here are some commonly asked questions
here are some commonly asked questions
Thanks for your question.
The first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses probably somewhere in the 1400's BC. Other prophets wrote subsequent Old Testament books at various times. Isaiah, for example, is thought to have lived in the 700's BC to later 600's BC, so that's when the book of Isaiah would have been written. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was likely written in the neighborhood of 450 BC. The New Testament books were penned over a span of time from about 50 AD to about 100 AD.
Thanks for your interest.
I am a pastor and am wondering what is the best way to answer our church members when they ask, “Was Jesus really born on December 25th? What really happened at Christmas?”
God bless you. Thanks for participating.
It is clearly documentable that the Roman church adapted an already existing Roman pagan holiday (the birth of their version of the sun-god at about the time of the winter solstice). They continued with much of the form of the pagan celebration but substituted in Christian names and reasons. Much of the tradition we associate with Christmas (the decorated fir tree, exchanging gifts, mistletoe, holly, Yule log, etc.) is of pagan origin.
I infer from your question that you know this, but are seeking suggestions on the best way to respond to others. I recommend being perfectly honest with people, not trying to ascribe Christian reasons for our current Christmas customs.
We don't exchange gifts at Christmas time because the wise men did. The wise men didn't exchange gifts. They presented their gifts to Jesus, but this was not at the time of Jesus' birth. They were never at the stable. By the time the wise men arrived, they visited the family at the "house" where they were staying (Matthew 2:11).
Exchanging gifts was part of the "Saturnalia" celebration at the time of the winter solstice in ancient Rome. In my view, telling people, for example, that the "real reason" we exchange gifts at Christmas time is because of the wise men, is not honest and it is contrary to the Biblical record. We can be thankful for Jesus' birth without trying to claim that western culture's traditions associated with our Christmas holiday are something that they are not.
Telling people the truth will not ruin their holiday. I knew as a child that the so-called "Christmas tree" was a carry over from paganism (Jeremiah 10:1-5). I still loved the pretty lights, the smell of the tree, getting presents etc. as much as any other kid. We taught our son this at a very early age. He is now in the Air Force and is a dedicated believer. He is coming home for Christmas this year, and his only request of us regarding the holiday was that we have a huge tree like we always did when he was growing up.
It is better to enjoy traditions without ascribing any spiritual significance to them than it is to do so falsely. (See our posting, Truth Versus Tradition.)
Again, thanks for your participation. I hope this has been helpful.
Thanks for your question.
I really don't know, but I doubt that anyone else does either. Quite a number of people for generations have endeavored to link the prophecy of the book of Revelation to current events of their time. All have turned out to be wrong. When the events of the book of Revelation actually occur, the meanings of the prophecies will be obvious. I suppose that the prophecies will serve as a wake up call for those who will be involved in the events of that time. Until then, surmisings about specific events leading up to the events of the book of Revelation are just speculation.
Thanks for your question.
The "bow," ie rainbow, is referenced in Genesis 9. The incident is shortly after Noah and his sons got off the ark.
Genesis 9:8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
The rainbow here in Genesis 9 is given as a symbol of God's promise that "the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh." I do not know what the symbolism is relating to the rainbow as it appears in the book of Revelation.
Hi. Thanks for the question.
I can understand your concern. Unlike the true God, Satan is a created being with certain limitations of all such. He is a particular being in a particular place. God's Word never ascribes everywhere present, all knowing kinds of attributes to him. Honestly, Satan probably doesn't even know you exist. Unless you are a major force in shaping the opinions of the world, he has bigger fish to fry. He accomplishes his goals by executing his authority as commander in chief over lesser devil spirits. Certain of these might know you exist, but, no, they cannot read your mind.
Bless, Ken Brown
The bible was written hundreds of years ago. It seems like there are things and problems that exist today that didn’t exist back then. I hear so many different interpretations of the bible from so many different people, and someone told me that given what is going in today’s world the bible has changed. Is this true? Do you think that God would give leeway on his word just because people say that things exist today that didn’t exist back then?
2 Timothy 3:16 reads:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;
The Bible deals with God and His relationship with mankind whom He created for Himself. It also speaks with regard to our relationship with one another. When it comes to those things is there much need for the bible to change? Circumstances often make the things we experience appear to be outside the scope of the simple truth of the Word of God. But once all the outer layers have been pulled away, a simple understanding of who we are in relationship to God will give us the answers we are seeking.
In the verse quoted above, it says that the scripture is profitable for doctrine (how to believe rightly), for reproof (when we miss the mark), for correction, for INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; It says that all scripture is profitable for those things. Those are things that cut across all times and circumstances, don't you think?
-- Tim Plear
Thanks for your participation.
The biggest difference between the two is the inclusion of the "Apocryphal" books in the Roman Catholic versions. These are books that nearly all other Christian groups do not accept as legitimate contributions to the revealed Word of God.
