Recommended Study Bibles and Translations

One of my dearest Old Testament professors, Dr. Thurman Wisdom, once passed on a pithy maxim taught to him by his own instructors. “Read the Bible as any other book,” quoth he, “but do not read the Bible as if it were just any other book.”

In a matter of days, many Christians will be making their New Year’s resolutions. No doubt they will commit to reading the entire Bible in 12 months. While I think this is a noble effort, I strongly urge Christians everywhere not to read the Bible through in 12 months. Rather, I recommend thoroughly studying the entire Bible in a manageable, self-allotted amount of time. Why? Because the Bible is a whole library of books–66 to be exact–not just one. While these books miraculously cohere to one another, each must be noticed for its place among the others as well as for its individual contents. Also, if one tries to read “a proverb a day” for a month, he may get a shock to realize that the Book of Proverbs, for example, does not contain 31 proverbs but hundreds, some of which connect to their immediate context, as opposed to others. Is it really reasonable to think that one can assimilate so many maxims per day? Lastly, I urge the Bible’s student to read multiple translations when studying, because each have their significant uses. The translations (a.k.a. versions) I can recommend most are also listed below.

Recommended Study Bible Resources and their Particular Uses:

Please note that the following study Bibles contain the teachings of scholars about the Bible for the ease of one’s own discretionary study. I do not recommend all of the views of all such scholars, but I can recommend studying what they produce with a heart and mind dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide one into all truth. Moreover, if one is attempting to form his theology (understanding of God), which all Bible Study should allow, then the most conservative translations (directly below) will do nicely. I recommend them in the translations which (I think) would best complement each Study Bible, if available. And, by all means, purchase a physical copy.

Recommended Translations and their Particular Uses:

For the student who wishes to see the original languages most nearly accurately represented in English, the following are recommended. These are good for forming one’s theology, because they reflect the grammar of the ancient languages most nearly exactly. They are listed in order of most nearly exact to more nearly dynamic in representing “word for word” or formal equivalence translation.

  • NASB (1995)
  • ASV (1901)
  • ESV (2011)
  • KJV (1769) Those who can read and understand Elizabethan English know that it is the most precise and grammatically reflective morph of English in the history of the language. For those who cannot easily understand it, I recommend NKJV (New King James Version).

For the student who wishes to momentarily move past the “wooden” style of “word for word” translations in order to more readily absorb the overall meaning of a text or verse, he should look no farther than the following translations. While these versions are good for crystalizing one’s personal understanding of the text, these should not be used for establishing one’s articulation of theology (again, listed in order of their dynamic style):

Everyone paraphrases the Bible sometimes. Bible scholars do too, and the uses for these scholarly paraphrases are just as useful as our own… maybe even more so. Obviously, no one gives much credence to a paraphrase, excepting that it is a reference to the Bible. The following paraphrases are listed in order of least dynamic to most idiomatic:

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OTHER RESOURCES:

Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible by George Guthrie

Read the Bible for Life by LifeWay Publishing

Reese Chronological Bible

The Bible is NOT Subjective Testimony (please note the resources at the bottom of the linked page)

Two Gods or Two Covenants?

The History of Redemption, illustrated by Chris Koelle

What Should We Make of the Discrepancies Found in the Bible? by Andy Rau

What Should We Make of the Discrepancies Found in the Bible? by Andy Rau

See the blog post in its original format at Bible Gateway Blog

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OTHER RESOURCES:

Doubtless Faith Ministries – Enabling Confidence in the Word of God (via Archaeology and Comparative Religion)

Dr. Norman Geisler’s response to Dr. Blomberg’s “Can we Still Believe in the Bible?”

Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel by David Limbaugh

The Bible – An Apologetic

The Bible is NOT Subjective Testimony

The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer

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Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.  Chicago:  Moody Press. 1994

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press. 2001

Harrison, Roland Kenneth.  Introduction to The Old Testament.  Peabody, Mass.:  Prince Press. 1999. (pp. 85-143)

Orr, James D.D. The Problem of the Old Testament. New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1906

Parrot, Andre.  Neneveh and the Old Testament. New York:  Philosophical Library. 1955

Pfeifer, Charles F. The Biblical World: a Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House. 1966

Rowley, H. H. The Rediscovery of the Old Testament. Philadelphia:  The Westminster Press. MCMXLVI

Thomas, D. Winton. Documents from Old Testament Times. New York: Harper and Row Publishers. 1961

Thompson, J.A. The Bible and Archaeology. Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. 1972

Unger, Merrill.  The New Unger’s Bible Handbook. Chicago:  Moody Press. 1984

Vos, Howard F.  Archaeology in the Bible Lands. Chicago:  Moody Press. 1977

Wilson, Clifford, Dr.  Ebla Tablet:  Secrets of a Forgotten City.  San Diego, CA:  Master Books. 1979

