We're down to our last two lessons for this series, where I'm trying to answer some of the questions concerning the Bible that were handed in. These are, of course, questions not only you, but others have asked throughout the years; and maybe you didn't have an answer to this question when someone asked it to you. These last questions don't fit into any one category, so we're just going to group them together as Old Testament questions, New Testament questions.
New Testament Questions
Why did God forbid eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
Why did He do that? What was the point of all of that? Why didn't He just put them in the garden and just leave them there? I mean, everything is fine, everything is beautiful. He saw what He had created and He said, this is very good. I mean, why add the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Why that commandment? So that's what's behind this question here.
The answer is in Genesis:
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
- Genesis 2:16-17
Notice first of all, there's no mention of an apple here. All the popular movies it's always the apple. There's no apple. It just mentions a fruit. Some of the reasons why God did this: first of all, the commandment established the context for the exercise of free will. We talked about this before, you cannot be human, made in the image of God, unless you can have free will. Otherwise, if you don't have free will, you're a robot, or you're a plant, or you're a rock, or you're an animal, but you're not a human being, made in the image of God. Why? Because God has free will. So God gave the command, in order to kick-start, if you wish, man's gift of free will. Humans have been created in such a way that they can discern good and evil and make moral choices. They have this ability, we have this ability. And so, the command not to eat of the fruit provided the framework or the rules or the parameters or the law, against which this ability of man could be exercised. In other words, you can't choose right from wrong if there's no choice to be made. If everything is right, you're not exercising your freewill. And if you're not exercising your freewill, you are not fully human.
Another reason that God gave the command was to establish the order in creation. By establishing or giving the law or the rule or the prohibition, God was establishing His rulership over man. Why? Because the one who's in charge makes the rules, right. We know this. In a family, is it the children that make the rules? They like to think so, but not really, right. Woe to the parents and the household where it is the children that make the rules. No, it's the parents that make the rules, right. So by establishing or giving the law or rule, God was establishing His rulership over man. Man would always know that God was superior, because God was the One who made the rules. So the other reason why, to establish order. And thirdly, there may be more, I'll give you three. This rule was established to show every generation of mankind after Adam that moral authority comes from God, comes from God; essentially or originally or the source of moral authority comes from God. I go back to my family analogy here. Sometimes you're telling children, well, I don't want you to hang out with this person here, not quite sure. Well, but why? Well, I don't like the look of it, the way he talks to his parents, I'm not sure. You're giving your child some of the reasons for that particular prohibition and they keep coming back. But why? But why?
And then finally what happens? What is it that you say? Because I said so. I mean, you want to have some dialogue with your children, you want to give them reasons why you do things, but if they keep coming back with the why, it's no longer curiosity, it's a challenge. And in the end you say, well, because I say so. What's behind that, I say so? Well, I'm in charge. I'm the parent. I make the rules. You obey the rules. Well, in the same way, God makes the rules and we must obey the rules. His rules, however, were first and continue to be primary. With time humans would create laws and rules, but these would always be secondary to God's laws.
Isn't that the big debate we're having in our society today? What is it that we're saying? What has made America great? Well, what has made America great, because its constitution and its way of life, originally, was based on what? Well, was based on God's laws, on principles given by God. The rights that we have - I hear Christian or believing politicians always say, the rights that we have here in the United States are given to us by God, not the government. The government didn't give us the right to freedom. That's a right given to us by God. And that's how America is different from many nations that are not believing. Try to go to Russia and say, my right to freedom has been given to me by God. The next place you will find yourself will be in jail. Try doing that in China or Pakistan. What makes America great at its source is that its ideology, its government, its laws have all been based, as the source point, God's law. So exercising our free will is what animates us and it also demonstrates to us positive or negative consequences.
Why doesn't the Bible mention dinosaurs?
The Bible doesn't use that particular word, but it does mention dinosaurs, but not with the words coined in modern science, using Latin or Greek word sources, which were not available in the times when the book of Genesis was written. When the book of Genesis was written, Hebrew was the language. There was no Greek. So the modern word dinosaur comes from Greek words. Deinos, which means 'terrible', and sauros, which means 'lizard.'
In Genesis 1:21, the Bible refers to God creating great whales or great sea monsters. The Hebrew word here, used is the word tannin, which is also translated elsewhere in the Old Testament as dragons. Isaiah the prophet talks about Leviathan, the dragon of the sea ([[Isaiah 27:1]).
