Fact checking the Bible (Part 3)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • 1 Samuel 17:50 
  • 2 Samuel 21:19-20 
  • 1 Chronicles 20:5 
  • Gen 1:1-2, John 1:1-3 
  • Jude 1:6, 2 peter 2:4, Matthew 25:41, Revelation 12:9

Interesting resources

Through several examples, the concept of one, two or three pieces of evidence is a good study tool to use in many practical ways. But let’s talk about a more complicated issue we can use this trick for. We can use this trick to talk about theological and textural issues that might not be too straight forward all at once. 

Who killed Goliath?

One example is who killed Goliath? You might be thinking, everyone knows it’s David. And of course, the answer is yes. But we get into some trouble when we try to cross-reference this clear fact. For instance, we can find the story that we will know about:

4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. … 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.

1 Samuel 17:4-6, 49-50 ESV

Clearly there is no doubt about this issue, David killed Goliath. But what happens when you cross-reference this issue? Can you look up other places that talk about Goliath? It turns out you can and when you do, in 2 Samuel, you find something that appears to be a contradiction:

19 And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 20 And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants.

2 Samuel 21:19-20 ES

So was it David or was it Elhanan? This would seem like a clear contradiction if we only had these two verses. But we don’t just have these verses, we actually have another verse that sheds light on the issue. 

4 And after this there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued. 5 And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

1 Chronicles 20:4-5 ESV

From here we find that Goliath has a brother and we get some information about the spear he used. After some digging, some scholars have some insights into what happened. First, Hebrew is not quite like English where missing one letter completely changes grammatical structure and meaning. For the most part, you can understand something in English even if several words in a sentence are misspelled. In the Hebrew text, that is not so accurate. If you change a letter, that could change the meaning of the sentence. Upon inspection, what it seems is that a scribe mistook one letter when copying and that causes a change in the meaning of the sentence over time. You might be thinking, but I thought the scribes were so careful as to not change details? You are right, this story is one they would have been extremely familiar with but after years of copying, they decided to preserve the text rather than alter it after not being sure if this was originally inspired or not. 

This is a well-known issue and many Bible translators, including the King James, knew about this issue so not every English translation has this issue. The problem is, even though we know there could be a problem with the text, should we try to fix the mistake? Interestingly enough, if this issue was not in the text, we could talk about this issue with regards to Bible study techniques. As stated before, all because you have two pieces of evidence, you don’t necessarily know if they are truly the same or not unless you can look at other details to clarify. Having the third verse is necessary in order to resolve this issue. There is another item of interest when talking about this issue. There is something called Psalms 151 which is not considered to be inspired by most, but it does seem to talk about the story of David killing Goliath as part of a celebrator Psalm. Again pointing at the fact that historically David killing Goliath is consistent with the way we are interpreting things. Simple because the people of those days interpreted the text in that way.

Can we trust the creation narrative?

Here is another issue.  Can we trust the account of Genesis? I am not asking this from a scientific point of view but as a view of witnesses. Adam was not around during all of creation. Instead, he was created at the end. So all of this was done without his direct witness. So if we assume we only got the account orally passed down from Adam, how could we trust it? Well, it turns out we don’t need Adam’s testimony. We have three witnesses who were there in the beginning before Adam. We know the father, the son, and the holy spirit were all there in the beginning during creation:

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2 ESV

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:1-3 ESV

What about sketchy theology?

Often we have this issue of filling in gaps about what we have explicitly stated in the Bible, and what we can infer about the text. Back when talking about David and Goliath we had to do that. We can take a step back from the text, look at what clues it says, and make judgments about things from these clues. So on some level, this method should not be discarded. There are a lot of others that we need to take a step back from the text and piece together. For instance the idea of the Trinity. There is no direct verse that uses the word trinity and much of what we know about how the trinity works come from different verses that you can string together to make a claim. Or if you looked back previously about what I said about solving this issue of who killed Goliath. 

One example has to do with Satan. It is clear that Satan feels, but what about Demons and all this other stuff that we see in the Bible?

9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Revelation 12:9 ESV

6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day–

Jude 1:6 ESV

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

2 Peter 2:4 ESV

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:40-41 ESV

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40 ESV

When looking at these verses, it is clear that Satan fell, but he was not alone. Some angels also fell with him. The question of why they fell and explanation would need to be explored another time. But it is clear that more than one place clearly indicates that something happened, not just the angels. But out of that you also find that Hell was not just for man. Hell has a greater purpose than just bad people who don’t believe in God’s plan of redemption through Jesus.

Now in my recording, I talk about the gap theory in the context of this idea of using three or more witnesses and cross-referencing the Bible. There was a lot I didn’t put into the recording and too much for even this post, so there will be another post (Fact checking the Bible Addendum) with more details just on the gap theory alone.

Fact checking the Bible (Part 2)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV, 2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV, John 8:17-18 ESV Matthew 18:16, 1 timothy 5:19, Hebrews 10:28, Numbers 35:30
  • Luk 24:1-3, 9-11 Mat 28:1-7, Jhn 20:1-3, Mark 16:1-7
  • John 19:25 
  • Gen 1:26-27, Mark 10:6 
  • Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, John 6:1-15, Luke 9:10-17 
  • Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-9
  • Acts 7
  • Exodus 7:10-11 ESV 
  • 2 Timothy 3:8 ESV 
  • Hebrews 13:1-2 ESV 
  • Mat 22:29-30 
  • James 1:17 ESV 
  • 1 John 4:8 ESV 
  • Genesis 4:17-24 ESV

Interesting reading

The concept of 3 or more witnesses

I talked about two ideas. The first is what happens when you use the Bible to cross-reference itself. The second is the idea of using multiple witnesses (or pieces of evidence) to establish something as truth. 

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Matthew 18:15-16 ESV

Let’s look at this situation about two or three one more times to get a better grasp of what is going on. Imagine you walk into a room and you have a glass cup that is smashed on the floor. There is only one thing and it is clear it leads to a truth that something happened. Later you have two kids walk into a room and both claim a different story about how the glass smashed on the floor. What you can do is use their stories and line them up with the cup to see which one is more accurately in line with the facts of the smashed up. But the cup alone doesn’t give you the story of what happened. We know it was smashed and can infer some things. But just the cup smashing itself is not enough to tell what happened.

