Eight frequently asked questions about the Bible
Can we still believe in the authority of the Bible for our modern world?
There are clear reasons why we can believe in the authority of the Bible. A study of the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible alone would undeniably confirm the fact that it was divinely inspired and that only God could have brought about the fulfillment of so many prophecies in the proper time to the proper person and in the proper sequence. Jesus Himself used the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God (Matthew 4:4-10) and declared that their authority could not be broken (John 10:35).
The more one studies the Scriptures, the more one becomes aware of the fact that the Bible passes every test that can be applied to it in order to evaluate its divine inspiration, authority, and inerrancy. We also know that the Bible is God’s Word because of the transformation we have seen it make in the lives of those who read, believe, and live by its teaching. It is God’s own Word, His saving truth that He has spoken to mankind. It is inspired from beginning to end, and it is the only infallible guide of faith and practice; read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:19-21.
Why does the Bible refer to God in masculine terms?
The answer to the question about why God is referred to with masculine terms in the Bible really has only one answer: This is the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. God is never described with sexual characteristics in the Scriptures, but He does consistently describe Himself in the masculine gender. While He contains all the qualities of both male and female genders, He has chosen to present Himself with an emphasis on masculine qualities of fatherhood, protection, direction, strength, etc. Metaphors used to describe Him in the Bible include: King, Father, Judge, Husband, Master, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are those who would like to blur this emphasis in some of the newer Bible translations, but it is very dangerous to tamper with the way God has chosen to reveal Himself. He most certainly does not intend to minimize women, since men and women are revealed as made in His image and of equal value to Him. But it remains that He is Father, not Mother, and even in the Incarnation chose to come to us as a man, Jesus Christ. One famous Christian scholar, C. S. Lewis, has suggested that gender is far deeper than our human distinctions reveal. He suggests that God is so masculine that we all are feminine in relation to Him. If this is true, it might explain why the church is referred to as the bride of Christ, though it is composed of both men and women.
Is it true that women are not valued very highly in the Bible?
On the contrary, women are valued very highly in the Bible’s teaching. In the very beginning, God created both man and woman in His own image with the responsibilities of populating the earth and ruling over it (Genesis 1:27-28).
The Gospel narratives present many insights into Christ’s valuation of women, emphasizing His high regard for them as essential members of God’s kingdom. He understood their concerns (John 2:1-9), met their deepest needs (John, chapter 4; Mark 7:24-30), healed them (Luke 4:38-39, Matthew 9:20-22), raised their dead (Luke 7:11-15; John 11), forgave and restored them to meaningful existence (Luke 7:36-50,John 8:3-11), defended and affirmed their acts of service (Matthew 26:6-13), and instructed them (Luke 10:39). On the road to His crucifixion, Christ addressed the women of Jerusalem in His final word to the crowds, and on the cross, undergoing deep agony, He entrusted His mother Mary into the care of His beloved disciple John. Following His resurrection from the dead, the first person to whom Jesus revealed Himself was Mary Magdalene, a woman He had freed from severe satanic bondage (John 20:10-18).
The New Testament church was enriched by the influence of godly women such as Dorcas, Priscilla, and Lydia, to name a few. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek [nationality, race], slave nor free [status], male nor female [gender], for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is true that Bible interpreters and churches vary in their understanding of the proper role of women in the church and home regarding leadership. However, the issue is not about men’s and women’s equal worth to God and the church. All agree that in matters of salvation and value men and women are equal.
The devaluation of women in so many ways throughout history is a result of sin in the world. Wherever the gospel has gone the status of women has been elevated. Through Christ, women have experienced the opportunity to live creative, productive, and satisfying lives. This transformation has led to far-reaching contributions by women in areas such as social and political reform, medicine, literature, the arts and sciences, and Christian service and missions.
Where should I begin in my Bible reading?
Daily Bible study and prayer are vital to your spiritual life. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Psalm 119:9,11,105.
When asked by a new Christian where he should begin reading the Bible, Mr. Billy Graham said, “Begin by reading the Gospel of John, for it tells us of Christ, of the ‘greatest life ever lived,’ and what He has done for us. Next read Acts, for it tells us what His first disciples did in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Followed then perhaps by the letters of John and the letter to the Philippians. Then you may want to read Romans, which sets forth the great doctrines which Paul taught.” After you have finished these books, read the rest of the New Testament. You will want to study the Old Testament as well.
Do not be troubled about the things you read and do not understand. Trust the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and grant understanding. As you study prayerfully, you will experience a close fellowship with the Lord.
Is the King James Bible the only reliable Bible?
