Friday, May 30, 2008

learning how to read...

[continuing the discussion started here, and continued here and here]

along with "where did the bible come from?", i am often asked related questions pertaining to bible study.
"how do i study scripture?"
"how do i understand what i read?"
"how can i know i am not doing it wrong?"

below is an outline of things to keep in mind when studying scripture. i will break each point down over the course of the next week or so...

How Do I Read/Study the Bible?

  • The starting point is NOT
    “What does this verse mean to me ?”
    Avoid this type of interpretation
    in your own Bible study and from others.
  • Context is king! to ensure that you are
    properly understanding the point of the
    passage, keep the following things in mind
    as you read:
    Who was the author?
    Who was he writing to?
    Why was he writing this?
  • Know the literary genre (poetry,
    wisdom literature, hyperbole, parable,
    personal correspondence, apocalyptic, etc.)
    Each genre has its own rules of interpretation.
  • Meaning - Based on the above criteria,
    determine what message the original author
    wanted his original audience to get-that is what
    the passage means.
  • Seek out implications for your life from what
    the text means. (as opposed to making the meaning
    an implication)

Recommended Resource:
A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules. Robert Stein. Baker, 1997.

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. Graeme Goldsworthy. Intervarsity Press, 2002.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"it's greek (and hebrew) to me!"

part 3 of series starting here , read part II here


We have briefly covered the origins of scripture, but how did it get from hebrew and greek to the english version we own? The following is a brief outline of the history of the Bible came to be translated into English.

· 315 A.D. - Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, identifies the 27
books of the New Testament

· 405 – Jerome translates the Latin Bible (Vulgate)

· The Bible of the “common people” took shape in the form
of wood carvings, stain glass windows, etc.

· 1382 – 1st English translation by John Wycliffe (handwritten)

· 1414 – Capital Punishment is declared for reading Scripture in
one’s native tongue. In 1428, Wycliffe’s bones were dug up and burned

· 1454 – printing press invented

· 1526 – William Tyndale published first printed New Testament

· 1530’s – Martin Luther works on German Bible

· 1535 - Miles Coverdale prints first full English Bible, burned
at the stake in 1536

· 1560 – Geneva Bible : first Bible in America, used by Pilgrims
and the Puritans, also by Shakespeare

· 1611 – after Henry VIII's breaking away from the Roman
Catholic Church and the formation of the Anglican church,
they printed their own Bible under the reign of James-the
King James Version. (many errors made, revised many times

· 1881 – English Revised edition

· 1901 – The American Standard

· 1952 – Revised Standard Version

· 1963 – New American Standard

· 1978 – New International Version

· 1982 – New King James Version

· 1989 – New Revised Standard Version

· 2001 – English Standard Version

· 2004 – Holman Christian Standard Version

As Americans, the fact that we have our own Bibles, and for many of us,
multiple copies, should give us pause. People were killed for trying to give
a copy of the Bible to people in their own language. There are people who
are killed for owning copies, and who make great sacrifices just to read a
few pages.

Last year, a professor last year read an email account from a missionary
telling of a boy with no arms who walked miles through the jungle to get
just a portion of the new testament. he made his way through the jungle
(with no arms!) to the river where the missionaries were, had them place
a copy on his shoulder where he tilted his head down to hold it, and started
on his journey back home.

We are greatly blessed to be able to have copies of God’s revelation
readily available. Shame on us if we take it for granted, do not read it,
or do not live it.

For further Reasearch and Study:
The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and
Development of the Bible, Paul D. Wegner, Baker Academic, 2004.

The Story of Christianity Justo Gonzalez, Prine Press, 1999.

The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development,
and Significance, Bruce Metzger. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bibles Accuracy, Authority and
Authenticity, James R. White. Bethany House, 2004.

Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine R.C. Sproul and
Keith Mathison. P&R Publishing, 2005.

[i] See James R. White’s The King James Only Controversey,
Bethany House, 1995.

Friday, May 23, 2008

the old and the new

[continued from this post...]

