Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Like Bibles Part 3: Saturday Resource

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Trevor's Stack 2
Trevor's Stack of Bibles
Although I risk stricter judgment by presuming to teach (James 3.1), this installment is significantly less objective than other things that I have done. But I still hope that you can get something out of it.

In our previous adventures, I told you a bit of my personal history, and then some of the history of English language Bibles. That last one was a great deal of work, but very rewarding. I left off somewhere around 1611, when the King James Version had been released.

Since then, not only has the KJV had several revisions, but other Bible revisions and translations have cropped up. I believe that is a good thing to some extent (I am most definitely not a "King James Only" advocate), but there are also drawbacks. One drawback that I will briefly mention is that Bibles have been rewritten by and for cultists like Joseph Smith, Johannes Greber and the Jehovah's Witnesses. I urge Christians to remove those from their libraries because of their negative influence (1 Tim. 4.1), with the possible exception of firmly-rooted apologists and researchers who know their doctrines and are aware of the spiritual warfare dangers.

Now I am going to attempt three more parts to conclude this series.

Multitudes of Bibles
The King James Version was revised a few times, and the 1769 version is the one that you probably have on your shelf. Others have come around many years later (such as the English Revised Version of 1881 and the American Standard Version of 1901), but the KJV remained the most popular Bible. It is an accurate translation and considered a masterpiece of literature. Today, there are one billion KJV Bibles in print! Although it will never "go away", more readable and more accurate (using better source documents that were unknown at the time of the King James Version) translations are to be found.

Today, there are more Bible versions in the English language than you can shake a pulpit at. Hooray for us. (Meanwhile, there are 340,000,000 people speaking over 2,000 languages who do not have a Bible translated in their language. Just thought you should know.) They range from scholarly translations like the HCSB, NASB, NIV, ESV and others to the dubious translations that are more like commentaries than translations, such as the New Living Translation and The Message. Personally, I do not care for the last two. I insist on accuracy in translation, and not what one man felt that the text should say.

Now, some of the versions are "gender neutral" or "gender inclusive". That really is not necessary. (My ESV has a footnote, "Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated 'brothers') refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God's family, the church..." Elsewhere, I have seen "or brothers and sisters" in the footnotes. But footnotes or not, I think we all know that God's word is intended for both men and women! Further, when some of these gender inclusive versions change the translation in order to please the public (or perhaps to be politically correct), that makes me wonder what else is being altered. If the word is masculine, I want it translated "he" for the sake of accuracy.

Some versions have a liberal bias (the Revised Standard Version is infamous for that). Some Bibles are not really new versions, but they have special notes and sections targeted to a specialty audience. I have felt that some of these have been a good idea, and some were desperate attempts at special-interest marketing, to be blunt. You can find specialty Bibles for all sorts of things, including:
  • Men
  • Women
  • Students
  • Military, fire, police, nurse and other professions
  • Cowboys
  • Apologetics
  • American history/heritage
  • Recovery (from Saddleback Church)
  • Women of color
There are some justifications for new translations, which usually sound like: "While other Bibles have met the needs of their times, we felt that a new version in the language of today..." I am wondering when we are going to make it trendy slang, "Yo! God is ticked at you, dude!" which will have relevance for about six weeks until new slang comes along. Meanwhile, the Word of God has been cheapened for the sake of sales. Yes, publishing companies are not charities. They are trying to make a living (1 Tim. 5.18). However, they seem to be competing and trying to make the "next big thing" to stimulate sales. I think that's wrong. 

King James Only-ism
I went to a Christian school for three years and graduated from it. This school claimed to be "interdenominational", but the faculty and staff were mostly Fundamentalists. This was quite a challenge to this United Methodist preacher's kid. There were several King James Only (I shall abbreviate it as "KJO") people there, and some grudgingly admitted that the New American Standard Version was "acceptable", even allowing the New International Version later on.

