Where did our bible come from? Part 4: Introducing the Old Testament

Ok, now that we’ve determined that we are talking about the bible as it is understood and accepted by the majority of Protestant Christians (for what the excludes and why click here), let’s look at the process of how we actually got to the bible we use today. The major division of the bible, into Old and New Testament, is a helpful dividing two because both sections came about, and were “canonized,” in very different ways. For the sake of historical continuity, let’s talk first about the Old Testament. Now there is an easy answer to where the Old Testament came from, which is both very likely to be wrong and not particularly helpful, and a more complicated answer which, I promise, we will get to next time (sorry)

The Old Theory of the Hebrew Canon

The old theory of the canonization of the Hebrew Bible is that this was decided at the Jewish Council of Jamnia, which was called following the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70. Most scholars date the council as roughly occurring over a period of time roughly between AD 75- 117. The statement produced at Jamnia concerning Scripture likely occurred around AD90. According to the old theory, the council declared that what we now know as the Old Testament would be the Hebrew Bible out of a need to have a defined Scripture to work in the synagogue (which would take a place of prominence after the destruction of the temple), and out of a desire to prevent the still fairly new Christian church from adding their books (what we know as the New Testament) to it.

While it may have some element of truth to it, this theory was eventually challenged in the 19th century, and the more strongly in the 20th century. There are three main reasons to reject this theory:

1) The council of Jamnia did not give an absolute ruling, but a recommendation. Very little that Jamnia produced could be considered binding on other communities

2) The recommendation of the council seems to have been based upon the general feeling of the Jewish community at the time. In other words, what the council recommended had already begun to function as canon.

3) It seems that the process of canonization actually took place more gradually than as a singular event.

(Sidenote: some have tried to point to the group of books that Josephus referred as having canonical authority, but considering the reference in Josephus is even later than Jamnia, this doesn’t seem particularly helpful).

Second, it is not particularly helpful for the Christian Church to understand canonization as the result of a single declarative statement, particularly one that may have, at least in part, have been motivated by a desire to exclude that very Church. For Protestants, if a single council can create a canon, it seems odd that we would reject a Christian council (which suggested the Roman Catholic Canon) in favor of this Jewish council. Further, if it is our contention that the canon of the bible was determined by divine providence (i.e. that it is God who decided which books were in the bible), then it seems unlikely that a human council would do much more than affirm what was already canon, or at the most be the final stone in a long process of canon building. In order to get at the historical development of the Old Testament canon, then, we need to look first at the structure of that canon.

Structure of the Old Testament

The first thing I need to say about this structure is that the Old Testament should not be divided in the way that it usually is among Christians. This division, into to early history, law, later history, psalms and wisdom literature, and prophets (including Daniel), as well as the specific ordering of books is based upon the Septuagint, not the Hebrew understanding of Canon. The Septuagint (sometimes written LXX for 70, the number of days and scribes it supposedly took to translate) is the earliest translation of any major religious text. Following the exile of Judah to Babylon, a number of Jews did not return to ancient Israel. To further complicate matters, soon after the return from exile, Alexander the Great conquered much of what we consider the Ancient Western World and even more Jews spread further throughout this empire. As a result, many of the Jews no longer spoke Hebrew as their primary language, but instead spoke the common language of Greek. In order to accommodate the Jews spread out, the Hebrew bible was translated into Greek. The order of the Hebrew Bible was slightly changed (to the order in English bibles) and a few non-Hebrew books were added (most of which would be the apocrypha), but this was, nonetheless, likely the bible read by Jews, and even early Christians, outside of Israel. However, I would argue that the Jews of the Greek diaspora who translated the Hebrew bible into Greek had to have some reason for translating the books that they did. It will be my contention that the Hebrew canon was largely set prior to this translation effort. Since I’m assuming that the Jewish people were working with some sort of canon prior to their translation, so let’s look at that structure.

The Hebrew Bible is divided into three major sections: the Torah (or Law), the Nabi’im (or Prophets), and the Kethubim (or Writings). Together they are collectively referred to as the TaNaKh. The Torah is comprised of the first five books of the bible (Genesis through Deuteronomy). The Nabi’im are divided between the former prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, and the latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve (what many call the “minor prophets”). All the other books are included in the Kethubim. It is notable that the Kethubim includes Ruth, Esther, Chronicles and Daniel. While this may impact interpretation of one part of the canon in relation to each other, which I won’t take time now to talk about,* [see * at end for brief word about why this division may be in place] I want to primarily discuss how this impacts their function in Ancient Israel.

The question of function, interestingly, seems to be how we come about with a canon of Scripture. Once a text begins to function in an authoritative way, it can be considered part of the canon of Scripture. This is the same whether we are talking about the Old Testament or the New Testament. Although we could leave the answer to the question at that, this fails to answer the more fundamental question of why did the text begin to function as authoritative in the community of God. The question of why is a bit more complicated than what, and by addressing this question that we can begin, finally, to talk about the process of canonization (next time).

Apologies for how long and drawn out this seems to be, but I’m trying to give a very thorough answer. (Honestly when I started this I thought I’d do 4 posts max, guess that was wrong).

Question: Do you like this methodical approach, or would you rather just see me give a quicker answer? Once I finish this little series, are there any other questions you want me to look at?


*How thinking of the Old Testament in the Hebrew categories might affect interpretation: While things like Chronicles, Ruth and Esther seem to fit well with this Old Testament Category of “History” and Daniel seems to fit very well with the “Prophets,” this distinction is based entirely upon the content of these books. The former prophets, together with Chronicles, Ruth and Esther have mostly historical content. Daniel has a content we would consider prophetic. However, the Hebrew categorization seems to work best in light of their function (I’ll be talking about that a lot next time).

While the Torah has its own unique function, it is really the way the prophets function that seems to be the distinguishing factor (because the Kethubim/Writings, while they tend to be mostly poetry and post-exilic writings, nevertheless seems to function like a catch-all category).