Three witnesses of Jesus’ Fulfillment

Through the Bible, similar situations happen. Out of the old testament, we get this concept that the Messiah (Christ) is supposed to come and take away the sins of the world. That is a promise of God so you can consider that as a fact that it will happen. But now Jesus comes along and starts making claims and people start seeing the implications that Jesus is claiming to be this person. Now you don’t just have Jesus claiming to be this Messiah, you also have the Father and the Spirit:

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 15:26 ESV

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

John 8:17-18 ESV

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

The witness of three women

When you look at the most important core message of Christianity, they rely on two important facts. The first is that Jesus died for our sins, and the second is that he was raised again on the third day. This is at the core of the definition of the gospel as defined by Paul.

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

When you look at these two events, you find that at the crucifixion there were multiple people, not just three. There were Jews who rejected Jesus, the Jew who supported Jesus (the disciples), there were the gentiles around (the Romans), and so on. But you can make several observations about the witnesses who were there at the time. [ also see Mat 28:1-7, Jhn 20:1-3]

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:25 ESV

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:25 ESV

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. … 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

Luke 24:1-3, 9-11 ESV

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. … 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Mark 16:1-2, 7 ESV

When you compare the events, there are at least three witnesses who saw both accounts. But moreover, at least two of the witnesses were at both events. It helps demonstrate that not only are there groups of people who say the events, but the same people saw both events. The witness didn’t get half of the story, they got both sides of the story.

There is something else to be said. There are three witnesses that help establish the testimony of the cross and resurrection. The message of the Gospel was first spread by the women, not the men (including the disciples). This is one way you can show that the testimony of a woman is equal to that of a man. The same conditions that need for anyone to establish the truth are met independently of whether it is a man or a woman.

Feeding of the 4 and 5 thousand

You might get some deja-vu when reading and come across the passages where Jesus multiplied bread and fish. This is one of those places where you need to ask, did the Disciples get the story right? There are different details mentioned, so are they the same event with similar details, or are they different events? When you look at the passage you can compare them in many ways.

  • 5000: Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, John 6:1-15, Luke 9:10-17
  • 4000: Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-9

There are several differences on a surface level and several within the greek. Overall they do have similar things happen such as multiplying the bread, collecting baskets, and a large number of people. But when you get into the details it is clear there are differences so much so that they are more than likely not the same event. How the people get there is different, how much time Jesus spends with the crowd is different, the conversation with the disciples have a different emphasis, the lessons that can be learned between the two can be different, and so on. The classic example is how the symbolism is different. Jesus feeds the group with different numbers of loaves and different numbers of baskets are collected later. One note that some have noticed is that one crowd seems to be Jewish the other gentile. Ironically Jesus instantly takes care of the Jewish crowd and then speaks to the disciples about how to deal with the gentile one. This echoes issues from Acts. 5 loaves are used to feed the Jewish crowd. When you think of the idea that bread can resemble the word of God as something you should chew on and it sustains you each day. Similar to the idea of mana in the wilderness. If you consider the parallelism to the five books of Moses, out of these teachings come the twelve tribes. In the gentile case, seven loaves are used. Paul primarily writes to 7 churches (although some several times). He does write to individuals as well, but the concept that the letters were instructions directed at the church first. Similarly, the five books of Moses were for all of Israel. We find that out of that in Revelation 2 and 3, 7 types of Churches are found. As much as all congregations want to be Philadelphians, all churches are a mixture of each of the seven letters, some more distantly than others. 

But in either case, even though there are two events, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the same. You need more details to tell them about and unless the context is clear, it can be easy to assume they are the same event.

Things only mentioned once

Let’s revisit this idea that some things are only mentioned once. When you have these, you can only decide how these are defined then it becomes a definition. There are several situations in the Bible of things that only appear one time and without them, we would not have a lot of insight. One example of this is Steven the  Martyr’s sermon to the high priest in Acts 7. Here they take Steven and he gives the religious leadership a lesson in their own history and theology that they missed. Even just the structure and thought process of what he says has major implications on prophecy that would be missed if not looked at. But there are several details that give us insight.

One example of this is when Abraham is called by God. We read the message and it seems clear that God told him to go and Abraham instantly follows the word of God. We think of Abraham as the father of faith and someone so is listening to the voice of God. But when you get to Acts 7, Steven brings up the fact the Abraham didn’t go right away.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,

Genesis 12:1-5 ESV

2 And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.

Acts 7:2-4 ESV

That is just a subtle moment, but there is one that has even more impact on theology. We won’t focus on the implication but instead, the basic conclusion is drawn from the text. We may be familiar with the story of Moses. He goes out, sees his people being abused, stands up for them, and then flees. But there is something that is missed that Steven fills in for us.

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

Exodus 2:11-15 ESV

22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. … 35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’–this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.

Acts 7:22-30, 35 ESV

There becomes a reflection that Moses had a calling that he was going to bring God’s people out of Egypt even before the burning bush. But the people rejected Moses so he had to leave for 40 years before they got that chance again. To think they could have ended their slavery 40 years earlier if they would have accepted what God was planning. This happens again when the spies go into the promised land and return with reports. The people are too scared to go and now they have to wait another 40 years. If they would have listened, they could have gone into the promised land 80 years earlier than they actually did with Moses leading at the age of 40. Instead, it took years for them to get into the promised land and it wasn’t even the original generation that it was promised too.

Signal moments in the Bible

There are even more passages that bring up questions that are just a single passage with no direct or clear connection to other things in the Bible. For instance who were the magicians who opposed Moses when he visited Pharaoh? There is speculation that their names are in the Bible in the new testament. But they would also be people who confronted Moses when he came down from the mountain. Either way, we are left with this:

8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

2 Timothy 3:8 ESV

While we are here let’s look at some really strange verse about angels. I won’t get into the theological issues here. But there are some verses that are only mentioned once and that is all we get on the issue. How we interpret them really changes our theological view on specific things:

1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:1-2 ESV

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

Matthew 22:29-30 ESV

Not to mention there are even verses about God that are only used once. These verses do have other passages that talk about similar things, but they directly state a truth that we wouldn’t get because of how direct they are.

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17 ESV

8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8 ESV

Of course, everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. But few look at the verse that comes right after it. After in Genesis 4:17-26, Cain builds a city and names it after his son, it goes on to list some profession about his family and then about a murder that it seems one of his descendants commits. There doesn’t seem to be any other references to Cain and his family elsewhere in the Bible. 

Fact-checking the Bible (Part 1)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV 
  • 2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV 
  • John 8:17-18 ESV 

How do we go about interpreting the Bible? We can talk about literal versus symbolic interpretation. But let’s look at another way of interpreting the Bible. What if you use the Bible to interpret itself? 