Wright, G. Ernest.  Biblical Archaeology.  Philadelphia:  The Westminster Press. 1957

 

 

Psychedelics, Psychotropics and Spiritual Enlightenment

Psychedelic drugs are being evaluated for their medical benefit in treating mental disorders, reports NPR’s Diane Rehm. With about 1/4 of the U.S. population suffering from some form of mental illness, chances are either you or someone in your family has displayed signs of mental disorder. Shame drives both parents and individual sufferers from confronting the subject with a management and/or recovery plan. However, that shame cycle should not and must not continue. One should consult with physicians and find professionally qualified support. [The following is intended only for discussion purposes, not as professional prescription.]

Rather disturbingly, NPR ran another column on Psychedelics simultaneously with Diane Rehm’s journalism on the subject. In this second article, the focus was on “expanding consciousness.” A new book by Sam Harris, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion” took center stage in that NPR article for its promotion of meditation and veracious psychotropic experimentation to reach “enlightenment.”

Sam Harris’ theories are nothing new, nor scientific, nor innovative, nor safe. As NPR tells, “Harris is candid about the risks of ingesting psychedelics:”

“There is no getting around the role of luck here. If you are lucky, and you take the right drug, you will know what it is to be enlightened (or to be close enough to persuade you that enlightenment is possible). If you are unlucky, you will know what it is to be clinically insane.”

So, if the FDA were to write a warning label on Sam Harris’ game of Russian Roulette with mind-altering substances, it might read, “May very well cause the effects of clinical insanity and even death.” Not a good way to get “spirituality,” with or without religion. Is avoidance of the God who made all things really worth all that?

“Ah, come on!” says my critic. “Sorcery? …like real (black) magic? No one really does that. You have to be kidding me.” No, I’m not. In fact, when I tweeted about NPR’s article on Sam Harris’ book, in order to expose it by using the hashtag #sorcery, this is the response I got.

I openly and unashamedly denounce & bind up this kind of witchcraft of @P_Graycloak (Graycloak) and all kinds of 5th dimensional healing in the name of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. I release, in Jesus’ name, the souls which are caught in such perilous wickedness; and I call on my brothers and sisters in Christ to join me in this spiritual battle.

Whether treating genuine mental disorders or attempting to attain enlightenment, the Christian Bible has much to say about the use of drugs. The Bible labels the use of psychedelics for such purposes “sorcery,” because these drugs were used for “spiritual purposes” even in ancient times. One finds clear insights into drug use when one considers the culture into which Christianity was born and then compares that to biblical texts.

The ancient Greeks considered astronomic & geographic mathematics to be not only the evidence of discoverable and absolute truth, woven into the very fibers of the universe; but also, to be that which serves as the key to unlocking “the bridge” between the material world and the immaterial. In fact, the Greeks did not view astronomy as the isolated study of stars and constellations which are light years apart from our own planet, but rather, the discovery of measurements intrinsically analogous and directly proportionate to exact locations and distances on earth… where they strategically built temples for the purpose of communications with a “timeless” realm. They did this in order to communicate with their gods. According to historical record, the Greeks recorded that communication was accomplished by use of psychotropic drugs and natural gasses being released from fissures in the earth at those designated locations. [Please see The Book of the Ancient Greeks by Dorothy Mills] In fact, this kind of “portal theory” is not unique to just the Greeks, but is present in Norse mythology, Babylonian & Egyptian history and many other ancient cultures as well.

For these reasons, the God of the Hebrew Tanakh (and later, of the Christian New Testament) instructed the ancient Hebrew people to avoid learning and practicing the ways of the ancient civilizations contemporary to the establishment of their nation (c. B.C. 1400), including “sorcery” (or, the use of psychotropics to contact the spirit realm; Exodus 22:18, Lev. 19:31). Likewise, the Christian New Testament records accounts such as new believers in ancient Ephesus (Greece) who burned books and resources that promote “witchcraft,” etc. (Acts 17:11, 19:19) Moreover, a plethora of biblical passages deal with the subject, both Old Testament and New. (see Open Bible)

Psychedelics, Psychotropics, or any such drugs will “open a door” to the spiritual realm but one may not be able to shut it by his own power, once having opened that door. And, not every thing in the spiritual realm is good. For example, as I was visiting the Navajo reservation, near Standing Rock NM in 2006, I interviewed a young man (anonymous) who used a mind altering drug to commune with his god. His comment sticks with me even to this day,

When I smoke _____, before the fire at night, a door opens to me; and I feel forgiven and light. I see. But when I am done smoking and I wake up, I am heavy and feel that I cannot be forgiven.

Have nothing to do with “sorcery” (as it is biblically labeled) and its paraphernalia! Instead, below are some safe and reliable resources for mental health and true spiritual light.