The one thing the prophets seem concerned with is the preservation and adherence to covenant, which the Torah first laid out. Thus the former prophets address the gradual fulfillment of that promise (which meets its height in David prior to his fall with Bathsheba), and the latter prophets are concerned with calling Israel back to the terms of the covenant while also addressing how, in light of various external factors, God will preserve Israel. In contrast to that, both Ruth and Esther seem concerned with those groups who are beyond Israel, both their inclusion (Ruth) and Jewish relationships as a result of Exile (Esther). Chronicles, rather than having the focus entirely upon Israel, sets the Israel history in a global context involving other nations. Finally, while the beginning of Daniel is almost indistinguishable from other forms of prophecy (especially the idea of Israel as “unique”), the latter half of Daniel is concerned with events that stretch far beyond the scope of Israel. While Isaiah (and some of the other prophets) address this to a certain extent, in those prophets it is still done from the perspective of Israel. In Daniel, the perspective unique to Israel is subsumed in the idea of a “Global” history. Those are just my thoughts though.

Bonus Question: Could categorizing the bible according to the Hebrew manner change how you read the Old Testament?


Where did our Bible come from? Part 3: Defining which Bible we’ll use

Disclaimer: This is really long compared to some of my posts, so you might not want to read it all in one sitting (it’s right around 3,000 words). I decided to keep the length so that I could go ahead and get on with answering the other parts of the question in my next post.


Having discussed, briefly, the overarching direction this mini-series will take, and having addressed why a KJV-only attitude is misguided. Today’s post will focus on some of the other versions available for what constitutes the bible and why I reject these. To reiterate, it is important, at the outset, to define exactly what it is we mean by the bible before we get into the detail of determining how we got the present form of our (the Protestant) bible. That being the case, let’s first look at one of the more controversial versions that is related to yesterday’s KJV-only view.

The Joseph Smith Translation (or the Mormon Version) of the Bible

Joseph Smith, for those who are unaware, is the primary founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). While it is debatable to what extent this constitutes a Christian church, they nevertheless both claim to be Christian and claim to use the bible. However, there are two separate issues involved with the Mormon understanding of Canon, or Scripture. The first is specifically what the LDS church considers canonical, and the second is how they treat what the Christian church (non-Mormons) consider canonical.

For Mormons, there are four holy books, not the one. These four books are the Bible, which I will discuss their view on below, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Mormon is “another testament of Jesus Christ” according to their theology and, according to their theology, was translated by Joseph Smith using divinely given viewing method from golden tablets written in Ancient Reformed Egyptian and found by him through the instructions he as given in an vision by the angel Moroni. It details what happened, according to the LDS church, to the “lost tribes” of Israel. The Doctrines and Covenants contains what is essentially the history of the LDS church, and the Pearl of Great Price contains some additional books (or parts of books) of the bible that are the result of Joseph Smith’s Translation (again see below), which do not appear for any other bible, as well as some other creedal statements. While the Doctrines of Covenant and the Pearl of Great Price have a certain amount of authority, they are not near the level of the Bible and Book of Mormon, so I’ll leave those to one side, particularly since their authority rests almost entirely on the assumptions the LDS church makes about the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the other main source of authority: the current prophet.

The role of the prophet for the LDS church is essentially the same as it is for the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. However, in general the prophet for the LDS church has been more active and, at some points, has radically changed the doctrinal position of the LDS church. There are some inherent problems with resting authority almost entirely in one person, but it is also the case that the assumptions about the Book of Mormon are integral for the authority of the prophet.

If you haven’t caught on yet, the Book of Mormon really is the supreme authority for the LDS. While most Mormons don’t believe there is any contradiction between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in general they also believe that the Book of Mormon is nevertheless more complete and more doctrinally clear than the Bible and so it has the highest authority. While I’m not intending this series to “debunk” other ideas of Scripture, I cannot in good conscience simply let this lie. There are some severe problems with the Book of Mormon, both its claims and the way in which it was formed.

First, the Book of Mormon’s formation is highly dubious. Leaving aside the fact that there never has been observed the language Ancient Reformed Egyptian and that all evidence for these plates has been removed from our world, the very assumption behind it as a holy book is highly questionable. The assumption is that a single person could find, accurately translate and promote accurate history that seems to contradict everything else we know about history. The Bible that the Christian Church uses (the non-Mormon church) was composed by a variety of persons over millennia and was accepted as having authority as part of a canon over an equally lengthy and gradual process (and all of this attended by a perfect God). Further the translation work was done collectively, not as individuals, thus allowing every translation to have some built in checks against a single person’s error. By vesting the authority of their primary religious text and its translation is a single (fallible) human, the LDS church takes what appears to be an outrageous position that very few other religions would take (sidenote: yes I am aware this position of reliance upon a single figure for a sacred text is remarkably close to that of Islam, and I think that is equally problematic for that religion as well). Not only this, but Joseph Smith’s idea of history contradicts the work of numerous other historians. In contrast to that, the Bible from which I am operating has found widespread verification of the historical events it describes. Simply put, we know the Bible is historically accurate, while we have every reason to doubt the historicity of the Book of Mormon. But what about their use of the Bible?

For the most part the mainline LDS Bible is the same as the bible Protestants use. However, there are some notable differences (and some more significant differences with the second largest LDS group the Reformed LDS (RLDS)) between the two. First, after completing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith began “translating” the bible. There are a few problems with both the translation itself and the assumptions Smith made. Smith had assumed that after a variety of English translation, each one had been corrupted because (in his view) they were each based on the previous English translation. That is simply not the case. Every major English translation (not paraphrases), from the early Tyndale all the way to present day English Standard Version were translated independently from the Greek and Hebrew, languages that Joseph Smith did not even know, nor make an effort to learn until long after he began his “translation” work. Nevertheless he created what amounts to a “corrected” version of the KJV. While the RLDS uses this text exclusively, the LDS uses it primarily as a secondary text, except for a few points where they overtly prefer Joseph Smith’s work. While this may seem minor it has two primary problems.

1) The changes have no basis in anything other than offering support for Joseph Smith’s theology. In other words it was a post facto (after the fact) translation. Anytime your translation is made expressly to offer support for a preconceived theology, rather than act as the basis for your theology, its objectivity (and thus validity) should be questioned.

2) The second issue is the same as what was addressed in the last post. Simply put, there should not be an assumption that the KJV is in any sense “inspired.” Many Mormons will be quick to point out that though Joseph Smith’s “corrected” version of the KJV is seen as somehow “inspired” they do not mean “inspired” in the same sense that non-Mormons use the term. Rather than be a reason to accept the Joseph Smith version, though, this should give us all the more reason to reject it as it undermines the very idea of inspiration and any authority (at all) that comes from it. But I’ve gone on for long enough about the Mormons.

