIV may be useful in understanding some passages. In any case using more than one English translation is useful, because there is often more than one way to translate certain passages.

To those who stick to the King James, keep at it. The King James Version (sometime referred to as the Authorised Version, since King James authorised its preparation) is probably the best Bible to read Psalms from; as it flows in a style we are use to – Shakespearian English. It also does render the verbs far more accurately than latter translations, principally because the English of the time was far more careful in its use of verbs, which better matches Koine Greek.

There are also errors of translation – but most in the KJV are known, for instance, the insistence of the (ex) Catholics on the translation team to insert “Easter” in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, rather than “Passover” (that is pasha).

The New Translation by J.N.Darby (published by Bible Truth Publishers) perhaps gives a better translation than the KJV and could be read side by side with the KJV. Some editions actually have Darby's translation parallel to the KJV along with extensive use of column notes, which makes known the origin of certain words and phrases. Darby's New Translation can be found free on the internet (e.g. at http://www.stempublishing.com/bible-darby/) (Accessed 26 January 2017).

The Interlinear Greek–English New Testament, 3rd edition, edited by Jay P Green, published by Baker Books, is a great addition to the library. The text is arranged in three columns and into groups of three rows. The first column contains the literal English translation of the Greek, which is found in the centre column, with the third column containing the KJV translation. The rows are in the following repeating order, first, the Strong's concordance reference indices, the second, the Greek text of Scrivener – which limits its use to some extent, given there are limitations to the underlying Greek manuscripts  (Greek is from F.H.A. Scrivener's The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Text Followed in the Authorized Version), and the bottom row in each triplet is the English translation of the Greek.

There are other better interlinear Bibles available both on line and in the book stores. Those that want a transliterated Greek – English version (where English lettering is used instead of Greek letters for Greek words, the Mounce Reverse–Interlinear New Testament on–line is worth having a go at: published on–line by BibleGateway < https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Mounce-Reverse-Interlinear-New-Testament/ > (accessed 26 January 2017).

Every Bible student should have a concordance, dictionary and encyclopaedia. The purist will argue that Scripture must interpret Scripture, and this is so; but these so called purists usually also fail to read the Bible in the original language. We need a Bible Dictionary because English is limited in so many words, and understanding variants of certain words, especially those translated from the Greek and Hebrew. For instance, the word "to judge" or "to love", which have many connotations in English, have different root words in Greek, from whence they are translated. I find Vine's Expository Dictionary (Hendiskson) to be very helpful, giving the meaning and location of the given word in Scripture so as to illustrate its use (I have yet to find this on–line). Strong's Concordance is the gold standard because every word in the King James Version is numbered and referenced against the appropriate language dictionary, and location in Scripture. There are similar but often limited concordances for the other bible versions.

Unless you understand Greek or Hebrew culture, coming to an understanding of the narrative of Scripture can be difficult expecially understanding ancient historical context. A good Encyclopaedia is useful to give indications of time–frames, culture and concurrent contemporary activities, etc. These are, of course, not the Word of God, and as this web–site continues to point out, you must go back to Scripture to check the veracity of anything written by man. (Indeed you can do this with any Scripture, testing the hypothesis – “is what I have read consistent with the rest of Scripture?” – this is what we are told the early Church did). If you can read Greek – learn the Greek of the Bible and if you can read Hebrew – learn the Hebrew of the Bible.

Church congregations need to be encouraged to ALL use the same version as it makes it too hard for new Christians to follow the text if their version is somewhat different from what is being spoken. It is encouraged that "pew" bibles be available, each being the same version as is preached from: this requires a church policy as to which version is preached from. Use care when making this policy, as some versions come and go very quickly.

For bible studies a diversity of versions can be helpful in understanding the text, but also can lead to confusion in some cases.

Bible Translations and their aspects

The following covers only a few versions and what this author finds useful or not–useful about them. A fuller discussion can be found in work by Ron Rhodes’.[4] There are always some who find some fault or other with every translation. Given we do not have the extant manuscripts of the authors, for the English reader it is best to pick the one you best understand (given your level of understanding of English) and use other versions to help clarify the text.