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OTHER RESOURCES:

From Physics to Metaphysics

Deeper Walk International

Jim Wilder and Joy Starts Here

Mental Health Grace Alliance

NAMI

NIH

The Bible is NOT Subjective Testimony

By the evidences below, I will establish that through many means the Bible describes itself as an objective text, as revelatory truth, and not subjective testimony to God’s Word nor as a thing open to subjective interpretation. How is this subject relevant to today in the real world? In short, the Bible can be used to defend or support anything, and these days it is being (ab)used toward these ends. If the Scriptures are interpreted subjectively or overtly allegorically, instead of according to a normal literary, historical-grammatical approach to interpretation; then there’s no telling what one can “prove” as being “biblical.” Suddenly, “God” says anything we want him to say.

If one will simply recognize the historical setting in which each biblical text was written, that there are innate literary genres and contours to each text, and that one can find author-specific idioms, “key-words” or phrases to indicate importance (or change) within a passage, then he will also realize the Scripture as a whole speaks for itself quite objectively. [For further discussion, please see Context is King]

The Bible is inspired by God through men by verbal and plenary inspiration, and with inerrancy. Men whom God used to write His Word are Divinely chosen and groomed spokesmen for God, not merely witnesses to God’s Word. Some say that the concepts of the Bible were inspired, not the individual words. I would rather say, “Special Divine Revelation is more than the words but not without (or, apart from) the specific words.”

Just as the ancient Hebrews assimilated, scrutinized and accepted the books of the Hebrew Tanakh as Divine Writ, early century Christians accepted certain of the Apostle’s works as authoritative and affirmed the books as Divine, due to their having passed certain measures of scrutiny. These measures of scrutiny are known as canonicity. The tests of canonicity are:  Authority (Apostolicity); Acceptance in the Church (John 10:27); Uniqueness or Value (Didactic); Inspired – evidence of being the words of Deity (self-authenticated); authoritative – John 10:27; 1 John 5:6. [Please see The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture by B.B. Warfield & also F.F. Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture (free excerpt linked here)].

Collectively, all of the books which have passed the standards of canonicity form the genuine, authoritative Word of God, not merely a genuine and authoritative testimony to the Word of God. One must not confuse revelation with illumination.

Again, these aspects of the Bible’s innate nature and self-description demand one interpret it objectively as the very words of God, full of original and authorial intent:

  • Prophets and Apostles are objective spokesmen or heralds for God on pain of death. (Berkhof, 147-156)
    • 1 Kings 13:8; 1 Kings 13:20; Eze. 3:4; Jer. 28:12; 37:2, 6; 46:1; 46:13; 47:1; 49:34; 50:1; Dan. 9:2; Hag. 1:1, 3; 2:1, 10; Zech. 1:1, 7; 1 Cor. 2: 4, 13; 2 Cor. 13:3 – The Word of the Lord comes directly to or by a prophet or Apostle; Matthew 1:22; 2:15; Hebrews 1:1ff – The Word of the Lord is spoken of by the prophet.
    • The occurrence of Annunciation Phraseology is undeniable: “Thus saith the Lord” – 413 verses; “The Lord said…” – 219 verses; “The Word of the Lord came” – 92 verses ; “The Lord has Spoken” – 31 verses; “Hear the Word of the Lord” – 24 verses; “The mouth of the Lord has spoken it”
    • Warning for those who falsely claim to speak the Word of God or tamper therewith – Deut. 4:2; 13:1-5; 18:20, 22;  Jer. 23:28; Rev. 22:19
  • Inner Witness: New Testament Passages Dealing with Inspiration of Scripture – the God-breathed Word:
    • Acts 1:16; Hebrews 3:7 – The Holy Spirit is the Ultimate Author
    • 2 Timothy 3:16 – “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”
    • 2 Peter 1:19-21 – “holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”
    • Matthew 5:18; Galatians 3:16 – Verbal Inspiration
    • Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16 – Plenary Inspiration
    • Matthew 12:40 – Inerrancy of Scripture (Historical fact given authority by Christ as to its reality) Mathew 5: 17, 18; Matthew 23: 23-33; 42-46; John 10: 31, 35, 38; Ps. 110
    • 1 Corinthians 2: (understandingrevelationand also illumination)
      • God’s wisdom comes by revelation – 1 Cor. 2:9
      • God’s revelation comes by verbal inspiration — 1 Cor. 2:12-14
      • God’s wisdom is understood by illumination –1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Ps. 119:18
  • Inter-testamental Witness: Old Testament supplying New Testament content – New Testament Epistles seen as of the same authority as Old Testament – 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 3:15, 16; 25 OT books are quoted in the NT (Berkhof, 154, 155)
  • Passages on perpetual preservation of the Word of God– Matthew 5:17, 18; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23-25
  • Old Testament and New Testament verbs or nouns which define one’s divine calling as an objective spokesmen for God
    • Nabi = Prophet (conveys the idea of one who pours forth or announces; involves the implication of being moved by divine impulse to prophesy.) Dt. 18:20 – authority (prophet) and obedience (to what God commands) is the focus. Jeremiah 23:21-29 –Numbers 11:25-29 The focus is on enabling. We see the Spirit in connection with prophesying.   The need for all men to have the Spirit’s enabling in declaring truth is also witnessed in verse 27ff. [see also Basar –  Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 40:9, Qohelet  – Ecclesiastes 1:1, Qara – Isaiah 61:1]
    • kataggelw (10 times translated) – To announce, to declare, to make known publicly
    • euaggelizw (23 times translated preach; 22 times translated preach the gospel) – to bring or announce good tidings, good news, or good things; also, evangelize euangelizomai, evangelist euangelistes
    • khrussw (translated “publish” 5 times; translated “proclaim” 2 times; translated “preach” 51 times; translated “preacher” 1 time) to herald [lift up one’s voice to announce; to officiate as a herald; to proclaim after the manner of a herald:  it is always with the suggestion of formality, gravity, and authority.] …Emphasizes a God called preacher.
  • The Bible is self-authenticated and of objective proposition – John 10: 27, 35; 17:17; Psalm 119: 137, 138, 140, 142, 160; 1 John 5:6