New World Translation/Watchtower Translation (The Jehovah’s Witness Bible/NWT)

The NWT used almost exclusively by Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) is highly problematic. While non-JW scholar Bruce Metzger notes that in many places the translators show that they are “well-equipped,” he nevertheless criticizes many of its renderings as “intellectually dishonest.” We could nitpick about the rendering of “cross” as “stake” (even though that makes little sense given the verbal form of “crucify” for which there are no other options) and that the divine name should be said closer to Yahweh, not Jehovah (a misunderstanding of how the Hebrew vowels work), but by far the most controversial passage is the rendering of John 1:1. While most translations read something like “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The NWT renders it “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a God.” While the change is subtle, it reveals the underlying assumption of Jehovah’s witnesses: namely that they are anti-Trinitarian and Jesus, rather than being co-eternal with the Father, was the unique creation of Jehovah. While the standard reading of John 1:1 would seem to prohibit such a thought, the NWT seems to endorse it. The problem is, that is a common 1st or 2nd year Greek mistake, but not one that should happen with biblical scholars (hence Metzger’s allegation of “intellectual dishonesty”). [For those interested, this involves a fairly common ‘anarthrous’ use of the article indicating a true predicate nominative, meaning that the English indefinite article “a” is not a valid rendering]. Further, the general lack of transparency regarding the translators (all names were withheld, even from each other) seems to cast suspicion on its use. As such, no other major group outside of the JW seems consider the NWT a valid translation. Therefore, it is also to be rejected.

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches

While the bible used by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and Eastern Orthodox Churches (EOC) is, for the most part, virtually the same as the bible used by Protestants, there are some key differences that stem from their understanding of the Scripture itself. These understandings go back to the understanding of authority in each group and some of the specific differences related to the Bible are due to some facts of history. Also while the bible of various EOCs and the RCC differs slightly, in drawing the distinction between their bible and the one used by Protestants some very similar things can be said. However, first let’s briefly distinguish the EOCs from the RCC.

While today there are a variety of (minor) doctrinal distinctions between the EOCs and the RCC, most of these can be traced back, largely, to a single distinction. The primary distinction is an understanding of where authority comes from. The RCC argues that the primary source of authority, like the EOC, is the Church. For both groups this means tradition, particularly the church fathers, and the bible, though its authority is derived, to large extent, from the Church and not inherent in it (as it is for most Protestants). The main distinction between the RCC and the EOCs is that the principle modern day expression of that authority in the RCC is the Pope, but for the EOCs it tends to be slightly more democratic and focused upon various patriarchs (what we might call bishops). Thus it is a difference between a single person with various advisors (RCC) and a small group of leaders, who also have advisors (EOC). While in the RCC the authority is more absolute than in EOCs, it is also used less frequently. In both groups, though, the bible is the bible as it is used and accepted in the Church.

Since for both the RCC and EOCs the bible is not inherently authoritative, but derives its authority from the Church, the general attitude toward the bible is that it is a received text. Hence the bible that the church uses is, for them, the most accurate bible and there is little need to talk about some lost original in the same sense as in fiercely conservative Protestantism. This also means that the bible includes some works in addition to the Old and New Testament accepted by Protestants: what is usually termed (even by those in the RCC now) the “apocrypha.” While this section differs between some EOCs and from the RCC, they are very similar. However, while I suspect it functions the same way in the EOC as in the RCC, I do not know this, and so will limit my following comments to the RCC only.

The RCC “apocrypha” does not hold the same authority as the rest of the bible. The proper term for this collection is actually the “deutero-canon” or second canon. It is meant as a supplement and to have a secondary status to the rest of the bible. Nevertheless, it does hold significant authority (much moreso than for any Protestant), though in general the bible is not the absolute authority, only the church is. The bible is merely part of the church and so, while it may have more authority than other sources of tradition, it is nevertheless a single voice among others.

There are some assumptions about inspiration and humanity that Protestants hold to which prevent them from accepting this view, and instead hold the bible as the sole supreme visible expression of authority on earth (as opposed to one among many voices). But I will need to reserve those comments until towards the end of this series. However, the practical implication of this view of the “apocrypha” mean that Protestants have a lot in common with RCC and EOC members in their daily use of the bible, and as a result their understanding of many doctrines are similar (i.e. all believe in salvation through Jesus, who was God incarnate, and the Trinity).

The historical fact of the where the apocrypha/deutero-canon came from is that it initially appeared as part of the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible (the LXX) which became the Christian Old Testament. It is in that sense a “received” text. Its historicity, however, is very doubtful, for most of it there are no early Hebrew Manuscripts, and it was rejected by early Jews as canonical, despite containing information about one of their more important Jewish festivals: Hannukah. It is for all of these reasons that Protestants, who do not operate on a “received” text basis in the same way as the RCC and EOCs do, but instead argue for a “critical” text. I’ll get to what that means in a later post.

“Other” non-Protestant Bibles

I will only briefly say something about these “other” bibles. I am not really concerned in this series with books from other religions that make no claims on the Christian bible, but there is a surprisingly large group of those who are “spiritual, but not religious” who want to make some claim about the bible, and a second group of expressly “non-religious” people who make yet another claim.

The first group, those “spiritual, but not religious” either want to claim the bible is one among many perfectly valid religious texts, or want to add many additional documents to the bible. The first group does not respect the message implicit and explicit in the bible. Simply put, the Christian Bible is exclusive. You cannot say it is equally valid to other religious texts without saying that all such texts are invalid. That option is not available. The Old Testament makes an exclusive claim about the chosen nature of Israel alone, with YHWH alone as their God. The New Testament makes an exclusive claim about the fulfillment of YHWH’s promises exclusively through Jesus who is the exclusive means of gentile inclusion in the people of God.

Those who want to include other pseudo-Christian literature in the bible also fail to understand what those manuscripts imply. Leaving aside their considerably later dating compared to the New Testament, many of these (mostly Gnostic) manuscripts are problematic. These are things that comprise the “Other” bible, or the claim the Christian faith was edited and chosen at a council (again that is not an honest description of how the Scripture work or were chosen). These other texts are meant to be non-sensical for the most part. Many of the extra gospels are difficult to read precisely because they were meant to be hard to read. They weren’t meant to be uplifting spiritually, but to induce a state of confusion and bewilderment in the reader. Those that weren’t this way are so fundamentally contradictory to the Christian Bible that they can in no way be held together. As such the “spiritual” understanding of the bible should also be rejected.