When you look at the Bible, everything about love is not just in 1 Corinthians 13. Yes, there is a lot there, but if you rip out those pages of the Bible, everything about love is not lost. Not only that, love is not just in the new testament, it is also in the old testament. This is important, you can look through the Bible and see different areas about the same area. So if you lose something you can find it in other ways. like the core message of the Christian Gospel, it is not just in the new testament.

When you look at Abraham he takes his son up the mountain. There he is instructed to sacrifice him as a sin offering. But when you sit back, this parallels the central ideas of the Christain Gospels. A father who takes his son and sacrifices him as a sin offering. On a surface level, you can pass it over. But the details foreshadow this concept. The question is, are there other places that talk about the same topic? You can find other examples of this model but often they are there and you wouldn’t notice it. 

Now, what about other things? It isn’t a shocking idea that one can find similar ideas through the Bible, you probably heard your pastor do this every Sunday. But what happens when you cross-reference other things? Often this is when people start debates. Does the Bible contradict itself? In general, we have this idea that the Bible is the word of God and it is perfect, so ideally there shouldn’t be any contradictions right? But let’s ask this question, can we find things wrong with the Bible? Of course, when getting into this there is an issue to address. We don’t know everything. Humans are limited so there is an area of flaws that comes into play.

But still, this is an important question to ask now. Are there contradictions in the Bible? You would think this is straightforward either yes or no, but that is not the full store. There is another layer to it. Are we interpreting the Bible right or wrong? When you consider this there are four possibilities. One trick is to take this and layout these options and explore the possibilities that come out of this:

The Bible is rightThe Bible is wrong
We are right12
We are wrong34

The easy areas are 1 and 2; if we can reach the Bible and understand it clearly there is a problem with the Bible. If not they both are good and that’s what we intuitively think. But 3 and 4 are the issue. If you are interpreting things wrong, how do you know if it is truly right or wrong? Of course, we can not always know when we are wrong at hand so these two situations seem identical and probably can’t be distinguished. But let’s explore this a bit. We assume the Bible is always right, otherwise, why do we believe in the Bible? So that means there is a contradiction, then the only way that is true is if we are interpreting things wrong.  This begins an important concept that stems out of Acts 17:10-11:

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. –

Acts 17:10-11 ESV

The fact that the people in Berea are questioning Paul, the go-to guy for theological issues, is important. We should be ready to hear different points of view but we should always make sure that what we are hearing is true. What happens if what you learn contradicts the Bible? Of course, we should feel safe to say that God knows what he is doing so we need to go back and exam things to make sure we understand what it is really saying. 

But how do we know if something is right or wrong? We should cross-reference things to make sure that everything matches and is consistent. It turns out this is not just a useful idea, but it is also a Biblical one:

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV

1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.

John 8:17 ESV

In a legal system, you would hope that you can defend yourself with witnesses. In a just system, if someone is guilty or innocent, there should be facts and a way to tell if it is true or false. Why don’t we apply this idea to scripture? Why not look at scripture and see if we can find other areas of scripture that also agree with the claims being made. But not just one place but multiple places.

But we should dig a bit deeper, why 3 witnesses? Clearly only having one claim seems off and we wouldn’t one to be sent to jail because one person hates us. But why isn’t two enough?

When you think about only having one thing, that is it that is all you have. In a way having one thing is like having a definition, you only argue about what it is but once it is defined, that definition can not change. It’s like calling something a chair; what is a chair? In its basic form, a chair is something that you sit on right? Well not quite because when we think about a chair we generally think about something that has legs and a backrest. Saying a chair is something you sit on is too general to the point that just about anything can be a chair. A stool, a couch, a box, and so on. We wouldn’t necessarily call all of these chairs, which is why they have different names, but once we define what a chair is, we use that definition to distinguish what is and is not a chair.

What about two things? Well, this gets strange because when you have 2 things, they can either be the same or different. But how would you know? This can be a bit abstract to explain without concrete examples (which will come another time). But looking at these situations can be more clear by moving on and coming back to it.

When you have three things you can distinguish between the issue of two. For instance, let’s say you had a circle and a square and these can either be blue or red. But you can’t directly see the color. Instead, you need a special rod that can show you the color. The circle and square could be the same color or not but you can’t directly get at it. Instead, you need this third party to help distinguish the truth. This seems abstract but there are some important situations in the Bible where this comes up.

Sometimes when going through the gospels, you will notice stories that are similar, but yet they have slightly different details. Some will try to claim because the gospels have different details they aren’t reliable and so on. But this is not necessarily the case. Some of the details might be similar but yet when you examine them they clearly show that these situations or events are not the same. On the other hand, these details could be the same but they need the authors to point out different details that they remember that the others don’t. 

Of course, this is a nice thought experiment but we will need to go into the scriptures to see more of how we can apply this.

Jesus didn’t speak English (Part 4)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • John 21:15-17 ESV 
  • Acts 2:1-4 
  • John 2:19-23
  • 1 corinthians 12:4 
  • Genealogy: Genesis 5 
  • Verses about Enoch 
    • Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1:3, Luke 3:37, Hebrew 11:5-6, Jude 1:14-16  

Interesting resources

Why care about manuscripts?

Let’s talk about the following Paradox that occurs in the new testament. When did the disciples receive the holy spirit? Often people will point to the day of Pentecost sighting the following passage:

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Act 2:1-4 ESV

This is a perfectly reasonable answer; but what happens if you start cross referencing the Bible? Was there any other time that it seemed this happened? You end up coming to a passage in John 20 that causes a lot of problems:

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

John 2:19-23 ESV

So which is true? Did they receive the holy spirit in Acts or in John? There are several thoughts on this. Some think what Jesus gave in John was some gift of the spirit and in acts he gave others. This is problematic because the text doesn’t say that and it goes against 1 Corinthians 12:4, Now there are diversities of gifts*, but the same Spirit. Others would say that this event is just symbolic and Jesus is just teaching them a lesson in a dramatic way. Again the text doesn’t say this and personal interpretation if being placed over the Bible. Some say this was a temporary gift of the spirit. 