But there are people who insist that we should use the King James version exclusively. Other versions are evil, translated from manuscripts that are corrupted by Roman Catholics or are Satanic, "New Age" versions. They believe that the KJV itself is inspired by God; sometimes, they elevate the Textus Receptus (the source documents from which the KJV was translated) above other ancient manuscripts. Translators of ancient documents generally know that older is better. Not in this case. Even though the translators of the King James Version themselves made no claim that they were doing something extraordinary (although they took it very seriously indeed), their work is elevated in the eyes of the KJO people. One question is often asked: "If the King James Version is the true Bible, then what good were the Bibles that existed before then?" You see, the Textus Receptus plus the apparently inspired work of the KJV translators combined to make a special divine document.

When I begin writing about reasoning and arguments (in the real sense, not the "yes it is, no it isn't, you're a doo doo head" sense), I will use some of the KJO criticisms as bad examples. As soldiers for Jesus, we need to be able to know not only what, but why we believe (1 Peter 3.15), and be able to present some of the evidence for our faith. Sometimes, we get sloppy and run with a fantastic story to "prove" our point. If we had checked the facts, we would have saved ourselves — and our Lord — some embarrassment. To bolster the insane rants of people like Texe Marrs and Gail Riplinger, a very dishonest exaggeration has been touted, but is actually a lie. It was said that Dr. Don Wilkins "lost his voice" discussing new Bible versions on the John Ankerberg show. Not true. Such conduct, whether carelessness in checking facts or outright dishonesty, is disgraceful.

Since the KJV has been the standard for 400 years (even though we have seen that revisions stopped just over 240 years ago), some feel it should continue to be the standard. (By the way, they do not even like the New King James Version.) Sorry, but even though the KJV has been an important part of Christian history and should always be respected, I will not accept being considered a heretic, or even a lesser Christian, because I prefer the NASB, ESV, and NIV. Let me be certain that you understand this point: If the KJV is your favorite and you prefer it, great! Use it! I am not happy with some of the other modern translations for reasons touched on earlier, and not because I believe that the translators have an evil agenda or used corrupted ancient manuscripts.

Saturday Resource
There are several items available to you for investigating King James Onlyism.

First, John Ankerberg and John Weldon have several articles on the KJO controversy. There is no direct link, you will need to scroll down (at least they are alphabetical) or use your browser's search function for "King James".

Next, Dr. James White has done a great deal of research on this topic and written a book. Here are some articles. First, "New Age Bible Versions Refuted". Several other articles are linked here. Finally, a long video debate (which I converted to audio and heard instead of watching) is here.

So, even though my own personal feelings are evident, I believe that I have given you some things to think about as well as further materials.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Like Bibles Part 2: Some History

In the bigynnyng was the word, and the word was at God, and God was the word. This was in the bigynnyng at God. Alle thingis weren maad bi hym, and withouten hym was maad no thing, that thing that was maad. In hym was lijf, and the lijf was the liyt of men; and the liyt schyneth in derknessis, and derknessis comprehendiden not it. 
(John 1:1-5, Wycliffe, 1394 A.D.)
In our last episode, I told you a bit of my history, and that I have a fondness for Bibles. This time, I would like to go a few hundred years before my own history. No, not all the way back to "how we got the Bible in the first place", that is more than I am willing to take on (but you can check this out if you want more of that information, as well as this source). Instead, I am going to do an overview of English language Bible history.

The first Bible that was translated into English was done through John Wycliffe (or Wyclife). He trained teachers who translated the Bible from the Latin Vulgate in the 1380s. The printing press was not invented yet, so the copies were all done by hand. The Roman Catholic Church was the seat of both political and religious power, and the Pope did not like the Bible being made available in the language of the people. In addition, Wycliffe taught that Rome was wrong in several doctrines (including the papacy itself). After Wycliffe had been dead for about forty years, the Pope ordered his bones to be dug up, burned, and scattered on the river.

Move ahead in time.