I will also say a brief word about the Atheist Bible. This was put out by noted atheist A.C. Grayling as the atheist alternative to an influential book like the KJV bible. While it some great excerpts from literature, it was a categorical flop and shouldn’t really be considered anywhere near the same level as the Christian bible. On a practical level, although Grayling did not compose anything new, he failed to note what sources exactly he was cutting and pasting from (which is essentially plagiarism). Second, it was really poorly constructed and some found it entirely unreadable. Finally, it displayed Grayling’s fundamental misunderstanding of what the Bible is and how it works. It doesn’t just inspire emotionally and intellectually. The Bible is a call that demands a response. This is the reason it is so much more powerful than other works of literature. This is why it has been studied and continued to influence us.


Ok, this has been a bit lengthy (and slightly piecemeal), but I have, I hope, at least begun to point out why it is that I am rejected all versions except for the protestant version of the Christian Bible: namely the Old and New Testament without apocrypha. In the next few posts, I will talk about the how and why we accept this particular version of the bible. First up: the Old Testament.

Question: Are there other considerations I should have looked at? Do you think I’ve been fair in my assessments?

Where did our Bible Come from? Part 2: The KJV only position and its problems

Disclaimer: This post is slightly more negative than I generally like. However, this group is so vocal and so antithetical to the entire process of historical investigation that is required for the present investigation that their position needs to be addressed. Also, in addressing some of the problems with the position a few ideas can be introduced about textual criticism that can then be developed later on. I apologize for singling out a single group like this, but it seems appropriate at the time.

The Different Options

On Friday of last week, I gave a really brief introduction to what would be the next several posts. Today I’m going to try to tackle a few of the different options for which bible is which. I’m actually going to reserve my comments on the “Protestant Bible” until the end because that is the version that I accept and will be the assumed version for the posts that follow. Still, as promised, I’m first going to look at the King James Only group, including its problems. Tomorrow I’ll look at a few of the other groups. (I’m spending so much time on this first group because they tend to be very vocal and much more firmly committed to their position than others).

King James Bible Only

According to most advocates of this school of thought, God preserved the majority of manuscripts in Greek to be used as the basis for translation into the height of the English Language (King James English). They continue to argue that the English language has steadily been moving towards the lingua franca (common language) of the world and will eventually be spoken by almost everyone. Further, they tend to implicitly or explicitly argue that not only is the divine text inspired, but the translation work was as well. Therefore, advocates of the “King James only” approach suggest that the translators made no errors, the texts they translated from were perfectly preserved and that the King James Bible is now the only valid bible (the Greek and Hebrew are no longer acceptable either). Further they tend to argue that only the 1611 version of the KJV is acceptable, which simply follows the logic that they had previously argued from. This does have the advantage of not focusing on the “autographs,” the original manuscripts that we not only don’t have, but will likely never have, and avoiding dealing with a different language (for English speakers anyway). Of the minority within the KJV-only group who do allow for examination of the Greek, only the “textus receptus” (Latin for “received text”) is acceptable since that was the version the 1611 translators were working from. We’ll talk about that term “textus receptus ” tomorrow. Before that, I’m going to address why this group has some insurmountable problems that mean it should be rejected despite the advantages it may offer. I’m not saying the King James Bible is not a good version. I am, however, saying that they have no right to claim it is the only acceptable version, nor do I think they are right to say it is even the best available version (Sidenote: I don’t think any version can really claim to be the “best” in the sense that the KJV-only people would use the term. Every version has its strengths and weaknesses and some may be better along one criterion, but another better along a different criterion).

The claim that the translators of the King James Bible were inspired by God in the same way the authors of Scripture were is problematic for a few reasons. First, this claim contrasts with the history of the events between the creation of the bible and the KJV translation. The human authors of the bible experienced God’s presence in a radical and profound way. Whether that was through the observation of his direct interaction with the world through his mighty historical acts (as was the case with the Old Testament), or through direct conversation with God incarnate in Christ and as a result of his Resurrection (as was the case with the New Testament), the biblical writers had met God and seen his power. As a result of this, they could not help but write some of it down and what this interaction meant. This writing process was, according to more conservative (like my own) views, attended by the Holy Spirit who “inspired” the human writer and worked in partnership with the author to create a divine-human text. The translators of the King James Bible had no analogous situation. They did not experience the profound presence of God in the same way and the catalyst for their translation was not this encounter. Instead it was an order of a human king, who paid them to have it translated. This does not mean that the KJV was not important nor that this translation was not a remarkable feat (it was both important and remarkable). It does, however, mean that this was not a response to God’s direct intervention in history, but a response to a king. Now, it may have been a divinely ordained response, or even sacred in its practice, but it did not have the character of direct divine intervention that the creation of the bible did. We need to be clear not to conflate human effort with divine providence.

Second, the claim of KJV-only people that the bible is free from error in translation is simply untrue. The most glaring example is the translation of the divine name. While “Jehovah” had been standard accepted practice for the divine name, and has some relation to the Latin usage of the divine name, “Jehovah” actually comes from a gross misunderstanding of the Hebrew text. The initial Hebrew of the bible was written (mostly) without the vowels present. As time went on, though, certain Jewish groups wanted to ensure that when the bible was read aloud, it was pronounced correctly, even by those who were still fairly young (since bar-mitzvahs (and much later bat-mitzvahs occur around 13, even though often formal education was not yet complete) who read it. Thus, the Masorites (who had been preserving the text), sought to add vowel points to the Hebrew bible. Since the lines themselves were considered sacred, the vowel points were added above and below the text itself. The divine name, YHWH, was not pronounced (and still isn’t) in Jewish circles, and instead the substitute word for “lord” was pronounced upon arriving at it “adonai” (if the text referred to Lord YHWH, the word “elohim” was used). Thus the vowel points were put in for “adonai” around the word YHWH. Thus even though the divine name was likely pronounced Yahweh, a non-Jew who had a basic understanding of Hebrew would read it Yahovah (or Jehovah). This is a fairly minor error, but is one so prevalent (and only one example) that it is difficult to maintain both the inerrancy of the text and the inspiration of the translators in the sense that KJV-only advocates want to take it.