What we refer to, as “the Bible” are the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
Those books are:
Old Testament
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy
Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2Samuel 1Kings 2Kings
1Chronicles 2Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther Job Psalms
Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Solomon Isaiah Jeremiah
Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah
Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah

New Testament
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans 1 Corinthians
2Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy
Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter
1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation

The bible is divided into two sections known as The Old Testament and
The New Testament. (“Testament” is just another word for “Covenant”).
Thus, the Old Testament is the account and record of God and His people
during the Time of the Old Covenant (Adam and Eve to Abraham up until
approximately 400 years before the birth of Christ), and the New Testament
covers the life, death, and ressurection of Christ, through the ministry of the

The Old Testament

The Old Testament (“tanak”, formed by taking the first letter of each section;
“torah”, “nevii”, and “kethuvim”) was originally written in Hebrew,
with some sections in Aramaic. The “torah” or books of the law were written
by Moses around 1400 B.C. The law is made up of the first five books of the
Old Testament, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The books of the prophets
or “neviim, were finished around 430 B.C., with Malachi.
The “writings”, the poetry and wisdom literature known as the “kethuvim”,
round out the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the Old Testament is often referred to by Jesus
and the apostles as “the law and the prophets”, “the writings”, or “as Moses
said” (the law).
(Matt 23:1-3; Luke 16:28-31; Luke 24:25, 44 for just a small sample)

The Old Testament as we have it has been recognized as complete and
authoritative from as early as 170 A.D. -as can be demonstrated by the
writings of Melito, Bishop of Sardis:
When I came to the east and reached the place where
these things were preached and done, and learnt
accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set
down the facts and sent them to you. These are
their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus,
Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son
of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two
books of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs
of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of
Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the
Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra. [i]

The order that Christians follow in our Old Testament is the order of
the early Greek translation called the Septuagint (“LXX”), translated
about 250 B.C.

So what were the criteria for counting certain writings Scripture
and not others? In summary, the following were essentials:
· Anything revealed by God and recorded by Moses
· Books written by true Prophets (as defined by Deuteronomy 18)
· Writings that were consistent with the character of God
· Books received and used by the congregation of the people of Israel.

These sacred writings were carefully copied and preserved by Jewish scribes.
In 1947, fragments of every Old Testament book but Esther were found in
caves in Qumran dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C.

The New Testament
Originally written in Greek, with some Aramaic, the books of
the New Testament are:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians,
2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,
1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus,
Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter 1 John, 2 John, 3 John,
Jude, Revelation.

Why these books? F.F. Bruce puts it best when he writes:
What is particularly important to notice is that the
New Testament canon was not demarcated by the
arbitrary decree of any Church Council. When at last
a Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in AD 393 –
listed the 27 books of the New Testament,
it did not confer upon them any authority which
they did not already possess, but simply recorded
their previously established canonicity.

(The Books and the Parchments, pp. 112-113.)[ii]
This is an important point to make and so bears repeating. The Church did not arbitrarily decide what was scripture and what was not. Rather, they tookthe collections of writings that they had and simply recognized what already
possessed authority. Authority was derived from:
  • having been written by an Apostle or a close associate of
    an apostle (Luke with Paul and mark with Peter)
  • having been in continuous use by the Church
  • having unity/agreement with the rest of Scripture

While there are no original copies of these documents, consider this:

  • There are 5, 300 known copies and fragments in the
    original Greek, nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000 A.D.
  • By contrast, Homer’s Iliad, one of the most famous literary
    works of Western civilization has 643 copies of manuscript
    support. Within those, there are 764 lines of text that are
    disputed as to the accuracy, whereas there are only 40 lines
    in all of the New Testament that are disputed, none of which
    would compromise a major doctrine of Scripture.[iii]
  • In fact, many people are unaware that each of William
    Shakespeare’s 37 plays (written in the 1600’s) have gaps
    in the surviving manuscripts, forcing scholars to “fill in the blanks”.
  • This pales in textual comparison with the over 5,300
    copies and fragments of the New Testament that, together,
    assure us that nothing is lost.
  • All of the New Testament except eleven verses can be
    reconstructed from the writings of the early church fathers
    in the second and third centuries.[iv]

With these things in mind, not to mention the wealth of internal testimony
of Scripture, we can be sure that the Scriptures we have have been kept
from dilution or error.

It is important to note that these 66 books are the only ones recognized by
the Early Church as authoritative. Some other religions or denominations
may include other books collected under the title “Apocrypha”, or have
additional authoritative books or manuals such as the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints’ (the non-christian religion known as the
Mormons) Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.