The work of Bible translation is very complicated, and misunderstanding easily arises. We do not possess the original Hebrew/Aramaic Old Testament or the original Greek New Testament as written by inspired men of God. What we have is an Old Testament in Hebrew/Aramaic and thousands of Greek manuscripts of part or all of the New Testament painstakingly copied and passed on to us through the centuries. There are differences in the Greek manuscripts such as minor issues of punctuation, spelling, word order, certain verses included in some manuscripts and not in others, etc., but none of these differences affect any of the major doctrines of our Christian faith.
Some people prefer the King James translation because they have been familiar with it often from childhood. Others prefer modem translations because they are more easily understood. Also, modem translators have the advantage of using many older Greek manuscripts of the New Testament discovered since the King James translation was made. Most scholars consider these older manuscripts more reliable than the few later manuscripts available to those who translated the King James Bible. It is also helpful to remember that, while King James “authorized” a particular translation for the Church of England in the 17th century, it is no more “authorized” for us today than any other translation. It was highly criticized in its day by those who preferred earlier translations, and it went through a number of revisions.
People sometimes pick up two translations and expect them to be word-for-word the same. When they find words “missing” or “changed”, they think something sinister has happened. In reality, both can be perfectly faithful translations of the original language. The basic structures of languages differ from one another, and translation is not just a matter of taking a Greek sentence and finding English words to match. A very helpful book, which would be available through a Christian bookstore, is “THE TRANSLATION DEBATE: WHAT MAKES A BIBLE TRANSLATION GOOD?” by Eugene H. Glassman.
Do not get caught up into a divisive and fruitless controversy over which of many good translations is best. Instead, consider using a number of them in your study and reading, and join in prayer that all peoples in all countries of the world might soon have the Word of God in their own language.
Why is it that when I read the Bible, I don’t seem to understand it?
It was an old English clergyman who suggested an apt comparison between the Bible and a sundial. He said that a person could well read the figures on a dial, but would obviously know nothing of the exact hour unless the sun was shining upon it. Similarly, he suggested, a person could read the Bible through, but unless the Spirit of God was permitted to enlighten the Word, it was just a compilation of lofty but abstract ideas.
One must make a surrender of his life to Christ through personal repentance and faith, and then watch the ways in which all spiritual input is enhanced-church attendance, fellowship with other Christians and Bible reading. If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, we encourage you to it today.
The value of Bible reading is not in some magical return on time invested – like four blessings for every two chapters. Jesus said in John 5:39 to search the Scriptures, for “they are they which testify of me.” When the Bible serves as an introduction to the Person of Christ, it is fulfilling God’s original design. Reading it in a modern version is very helpful. Above all, view it as a personal love letter opening up an exciting relationship that gets better with the passage of time.
Sometimes when I read the Bible it sounds like it contradicts itself. Does it?
Much has been said over the centuries concerning apparent contradictions in the Bible. Josh McDowell and Don Stewart offer the following comments in their book, "ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS SKEPTICS ASK ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH"
Certain passages at first glance appear to be contradictory, but further investigation will show that this is not the case.
One of the things for which we appeal with regard to possible contradictions is fairness. We should not minimize or exaggerate the problem, and we must always begin by giving the author the benefit of the doubt. This is the rule in other literature, and we ask that it also be the rule here. We find so often that people want to employ a different set of rules when it comes to examining the Bible, and to this we immediately object.
When facing possible contradictions, it is of the highest importance to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference.
It must also be stressed that when a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error. Some difficulties in Scripture result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances, and do not necessarily involve an error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.
While all Bible difficulties and discrepancies have not yet been cleared up, it is our firm conviction that as more knowledge is gained of the Bible’s past, these problems will fade away. The biblical conception of God is an all -knowing, all-powerful being who does not contradict Himself, and so we feel that His Word, when properly understood, will not contradict itself.
What is the difference between Bible reading and Bible meditation?
We believe that it is essential to differentiate between reading and meditating on the Bible. Reading is primarily assimilation of facts without application. When we meditate on the Word of God, we seek to make personal application of the Scriptures to our own lives and circumstances. It is at that very moment that the Holy Spirit is able to speak to us, for as the apostle Paul said,
“All scripture is… profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
We never know how or when the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to bring conviction and correction. As God promises in Isaiah 55:11, the Word “will not return to me empty .”
It is also essential to remember that Satan knows the Scriptures well. He often uses Scripture, out of context, to tempt us. He is a master at distorting what the Word of God says (Genesis 3:1). However, when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4), Jesus used the Scriptures to defeat him. The Word of God is our sure defense against Satan’s attacks.