Third, KJV-only advocates assume that the majority, or “received” text, is the only correct text of the Greek. This simply ignores the history of the text. While this jumps ahead a little to talk about textual criticism, it’s important for understanding the problems with the KJV-only position. According to the logic of KJV-only advocates, God would have preserved his divine text through the majority of manuscripts so that they were correctly translated. Otherwise, it could have been “meddled” in some way. Textual criticism, though, runs completely counter to this view. New Testament textual criticism notes that historically, as time went on the Christian religion grew less persecuted and gained in popularity. As it gained in popularity, it would have been more likely that copies of the New Testament could be made in mass quantities. Since this was prior to the introduction of the printing press to the West, this copying was done by hand. Also as time went on, the older manuscripts were more likely to be lost or to degrade in some way. The result is that 1) the majority of the manuscripts available were relatively recent and not from the first few centuries of the church. 2) The majority of the manuscripts also differed from the older manuscripts in a few (largely minor) areas. This latter point is likely because scribes (being human) had a tendency over time to mishear things (if copying from a reader), misread things (especially since the older scripts had no punctuation or spacing), tended to try to clear up discrepancies (either thinking they were benefiting the reader, or on the assumption that the text had already been poorly copied), and tended to add comments which would often, inadvertently, find their ways into the text. Bruce Metzger (who I mentioned last time), astutely notes that once one of these errors occurred, it was incredibly unlikely that a later copyist would change it. Therefore, the later manuscripts (which are the majority) are actually more likely to be different from the original than the earlier manuscripts (which makes sense, since there is a smaller gap of time, errors would be less likely to occur).

Incidentally, this difference in text is the source of the KJV-only crowds strongest objection to other versions of the bible. Please note, the overwhelming majority of these differences are so minor as to be trivial, but to most KJV-only advocates I’ve encountered, they are anything but minor. After having preaching out of an NIV bible (at the pastor’s suggestion) in a rural church, I was confronted once by a group of KJV-only advocates. I was newly married and my wife and I were having lunch with members of the church (most of whom were extremely positive) when they sprung it on me. They pulled out a sheet of “omissions” that non-KJV versions had. Some of these seemed ridiculous, like the difference between “He went” and “And he arose and went,” but to this small group, they were incredibly serious. I want to assure the non-KJV only readers that what they consider serious is actually not. There are no doctrinal points found in any of these supposed “omissions” that should in any way impact one’s faith in any major way that are not found (often more clearly) elsewhere in the bible. I suppose that this is a large part of the reason why I am spending so much time on this group.

Fourth, many KJV-only advocates also claim this is the first English Bible. That’s simply untrue. There were many versions of the bible in English prior to the KJV. The two most popular were the Wycliffe Bible and the Tyndale Bible. While the Wycliffe Bible was an English translation from the Latin, and due to its popularity, along with the (then) rebellious nature of Wycliffe and his followers resulted in a ban on English language bibles. Nevertheless, William Tyndale undertook what is likely the first English translation of the Bible from the Greek and Hebrew, having been influenced by Erasmus, the pioneer in both Greek-Hebrew studies and textual criticism (more on him tomorrow). In many ways, Tyndale’s version (which was likely done in collaboration with others) is superior to the KJV version, if a bit crude at other times. The popularity of the KJV version is due less to divine providence, and more to its endorsement by the King as the first “authorized version” of the English bible, thus relegating Tyndale’s translation to obscurity.

Now, I’ve gone on a bit too long again to talk about the other options, but I have, I hope, shown the problems with a KJV-only approach and why most Christians reject that approach. I have also given only the briefest introduction to biblical criticism, which I may try to extend at some point in this series. Tomorrow I’ll talk about some of the other options for which version of the bible we use.

Question: Have you ever had any experiences with KJV-only advocates? What were your thoughts? Is there something I’ve addressed incorrectly? Are there other questions you’d like to see addressed in this blog?

Where did our Bible come from? Part 1: An Introduction

My previous (Unannounced) Mini-Hiatus

So you may have noticed that I took a few days off from blogging following Resurrection Sunday because, quite frankly, I was a little worn out and couldn’t keep my energy level up well enough to do my work at school, be a good father, and keep posting at the pace I had finished during the last two weeks of Lent. So I took a break from the blog for a few days (Monday’s post was a “non-post”) and am feeling refreshed. I don’t know if I’ll go back to posting every weekday, but I probably won’t be doing a 6 post a day type thing (at least not of the length I was posting) until I get settled into a full time job after completing my current studies, whenever and wherever that may be. Enough about me, let’s look at today’s post:

Question-Answer Time

I’m answering a question over the course of the next few posts. Here is the question from my friend in Birmingham, Chris: “Lately I’ve been attempting to locate resources on the actual history of the bible. By that I mean biblical development, selection of content, writing, etc.” I’ve decided to expand that a bit to really look at the substance of what our bible is, why it’s different from other “bibles” and include a history of the bible. Chris mentioned that it might be helpful to have a few sources to which he (or others) could refer as well. I’m going to have to come up with a list later on in this mini-series of posts. For now I will offer one recommendation, with a caveat, and one warning.

First the standard book on the history of the New Testament is The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration by Bruce M. Metzger, New Testament Scholar and textual criticism expert. Metzger is pretty conservative with regard to his support of the New Testament and the book does a good job laying out his theory (which is widely accepted now) of the history of the New Testament (about which there is more controversy than the Old Testament). However, some readers find it a bit too technical at times. That being the case, I’ll have to see if I come across any other studies that are more geared toward the “laity” (i.e. those with no background in textual criticism of Greek) or if I can find a source about the whole bible’s history (if you know of one, please recommend it in the comments).