The Bible refers to animals in groups and so, it uses the word tannin to refer to various animals in one group. And what animals fit into the group that the Bible refers to as tannin? Well, serpents, great lizards, monsters, sea monsters. And so, dinosaurs would have fallen into this category, as one of God's creatures, which like many others of that time, are now extinct. We think today, oh, we have to stop the extinction of the Beetle Bug or something like that. And of course, we don't want to destroy any animal needlessly, but that animals are becoming extinct is not something that has happened like in the 21st century. Animals becoming extinct has been going on for thousands of years, and it continues to do so today.
We say this often, it's worth repeating. Do I believe in climate change? Absolutely, I believe in climate change. The climate started to change drastically after the great flood, and will continue to change until the end of the world, when God will destroy the earth and the heavens and the new heavens and earth will be established. So don't be afraid when they talk about climate change. Sure, of course the climate has been changing, it's been changing for thousands of years, and it'll continue to do so. It's just, we've put a name to it, and we've politicized it today. That's what has happened.
Where did Cain and Abel get their wives? Was this incest?
First of all, the Bible only mentions Cain having a wife, because his brother wasn't Able. Sorry it was a joke, I just couldn't resist. Seriously, Cain did have a wife, and he had children who intermarried within their own families. Of course, we wouldn't do that today. Maybe a fourth cousin or a fifth cousin.
Some people explain this by saying that the book of Genesis is only, like, it's only a parable about creation. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, was only one family among many families, where the eternal story of good and evil was played out, and the story of sin and salvation are told. So the story in Genesis, some people say, is like a parable - you have to take it as a parable. It's just a story that explains the high points, all right. This is a very comforting explanation of the difficult parts of Genesis, because it's so logical and it's sensible and it's popular, especially, it's not open to ridicule. Nobody will ridicule you if you say that; and it requires absolutely no faith to accept. The problem with this explanation is that it is not what the Bible teaches. That's the problem.
The Bible teaches that the world was created in a total of seven days, and all of humanity began with one set of people: Adam and Eve. Let's just read that, in case we're not sure.
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
- Genesis 3:20
Wait a minute, that doesn't sound like a parable. That's not a parable, that's detail.
Is there life on other planets?
I heard on the news that the government spent $220 million dollars on a special area of the Air Force that was looking for UFOs. Some people say, "well, how come you don't believe in extra terrestrials? There are billions of stars and billions of planets, surely there must be another planet. The law of averages says there's got to be a planet out there with living, human beings." And I respond, the reason I don't believe in extraterrestrials is because of Genesis 3:20. It says, "He called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living." All the living. All the living created in the image of God. Could we find living matter on another planet? Sure, you can find some bugs or I don't know some sort of amoeba, some of that, but you're not going to find living human beings made in the image of God. Why? Because it says right here that that type of creature, a human being, made in the image of God, all of those were produced through Eve, and last I heard nobody took off from Earth to colonize another planet without us knowing it. I don't get into a huge debate about that, but if it was me, I wouldn't be spending a whole lot of money looking.
Remember I said, I believe that the Bible teaches that the world was populated from these original two people and it was then repopulated after the great flood with only eight people - Noah and his family. Alright, getting back to the question. So Cain then married one of his many siblings, because this is how the world began to be populated. Before the flood people lived for centuries. If you read, right, you find out so-and-so lived for five hundred years, eight hundred years, nine hundred years. So they were able to have a great number of children who multiplied in ever-widening circles, as people moved further and further away from the original families. I mean, if Lise and I were able to have four children in five years, imagine if we lived for eight or nine hundred years, right dear. She's shaking her head. I remember reading once about someone who was taking all the genealogies and was calculating if all these people only had two or three children, but they continued having them throughout these centuries, it would have been easy, mathematically, to populate the world, millions of people.
It was not incest that someone married someone within their family, because God commanded them to multiply and populate the earth. It couldn't have been incest. It became incest only after the flood, when man's human nature was weakened by centuries of sinfulness, and closed marriages began to be a risk to society and to health.
By the time of Moses, the law against intermarrying was finally established and codified, and we read about that in Leviticus 18:9 but until that time - and we even read about Bible characters marrying their cousins, their half-sisters, there was no immorality attached to that, but eventually it became forbidden and of course we see this in Genesis.
