Do we have access to the original Biblical languages?

Americans today can chose from a wide range of Bible translations. The Bible has been translated into every major language in the world. Few countries have no access to a copy of the Bible in their predominant language. Despite the widespread availability of Scriptures in modern languages, there is a small group of skeptics who insist no one knows what is really in God’s Word because we no longer have access to the original Biblical languages.

We know the original writings of the apostles and prophets were lost long ago. No one has the parchments that Paul wrote on. No one has the stones the Ten Commandments were recorded on. What we do have are thousands of ancient copies of the original writings. Certain skeptics say the ancient copies do not reflect the original languages of the prophets and apostles. Are those languages lost to history, thus making it impossible for Christians to every really understand the Bible?

The Bible was written in three languages. Most of the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew. Most of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek. Small portions of the Old and New Testaments were written in Aramaic. All three of these languages are dead languages no longer spoken today. However, like Latin, though no one speaks the Biblical languages they are far from inaccessible.

Some of the many ancient copies of the Old and New Testaments were written within a couple hundred years of the conclusion of each Testament and in the same language as the originals. Language changes over time, but a language does not change beyond comprehension in a few hundred years. Take English as an example. English of the early 1800’s would be very understandable to any English speaker today. English of the early 1600’s would sound strange but would remain mostly understandable. The English of the early 1400’s would require more work and thought, but would still be broadly understandable to an educated English speaker. Likewise, the early copyists and translators of the Bible would have had no problems understanding the original language.

Greek and Hebrew have been studied for millennia. Scholars have a good understanding of how the languages developed and changed over the years. Bible students today have access to ancient copies of the Bible and the works of ancient scholars who studied the Bible in the decades immediately following the writing of the Biblical books. The Bible itself gives us every reason to expect the older portions to be understandable, since the authors of the New Testament frequently quoted, explained and applied the Old Testament to first century believers. In addition, the argument that we cannot understand the Bible because we do not have access to the original languages would also eliminate our ability to understand many ancient historians and philosophers, like Plato and Socrates.

We can have absolute confidence in the accessibility, accuracy and understandability of the Bible today. God’s Word has been carefully preserved throughout the centuries. The Words of God given by Him through His apostles and prophets is still available to people today.

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If God is Sovereign Why Pray?

God rules over everything, He is the ultimate authority in the universe and sovereign over all. The nature of God’s sovereignty has been frequently discussed and debated by Christians for hundreds of years. Some have said God does not always accomplish His will in this world and the fulfillment of His purposes is dependent on the actions of men. For those who believe God limits His interference in the affairs of mankind, there is no tension between prayer and sovereignty. However, others believe God’s will is always being accomplished and He has predetermined all events that will happen. For those who hold this view of God’s sovereignty there exists a real tension between the function of prayer and the will of God. 

The Bible strongly affirms the sovereignty of God. In Ephesians 1:11 we are told that God “accomplisheth all things after the counsel of His own will.”  Isaiah 46:10-11 God says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” A literal reading of these verses leads to the conclusion that what God has determined to do He will definitely acomplish.  

If God will always do what He plans, what is the role of prayer in history, human lives and the plan of God? Does prayer change the mind of God? Does prayer serve any purpose in accomplishing God’s will or in changing the events of this world? Does God really answer prayer or does He just do what He had always planned on doing in the first place? These are not trivial questions. They cut to the heart of prayer and the believer’s relationship with God. 

The Bible also strongly affirms the effectiveness of prayer. James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” In Matthew 7 Jesus promises that if we ask, God will give what we ask. James 4 says, “You have not because you ask not.” The Bible describes a real connection between praying and receiving. The Old Testament gives examples of men like Moses and Abraham who prayed and changed the mind of God. Without a doubt God answers the prayers of His children. He changes His plans and gives good things in response to the prayers of His people. The Bible teaches that God genuinely answers the prayers of His children and He always accomplish His purposes.

If the only purpose of prayer was to get stuff from God, then any attempt to answer this question would be frustrating and ultimately futile. Prayer is about more than making requests of God. Prayer is a vital part of the believers relationship with his Heavenly Father. Genuine prayer includes praise, confession and thankfulness, as well as asking. God delights in answering the prayer of His children, but God delights even more in having a relationship with them. John 15 makes answered prayer dependent upon a healthy relationship with God. Prayer is all about relationship with God. The incredible privilege of the beleiver is to personally speak to the Sovereign God who rules all things. God graciously promises to answer the prayers of His people. 