The warning I have is to avoid anything by Bart Ehrman. The reason I issue this warning is threefold. First, his books are readily available and carried in a number of bookstores, from independents to the bigger chains like Barnes and Noble and in the popular religious section of Amazon.com. One his most popular titles to date is Misquoting Jesus which is terrible on both theological and (on some level) scholarly points. Second, Erhman does not respect the bible at all. He grew up an evangelical Christian and even studied under Metzger, but eventually became an agnostic and operates from the assumption that those purporting to be orthodox in the history of the early church actually actively altered the biblical text (a claim for which he has incredibly flimsy support). Third, his popular works tend to be a dangerous mix of good and bad scholarship. In particular Misquoting Jesus offers a good introduction to textual criticism on one level, but is not of a high enough scholarly level to allow the reader to address the “problems” Ehrman brings up later in the book. Further the overwhelming majority of support he gives for his position on these “problems” is from himself. That’s just bad scholarship and even in a popular book there is no excuse for that (and he should know better). Self-citation in a book that has the pretense of a scholarly rigorous study (even if written popularly) should only be used sparingly because it’s not really arguing a point beyond your own previous study. So that’s what I’ll say about that. Onward to the substance of the question

Answering the Question part 1: An Introduction

Well there are a few options for answering this question. The first one is to say that we have the bible in its present form because of divine providence. God wanted us to have the bible as it is now and that settles it. While it’s not wrong to say that God preserved his holy Word throughout history, it’s not necessarily the whole story either. The truth is that the bible is not only a divine document, but a human document: it’s both. As such it was produced by God, but in the context of a partnership with people. While that statement assumes something about the nature of inspiration (namely that the human authors were more than mere scribes), it nevertheless seems to find support from God’s actions throughout the history of Israel and the early Church. Our God (YHWH) is a God who delights in making our efforts part of his overarching plan.

In order to fully answer the question of how we arrived at the bible we currently have from the human side, we need to do a number of things. First we need to define which bible it is we are talking about, things like its structure, division, etc. Second, we need to look at the historical acceptance of various books over time, along with the resulting rejection of others. This latter half will need to be divided between Old Testament and New Testament because the reasons we have arrived at each section, while they share certain commonalities, were arrived at from completely different historical situations. Further, we also need to say a brief word about textual criticism, sometimes termed “lower criticism” of the bible.

Since this post is already pretty long, I’m going to try to lay out specifically what the different options are for what we accept as the bible to be addressed in subsequent posts. Next week I’ll continue to look at “defining” what we mean by the bible, including examining each of these different options (given below) before looking at the historical process of what we now call “canonization” of Scripture. So we’ll be looking at, over the course of a few posts these different options: the King James Version only advocates; the Roman Catholic version of the bible; the versions used by the various Eastern Orthodox Churches; the protestant version of the bible; the Jehovah’s witness version; the Mormon version; and the “spiritualism” movement version. I’ve chosen to limit my discussion to these groups because 1) it could just too unwieldy if I open it up to too many other groups and 2) many of the versions I have chosen not to include are either a) not used by anyone alive today or b) do not share the same basic presuppositions about the bible that most of these other groups do (i.e. I’m not going to talk about the “Atheist Bible” except to give a brief statement towards the end of the “spiritualism” section). With that said, the next post will begin with a look at the (arguably) smallest group, who is also one of the most vocal, particularly in the American Southeast: the KJV only group, if there that doesn’t go on for too long, we may look at some of the other groups as well.

Question to you: Have you found any resource particularly useful in doing this kind of thing? Any recommendations to use or avoid? Do you have a favorite version of the bible? What other questions would you like to see addressed in this blog?

How do we translate the bible to today’s society?

Ok It’s question-answer time, where I try my best to give a good informed answer to a question or suggestion that has been put to me for this blog.

“I would like to read more about how to express the Bible in our current society and without too much Biblical jargon…”

The question above is one that many people struggle with who live in societies that are, to one degree or another, more secularized. This is not the same problem one has in certain areas of South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. For instance, in Kenya if you ask the majority of people about what the bible says, whether they are Christian or not, they will likely be able to tell you or, if not, at least understand where they can get more information. The issue that most of these type of societies face is avoiding syncretism, which is the blending of Christianity with other, usually animistic or pantheistic, faiths and in avoiding a gross misunderstanding of the Gospel that puts it in terms almost entirely of health and wealth, to the exclusion of a spiritual salvation and the Kingdom of God.

With respect to secular cultures, which again would include the majority of “industrialized” nations, the problem is entirely different. There is both a strong ignorance of information or misinformation about the bible, and a set of deeply held and prejudicial assumptions, most of which are left unstated. While addressing this issue could, and at some theological schools does, cover an entire course or series of courses, and while there are a plethora of books about the subject (some of which I will reference below), I will try to give a good overview that is, hopefully, helpful without being too technical.

My first statement, unfortunately, is going to sound incredibly unhelpful, but let me explain it. If you are looking for some fool proof method and action that you can perform, some gimmick or something of that sort, that will work as either a catch all witnessing technique, or wonderful conversation starter, you won’t find it, such a thing doesn’t exist. Our culture is increasingly concerned with authenticity, and for the most part that is a very good thing. Any effort to use a gimmick or trick or foolproof icebreaker will come across as though you are trying to sell something, and that’s not what the Gospel is about. Nevertheless, this is actually a good thing for most of us. This means there’s no training that you are somehow missing, no inherent mistake that you are making, the simple fact is, in all likelihood, if you are trying to do something, you are not doing anything wrong. Ultimately, if you are wanting to talk with strangers or friends about the bible, it’s entirely up to you how you approach it. That being said, there might some principles to keep in mind that will help you, if not with results, at least with confidence, encouragement, and a sense of purpose and focus when you do go about trying to communicate the Bible to the culture around you. Following that, I might be able to give a few practical tips, but as I said, there is no one way to do this and what is successful with one person will fail with another and vice versa.

Some General Principles

A good place to start is with the very idea of translation and interpretation. In college my Greek professor, Dr Mac Roark (now retired), told us his philosophy of translation: “The Bible has two functions today. It is a window to the ancient world and a witness to the contemporary world.” This is a very helpful way for understanding not only translation in the sense of producing a new English version of the bible, but how we interpret and talk about the bible. When we read the bible we have to keep in mind that, at least in the most immediate context it was not written to you, a person living in the twentieth century who speaks neither Ancient Hebrew nor Hellenistic Greek. Now, let me clarify by saying that the bible was nevertheless written for you and, in a broader (non-immediate) sense it was written to you. But initially this was written to a particular audience and in a particular cultural idiom.

As with any act of communication there is a distance that must be traversed between the speaker or writer and the hearer or the audience. I’m going to avoid getting into the more technical material about how we communicate and the problems that poses and how they are compounded when we shift cultures, but, at the very least, everyone agrees that the culture of the bible was radically different than our own. We have things, like cars and skyscrapers and microwave dinners, that are fairly recent. We have a different culture, different language, different climate, and different understanding of worship than they did in the various times of the bible. Even the different cultures of the bible had different understandings of many of these things. The type of worship done by Israel during Moses time was not the same as that during the time of the Apostles Peter and Paul. There’s a gap of distance we have to cross. Maybe a picture will help.