The Reformation was underway, as Martin Luther had translated the Bible into German in 1522. In England, William Tyndale translated the New Testament and the Pentateuch into English from the original languages in 1525. Not only was this the first translation of Scriptures into English from the original languages, but it is also the first printed edition of the Scriptures in English. His reward? The Roman Catholic Church executed him for "heresy" (strangled and then burned at the stake). The Church confiscated as many copies as it could, and burned them as well. Fortunately, the public was fascinated and kept copies hidden away.

King Henry VIII broke with the Roman church and established his slightly Protestant Church of England. He was more willing to allow Bibles to become available. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer recommended that they create an official translation. The king approved, but Cranmer's bishops were reluctant to have the Bible available for reading in English. Along came Myles Coverdale, who took up where Tyndale left off. Since he did not know Hebrew and Greek, he combined Tyndale's work with the Latin Vulgate and Martin Luther's German translation. That is how, in 1535, we got the first complete printed Bible in English.

John Rogers was an associate of Tyndale. He, too, continued Tyndale's translation work (using manuscripts that Tyndale had been working on in his imprisonment), and translated the rest of the Bible. He used the name "Thomas Matthew", so he could stay alive and continue his illegal translation work, but was eventually martyred by the Roman Catholic Queen "Bloody" Mary because of his teachings against Catholic dogma.

Back to Archbishop Cranmer and King Henry VIII.

Cranmer persuaded the king to commission an official version through Myles Coverdale, who presented his revision of the John Rogers version. In 1539-40, the "Great Bible" was printed, the first English Bible authorized for public use. "Objectionable" content was revised (presumably the margin notes). It was "great" because of its size, fourteen inches. It was chained to the pulpit to prevent theft. (Ironic, really. Let me interject that I made a joke at the Barnes and Noble store that I was going to steal a Bible. The lady told me that Bibles are a high-theft item!) The "Great Bible" was a pulpit Bible, not something readily available to the people.

Henry VIII broke with Rome, renounced the Catholic Church and established his own. He was effectively the Anglican Church's Pope. Freedoms for printing the Bible increased and decreased, and his motivation for allowing such freedoms in the first place appeared to be simply to spite Rome.

Skip ahead to July, 1553. Mary I ("Bloody Mary"), daughter of Henry VIII, was the ruler of England (Not to be confused with Mary Tudor, "Queen of Scots"). She was Roman Catholic, and hated the Protestants so much that she had hundreds murdered, many burned alive at the stake.

English Puritans fled the persecution, and many went to Switzerland. A new translation of the Bible was done in 1560 by several men who were knowledgeable in Hebrew and Greek. Their translation was very accurate, the verses were numbered and the Bible was small enough to fit into a personal collection, unlike the larger volumes that had preceded it.

The Geneva Bible became popular quite quickly. This was expedited by the death of Bloody Mary in 1559 and the succession of the Protestant queen, Elizabeth I. Also, Romanism was fading in popularity with the English people because Rome controlled Spain and other countries that wanted to subjugate England. In 1599, it was reissued with extensive margin notes, making it the first "study Bible". (It contains ninety percent of Tyndale's translation work, which is quite a vote of confidence that these later scholars agreed with what he did.) Another probable reason for its popularity was that it was the first Bible printed in Roman type. What is less known today is that it was the Geneva Bible that first came to the New World on the Mayflower. Yes, the Biblical foundations of America began firmly rooted in this Bible version.
In the beginning was that Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God. This same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shineth in the darkenesse, and the darkenesse comprehended it not.
(John 1:1-5, Geneva)
The English rulers tried to rival the now-popular Geneva Bible, but the translators were afraid to imitate it too closely, and were not exactly competent. One of the goals was to have less inflammatory margin notes. So, the Bishops Bible of 1568 (a revision of the aging Great Bible) was produced, as were nineteen subsequent editions. But it failed to make an impression; the Geneva Bible was too good, and too popular.

However, the Bishops Bible is considered to be a rough draft of the next one, which was commissioned by the successor to Elizabeth I, which was King James I. It was commissioned to rival the Protestant Geneva Bible (Catholics were not the only ones to dislike and persecute Protestants, the Anglicans had their time with it as well). The work began in 1605, drawing from several Bible versions mentioned previously as well as the Catholic Rheims New Testament. Forty seven scholars were involved in the new translation. This version had fewer margin notes, which were primarily for word clarification and cross reference. Four hundred years ago, the 1611 King James "Authorized" Version was released.

In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darknesse, and the darknesse comprehended it not.
(John 1:1-5, KJV 1611)
After several decades, the KJV became the English language standard, and the Geneva Bible fell by the wayside, eventually going out of print. Some feel that examination of the Geneva Bible along with the King James Version will show that the KJV translators were heavily influenced by the Geneva Bible.

The King James Version had numerous problems, and had several printing errors. It had several revisions over time. As a matter of fact, even though publishers use the preface of the 1611 version, that King James Bible you are holding is actually the 1769 revision. This aggravates people who maintain that the KJV is the "one true inspired Bible" to no end. However, the KJV is considered to be a very accurate translation.

Translations are continuing, and I believe that we have a glut of English translations. Yes, some are good. Others are biased. Discernment and research is required. But more about that another time. 

Anyway, I hope you realize that people died to be able to spread the written Word of God, so that people like you and I, in the English-speaking lands, can have more than enough copies available.

Part 3 of this series, including information on various "editions" and King James Only-ism, can be found here.

And now, a song:

I spent several hours preparing this overview. The people from whom I drew substantially and did the real work include: 
These sites will give you a tremendous amount of information. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Like Bibles!

It has been almost a year since I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. Before that, I had been away from my faith for about fifteen years. During a difficult cleanout session, I had to discard several Bibles that I had owned for many years because they were starting to mildew because of being in storage. It was painful.

Yes, mine looks just like this.
I began to replace them. But I was not going to get carried away, needing to own over a dozen versions like I had done in the past! In an online forum, someone had recommended the English Standard Version. I had never heard of it, so I read up on it and then bought one. (It is almost funny, I was starting to get teary-eyed in the Barnes and Noble store as Malcolm and Alwyn's wonderful song was playing in my head.."Got myself some wisdom from a leather-backed book...") It felt...strange. Strange, and yet very good, to be reading a Bible again after so many years. Then I looked for the little green Gideon New Testament I had been given several years before, to no avail. But I really wanted a pocket-sized New Testament, so back to Barnes and Noble for a pocket New International Version.

I will not bore you with the details of my further acquisitions, but for me, there is no such thing as one Bible. Advice given by Matt Slick of CARM as well as others is to have at least three good versions, and to be familiar with them. So, I am rotating my NIV, ESV and New American Standard Bibles. The liberal-leaning Revised Standard Version from my childhood is still intact, and I will not part with it. Since the Holman Christian Standard Bible has just been updated, that is also on my purchase list. But I am not a clutterer or accumulator, even if it is in the name of "research", or "reference".

In other Weblogs, I have gone on about "decluttering" and "minimalizing". After all, our existence is not defined by our wealth or our possessions. Ironically, I was seeing the spiritual value in getting rid of the junk in my life (if it has sentimental value, how much is it really worth if it is boxed away and forgotten until the box is investigated again?), and I had to get rid of clutter. The library was very thankful for the several boxes of books that I donated for their book sale — including Bibles that were in acceptable shape.

Being rational in my possessions is getting easier, except for books. Especially Bibles. I really like Bibles! The smell, touching, reading, all of it. Yes, I can hoard and research to my heart's content with theWord, but let's face it, Bible software is not as pleasurable. Also, doing research for upcoming articles has made me aware of some other Bible editions that I had not know about previously, and I have to tell myself, "No, that is not in the budget..."

That is enough for today. I have more to say about Bibles in our next meeting. Until then, I hope you like this audio piece. It is "spoken word", and it was taken from a scratchy vinyl record album by Isaac Air Freight:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Resource: Battle for the Beginning

With a resource like the one I am going to give you today, I am very glad that I posted that information last week about getting more information in less time. Because this week, I am all keyed up to offer you John MacArthur's "The Battle for the Beginning".

Regular readers know that I am a Biblical Creationist and that I reject evolution. (In case you're curious, I reject it on its lack of science as well as believing what the Bible says.) I have stated on occasion how compromising the Word of God with man-made scientific philosophies causes all sorts of problems with other parts of Scripture that cause a need further compromise; a theological "domino effect". John MacArthur covers this, and more. He mentions some of the scientific errors in evolution. (Unfortunately, he touches on some items that I wish he had left alone, but I think they were hot items when this series was delivered in 1999.) My main concern is the authority of the Bible. Are you going to believe God or use ever-changing man-made theories to interpret the Bible?

It is in the best interests of every Bible believer to give "The Battle for the Beginning" a listen. As always, MacArthur's materials are free to listen, free to download or available for purchase.

While looking for images, I discovered that a book version came out, if you're interested. No, I am not getting anything for recommending this.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Turning the Other Cheek

But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matt. 5.39 KJV

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is a topic where some people will have an opinion (and express it), without serious consideration of the subject.

Reaching back centuries into the dusty corridors of my memory... Was it a Dennis the Menace cartoon drawing? Anyway, someone is asking the pastor after a church service, "But what if he punches you in the nose?" Or something like that. Good question.

I have to admit that I was reluctant to use this verse because it is so horribly misused by believers and unbelievers alike. It has been ripped out of its textual, historical and cultural contexts and used to mean that Christians should simply be doormats.

Image before editing, "The Sermon on the Mount" by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1877
Here is a bit of a conversation in a Facebook post:
Although bad, We are commanded to love our enemies, pray for them, our kingdom is not of this world, there just words, God has abandoned our nation, this shouldn't be surprising! Satan isn't going to fight against his false religions, Jesus said, "The World will hate you because it first hated me" We stand for the truth, but not with hatred. We pray for them and are kind to them, it's like heaping hot coals on there head by not returning evil for evil. Not surprising at all.
I took him to task for praying and not taking action about the topic in question. How can we be salt and light (Matt. 5.13-16) if we do nothing?

Fortunately, some people have a grasp of the bigger picture.

First, the most direct textual context is that Jesus was talking about being slow to retaliate. Look at the context and you will see that he was talking about interpersonal dealings and doing good for those who misuse you.

Next, the cultural context. Did you notice he specifies the right cheek? The natural assumption is that two people are facing each other in an argument. Walter Wink points out that a slap on the right cheek had to be done with the left (unclean) hand. A backhanded slap was done to punish, or to humiliate inferiors. By turning the other cheek "robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate". If he resorted to using his fist, the recipient is no longer an inferior, but has become an equal. The whole point is to stop the insults and violence from rapidly escalating.

Jesus did not answer the question of Dennis (above): "What if he punches you in the nose?" Hopefully, the principle would apply and the Holy Spirit would guide the believer so that he was slow in his response, and not just reacting out of rage.

But nowhere does Jesus advocate standing there and being beaten bloody. Remember, Jesus is the one who made a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple (John 2.14-16). I am not using this as an excuse for myself or anyone else for simply becoming consumed with rage, because that leads to sin (Eph. 4.26).

If a woman is screaming for help in the parking lot of the apartment complex, I most certainly would not say, "I'll pray for you!" No, I would not only call the police, but my nature (and probably the Holy Spirit) would probably have me take direct, physical action if necessary. I have said before that prayer is important, vitally so, but we must do our part as well.