Version Aspects Issues Recommendation

King James Version (KJV)

Literal word for word translation; Formal equivalent.

Verbs: probably as good as it gets

Old and archaic English and words with different interpretation in 21 century.

Includes text not present in the oldest manuscripts, and does not use the oldest manuscripts as its basis.

Has printing errors

For poetry, psalms and songs – no other English translation meets the KJV standard.

Those brought up with this version – keep reading it;

For well known passages, can be read in public eg Psalm 23:

New King Kames Version (NKJV) – 1982

Literal word for word translation; Formal equivalent, but follows the KJV.

Follows the KJV basically, but replaces the old and archaic English with 21 century translations.

Includes text not present in the oldest manuscripts, and does not use the oldest manuscripts as its basis.

I find this the most useful for day–to–day reading, unless reading from a Greek version.

This version reads generally well in public.

English Standard Version (ESV) – 2001

Literal word for word translation; Formal equivalent, but follows the RSV and still contains idioms of old.

Although corrects the most glaring deficiencies of the RSV (RSV not recommended in any form), it does still contain liberal aspects in some places. Others have raised concerns about using “only” rather than “only beloved” or “an anointed one” rather than “Messiah” or “the anointed one” (Daniel 9:25) etc.

I found the following article about the ESV useful:

Why the English Standard Version (ESV) Should not become the Standard English Version by Mark Strauss (accessed 26 January 2017) (PDF)

Easier to read than the KJV or NKJV, but is not so dynamically translated as the NIV.

I use it as another translation to compare with – to better gain understand–ing of the underlying Hebrew of Greek.

The New Translation (JND)  by J.N.Darby (published by Bible Truth Publishers)

Literal word for word translation; Formal equivalent.

Follows the KJV mostly, but deals with omissions and errors of translations, and utilises the best available manuscripts of the time.

Translates Yewah as Jehovah and where ‘God’ is ambiguous in the English uses Elohim (ie plural form).

Useful for checking the KJV and as a back–stop for more modern translation.

My version has both KJV and JND with manuscript references in the centre column, which is useful for disputed passages – one is able to go to the original manuscripts and research what others think about the veracity of that particula manuscript.

The fully referenced versions are very useful for finding the actual underlying manuscript that was used for the translation – you can read these and make up your own mind!

The Reader’s Greek New Testament (Zonderman)

Greek as complied by Edward Goodrick and John Kohlenberger III. The text alerts the reader when variants exist.

I personally do not like the font (the κ – kappa to my mind is on its side), but that said, it is the version I use, along with some others, including an interlinear with literal and KJV & Strong's numbering, and the font is very clear otherwise.

For those learning Greek – each page contain definitions of rare (30 times in NT) Greek words found on the text.

The Zondervan Greek and English Intelinear New Testament (NASB/NIV)G

Greek in rows: greek, literal Englihs, Zonderman numbering, grammar; with NIV and NASB translation in columns

This book is very new to me, and I have not used it much. My other Interlinear is a Textus Receptus Greek in a similar style, with Strongs numbering and KJV. However, these days I usually use on–line/computer interlinear versions

Useful for those learning Greek – the Zondervan number is new to me; I still tend to use Strong's and BAGD [5]

Footnotes

[4] Ron Rhodes (2009) The Complete Guide to Bible Translations Harvest House, Oregon USA


[5] F.W. Danker (2000) A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature based on W Bauer's. Trans. edited by W.F. Arndt, F.Q. Gringrich and F.Q. Danker, 3rd Edition (BDAG), University of Chivago Press, USA

Part 5: Bibles to Avoid

Paraphrased bibles such as The Message should never be used. The Message has made inherent and fatal errors in the translation – see Why the Message bible should not be used. While some have paraphrased the bible in order for illiterate folk to gain a glimpse of the gospel (for example, J.B Phillips New Testament which can be found on many web sites
eg < https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+1&version=PHILLIPS > accessed 27 Augusg 2014) these have never held that their translation was the true word of God, whereas others have rejected the essence of "God Breathed", and added their own notions and ideas and called it God's word – this is apostasy.

 

David L Simon 27 August 2014
\Bible\The Bible