One way we might understand the initial communication of the message of the bible is given below:

In the drawing above, we have a speaker giving a message (represented by the arrow) to an audience. He communicates this through a particular cultural idiom. In this case it’s been represented by the word “kairos.” This particular word we might be tempted to translate as simply “time.” While that is correct, it misses some of the nuance. In Greek, another word for time is “chronos.” During the Hellenistic period we might understand chronos to mean a more standard, regular time, one that we can measure in seconds, minutes, hours, days and so on. Kairos seems to be more of an “event-oriented” time, or understood as “opportune time.” Thus it would focus on well known historic events and is less concerned with things like duration. Now, in the context of the first Century church, this carries an additional nuance. Namely, it would immediately bring to mind events related to the Messiah, such as his birth, ministry, crucifixion or resurrection, or else his eventual return.

All of these layers are part of the idiom in which this one little Greek word is used in the New Testament. So what does that mean for our interpretation today then? The job of anyone reading the text today (as with reading any ancient text) is to translate that cultural idiom into a cultural idiom or expression that we understand today. So how do we go about doing this?

Thankfully, we live in a time when a lot of the work has been done for us. There are a wide variety of translations available for use that try to do most of the transition for us. Where needed, they have left the appropriate cultural clues that we might be able to translate this to modern day. What we have to do is do something called “hermeneutics.”

Hermeneutics is the “art and science of interpretation.” It’s essentially the process that gets us to where we want to go, making this text make sense to us. It’s called an art and a science because while there are some practical guidelines, a lot of it just takes practice and slow work. I’ll go more in depth on some practical ways everyday people can engage in hermeneutics in the next section. For now, let’s look at the goal hermeneutics in the bible.

The primary goal of biblical hermeneutics/biblical interpretation is to bring the message of the bible to the society, time and culture, in which the interpreter lives. Remember above when I talked about the two goals of the bible as a window and a witness. Hermeneutics, at least in the sense we’re concerned with, is more focused on the witness aspect. Let’s look back at the picture above:

Hermeneutics in action

I’ve added a line here. We might call that line interpretation or hermeneutics. We are translating not the specific wording or cultural idiom as it was heard by the original audience. They didn’t need much help interpreting because they shared enough of the culture with the speaker. Today we share almost nothing in common with these ancient speakers/writers so we need to focus on the message, what the speaker meant by his statement. We encounter this a lot. For instance, Bible translations are an early step in the process of interpreting the meaning of the bible for today, especially ones that easier to read like the NIV or NLT. Interpetation also happens when speakers give a sermon in churches (or at least it should) and in our bible studies. In fact, you’ve done it to some extent alone by yourself if you’ve read the bible on your own. You’ve probably asked yourself what a passage meant and tried to figure out how it applies to your life. Perhaps some examples from other cultures will help.

I’m going to share two stories; the first I’ve been unable to verify, but illustrates my point really well. The second is certainly historically accurate. The first one speaks of a group of missionaries who were tasked with providing a translation of the bible to one of these people groups completely cut off from others. They got to Jesus’ statement that “I am the bread of life” and had a problem. The people had no real concept of bread. They ate grains on occasion, but more out of necessity than as any staple of their diet. Their primary staple? Bananas. So the translators decided to translate the passage (and similar ones) as “I am the banana of life.” Now again, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is, the translators understood the difference between the idiom and the message and worked wonderfully. Now something is possibly lost in such an exercise, but something is always lost in interpretation/translation. What is gained is usually very useful and worth the slight loss.

The second example comes from missionary Don Richardson and the book recounting his experience in Western New Guinea entitled The Peace Child. When Richardson and his family went to live among a tribal group that had been cut off from civilization they encountered a problem. Not only did the language prove exceedingly difficult to learn, but after learning it and telling the tribe the Gospel story, he found that Judas, not Jesus, was seen as the hero. It turned out that trickery and deceit against one’s enemies was considered an incredibly good trait in this culture, and the result was a constant battle. After a long time of working with the people, his wife providing medical care, the Richardsons had all but decided to leave, in large for the safety of their small child. Not wanting to lose them, in large part because of their friendship and assistance (including medical care), the two tribes who had been battling each other embarked on a compromise. Members of both tribes, and in particular the chiefs, gave their children to their sworn enemies. This was a sign that they could both be trusted and that they would not attack each other. So long as the child lived there would be a guarantee of peace. Don Richardson saw this as an excellent way to speak about the incarnation and that God had provided his own Son as a peace child who, after the resurrection, would never die ensuring peace. It’s a wonderful story, and while I don’t agree with everything Richardson has done since then, it beautifully illustrates a concept known as contextualization. This is what we are trying to do in today’s secularized society. Again, in the next section I’ll talk a bit more about ways we can contextualize the bible/gospel.

A final word should be said about this process of contextualization or interpretation, and here is both a word of warning and an encouragement. Contextualization can be taken too far. Often times we, myself included, are more concerned with not offending anyone with the gospel. We don’t want to cause trouble or make someone uncomfortable. Let me put that to rest a little bit. The Gospel is offensive. It just is and there’s no way around that. The bible speaks about a world, and a Kingdom that is not of this world. Because of that, on some level it will never be completely contextualized. It sounds foreign to us because it is foreign to us. In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions that the “word of the cross,” his term for the gospel, is “foolishness.” This brings us to another final principle.

No effort at contextualization should ever come before the central message of the gospel which is, essentially, that God became a human person, died a cursed death, and was raised from the dead in order to save us from our own selfishness and sinfulness. I’d like to mention two separate studies that approach this principle from two separate angles. The first is work by Gerd Theissen called The Bible and Contemporary Culture. While I don’t agree with everything Theissen says, he makes some very good points. Two in particular stand out. First, he notes that in a secular culture, particularly one heavily influenced by the Enlightenment as North America and Europe has been, cannot be “talked into” faith. The message of the bible will always, in some sense stand outside and separate from the culture. In many ways it stands against culture, subverting it. This is why Christians were against slavery, were in favor of women’s rights (like voting) and even today work in places no one else will go. Because Christians understand that “There is neither  Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28). Christians affirm the universal value and personhood of all human beings.

Marva J. Dawn approaches it from a slightly different angle. In her book Reaching out without Dumbing it Down she discusses the idea of “seeker friendly” worship services. She is primarily concerned with music and in the book she is referring primarily to music that mimics that of contemporary culture. She notes a few problems. Practically, it ends up often being a decade or two behind. Further, many outside the church feel it is shallow. Now, she admits there are some (very good) exceptions, but notes that in her discussion with (mostly) young adults, they felt that such a service was condescending and insulting to their intelligence. However, she’s not advocating for a return to strict liturgy or using only the old hymns, because she notices that congregations where this is typical are often dead and pay little attention to the outside world at all. Instead she points out that those outside the Church, who might be seeking, are already aware that Christianity is different; it is a mistake to hide this difference and doing so is detrimental. The general principle to take away is that Christianityis fundamentally different, and though we may contextualize a little bit, we can’t, nor should we, escape that fact. Nevertheless there are some practical helps in this.

Practical Tips

1) Be authentic. Don’t hide who you are or what you believe. That’s a huge mistake. In an effort to make things more palatable in your conversation there’s  a danger to disguise or downplay what you think; don’t do it, just be authentic. Authenticity is one of the most valued character traits in our society.

2) Ultimately, if you try to talk to someone about the bible or God, you’re not making a mistake. This is an important piece of advice. You’re act of obedience to the Great Commission (to go and make disciples) with some people ends as soon as you start to talk with them. If they decide to end the conversation or dismiss it, that’s their problem not yours (even if you really want them to accept it). It’s when they want to hear more that we have to try harder, to make them disciples. Whether or not they want to continue the conversation is beyond your control and no matter how persuasive or eloquent you are, you won’t talk them into it. Penn Jillette, the celebrity magician, is an outspoken atheist and often ridicules other faiths. However, when he recalls an incident when someone tried to witness to him and handed him a New Testament, he mentions the respect he had for the man who did so. In the video (which you can see here), one can see a man who seemed visibly moved by the action. While he confesses he’s not going to change his opinion based on one man, he repeatedly refers to the individual as “a good man.” Enough actions like that and who knows? The guy was authentic and obedient. Those are the two most important factors anyone has.

3) Most people already know it or understand it quickly. This is an important point brought up by Theissen’s book (mentioned above) and my experience has shown to be the case. While there may be some ignorance about some of the finer points, which you could easily clarify, most people know the general scheme. The bible has become part of Western Culture. However, even if someone has a completely misinformed view of the gospel, you can tell them what it means to you. The Holy Spirit aids the Christian in interpretation, yes, but there is a principle called “The Perspicuity of the Gospel.” What that means is that everything that is required for salvation is readily understood. It’s clear and able to be perceived. If you tell someone what Jesus has meant to you, they should be able to understand it, even if they don’t accept it.

4) Just because they reject what you say then, doesn’t mean they always will. You may be a link in the chain that doesn’t know it yet. As the Apostle Paul said, “Some plant, some water, and still others harvest, but it is God who causes the growth.” Everything doesn’t depend on you. In fact, none of it really does. That can be incredibly freeing. Keep praying even when it seems like someone has utterly rejected the message.

5) Don’t Get into a debate. These are rarely productive. It’s not that you can’t “win,” it’s that even if you win you may lose. There’s also the problem that someone who wants to debate often times has a set of presuppositions of which she or he may not even be aware. In that case a debate will likely be frustrating. Much more effective is being a friend. This isn’t to say you can’t have a friendly disagreement and discussion about it, but once things get heated, or someone starts talking about really minor or peripheral things, the discussion has likely stopped being productive.

6) Be a friend. If there’s a great new restaurant in town, whose opinion are you more likely to trust: a random person you’ve never met or barely know, or a close friend? It’s also important to know that I’m not saying talk about the bible just to your friends, but actively be a friend. When Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor”? He told a parable (the good Samaritan). The point was that the first question had the wrong emphasis. Jesus concluded by asking “Who was a neighbor”? It’s not who is my neighbor, but who can I act as a neighbor toward. In the same way it’s not just who your friends currently are, but how you can act as a friend to someone else.

7) Speak like you normally do. Too many times when we talk about the bible, we are tempted to use “bible” talk. This can sometimes be hard. How do we talk about sin? Or Redemption? These are complex concepts and we find it hard to translate to our language. Eugene Peterson has attempted to that a little bit with his The Message paraphrase. The same can be said of the earlier The Living Bible. While these are not necessarily appropriate for deep study of the bible, they can be useful on a daily basis. Another thing to do is try to think about what the Gospel means to you where you are, without automatically putting it in “church words.” Does your understanding of sin end up being a feeling of alienation or isolation? Do you understand salvation or redemption as “hope” and “joy”? If so, say that. Use the most basic way you know how to express it.  A simple question to ask is what difference has Jesus made in your life? A church word for this is “testimony” but what we should say is this is your experience of what Jesus has done for you. Be practical and tangible. Find the hook that you can put your hat on, so to speak. When you first encountered Jesus in a radical way, what did that mean? Joy? Hope? A sense of purpose? A future? Relief? Help? Support? I can’t answer it for you, and this isn’t an exhaustive list, but think about what it means to you on the most basic level.

8) If you want to learn more about interpreting the bible there’s help. One of the books I recommend more than any other (besides the bible of course) is How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. It is not particularly “spiritual” or “inspiring”, but it is an excellent resource that I think should almost be required reading. It is an easy to understand crash course in interpreting the bible. Even if you don’t think you can invest the time to work through a book, you are usually better equipped to read and interpret than you think you are. One of the best things you can do is read the bible slowly and carefully stopping to rephrase sections every now and then. This makes sure you are not glazing over anything. Besides, as a Christian you have the Holy Spirit to help you.

9) Pray and ask others to do so. Ultimately we don’t talk to others about the bible on our own strength. Keeping in mind that God is the one who gives the growth, we need to pray for such a thing. As Jesus said “Whoever asks, receives.”

10) Practice makes perfect. If you’re worried about speaking about the bible in this culture, the only way to get better is to do it. It likely means you will have missteps, but that’s part of the learning process. And keep in mind, your missteps do not dictate the success of these type of conversations, your obedience does.

So what do you think? Have I answered the question clearly? Is there something I need to restate, elaborate on, or clarify? Is there something you think I got wrong? Or is there something else you’d like to see addressed in this post? Let me know in the comments.