Also made popular by the recent Davinci Code book and movie of the same
name, the Gnostic gospels have been getting a lot of attention-particularly
the so-called "Gospel" of Thomas. These books are not Scripture, and as
such, are not binding as the word of God. To explore these other writings
and discuss why they are not Scripture is a worthy task, and has been done

[i] Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14
[ii] F.F. Bruce,The Books and the Parchments,Fleming
H. Revell Company; Rev Updated edition, 1984, pp. 112-113
[iii] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, 1986, p.367.
[iv] Ibid, Ch.24

to be continued....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

pray for steven curtis chapman and his family...

one of the daughters, age 5, of steven curtis chapman and his wife, mary beth, was struck by a car driven by their son, and died wednesday.

read the story here

i cannot imagine the grief of losing a child in any circumstance... and my heart especially goes out to the brother who will no doubt live with "what if"'s for the rest of his life.

the song, "with hope", written by chapman after the heath high school shootings in paducah, ky. in 1997 resonate again ...

"with hope"
This is not at all
how we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope'
Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope'
Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place
where we'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true'
Cause now you're home And now you're free,

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope'
Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope'
Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place
where we'll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor'
Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true,
So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the b-i-b-l-e

as a pastor and seminary student, i am often asked which bible translation i use and why, and what i recommend for others.

in recommending bible translations, another question that comes up is "how did what moses, the old testament prophets, jesus, and the apostles wrote make it into my leather bound copy of "the bible".

i have written about this topic before for an on-line magazine,, but will revisit it here.

i will divide this up into more than one post, but to get us started...

As Evangelical Christians, inheritors of the Protestant Reformation,
which reclaimed the truth of “Sola Scriptura” (scripture alone), the
Bible is our sole source of Authority. No Popes, creeds, councils, or
other decrees of man supercede the authority of what God has revealed
to us through His word.

God has not left His people to wander aimlessly through life wondering
what it is they are to do and how they are to do it. We are not like the
prophets of Baal who cut themselves in a desperate attempt to
communicate with their God.

We know what pleases Him, and we know what displeases Him.
Our God has spoken clearly to us through His Word, the Bible.
We can know God because He has revealed Himself. We can feel
confident in what we know because neither He nor His word ever
change. We are not governed by emotions or opinions that are always
coming and going and developing. We are not left
under the dictates of men who age, die, and make mistakes.

As John Armstrong puts it;
The authority of the Scripture, then, is not located
in human brilliance or witness. It is not found in the
person of Moses, Paul, or Peter. The authority is f
ound in the sovereign God Himself. The God who
"breathed out"4 the words through human writers
stands behind every statement, every doctrine,
every promise and every command written in
the Scripture.[i]

Scripture itself speaks to the importance of God’s Word. in its existance, uses and application. For example:

…and that from childhood you have known
the sacred writings which are able to give
you the wisdom that leads to salvation
through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and
profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work
(2 Timothy 3:15-17)

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the
prophets in many portions and in many ways, in
these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom
He appointed heir of all things, through whom also
He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

For the word of God is living and active and
sharper than any two-edged sword, and
piercing as far as the division of soul and
spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able
to judge the thoughts and intentions of the
heart (Hebrews 4:12)

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise
the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;The commandment of the
LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear
of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;The
judgments of the LORD are true; they are
righteous altogether.(Psalm 19:7-9)

Now these were more noble-minded than those in
Thessalonica, for they received the word with great
eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see
whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

How can we be obedient to God when we don’t know what is asked of us?
How can we worship a God we do not know? How can we be saved without
the Gospel being explained? All of these answers are found in the Bible.
Indeed, most of us would agree Scripture is essential to the Christian life.

But how can we be sure that the book that we carry to Church with us and
read during our devotional times is what God intended for us to have?
How did God’s word go from old parchments written in foreign languages
to nice and neatly bound books in our own language? Why are there so
many different versions?
to be continued.....

[i] John H. Armstrong .Chapter 4 Sola Scriptura!:The Protestant Position on the Bible. Don Kistler,
General Editor ,Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

fred phelps, hating homosexuals, and sbc resolutions

this week i will be submitting a resolution to be considered for vote at this years annual meeting of the southern baptist convention. i have posted before about the disgraceful westboro baptist church and their "leader" fred phelps here. as they continue to pop up in the news, i couldn't help but wonder about the potential thousands (millions) who see the name "westboro road baptist church" and assume that they belong and are an accurate representation of every other baptist church they know of. so, i drew up this proposal:


WHEREAS, Fred Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist
Church frequently picket funerals with hate filled language and signage; and