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OTHER RESOURCES:

Dempster, Stephen G. Dominion and Dynasty. (introduction and opening chapter – free)

Farrar, F. W. (1886). History of interpretation. London: Macmillan and Co.

Osborne, G. R. (2006). The hermeneutical spiral: a comprehensive introduction to biblical interpretation (Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Thomas, Robert. Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003. (chapters 1-8 and 12)

The Kingdom of Heaven and Its Keys

Virkler, H. A., & Ayayo, K. G. (2007). Hermeneutics: principles and processes of Biblical interpretation (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Academic.

Warfied, B.B. and his The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

Zuck, Roy B. Basic Bible Interpretation 

Read on Google Books

Read on PDF

bible-interpretation.com

The Resurrection of Jesus: Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt

As Easter approaches, Lamb’s Harbinger would be remiss to forget an apologetic regarding the resurrection of Jesus. “Why doesn’t God give more evidence?” scream the skeptics and agnostics.

While it seems some want tangible proof, as in seeing and touching Jesus–I answer that here–; and while others want scientific proof that miracles (let alone a resurrection) can happen, God has seen fit to leave mankind with evidences which provide proof beyond reasonable doubt. Sure, one can doubt. That is the possibility. However, there is a difference between the reasonable doubt and the irrational or unreasonable.

Examining the Evidence:

  1. Historicity, Veracity and Accuracy of New Testament docs as Eye-witness Accounts
    • More copies of originals made over a shorter span of time than all Ancient Greco-Roman documents combined
    • Majority of the extant copies (MSS, Codexes, Scrolls) provide ~99.99% accuracy based on cross-examination and comparison
    • The 4 Gospels provide corroborating but not faked (conflating) eye-witness perspectives of Christ’s life, words, death and resurrection.
    • Paul, an intelligent and well-educated man (instructed at the historic school of Gamaliel) later recorded that over 500 saw Jesus alive (1 Cor. 15:1-6).
    • Luke, a medical doctor of the day and also a historian in his own right, gives account of the ascension of Jesus.
    • The Gospel writers were not self-serving: they wrote embarrassing facts about themselves, preached and practiced morality, received no money, and died heinous deaths for their unshakable testimonies of Christ… not exactly the stuff of conspiracy and charlatanism.
  2. Corroboration of historians and scholars within the 1st Century and 2nd Century A.D.
    • JosephusTacitus
    • Patristics account for the great majority of not just the gospels but all of the New Testament by collectively quoting passages in their writings.
  3. Science can’t disprove existence of miracles [see resources below]
  4. The nation of Israel rejects Jesus as their Messiah, according to biblical prophecy (Isaiah 6:10)
  5. The Tomb of Christ is empty in comparison to any other religious leader.

With all of these abundant evidences, the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is still possible to doubt. But, is that doubt reasonable?

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OTHER RESOURCES:

Miracles – by C. S. Lewis miracles

Miracles – in BECA by Norm Geisler

Cold Case Christianity – by J. Warner Wallace

I don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist – by Frank Turek

The Case for the Resurrection – by Lee Strobel

iWitness Resurrection App – by Selfless Defense

Gary Habermas – Online Resource for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Who is this Jesus? – Part 1 & Part 2

The Substantial Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ United with Assured Proof

Israel as Proof of God’s Existence: The Assault of Atheism