In the end there is still some unresolved tension because we are not able to fully understand the Bible’s truths about God. He is in control of all things. He does work all things according to His will and He does answer the prayer of His people. The Bible affirms all these truths, and so Christians joyfully affirm them as well. We pray with faith, patience and hope because it is our privilege to do so, knowing we have a gracious Father who will hear and answer. 

What is the best way to begin reading the Bible?

The New Year is right around the corner and people are thinking about their resolutions to start off the year on the right foot. Many Christians will resolve to read their Bibles more faithfully. Those who have tried reading the Bible in a year know that the task is difficult, and unfortunately, often a failure. As you look at the Bible and consider reading it this year, is there a better way to begin that will help keep the reader on track?

The best way to begin and continue reading the Bible is to start with the right understanding of the importance of the Word of God. The Bible is the only record of God’s communication to mankind. Scripture is God’s words written down and kept for the benefit of every person. The Bible brings sinners to saving faith. The Bible teaches men what God expects of them. The Bible tells God’s purpose for creation. The Bible declares God’s commands to mankind. The Bible unfolds the plan God has for humanity. The Bible reveals who God is and what God is like. A knowledge of the Bible is essential to answered prayer. The Bible is challenging to read at times, but it is always essential if the child of God is going to have a close relationship with God. Read the Bible because you cannot do without it.

Before you begin reading, pray for God to help you comprehend what you are reading. The Bible is a supernatural and spiritual book that can only be rightly understood when the Holy Spirit opens the understanding.

Before you read, have the right expectations of the Bible. Do not expect the Bible to be like a magazine, newspaper or novel. The Bible is a collection of various books that contain history, Jewish poetry, parables, prophecies, commands and personal letters. The Bible contains types of literature that are unfamiliar and, at times, difficult. Scripture deals with difficult subjects that will not be easily understood. Expect to face some challenges along the way.

Plan to read the Bible the same way you would eat an elephant, one bite at a time. The book of Genesis is fascinating, but many people would struggle to spend the three hours necessary to read all of Genesis in one sitting. Read the Bible in bites small enough for you to handle. Find a reading program that is doable for you and it will be a great help to remaining faithful. Though it seems to be a massive book filled with strange ideas, the average reader can read the entire Bible in about seventy hours. By spending one hour and twenty minutes every week, you can read the entire Bible in a year. Spend fifteen minutes a day reading Scripture and you can read through the whole Bible in one year.

Determine ahead of time not to let a missed day or two keep you from continuing. Many drop out of their reading plan because they get behind. Often those who have the goal to read the Bible in a specific period of time get frustrated and quit when they miss a few days. Instead of trying to reach a deadline, commit to reading every day. If you miss a day, read the next day and just keep plugging away.

Most importantly, reading the Bible is very important, but you cannot just read it. Read to know your God better. Read to have your life changed. The Bible is the authoritative decree of the God of the universe. He gave you the Bible so you would know Him. He gave the Bible to tell you what He expects of you. Submit yourself to the instructions of the Bible and let its rules guide the way you live.

Many tools and resources are available to help you read through the Bible at any pace you desire. Smartphone apps like You Version offer daily Bible reading plans and a wide range of downloadable plans are available here.

Is the world headed towards the extinction of man?

Apocalyptic scenarios usually describe the extinction, or near extinction, of all life on earth. In many fantasy movies and literature the apocalypse leaves only a handful people left scattered around the world. Some believe the Bible predicts a worldwide catastrophe that will essentially wipe out humanity. The Bible’s description of the last years of the earth are truly apocalyptic, including earthquakes, war, famine and plagues, but does the Bible teach that human life will be wiped out? 

The seven years before the return of Jesus is a time of intense judgment known as the Tribulation. Three of the judgments at the beginning of the Tribulation are death, famine and war. In later judgments the Bible begins to describe the death toll. In one judgment a third of all the ships on the seas are destroyed. This could result in the loss of as many as 1 million people. Then the waters of the earth are poisoned and “many men died of the waters.” (Revelation 8:11). Then a massive army of demons destroys one-third of the remaining world population. The death toll from this judgment alone could be as great as two billion people. Then there is a huge earthquake that shakes the whole earth and wipes out many cities of the world. When Jesus returns the armies of the world will unite in rebellion against him. These armies will be annihilated by the conquering Christ.