WHEREAS, The highly publicized website for this Baptist church
is ; and

WHEREAS, The attitude, approach, language, and behavior displayed
publicly and in the media by Mr. Phelps and members of his congregation
are frequently in violation of explicit commands of Scripture of holy and
righteous living above reproach, even when confronting sin; and

WHEREAS, The designation of “Baptist” in the name of such an
organization and its claim to be “..the mouth of God”
[i] can bring
shame and reproach on the Gospel, as well as other entities with
the name Baptist; and

WHEREAS, The national media fails to distinguish between churches
belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention and Westboro Baptist
Church; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention
meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, firmly and publicly
clarify that neither Fred Phelps nor Westboro Baptist Church are
members of or representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, nor
do we recognize their methods of protest or as appropriate or biblical.

[i] - front page under “Welcome, Depraved Sons and Daughters of Adam”

i don't know if the committee will pass this through or not, but we'll see.
we can be against sin without speaking against it sinfully. i would hate
for someone to dismiss me (or worse, the gospel!) because some
other "baptist" or "church" (both terms used very loosely) is acting

from my earlier post on this topic :

the web address to the westboro baptist church is
yes... that's what it says. it is a site full of the most disgusting
perversions of the truth i have ever read and it makes me furious,
and it makes me want to weep. they dishonor the name of christ
with what they say and teach. it breaks my heart to think of how
many people will refuse to listen to the gospel because of what these
"christians" and "baptists" have said, which is neither baptist nor christian.

yes homosexuality is a sin, but so is the hate and vitriol that
they have made the cornerstone of their ministry. the death
of homosexuals need not be picketed and jeered with such
repulsive signs and slogans. rather we should reach out with
compassion and extend the offer of grace even
as we demonstrate the grace shown to us.

this is one example of why we must be clear about what we
believe. this is why we must define our terms. this is why
we must know doctrine and theology. if we dont, then what
do we say to someone who's only encounter with christianity
is with these hatemongers who spew false teachings and
venom through their website, picket signs, and their church?
what do we say when they ask what is different from us and
these other christians (and baptists)?

this church disgusts me and it saddens me. i pray that the lord would
grant for them repentance and for me a heart that wants to pray for
grace rather than judgment on them. praise god that he is in control and
no one, no matter how outrageous and contrived can thwart his will.

if there are any homosexuals who read this blog, please hear me.
this church and their teachings are *NOT* an accurate representation
of christianity or more specifically, of baptists. the bible does teach that
homosexuality is a sin. but all men are sinners in need of the grace of god.

true christianity will never insult you, or ridicule you, or rejoice in
your death. jesus taught love and compassion as well as repentance.
as a christian and baptist pastor i would say to you as a homosexual,
that i am in as much need for grace as you are. i am no better than
you. we are all in need of the grace of god that is available only through
faith in jesus christ.

i do not hate you. i want to share with you how to experience the
greatest love imaginable, not so that you would be like me, but so
that you can know god. please contact me at anytime and i would
love to share with you how. please do not reject christ because of
those who wrongfully go by his name.

Monday, May 05, 2008

free books and daily prayer..

a couple of housekeeping things..

i have wanted to give away copies of some of the books that i reference here or that i have found to be very beneficial in my own spiritual growth. while i wont be able to do this very often, i hope to be able to do this at least 3 or four times a year. sometimes it may be more frequently than others.. so just keep a look out for it.

secondly, i have added a link to the right side of this site that gives a unreached people group to pray for each day. i hope that you will find it useful. we often forget about all of the nations that are not on the nightly news each week. hopefully this will help you as well as me in remembering to pray for the spread of the gospel over the whole world.

my semester is winding down and i hope to be able to post with more regularity. i appreciate the comments, emails, and other interactions. in less than two years this site has received almost 15,000 visits. thanks so much for stopping by.

Friday, May 02, 2008

...but it does show god's love

to show the proverbial "other side of (the same) coin... "

i maintain everything i wrote in the last post... but i do want to emphasize that the gospel being about god's glory is not at odds with his love for us.
we are indeed loved by god-and we can't even fathom the extent of it. (ephesians 3:14-19)
one of my favorite hymns is "how deep the father's love fo rus" by stuart townend. if you arent familiar with him, or his often collabrative friends keith and kristyn getty, go ye therefore and educate thyself.
this song gives us a scriptural, and therefore god exalting reminder of the lord's love for us.

"how deep the father's love for us"
words and music by stuart townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom