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Can You Trust the Bible? Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Certainty of Truth

Author: Charles Hegwood

One of the questions we should always ask of any book of the Bible we are reading is, “Why was this book written?” Part of understanding the meaning is understanding the purpose. Often the writer will tell you the ‘why’. Others will require more thought and some light research to uncover. So what about Luke? We see that Luke begins his gospel with an explanation of why he is writing this. He wanted his audience to know his purpose and intent in writing this gospel. We need to consider the purposes and intentions of Luke as we read and interpret his gospel. If we do not then we risk missing the meaning entirely. So why did Luke write? Luke wrote to a specific person or people to tell them that they can have confidence in the truth of Christ that they were taught. So let us look at each part of the first four verses and answer the questions.

The Recipient

The recipient is the original audience the author is writing. This may sound obvious but we must identify the original audience as we consider how to interpret and understand the message that Luke is trying to convey. We discover that the recipient is Theophilus. We do not know who this is. His name means ‘lover of God’ which could be a person’s name or a pseudonym. Some scholars even suggest this could be a pseudonym for a local church as well, so not one person but many. And while we are not sure of exactly who Theophilus was, we do know enough to understand Luke’s message and purpose.
Theophilus was a person or people that Luke knew and had respect for. We know that Theophilus was a believer as well. Luke is not sharing the gospel for the first time with him either, but instead writing to give Theophilus more confidence in what he already believed. This information helps us as we read and understand Luke. It is written to believers like us. We have believed and therefore Luke’s purpose is to give us more confidence in what we already believe.

The Process and Message

How does Luke compile his information? Or another question we can ask is, “How can we trust Luke’s information?” For the first question, we see that Luke took it upon himself to compile information from interviews with eyewitnesses. He sought to investigate from sources who saw and heard Jesus, what he believed to be true. This corrects the claim that Christians are not allowed to test and question their faith. We should have confidence to research our faith and the claims it makes. It can withstand scrutiny. We must of course go to valid sources and that is just what Luke did. Luke went and asked eyewitnesses who saw and heard Jesus. He likely asked some of the apostles. Luke also asked other people who were compiling accounts of Jesus too.
Let us take a second and marvel that within the first twenty years after Jesus and likely earlier than that, people were already writing down what they heard and saw. They knew it was important. And these witnesses to the gospel and recorders of what happened were already busy writing these things down and passing the message to all who believed.
Some criticism of the gospels you might hear is that the accounts were written down much later than the events. For example, Luke was written down sometime before 70 AD. That means Luke may have written his account decades after Jesus was resurrected. However, these detractors fail to realize that much of what Luke contained was from writings that had been written much closer to the event. We do see from Luke that he got his information from people who were speaking and writing with the purpose to pass down the information. His goal was to be orderly. He wanted to take all of the accounts and put them in an order that would best convey the message to his audience.

The Purpose

Luke, among many others, was investigating and researching the claims of the gospel he heard. And what did Luke find? He found that what he had received as the gospel was trustworthy. So much so that he compiled the information and underwent the difficult process of writing down all that he had learned so that he could share it. His purpose was so that Theophilus would have the same confidence in the gospel that Luke did. The gospel is not simply good information. It is good news that calls us to follow a risen Jesus. Luke is not a simple historian. He writes with a purpose to grant confidence in what has been thoroughly investigated. Luke wrote to defend this certainty to his reader. Even in the first century, God had set people about the task of writing to defend the truthfulness of what happened.

Conclusion

So with Luke, we can see the recipient, process, and purpose are all to give us confidence in the things that we believe regarding Jesus. Luke is a great book to build your confidence in what you have already learned. Luke desired to show the importance of the truthfulness of the gospel. It is not a mere story. Jesus really came, taught, died, and rose again. We can have confidence in the truthfulness of God’s word to us. God’s word has the purpose of bringing us life. So read with confidence the good news that Jesus is our Savior and many throughout the ages have gone to great lengths to ensure that we have and can trust that good news.

 

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All Studying the Bible

Does it Matter What Bible Translation I Read?

Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

There are over 100 different English translations1 of the Bible. That’s a daunting number if you think about it. That’s 100 different options to choose from – 100 different versions that one group or another thought was so necessary that they would spend years of arduous work producing. So, when you pull out your personal copy of Scripture, why do you have that version and not another. More importantly, why do you have that version, and does it matter that you read that one and not another.

Today’s blog will look into some of these issues and hopefully give you some confidence in your own selection. Let’s begin by talking about why there are so many translations, to begin with. Translations typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. Word-for-Word Translations
  2. Meaning-for-Meaning Translations
  3. Paraphrases

Before you decide what Bible translation to read, you should decide which of these categories will be most helpful to you and your personal study. Each has its own pros and cons.

 

Types of Translations

Word-for-Word

Word-for-Word translations seek to translate the original language into English as accurately as possible. They give great attention to grammar and word choice, ensuring that the English you read is as close as possible to the original words.

Pros: Word-for-Word translations are excellent for deep, intentional study, especially when it comes to word studies, grammatical context, and so on.

Cons: These translations can be difficult to read and understand. They can sometimes obscure the meaning of the text when a word or phrase is translated too literally.

Examples: NASB, ESV

Meaning-for-Meaning

Meaning-for-Meaning translations attempt to deliver in English the meaning of the original text as accurately as possible. In these translations, the words themselves and the grammar are not as important as the meaning.

Pros: These translations can be easier to read than Word-for-Word translations. They can also make the meaning of a passage clear when a more complex translation might make the meaning difficult to grasp.

Cons: The quality of the translation depends far more on the translation team and their understanding of Scripture. When you read one of these, you are reading someone’s interpretation of the meaning of a passage, which may or may not be accurate to the passage itself.

Examples: NIV

Paraphrase Bibles

Paraphrase Bibles are not true translations as they typically seek to restate the message of Scripture in unique ways. The Living Bible, for instance, uses the ‘in other words’ method of paraphrasing and worked from the American Standard Version from 1901 rather than from the original languages. The goal of a paraphrase is to make the message of scripture easier to understand.

Pros: A Paraphrase Bible is very easy to read. It can be considered a commentary on Scripture, which can be helpful for understanding the meaning of a difficult passage in the same way as reading a Bible commentary.

Cons: A Paraphrase is not Scripture and is not typically a translation; it is one person’s (or a group’s) comments on the meaning of Scripture. A Paraphrase should not be read in place of the Bible. It is tempting to read a Paraphrase because it is easy to read, but it should only be read alongside Scripture. A great way to use a Paraphrase is to read the Bible, then read the same passage in a Paraphrase (the same method for studying Scripture with a Bible Commentary).

Examples: The Living Bible, The Message

As you look over all the translations available on the bookstore shelf, you will find that the vast majority of them fall somewhere between Word-for-Word and Meaning-for-Meaning. There is a spectrum, or sliding scale, between the two.

 

Does It Matter?

To answer the question, “Does it matter what Bible translation I read?” – yes, it does matter. You will get a different experience with each version. But at the same time, nearly every major translation available today is excellent. If you are reading the NASB, ESV, NIV, NKJV, or many similar translations, you can have full confidence in what you are reading. In fact, there are benefits to reading multiple translations – doing so can help to highlight things you may not have noticed while reading just one version.

On the other hand, there are certainly translations that you should avoid. Many of the lesser used translations are created by groups that, for various reasons, insert a theological slant into the text. The New World Translation, for example, was created for Jehova’s Witness churches. It makes changes to several key passages that identify Christ as God. Others, such as the Queen James Bible,2 are explicitly designed to promote a certain interpretation.

Any Bible version that claims to represent a specific group, identity, culture, or even denomination should be avoided, while most versions that attempt to accurately represent the original text (regardless of the translator’s personal preferences) will make a fine choice.

In conclusion; yes, it matters what translation you read, but as long as you are reading one of the major translations you should have confidence.

 

1Depending on how you count them, you may come up with nearly 1000 if you count all versions of English translations since the year 1526. If you count only those translations you might find in a bookstore, the number is closer to 60. If you count all English translations in use somewhere in the world today, it’s close to 100.
2The editors of the Queen James Bible state in regard to the eight most notable verses that condemn homosexuality: “We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”