How do you answer those who say that because they didn't experience death, Enoch and Elijah are the firstborn from the dead and not Jesus?
So Enoch, who appears in Genesis 5:24, and Elijah the Prophet, who appears in the Old Testament, but he's referred to in Hebrews, in the New Testament. These two did not see death. In other words, they didn't go have a heart attack, and then the Bible said and then they died and were buried. Aaron died and was buried. Moses died and was buried. Joseph died and was buried. But these two, there's no mention of them dying, experiencing death. Some say that they, because of this, some say that they are the firstborn from the dead, and not Jesus, because they did not die, they were taken up to heaven.
So how do you answer this? Again, you start from the Bible.
21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
- Genesis 5:21-24
So the Bible saying here, he was not, he was not here anymore. God took him to be in heaven. He didn't experience physical death. Let's read another passage.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
- Hebrews 11:5
So the Hebrew writer kind of clarifies and explains what's written about Enoch back in Genesis.
As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
- II Kings 2:11
So that means Elisha did not experience death. While he was alive on earth, he was taken up to heaven.
So these are records of how these men were spared the agony of physical death and were brought directly to God without experiencing it. So now let's read - So people say, since they did not die and they went straight to heaven, they're the first born, they should be the first born that the Bible talks about and not Jesus. So let's go to where they talk about that and that's in Colossians. Here Paul is talking about Jesus.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
- Colossians 1:15-18
In Colossians, Paul uses the term firstborn, not to say that Jesus was the first one ever to be created or the first one ever to be resurrected from the dead. This would be in contradiction to the Bible. I mean, as far as we know, angels were the first beings that were created. Angels were created before men were created. Satan's fall happened before man was created. So it means that angels were the first things, creatures, beings, that were created. And there's a whole history of angelic beings and what happened. What happened? Satan was displaced from his position. Jude said he lost his position, because he did not remain in the position that God had put him in. And so, therefore, God sent him down. My own theory, and it's just my own theory, is that Satan, originally, a beautiful angel, refused to be the minister for men. In other words, the Bible says that angels are ministering spirits. Who do they minister to? Well, they minister to God in heaven by continually praising Him: holy, holy, holy is God. Right? And they also minister to men. And my theory is that Satan, or Lucifer, refused to minister to beings that were lower than himself. And for that reason God sent him down, but remember, that's just my theory, it's just my thinking. You can come up with your own. So angels were the first to be created. Enoch didn't see death, and thus experienced a form of resurrection. We don't deny that.
Paul uses the term firstborn to refer to Jesus' rank or His position in creation and in the church. Why do we know that? Because that's what he says in Colossians. Mankind was created. Mankind was not born. It says Jesus was the first born. It doesn't say Jesus was the first created. So mankind, they were created. And then after that they were born. The universe was created. It wasn't born. And so, Jesus' divine nature gives Him the first position, the first rank in creation. Why? Because of His power, His perfection, and of course, because of His divinity. He has the first rank. In the same way, He is also the head or the first in rank in the church. Why? Because He's the first born into glory, into eternal life. Even if He wasn't the first one to go from Earth to heaven.
And the argument that this person, this question is, is that, well, since Enoch was the first one to go from earth to heaven, he should be the first born; or Elijah, he should be the first born, but remember, Elijah and Enoch, they only went from Earth to heaven. Jesus went from heaven down to earth and then He went back to heaven. That makes Him the firstborn. He has a higher rank.
Also note that the passages about Enoch and Elijah, as I say, they only say that they were taken up without seeing death, not that they themselves were glorified. Jesus is the first among those who are resurrected unto glory. All others, including these two, will follow Him into glory and eternal life. We even see Jesus' glorified body on the Mount of Transfiguration. He reveals - He's shining, the bright light. That's His glorified state. He, kind of, revealed that to some of the Apostles.
Why aren't the apocryphal books included in the Canon of the Bible. How did they know which books to put in the Bible?
I mean, there are a lot of books circulating in the first century. I mean, there were a lot more than the books we have here, 27 books of the New Testament. There were a lot more books than that about Jesus. How come only these 27 made it into the official Bible, that's the question. So let's take the first one about the apocryphal books. The word Apocrypha means 'hidden'. It comes from a Greek word, again, means hidden. It refers to a number of books written during the Old Testament period, but because of authorship or accuracy they were not considered inspired works. They were, nevertheless, valuable for study purposes, because they did provide historical and cultural information about biblical times and biblical people.
There were many such books produced and circulated, but in the 16th century the Roman Catholic Church collected twelve of these apocryphal books and they included them in the Catholic edition of the Bible. Now these twelve books had names like First and Second Esdras, or the book of Tobit, or the Epistle of Jeremiah, or the four books of the Maccabees. The Maccabean period, kind of a revolt period, an uprising in Judea. Between the time of Malachi and the time of John the Baptist there were 400 years there where no inspired works were given, and we call that the inter-testamentary time period. And during that time there was a revolt among the Jews, against the, not the Romans, but the Greeks and other surrounding powers. And so, those books talk about that period of time. Fascinating, because you really find out the daily living style and some of the issues that were happening during that time that we in the Bible. That's what they are. That's how they got to be circulated: it started with the Catholic Church. One of the reasons they put these books in there is that a lot of the rituals and a lot of the teachings that are in Catholicism find their basis in these books.
For books to be considered part of the biblical, what we call the Canon, not like a canon - boom. Not that kind of canon, the biblical Canon. The term Canon means 'a measure'. So the books that measured up, all right. The books to be considered part of the biblical Canon, or official list of inspired writings, they had to fulfill certain qualifications.
- They had to have been written by a chosen servant of God. They had to be proven to be written by a chosen servant of God: Moses, David, Solomon; or a prophet: Samuel, Isaiah; or in the New Testament, an apostle: Peter, Paul; or the disciple of an apostle: a person like Luke, for example, who was a disciple of Paul; or Mark, who writes the Gospel of Mark. Well, Mark was Peter's secretary. So when you're reading the Gospel of Mark, what you're reading is Peter's witness. Except Mark is writing it. So first criteria, had to be written by a chosen servant of God.
- It had to be recognized as inspired when originally circulated or spoken. So the book of Matthew was immediately recognized as inspired writing. Why? Because Matthew was an apostle. He had received the power of the Spirit. Jesus had promised to give him understanding and remembrance of everything that Jesus taught for the very purpose of putting it in his record. Third criteria, it had to be recognized and well circulated in the nation or the church at the time of writing. It couldn't be an obscure little book that nobody ever heard of.
- The books that became inspired were books that were already considered inspired and well circulated among the apostolic church in the first century. Everybody considered it, it was just a matter of formality to add that book on to the list.
- It also had to withstand close scrutiny. Church leaders, church fathers, the scholars of the day studied these books and examined these books. They were looking for things that would demonstrate that they were not inspired in nature. Much different than, say, the Quran among Muslims. You're not allowed to criticize the Quran. You're not allowed to read it and criticize and say, hey, there's a mistake here, well this doesn't make any sense, or this contradicts this, or this here contradicts, absolutely, what history has taught. It's not permitted to do such a thing. Whereas the Bible began with criticism. That's why it's lasted so long. Well, it's lasted so long because it's inspired, but one of the criteria was the very best minds examined it for its historical, theological, philosophical, whatever area it was in, it was considered inspired.
- The book itself had to speak with divine authority and sincerity. You won't find in any of the books of the Bible, a sentence from one of the New Testament writers who says, I think that... That never happens. You go ahead and read through the New Testament, you'll never find anywhere in the New Testament where the writer says, I think that or I feel that... What's his name, Ben Shapiro. I love this. He's a commentator and he says, the facts don't care how you feel. Well, it's the same thing, the facts in the Bible are not based on how you feel or what you think, they're based on what God says.
So the Old Testament Canon or list of inspired books was collected and set by the first century, probably after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It was an effort by the Jews at the time to preserve their written history. So what we're reading, when we read the Old Testament, what we're reading is what Jesus and the Apostles were reading in the first century. All those books were collected in that way. The Jews divided their material a little differently. They divided the Old Testament, well, for them the Holy Scriptures was what we call the Old Testament. For them there was no New Testament, right. So the sacred scriptures for them were divided into 22 books. We divide the same material into 39 books, but it is exactly the same material. If you were to get a Jewish version of what we call the Old Testament and go through it, you'd see it was divided differently, but all the books are there. The New Testament Canon or list, it was collected and recorded and finally set in 367 AD. It was at this time that the 27 books were established as the inspired texts and they were added to the 39 Old Testament texts to form what we now have as the complete Bible. And ever since 367 AD, there have been no additions and no deletions. so what you're reading today, it may be more modern, the package may be more modern, but the books that you are reading, the material you are reading, are exactly the same thing as what they were reading back in the third century.
Is the Living Bible a good translation?
The original manuscripts for the Bible were in Hebrew, Greek, and parts of it in Aramaic, which was a common language in the first century Palestine. At first the translation from these original texts and languages were made into other languages, so more people could read the Bible for themselves. Here's the thing we need to remember however, you had the original manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek, and there are thousands of these, copies and fragments, thousands of these, most of which are in the British Museum.
So you had the original manuscripts, Hebrew and Greek. So someone says, the first translation into another language, I believe was into the Latin language. So what they did, the scholars studied the original manuscripts and they made the Latin translation. Later on, let's say, I forget the order of the modern languages, but German, let's say, they wanted to make a German Bible. Well, they didn't go to the Latin version and translate it into German, they went back to the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and they translated that into German. And then someone says, let's make an English translation. What did they do? They went back to the original manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek and they made an English translation. And then back to the original for a French. That is always the thing. So the argument people say, yeah, but if you go from the original to the Latin, and then the Latin to the German, and German to the French, and the French to the English, you're bound to lose something. Well, yes, if that's the way you do it. But if you go back to the original manuscripts every time, you're going to get the same result.
When my wife Lise and I first became Christians and we were new at reading the Bible. That was not something we did growing up. We used to test to make sure that our Bible said the same thing. So since we were both bilingual, we spoke both English and French, and we both read English and French, she would read in her French Bible, I would read in my English Bible, and we wanted a test. I'd say, read And no matter what passage we looked at, it was always the same. All the Bibles say the same thing. Why? Because they're all translated from the same original material.
Versions are Bibles in the same language, but ones that have different style of language. For example, you have a Bible, the King James Bible, it uses Old English. It uses Elizabethan English as its style. How do we know it - thee and thou. It uses Elizabethan, Shakespearean English. That's the style. Why? Because it was translated into that English language style at the time. A modern English Bible, like the New American Standard, for example, is a Bible that I use. It uses modern English, no thees no thous. The New International Version is what's called an easy reading Bible. It's easy to read. It's written in such a way, the emphasis is to make sure that it's easy to read. There's no awkward sentence structure. For example, the first version that came out of the American Standard, was just called the American Standard Bible. I have that. When you read that one, it is the most literal translation from the Greek to English. It's a literal translation, but the sentences are very awkward. If you speak two languages and you try to translate French to English, word per word, usually your English is going to be a little bit backwards. So they updated the American Standard and they made the New American Standard, and made the English flow a little better. Then you have the Living Bible. The Living Bible is conversational English. It's called a paraphrase Bible. Instead of translating the language, they translate the idea in their own words, alright. The reason I use New American Standard, it's a nice balance. It's a nice reading Bible, but it's also a good study Bible, because it follows carefully the original version.
Most versions are designed around how the Bible is to be used: is it going to be used as a serious word study; is it for first-time readers; is it for someone who's going to be using it in order to preach? Most of these versions are exactly the same in meaning, only the style of language is changed.
However, one word of caution. You need to be careful with versions that leave out certain books of the Bible or change the original intent and meaning of the original Greek and Hebrew. For example, versions that change God's name to mother God, uncle God. They don't - this idea of eliminating any type of male reference, that's changing the Bible. Any reference to kings or slaves or killing, so that the version will be politically correct for one group or another, yeah, that's not so good. Another example, versions that eliminate teaching that homosexuality is a sin, so as to not offend readers who happen to be gay. That also is not - Versions that change any passage that supports male spiritual leadership in the church, so it'll be more acceptable for those who promote women's roles in the church. Again, there should be no agenda in a version, other than making it clear to understand. Remember the original text tells us not to change or add or subtract anything from God's Word.
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
- Revelation 22:18
So a version is not accurate or authoritative if it presents different versions of God's teaching or commands. You can have different styles of language, but not different teachings or commands.