What can we say for sure? This is where I said it is a paradox, where it seems like a contradiction but it can be explained how it is not. The word used in John 20:22 for recieve is Λαμβάνω (lambanō), the root word means to receive, take, have or catch so there is no new insight here. The insight is understanding that greek grammar is not like english grammar. The word is in the Aorist tense, there is no definition of the kind of action, the emphasis is upon the fact of the action rather than the duration of the action.We do not have this tense in english so when translating it, either you translate it in a way that doesn’t indicate what it really means using proper english tenses, or you find a way to add notes to indicat what is happening.  Now when looking at this, Jesus is not indicating that this is when they receive it, but rather stating a fact of some kind. The main point is that it did not happen in John grammatically so there is no contradiction. 

In other languages, every name has a meaning. Do you translate this name as meaning, or do you transliterate it so people can pronounce it because it is a name. For instance Adam (אָדָם) means man. For the context of Genesis, translating it, man is not a bad idea, but you lose the context that this is an actual person and it becomes more general rather than personal.

 In Genesis 5:1, The word Adam appears two times, once as transliterated as Adam and the other translated as man in the same verse. In a context that is perfect and makes sense in English. If you take the next person Seth (שֵׁת) which means appointed, translating it doesn’t really make since and it is only used as a proper name. So they transliterate it only as a proper name. But what happens if you translate all the names found in Genesis chapter 5. When you go though there are ten names of people in hewbew:

  • Adam – Man
  • Seth – Appointed
  • Enos – mortal (from the root anash: “to be incurable”)
  • Cainan – Sorrow
  • Mahalalel- blessed God
  • Jared- shall come down
  • Enoch- teaching
    • He is only mentioned in genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1:3 and Luke 3:37 as part of a genealogy, in Hebrew 11:5-6 and Jude 1:14-16
  • Methuselah- his death shall bring
    • He has the longest life span if the Bible, when you check the life spans of the people, the year he died was the day Noah went into the ark
  • Lamech – despairing
  • Noah- comfort

When you take just the names as translated, they seem to say a sentence:

 man [is] appointed mortal (or incurable) sorrow, [but the] blessed God shall come down teaching his death shall bring the despairing comfort. 

When you step back, this is the christian gospel within a genealogy in the first book of the Bible. When looking at the original text in their original language, you find interesting situations like this. The question then becomes, is this a coincidence?

Now overall the issue is, how accurate should a translation be? Is the thought of the idea more important than the words being used? Ideally we would want to know what God said and not people’s interpretation of what God said. If God gave you a command about how to keep your family alive you think you would use each detail God would give; just like Noah. You are allowed to decide where the animals of the ark are, but you really shouldn’t change the wood of the boat. You might be able to know where you will sleep but you can’t change the size of the boat. Interpreting the scripture can be done using every detail that God gives but you can’t change what God said. Once you let personal bias enter, you no longer are listening to God but rather imposing what you thought God meant to say. Often the big decision between Christian denominations, are not the literal words of the Bible, but rather what people think the Bible says. If we all have the exact words, we can’t argue what God said, you can only argue what it means.

This is basically the same idea as setting up rules and seeing what happens. If you know God said something, then what does that mean when you apply it to other parts of scripture? What does that mean when you apply it to the real word? If you have theology, and you know how some ideas in the Bible that supposed to work and you come across a scripture seems to contradict what the plan text says, either your interpretation is wrong and it is a paradox because of the rules you set up you can always change your interpretation; or the rules that the Bible gave you truly contradict each other and there is a problem with using the Bible. Ideally when we set up theology we shouldn’t have exceptions. The more you can’t explain something simple means you don’t really have all the pieces needed to describe what is really going on. Everything should be consistent because that is who God is:

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

Hebrewa 13:7-9 ESV

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17 ESV

6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Malachi 3:6 ESV

Just a note for those who do not know, the translation that is used, if not specific is the Modern Literal version. It is not a Jehovah’s witness Bible. Often when you see the word Lord in an English Bible it normally is being translated from the name of God YHVH (this is the English equivalent). The reason why I am using this Bible translation is because it tries to preserve as much of the Greek grammar as English while still being fairly readable. The grammar does not follow normal English at times and feels off but they normally make word with an * to indicate “you plural” or other words in Greek that we don’t have in English. For example the word For has several Greek words that can be translated as For but have slightly different uses in Greek that wouldn’t make a difference in English. Instead of translating it as just for they use For*, or For or *For. It is a non-profit translation that tries to make the translation process as clear as possible in English. They often show what was supplied in English that can’t be found in the Greek clearly and have translation notes explaining why specific features are there. It is also open source so if mistakes are found that have bias towards interpretation rather than plain Greek text, they can be submitted to help revise the text if the mistake found helps render the pure text into English better. 

Jesus didn’t speak English (Part 3)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • John 21:15-17
  • Acts 2:1-4
  • John 2:19-23
  • Matthew 2:1-2 

So why do we care?

So why do we care about translational stuff; who cares if we have multiple English translated? It turns out, they add some nuance that you wouldn’t notice. It can take a whole sentence to describe one Greek word. For instance take the following passage:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17 ESV

Why did Peter cry the third time? Nothing changed because he just said I love you 3 times. You might say it’s because Peter denied him three times and Jesus is restoring him. There is nothing wrong with that interpretation and in a symbolic way, that is what is going on. Well it turns out in Greek, he says two different words for love. The first two times is ἀγαπάω (agapaō) which is which is the general form of love used in the bible, the kind we are all supposed to love one another with. The second time he uses φιλέω (phileō) which is a personal or brotherly love. This second time Jesus took it from a general sense to a more personal level. Now keep in mind, most of these translational differences do not impact the overall meaning of what is being intended but give smaller insights into what was being expressed. Because of this, no English translation is going to be one hundred percent accurate in every place because different translators will have different biases in what they think about emphasis, how readable they are trying to make it or how technical it is. Often Greek word order does not always match up with English, some words we do not have direct translations of and some Greek grammar does not exist in English. 

Let’s talk about the following Paradox that occurs in the new testament. When did the disciples receive the holy spirit? Often people will point to the day of Pentecost sighting the following passage:

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Act 2:1-4 ESV

This is a perfectly reasonable answer; but what happens if you start cross referencing the bible? Was there any other time that it seemed this happened? You end up coming to a passage in John 20 that causes a lot of problems:

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

John 2:19-23 ESV

So which is true? Did they receive the holy spirit in Acts or in John? There are several thoughts on this. Some think what Jesus gave in John was some gifts of the spirit and in acts he gave others. This is problematic because the text doesn’t say that and it goes against 1 Corinthians 12:4, John 3:31-36, 1 Corinthians 12:4, John 14:16, Ephesians 1:13-14, Now there are diversities of gifts*, but the same Spirit. Others would say that this event is just symbolic and Jesus is just teaching them a lesson in a dramatic way. Again the text doesn’t say this and personal interpretation if being placed over the bible. Some say this was a temporary gift of the spirit. 

What can we say for sure? This is where I said it is a paradox, where it seems like a contradiction but it can be explained how it is not. The word used in John 20:22 for recieve is Λαμβάνω (lambanō), the root word means to receive, take, have or catch so there is no new insight here. The insight is understanding that greek grammar is not like english grammar. The word is in the Aorist tense, “ there is no definition of the kind of action, the emphasis is upon the fact of the action rather than the duration of the action.” We do not have this tense in english so when translating it, either you translate it in a way that doesn’t indicate what it really means using proper english tenses, or you find a way to add notes to indicat what is happening.  Now when looking at this, Jesus is not indicating that this is when they receive it, but rather stating a fact of some kind. The main point is that it did not happen in John grammatically so there is no contradiction.

There are some things you should know about translations. Because other languages do not all have the same words that English uses or the same grammatical usage; some words need to be added to help the text make sense to the English reader. You might think this is crazy “how could you add to the word of God?” You would think that until you realize simple words like ‘of,’ ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘for’ and so on are often added otherwise you wouldn’t understand the context of what is being said. Often bible translation will try to find ways to indicate this to readers by having words be in italics or they will use [brackets] and try to come up with ways to show this. Take the following verse from several translations for an example (Matthew 2:1-2):

  • [Mat 2:1-3 KJV] 1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
  • [Mat 2:1-3 NKJV] 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard [this], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
  • [Mat 2:1-3 ESV] 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
  • [Mat 2:1-3 NASB] 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard [this,] he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
  • [Mat 2:1-3 WEB] 1 Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Something else to know, there are three major thought processes that are used to translate the greek or hebrew. The first is a formal or literal translation. This tries to take the literal language and translate it word for word as close to the original language as possible. Generally this can be hard because word order and grammar in the original language don’t always line up with english. This can cause some issue whether or not you rearrange the sentence structure or do you use one word for each greek word or do you allow synonyms?

Another way is a thought for thought translation which tries to get an idea of what the writer is saying and express it into english. This helps produce a readable translation that is nice in english. The problem is you need to interpret this and you bring in translation bias based on doctrinal or other bias.

Sometimes they try to make a Dynamic translation which tries to keep the text word for word but update measurements or terms that we don’t have. Such as a denir being a measure of money after working for some time. So instead of this, translate it based on the idea of what the measurement is or translate things into distances that are familiar with imperial units.

Jesus didn’t speak English (Part 2)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  •  Psalm 12:6-7  ESV

Interesting resources

Are the New Testament manuscripts reliable?

Let’s talk about the New Testament. There is a large amount of debate about when the writings were done and what is the date of the oldest manuscripts we have where written. There are some things to understand. When we talk about the writing of the manuscript and the oldest copy we have, they are not the same thing. When a writer writes, their work is copied and then copied again. The date of writing is considered fixed (although which date to fix it on maybe debated). We might not have their first copy of the first copy of the first copy. We might have the tenth copy down the line. The question is, how much time passed between the first copy and the last copy we currently have. Two days is not a big deal, two thousand years is. 

Comparing the New Testament

The last of the writings of the New Testament was completed around or before 100AD by John the disciple (exactly is debated). Some people will put the date earlier than this but this is generally the upper limit. From there he wrote, his letters were passed around and the earliest copies we have of his writers are generally considered to be no greater than 40-50 years (though this is debated by skeptics). This seems rather large until you realize that there are over 5,000 manuscripts that can be dated to be copied around that time. Now compare this to The Gallic War which talks about Caesar’s military campaign in Europe. This is clearly a historical event and the writings tell us information about Caesar, a person we can agree lived and had a large influence on the world. There was a gap of about 950 years from the original manuscripts to the oldest and we have the total number is around 251. By volume there are more manuscripts that talk about Jesus life than Caesar’s military campaign and here is a table that compares other ancient sources [a bigger list can be found here]:

AuthorWorkDate Written Time Gap # of copies
HomerIliad800 BC4001,800+
Caesar Gallic Wars100-44 BC 950251
Demosthenes Speeches300 BC 1,100+ (1,400) 340 
Greek N.T. Manuscripts50-100 AD 50 5,838 
Greek New Testament Early Translations18,524 

When comparing the different ancient manuscripts, the New Testament has the most manuscripts with the smallest gap between when they were written and the originals. Just comparing the Gallic Wars, there are nearly 1000 years between the original work and our earliest surviving work. Assuming the game of telephone has any relevance, the New Testament is more reliable simply because the earliest manuscripts dating within a generation of the original authors. Not to mention the vast volume of manuscripts that can be compared to see their accuracy. 

Other considerations

It doesn’t end there. Many of the Greek manuscripts were translated into other languages around that time. This helps get a sense of what the original manuscripts said because you can cross-reference the languages to see what a translator may or may not include. Many of the early church leaders wrote books that reference portions of the new testament so if there is a problem about “was that originally there” then we can check their writing to see if they knew it was in the scriptures back then.

There are other sources that can be linked to the times of the bible. Flavius Josephus was a historian who was born just after the crucifixion and lived during the time of Acts. He had access to the Roman libraries being an important figure. He wrote about some of the details talked about in the new testament such as the Pharisees and Sadducees and the temple in Jerusalem. He also talked about John the baptist’s being killed. It also mentions “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.”  A letter was found from Mara-Bar Serapion who talks about the death of Socrates, Plate, and “The Wise King of the Jews” who had “the new laws which he enacted” which connects these people to God’s judgment. Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian, makes a reference to Jesus in one of his writings in the Annals of Cornelius Tacitus. The worship of Christ is mentioned in Pliny’s Letter to Trajan. These are just a handful of places. 

6 The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

Psalms 12:6 ESV

Jesus didn’t speak English (Part 1)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Aramaic: Daniel 2- 7 and Ezra 4-7 

Interesting resources

The Bible wasn’t written in English

This may come as a shock to some but Jesus did not speak English. The old testament was written in Hebrew and some portions in Aramaic. Aramaic is used in only a handful of places, the most notable place would be parts of Daniel 2- 7 and Ezra 4-7. There are other words and phrases used but overall the rest of the old testament was written in Hebrew. For a time, the text was originally in paleo Hebrew script which was a picture form of the characters.

After the Babylonian captivity the letters changed into the characters form known today. The old testament in Hebrew is referred to as the Tanakh. The first five books Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers are called the Torah (or Pentateuch), the Law of Mose, Moses’ Law, or simply the Law in different places in the bible.

Before this time of the New Testament, Alexander the Great conquered the land of Israel and the surrounding territories. During that time Greek culture was enforced as the main language and many people started speaking in greek; specifically koine greek. The language of Greeks became so dominant that the Jewish communities wanted a translation of the Old Testament in greek. This translation is called the Septuagint (LXX). This was then used by the church as a common old testament in greek. The new Testament was written completely in greek (with some borrowed words). Often the new testament writers quote from the Septuagint 

The question is how reliable are these writings? This question can be broken into a few parts: Is the text Inspired? How do we know? Is the text we have now the same as when it was written? How do we know it has not been changed? Are there any contradictions? First, we will deal with the question “how do we know the bible is the same and has not changed?”

Old testament scribble traditions

First looking at the old testament, In ancient times, the old testament was copied by the scribes of Israel. The people were educated and trained for this job. Some give the idea, well the bible was retold over and over again and the meaning has been lost like the game of telephone. This did not happen with the bible simply because of this process of writing down. The scribes had (and still do) a long list of rules about how manuscripts are to be copied down:

 Scribal copying rules 19

  1. Must be written on the skins of clean animals  
  2. Must be prepared for synagogue use by a Jew only
  3. Must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals.  
  4. Each skin must contain an exact number of columns, which must be equal throughout the entire manuscript  
  5. The length of each column must be between 48 and 60 lines.  
  6. The breadth of each column must consist of 30 letters  
  7. The whole copy must be first lined, if 3 words were written without a line it was considered worthless.  
  8. The ink must be black only and prepared according to a special recipe that was used only for copying of scripture 
  9.  The original used to make the copy must be authentic and must not be deviated from the copyist and the scribe must say each word aloud as he wrote it.  
  10. No word or letter could ever be written from memory, the scribe must always look first at the original before writing his copy.  
  11. A space of a hair or thread must intervene between each consonant  
  12. A space of the breadth of 9 consonants must come between each section  No word must ever touch another  
  13. A space of 3 lines must come between every book  
  14. The 5th book of Moses (Deuteronomy) must end exactly with a line  Before copying, the scribe must wash his whole body  While copying, the scribe must only write the name of God with a pen newly dipped into the ink  
  15. Each time the scribe came across the Hebrew word for God, he had to wipe his pen clean. And when he came across the name of God, Jehovah (YHWH), he had to wash his whole body before he could write it. 
  16.  Should a king address the scribe while writing that name he must take no notice of him  
  17. If a sheet of parchment had one mistake on it, the sheet was condemned. If there were three mistakes found on any page, the whole manuscript was condemned. 
  18. Each scroll had to be checked within thirty days of its writing, or it was considered unholy.  
  19. Every word and every letter was counted. If a letter or word was omitted, the manuscript was condemned.

That is not enough, every single detail is copied, even stylistic details. There are different manuscripts with different traditional styles. They would often format the text so they have the same amount of letters and lines as previous ones, they would often elongate letters at the end of a line so there are no uneven lines and start a new line when the words do not fit. Sometimes the letters were decorated and these decorative markings were kept exactly the same. These do have variations because different scribble groups did have different styles they keep up. But this only changed the format and detailing of the text, not the words of the text. 

Often if mistakes were made in the text, the whole thing was destroyed and set aside as unfit for use. When writings containing the name of God were demanded they would often place them in genizahs which held the manuscripts for letters. These Genizahs sometimes held other documents but often were special places ordained by a temple.

Interesting side notes

There was a built-in spell-check system in each writing. Each letter in Hebrew has a number associated with it. What the priest would do is count up the total value of these letters and check to see if they matched previous copies. If not, then that means either the person counted wrong or there was a mistake and often the copies had to be reviewed by others within a time frame before it was considered good to use.

One thing to keep in mind, in those days, the religious leaders had a large emphasis on interpreting the text. Often you see them acting as religious lawyers and each letter of the text was extremely important because that is where loops or strict traditions come from. You can see this happen often when the Pharisees try to ask Jesus theological questions. They took every bit of the text as holy and important and to preserve the text was of high importance because their entire way of life depended on it.

What is Truth? (Part 1)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • John 18:37-38 ESV 
  • Matthew 2 ESV 

Interesting resources

The fundamental question of life

No matter who you are, what your background is, or what you think of now; humanity has always been trying to understand things. We all want to know what is the truth and how to find it. These questions can be anything from what does it mean to be alive, how should we organize society, or even how does the universe work? On a basic level, there are 5 fundamental questions that have plagued humanity:

  1. Who am I (what’s my worth)?
  2. Where did I come from?
  3. What is my purpose?
  4. What happens when I die?
  5. How do I tell right from wrong?

These questions fundamentally determine a lot of things depending on how you answer them. If you think you are not worth much, how easy will it be for you to be a leader? If what you do is not contributing to society, why work? On the other hand, if you are so important, are other people equal to you? If you are the only thing that matters, is it wrong to treat other people like animals? 

What happens when you do? If this life is all there is and there is nothing else, why not go crazy now? Do everything you want because this is the only chance you get. Once you die, there are no consequences, right? But what if this was not the end? What if after you die something else happens. Would that change how you live now? Would you treat people differently if you were accountable for your life even after you died?

Depending on how you ask and answer these questions affects a lot about what you want, what you believe, and how you act. The search for truth is one that people have grappled with for as long as there have been people. Yet the Bible sits in a controversial position. Does the Bible contain the truth? Is it only part of the truth or is it the whole truth?

This question is found over and over again through the bible. One of the most pivotal points is when Jesus is in front of Pilate. The people are trying to arrest him and have him executed because he claimed to be God and could save them from their sins. This is a big deal. They arrest him and send him to Pilote so they can have him arrest him. While talking to Jesus some people want Jesus as their king and during the conversation, this happens:

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”…

John 18:37-38 ESV

This simple question, what is truth, holds a great amount of weight. Because there is a lot leading up to this question, we need to explore it a bit more. If we want to ask this question, we need to explore a bit about the Bible. This way we can ask some questions about whether or not the Bible may contain any truth at all. After this, we can then explore what it says. 

What is the truth?

May religions and philosophers have tried to come up with different ways to ask what truth is. The bible is no different. There are many truth claims about the bible and many people claim things about the bible. But in order to give this a fair look, we need to take away what people say about the bible and look at what it actually says. The best way is to put away what we think we know about the bible and approach it with a fresh set of eyes.

“The only barrier to truth, is the presumption that you already have it.”

Dr. Chuck Missler

Oftentimes if we come in thinking the bible is false, thinking we already know what something says or think it says something else, we won’t be able to tell if it has any truth. For this reason, we will try to do a few things and ask the following questions.

  1. What does the Bible actually say? (Can you point out a chapter and verse?)
  2. What is the context around the passage? (what does it say immediately before and after this verse, does that change anything)
  3. What is the historical and or cultural context that it is addressing? (What we think today is not the only way people think in history)

We are not living in Judea around 30 A.D when the Romans are in charge. We have laws that aren’t the same and concepts that those people won’t think are possible. Imagine explaining a cellphone to someone to someone back then. It is a small box that can access all the world’s knowledge. It can let you talk to someone far away without seeing them. It lets you buy something from someone you have never met and doesn’t live in your country. As far as we know, their understanding of electricity is lighting when it rains and maybe that static shock you get from rubbing your feet on the ground. We need to be clear to understand what the bible actually says in order to start seeing what claims it might make about truth.

Of course, I don’t want to sneak up on you and trick you. We will take a bias that the bible is right and is the truth. But we still need to accurately see what it says. Often many people make claims about the bible that the bible never says and then claim the bible is wrong because of it. For instance, you heard of the Three Wise Men who came to Jesus in the manger right? Well, it turns out there were not 3 wise men anywhere in the new testament. First things first, where they’re even wise men in the bible? Well yes, you can find it here:

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, … 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1, 11 ESV

When you read in the passage, it does not say there were three of them. Reading the context, what it does say is that there are three gifts so often people connect that one gift came from each of the wise men, and so on. Just from the text, we see that this seems to be a miss conception. Now, of course, we could get into the history of the world and that is the word for wise men is μάγος (mä’gos G3097 ) which relates to some Medo-Persian priest and has its roots in the old testament. But we will leave this be for now and ignore any cultural implication. The point of this is that traditions have come up and it doesn’t seem like those traditions are rooted in what the Bible actually says. If we want to see if the Bible claims any truth, we will need to see what it actually says.

If God is a loving God (Part 1)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Matthew 22:37-40 ESV 
  • John 21:15-17 ESV 
  • Luke 22:31-34 ESV 
  • Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:49-50,John 18:10
  • Matthew 10:37-38 ESV 
  • Luke 14:25-27 ESV 

Interesting resources

Words for love

What is love?

So first things first, what is love? Often in English, we have a problem when talking about love. You would say you love pizza, your dog, your wife, and your child. But the love you have for a pizza is not the same you have for your wife. Neither is the love you have for your child and your dog. Remember that Jesus didn’t speak English, he was speaking Greek. So to understand what love is and what he meant by it, is important.

Agápe ἀγάπη [G26, G25 ]: general word for love

(The list would be too big to put here)

Phileō  φιλέω G5368: affectionate regard, friendship, usually “between equals” (brotherly love)

Matthew 10:37,23:6,26:48, Mark 14:44, Luke 20:46, 22:47, John 11:3, 11:36, 13:35, 12:25, 15:19, 16:27, 20:2, 21:13, 21:15, 21:16, 21:17, Romans 12:10, 1 Corinthians 16:22,  1 thessalonians 4:9, hebrew 13:1, 1 Peter 1:22, 2 Peter 1:7, Titus 3:15, Revelation 3:19, 22:15

Philadelphia φιλαδελφία G5360: Brotherly love. 

Rom 12:10, 1Th 4:9,  Heb 13:1, 1Pe 1:22, 2Pe 1:7

Pragma πρᾶγμα pragma G4229: Some people view this as an idea for love that is used often to denote commitment. Often something that is binding between people who have a mature relationship and work together. 

Matthew 18:19, Luke 1:1, Acts 5:4, Romans 16:2, 1 corinthians 6:1, 2 corinthians 7:11, 1 thessalonians 4:6, Hebrews 6:18,10:1,11:2

Storge στοργή storgē G5387: tenderness, love, affection commonly felt by parents for child

Romans 12:10

Éros ἔρως: love, mostly of sexual passion or intimate love (not used in the Bible)

Philautia (philos + auto + -ia)  self love, love for one’s own self (not used in the Bible)

What is Agape?

The bible doesn’t always use the word agape (or agapao) when it says, love. This makes for an important distinction. Like, for instance, take this familiar passage in the bible:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40 ESV

The word loved used both times here is agapao. The view of love here is to welcome someone in a loving way. Often this verse is quoted as being the golden rule, but many people get it wrong. Many people quote the golden rule has “do unto others as they do unto you.” This is not what Jesus says even if it sounds similar. On the one hand, if you do unto others as they do to you, if someone hits you, you should hit them back. If someone gives you a gift, you need to give them a gift back. It’s more of a balance system where everything is zero and no one owes anything or should back anything whether it is good or bad. Of course, that is not what Jesus is getting at.

 If you do unto others as you would like done unto you, then what the other person does, does not reflect your choices. If someone hits you, you don’t hit them back because they deserve it. You would not like to be harmed so you don’t do it back. You get someone a gift, not because you owe them, but because you would like someone to be thinking of you and go out of their way for you. 

Now, on the other hand, the word love comes from other words in the new testament as well. For instance, let’s take this passage. 

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17 ESV

In this passage, it seems rather strange that Jesus keeps asking the same question. But if you check the greek, he does something subtle that many translations don’t convey well. The first two times he says, do you agape me. The last time he says do you phileo me. Each time Peter says love, he uses the word phileo. But it isn’t until the last time when Jesus switches this that something changes. See the first type of love is a general love, it’s a moral love that we should have. Not because of what the other person has done, but because that is what we should want from each other. But phileo is a different type of love. It’s the love of a strong bond. See the first two times Jesus is saying, do you love me in general, the last time he is asking of his commitment. 

Remember that earlier Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times. Peter insisted that he would not. 

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” 

Luke 22:31-34 ESV

When you follow this all through, Peter even cuts off the ear of the high priest as if it was an act showing how loyal he was (Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:49-50,John 18:10). Just a few hours later he was confronted with reality and when the time came to put his commitment to the deed after Jesus was gone, he backed out. See here in Luke 22, when he asked Peter, do you love me, Jesus is about to be gone. Peter can’t just have a love when he’s around, he needs to have this love when Jesus is gone. Jesus gave him a chance to restore his agape love by forgiving him 3 times for denying him. But he is calling Peter to a greater phileo.

What is Phileo?

Now, on the other hand, we know that the word love is not enough to cover everything that Jesus says in the new testament. There is more to it than what English can provide. 

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 

Matthew 10:37-38 ESV

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 

Luke 14:25-27 ESV

See in both cases this sounds extreme and harsh, I thought Jesus was all about loving your neighbor? Now he is saying we need to hate our own family? The massage in Luke is a bit challenging because of the word hate (G3404). It is more hated by comparison. See the idea is that compared to God, everyone else should be at the bottom of the list. It is not that you don’t like your family, but rather, because you love God so much, be it comparison it is as if he is 20 on a scale from 1 to 10 and everyone else is at -5. 

In the Matthew passage, the word love here is phileo. It is a loving commitment that two brothers would have for each other. The kind of loving bond you would have if you were closer than just family. It’s the type of love where if you had a choice of several people in the room, you would pick this person because of your loving bond for them. Some people might say, well that is so harsh, why do I have to pick God over my family? Many of us have been blessed to where we don’t have to face this issue. But not everyone can freely worship God openly. In some places in the world throughout different times in history, being a Christian is not accepted as much as we have it. Some people had to endure a culture where switching religions is an identity that means you are rejecting your own family. It means you have now declared yourself as an enemy to the state. It means that now the emperor’s soldiers can now legally take you to the colosseum and have you killed for entertainment. It is not that you reject your family after you become a Christian. You still agape them as you should. But you know that your ultimate love is in Jesus Christ. You know that you may still reach out and try to help them but you need to be careful because they may not have the best intentions for you.

I once heard this story that illustrates this more than anything. “One time a man went fishing and took his son and his son’s friend. As they were out on the water in a boat the waves started to pick up. The two children went overboard. The water was moving so fast that both children were going to be swept away and killed in seconds. The father knew that he had only moments to have one child. Either his son or his son’s friend. In a split decision, he reached into the water and saved her son’s friend.” Why would he do that? That is a terrible father, right? It turns out the father knew his son and knew that if his son died he would be in heaven. But he was not convinced about the friend. He knew that if the friend died he would most likely be in hell. For a Christian death is not final, when we die we will see Jesus and be united with our families. But for those who are not, that is a different story. The father looked at the greater picture knowing that he agaped his son, but he phileoed the greater will of what God has in faith that he will one day see his son.

If God is a loving God (Part 2)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • John 3:16 ESV 
  • 1 John 4:7-8 ESV
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 ESV
  • Romans 5:8 ESV
  • Exo 14:10-14;16:1-4, Numbers 11:31-32
  • Genesis 1:27 ESV
  • John 1:1-3 ESV 
  • Colossians 1:15-17 ESV
  • Ezekiel 28:12-17 ESV 
  • Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV 
  • 1 Peter 1:19-20 ESV 

How does love work?

So we know that there are different types of love. Now back to the question, if God is a loving God, why is there evil in the world? We know that the bible says God is love 

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

John 3:16 ESV

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

1 John 4:7-8 ESV

It is clear that we don’t fully understand what it means to love someone fully. So we need to understand a bit more about what love is. Of course, the bible says a lot about love. For instance the famous love chapter in Corinthians:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends… 

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 ESV

From here we find that there are 16 qualities of love. The question is what do all these need? 

  • 1) Patient
  • 2) Kind
  • 3) not envy
  • 4) boast
  • 5) not arrogant
  • 6) rude
  • 7) does not insist on its own way
  • 8) not irritable
  • 9) Not resentful
  • 10) not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • 11) rejoices with the truth
  • 12) bears all things
  • 13) believes all things
  • 14) Hopes all things
  • 15) endures all things.
  • 16) Love never ends

In order to be patient, there needs to be a situation in which you are not patient. In order to not wrong others, there need to be things that are right and wrong. When you look at all of these, there needs to be a choice. In order to endure all things, you need to stand up and choose to suffer from someone. You need to decide that is what is going to happen. If it was perfect love, it would never stop. There wouldn’t be anything that a person could do that would stop you from loving them. 

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 ESV

See in the beginning, God chooses to love you above anything else, despite what you do. When you are reading in the old testament, here is God loving this nation Israel so much he is willing to work with them even after they turned to idol worship. Even after they sent them prophets to correct them. Even after he took them into the wilderness and saved them from slavery and yet they still complained (Exo 14:10-14;16:1-4, Numbers 11:31-32). Even after God provided for them through great miracles, they still complained about their situation. But even still God decided to work with them because of his love.

If God is a loving God….

Now we are striking at the heart of this question. In order to have love, we need a choice. When you want to marry someone you stand at the altar before God and say that you will love this person above everyone else that you could possibly love. You choose to pick them and say no to everyone else. Just as God is the love we are a reflection of this.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

Genesis 1:27 ESV

Now, this is important because we are made in His image, we also can love. But in order to love, we need the option to not love. We need to choose him to love. This is a fundamental issue. If God takes away our will, then he takes away our capacity to love. Fundamentally, if we are made in his image, and he is love, we also need to be able to express love. If he takes this away from us, he takes away a portion of our humanity and his image from us. 

When you get down to it, if God is a love God why is there evil in the world? Well Because God is a loving God, there is evil in the world. If we did not have the option to choose evil rather than good, then we can not love him. This is a paradox, not a contradiction.

Did God create evil?

See this goes back even before the Garden of Eden. When we look at Satan or the devil, did God create him?  

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

John 1:1-3 ESV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

So yes God created Satan. But why would he create something Evil? Why would he create something that is destined to cause harm? Well, it turns out he did create Satan to be evil.

12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;… On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;… 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you… 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…

Ezekiel 28:12-17 ESV

12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 

Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV

See at the core, God created Satan, but he wasn’t meant to be evil. God is a God of love and Satan chooses to reject God’s love and go his own way. Similarly, we have this same problem with Adam and Eve. Why would God put the tree of knowledge of Good and evil in the garden? If he knew they would mess up, why put it there? Because God is a loving God. If God did not give Adam and Eve a chance to walk away from him, he is not allowing them to exercise love. But see God understands this and no matter what man does, he will always have a plan to restore the relationship between him and man:

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 KJV

19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 

1 Peter 1:19-20 ESV