There are times when we must take a stand for what is right, even if it means violence. Otherwise, the weak and helpless are victimized while we stand by with our misunderstanding of a verse or two of Scripture. Addendum: A similar application is with the Answers in Genesis lawsuit against religious discrimination in the state of Kentucky. See "Should AiG “Turn the Other Cheek” Concerning Its Lawsuit?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Word on the Word

This is a bit of a re-post of a re-worked article I did on "Stormbringer's Thunder". My reason for doing it again here is because I am determined to make sure people know that free Bible versions are available, and several of those rival the more expensive versions. If you want a Bible on your computer, you should be able to have one.

No, I'm not writing another essay about theWord Bible software. Today.

And I still say that, even though my loyalty is to theWord, e-Sword is also very good Bible software.

"Uncle Bob, theWord is great, e-Sword is excellent, but I need something that is a bit less feature rich. Also, something that will work on a Mac or Linux, natively." 
Enter the CrossWire Bible Society.

"We have an abundance of applications, available to support you in your Bible studies on many different platforms. Several of these applications are cross platform. All applications in this section use the same module library and most store their library in the same place on your computer. All are based on The SWORD Project You can therefore try several and see which one you end up liking best".

They are volunteers, making Open Source software available on many platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Mobile and Web-based. CrossWire's main program for Windows and other platforms is The SWORD Project, an ambitious Bible study piece. However, I have not used it myself, and it has not been updated for some time. My suspicion is that it will not work well on Windows 7, as I had considerable difficulty getting some of their other products to work properly.

Oops, time for my disclaimer: They do not even know I exist, so they are not giving me anything for writing this article. I am doing it as a public service because there should always be Bible software available, even if you have an older, slower computer or you're not a "techie". Again, I have not installed and tested most of this software. I am offering it to you to check it yourself. But this is not some fly-by-night outfit, they've been around a while, and the software is free (Open Source). Some of the Bible modules are not, but you can get some very good versions for free.

"SwordBible" did not work for me. Well, not completely, anyway. But I did not have a Windows XP machine to test it on, either. Sorry for the incompleteness of my comments, but if someone wants to try it on an XP system, I would like to know if it worked for them. Since there are so many other options available, I would suggest skipping it entirely.

Xiphos has some things going for it, and it is designed for Linux, UNIX and Windows (yes, it does say Windows 7). I was not entirely happy with it, probably because I am so biased from e-Sword and especially theWord. But that's my problem, not yours. You may very well like it. There are many features and functions available.

I used BPBible for a while because it has the capability to run on a flash drive. This is still in active development, and the beta version I downloaded was only a few days old at the time. There are still a few quirks in it that I was unable to answer, but answers may be available in their forum. You cannot print from the program, but it would not be a deal-breaker for me because you can copy and paste into another document and print from that. If I did not already have my preferences on other software, I might very well settle in with BPBible.

Rhomphaia mentioned that her husband uses Action Bible. This is not from the SWORD Project/Crosswire, but it is definitely worth a mention. If you want to just read your Bible and make journals and notes (i.e., sermon preparation), this should work for you. No maps, dictionaries or commentaries. It does not strike me as a system resource hog, either. It comes with a few e-books that did not impress me, and a couple of other features that actually seem to have been abandoned.

There are a few "features" on here that I suggest that you avoid, such as "Action Overlay" (I had to use other software to make it go away) and "RSS Feeds", which is a feed from only one site. The Help file says that it has an address book, which I could not find. 

Action Bible has a "Date Reminder" tool, and a rudimentary task list. Also, it is very customizable to make your own work display pretty much the way you desire. The Search function will let you search through more than one version at a time, as well as setting limits instead of searching the entire Bible every time.

If you do not want the trappings of other programs and just want to read, search and make Bible notes, Action Bible is worth a try.

There are still other free and low-cost Bible study software applications available, and there is no way I can take the time to check them all out. I would probably want to own lots of them, I get nutzo like that. From the feature-rich theWord and e-Sword through the various applications that CrossWire has available, or the stripped-down Action Bible, well, if you want Bible software on your computer, here ya go, Zeke.