Though the Bibles does not give enough details to reach a definite number, the death toll during the tribulation could be as high as 3-5 billion people. The loss of human life during the tribulation will be horrific.  Despite the massive loss of life there could still be between 2-4 billion people left on earth when Jesus returns. To put that in a little bit of perspective, the population of the earth was less than 1 billion people until the early 1800’s. In the mid-1920’s earth’s population reached 2 billion people. During the apocalypse the loss of life will be massive, but mankind will be far from extinct, or even endangered. 

God’s plan for this time of terrible judgment is not the elimination of human life. God will work through the terrible events to establish righteousness on the earth. The events of Revelation are tragic on a level never seen since the flood of Noah’s day but there is a reason to hope. The events of the Tribulation are God’s judgment on sin and God’s final call to men to repent. During the tribulation God will send out 144,000 evangelists to preach the gospel to the whole world. He will also send two prophets from heaven to preach in the middle of Jerusalem. These two men gain the attention of the entire world. God will then send angels across the globe to call men to repentance. During the judgments God will also be actively working to bring men to repentance. The horrible cataclysms of the tribulation are a final wake-up call to rebellious humanity. 

The judgments of the tribulation remind humanity, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.” However, God says, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

What were the Urim and Thummim?

In Exodus 28 the Bible tells about a pair objects carried by the high priest of Israel. These mysterious things were called the Urim and the Thummim. The high priest of Israel wore a breastplate that held twelve stones, each one representing a tribe of Israel. Also in the breastplate were the Urim and Thummim. God gave direction to Israel through the Urim and Thummim, but the Bible gives no specifics about what they were or how they were used.

Some ancient Jewish records suggest they glowed (like the Sankara stones in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Others have suggested they were stones with Hebrew letters that spelled out words. No one knows for sure. Some think they were stones, others sticks and others jewels. No one knows what they were made of. The Bible mentions their use a couple times but only in general terms. The most likely possibility is that they were used like lots to determine yes or no answers or to decide between two choices.

Regardless of how they were used, the Urim and Thummim revealed to the leaders of Israel the the will of God. In 1 Samuel 28:6 we are told that God did not answer Saul’s prayer for direction about an army of Philistines. God did not answer, “by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” The only specific instruction about the use of these devices is found in Numbers 27:20. When Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites he was to go before the high priest. The Lord would give direction to Joshua through the Urim and Thummim. “And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” (Numbers 27:21)

One other passage seems to show how the Urim and Thummim were used. In 1 Samuel 23 David is accompanied by a priest while he flees from Saul. David sought the Lord’s direction and, possibly through the Urim and Thummim, learned whether he should attack the Philistines, if Saul would come after him, and if the people of Keilah would betray him. God gave guidance to David through the ministry of the priest and the Urim and Thummim.

After 1 Samuel there is no other reference to the Urim being used. From the last years of Saul’s reign to the end of the Babylonian captivity the Bible makes no mention of the Urim and Thummim. Ezra and Nehemiah contain brief references to these things as part of the return of the high priest of Israel. After that the Bible is completely silent. The increased ministry of the prophets during the days of the kings appears to have ended Israel’s dependence on the Urim and Thummim to find the will of God. With the close of the Old Testament period God no longer reveals His will through the Urim and Thummim.

Where was man during the ice age?

The ice age was a period time during which large portions of the earth were covered in snow and ice. In many places the ice sheets reached nearly to the halfway point between the poles and the equator. In a few places they stretched even farther. In North America much of Canada was under ice. Some glacial fingers crept down into modern day northern Illinois. How did man survive during this challenging time?

The Bible does not specifically mention the ice age nor is it concerned with given a history of all the people of the world. We are not told all the movements of man or all the conditions faced by people across the world. But the Bible’s account of events after the flood provides a solid basis for a plausible explanation of the movement of humanity during the ice age.

The flood of Noah wreaked such havoc on the earth that it significantly altered the shape of continents, the temperature of the oceans and the patterns of weather. The ice age was the result. Climate models have shown that the effects of the flood on the oceans would result in many years of cooler summers and warmer winters in the upper lattitudes. These conditions resultedin the ice age. This ice age lasted only a few hundred years, not the tens of thousands speculated by evolutionists. 

The Genesis account of the Tower of Babel shows that in the decades immediately following the flood most of mankind remained in the Middle East near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. When God supernaturally shattered the single language of man into dozens of languages He also worked to spread men across the globe. Because the ice sheets did not form immediately after the flood the events of the Tower of Babel likely took place early in the ice age. Thus the ice age occurred when the rebounding population of man was spreading out across the world.

The altered climate that made the ice age possible affected the entire globe. Worldwide weather patterns were significantly different, but the entire earth did not experience near-Arctic temperatures. The climates in the lower lattitudes were milder than they are today making them ideal places to live.

After Babel some families settled in and around the Middle East. Most of those who shaped early recorded history traveled south into Palestine and Africa. At the time these places enjoyed very pleasant climates. Even the Sahara desert was a fertile land. Many family groups traveled much farther. Some went south east towards India, southeast Asia and eventually Australia.

Other peoples went northwest towards Europe where the ice age had a profound effect. These effects shaped the housing needs of the people prompting them to live in caves for shelter and warmth during the long winters. The challenges of living closer to the ice sheets probably changed the diet of the people in that area. They may well have had to survive on diets lacking certain important nutritional elements. 

Still others went north east into northern Asia. Like those who went into Europe the ice age presented challenges to their survival. The shorter, cooler summers would have made agriculture difficult or impossible but extensive game could have provided abundant food for the traveling families. The difficulties in raising crops may have been a driving factor in the migration of families across Asia and into the Americas.

Though it seems counter-intuitive the conditions of the ice age would have made travel around the globe easier. Though the average temperatures closer to the poles were colder than they are today the winters were not necessarily more severe. Warmer winters during the early and middle ice age would have made surviving the winter months less difficult than today. Wild game flourished until the late ice age, as evidenced by the large number of ice age animal remains, providing an abundant source of food for semi-nomadic tribes. With so much water trapped in the ice sheets, the lower ocean levels would have facilitated travel between the continents. The Bering Straits may have been traversable on foot or by a short boat journey. The combination of shallower oceans and warmer winters allowed people to walk from Iraq to Texas in a relatively short span of time.

The ice age covered a significant portion of the globe in ice and snow, but it did not make the earth uninhabitable. Many environments on earth were emminently suitable for life, both animal and human. Some men lived near the ice, surviving the cold and adapting to their climate. Some lived in temperate zones and others in equatorial regions. As the post-flood climate stabilized man continued to move around and settle habitable locations. Like the rest of recorded history, during the ice age humanity spread out across the globe. Eventually mankind gained a foothold on every continent but one.

President Washington’s Thanksgiving Declaration

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”
James 1:17

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted’ for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

President George Washington
October 3, 1789

Should Christians pray for America?

With the increase of opposition to Biblical Christianity in America some Christian’s have begun to wonder if we should even be praying for this nation.

Two different rationales are behind this question. Some see the moral corruption of the United States and conclude that it is under the judgment of God. If God is judging America wouldn’t praying for God to bless America be contrary to His will?

Some read the New Testament and realize the world will plummet further and further down in wickedness. The worldwide depravity will increase until it reaches its peak under the reign of the Antichrist. In the end God will bring judgment on the world through  a series of horrible catastrophes. The judgment of God will be completed by the retunring Jesus who will conquer the Antichrist and will then bring all living men before Him for individual judgment. Since the world is on this unalterable collision course with Divine wrath, what is the point of praying for God to stay His judgment?

The mercy of God teaches Christians to pray for America and for the world. God delays His coming so men will have opportunity to repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Though God will bring judgment on this world He desires that all should turn to Him. We should pray in accord with God’s delight in repentanceTHe book of Ezekiel says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. He delights in the repentance of sinners. We should delight in the same and pray for the repentance of our nation.

Christians are commanded to pray for governments and for all men. The Roman Empire of the first century was more wicked and more hostile to Christians than America has ever been. To those living under the rule of debauched Rome God commaned, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) When Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians God commanded them “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Enslaved Israel was taught to pray for the peace and prosperity of her captor. God had had already foretold Babylon would be judged but still commanded the Israelites to pray for Babylon’s peace. Christian’s today should pray for the peace, not trouble, of our nation that we might live peaceful lives that further the preaching of the gospel. 

Basic Christian compassion motivates prayer for our nation. All of God’s commands can be summed up in the phrase, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Even those Christians who feel that America has turned again them should be praying for America. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”  Christian’s ought to pray for this nation because we sincerely desire blessing and salvation for those around us.

What’s Happening?

Summer is a very busy time for most people including the pastors who participate in the Everlasting Truths ministry. As a result this blog will be silent until sometime after Independence Day. Though this time of year is busy don’t let the activities of life keep you from asking questions of the Word. May you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18)