There are many English versions of the Bible. Translators used different criteria for making the decisions they did, but each was endeavoring to communicate what is in the ancient texts. None, apart from the Roman Catholic versions, are proclaimed to be the property of one group or the other.
The Roman Catholic versions are translated from Latin texts, which were in turn translated from Greek texts. The Roman Catholic church has its reasons for holding Latin texts as more sacred, but going back as close as possible to the original makes more sense to me.
All that said, other than the inclusion of the apocryphal books, there is not a lot of difference in the texts of the versions. The Roman Catholic versions have side explanatory notes that vary significantly from what one might otherwise pick up from the text, but the text itself is not all that different.
How do you know if you’ve done enough? As a child I was told “God helps those who help themselves” but I was also reminded “Let go and let God”. It’s very confusing…
Thanks for participating.
I see your problem, and you are right. This is confusing. Neither the line, "God helps those who help themselves" nor the line, "Let go and let God" are from the Bible. When people use non-biblical catchy phrases, passing them out as though they are the legitimate Word of God, confusion is the result.
So let's forget these two lines and approach the other part of your question, "How do you know if you've done enough?" I am not sure I fully understand your question, i.e. done enough for what? If you mean done enough to be right (righteous) before God, then the answer is that you never will and never can do enough to achieve this. The good news is that you don't have to. Jesus Christ "did enough" for you.
We are righteous before God because of what Jesus Christ did, not because of what we do. We merely accept him, confessing him as lord and believing God raised him from the dead, and thatâ€™s enough for salvation and righteousness before God (Romans 10:9 and 10).
Righteousness before God is a gift, paid for by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). Gifts are not earned. Are there also good works that we are called to do? Yes, of course, but they are not what earns our standing before our heavenly Father. We do them because we love our heavenly Father and want to do his will and treat others with the kind of love we have been shown.
For a full discussion on the gift of righteousness, please see our series titled, "The Gift of Righteousness".
Thanks. Bless, Ken Brown
I know that all the accounts of Jesus in the Bible serve as pictures of who He is. There is one story that I LOVE, and I understand the lesson being illustrated, but I don’t understand how it fits into Jesus’ character. In Luke, he’s hungry, he sees a fig tree that has no fruit, and he curses it (“No one will ever eat from you again.”). Later, the disciples see the tree, and it has withered and died. Is this purely for the purpose of the lesson being taught (ask with belief and you shall receive), or is it also meant to show something about Jesus?
Thanks for your question.
It is apparent that Jesus taught his disciples a great lesson by means of the cursing of the fig tree, but is this the only reason he cursed the tree? The record does not state that this was even one of the reasons. I don't assume anything. Jesus said to the tree...and his disciples heard it. He wasn't addressing them yet at this point.
I don't know that he intended to be overheard by the disciples. Perhaps he was just getting rid of a worthless tree, nothing more to it than that. But when the disciples expressed their shock at what was done, he used the incident to teach. Perhaps teaching his disciples was his purpose all along, but we can't (or shouldn't) read that into the record.
So we don't know why Jesus cursed the fig tree much less all the nuances of why the incident is recorded for us in the scriptures. I am thrilled that it was recorded and thus I know that all things whatsoever I shall ask in prayer, believing I shall receive.
Did you learn something else from this record? If so, good, but I can't speak to the question of whether or not that was one of the reasons for the incident to have been recorded.
That people go to heaven immediately upon death is a commonly held belief among Christians, but the reason you couldn't find it in the Bible is because it isn't there.
The Bible says that at death, we go to the grave, or "gravedom" (sheol), which is described as being a state of no knowledge or wisdom:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
In the New Testament, believers who have died (the "dead in Christ") are described as being "asleep" until Christ's return to Earth - because at that time, they will wake up and be with the Lord. The dead in Christ will be raised from the dead WHEN JESUS CHRIST RETURNS. That's when they (as well as those who are alive at the time) will meet the Lord. They haven't already met him.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
This scripture reference could not be any more clear. Verse 18 states that these are the words with which we are to comfort one another. How many times have we heard Christians endeavor to comfort people with other words that contradict the words given here. Speaking of so and so who has just died, they say he is in a better place, with the Lord, etc. They depict his status as being able to look down upon the earth and be blessed with all the nice things being said about him at his funeral. God's Word is very clear that the dead in Christ are exactly that. They are dead and will remain dead until Jesus Christ returns and raises them from the dead. There is no consciousness of time or of anything else in death. For the person who has died, the return of Jesus Christ will be for him as though it were the next moment. But he is not already in heaven watching you.
There are a few scripture references that people use to try to prove that the dead are really alive and in heaven, but these arguments are very weak, especially in light of such clear scriptures to the contrary.
1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
1 Corinthians15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
I hope this answers your question. Thank you for participating.
Asked by: Stacy
Greetings Sammy G.,
Thanks for your question.
What do you mean by "bad"?
While a person's relationship with God can be strengthened by spending time with like-minded believers, studying the Bible and getting to know God better, it is not required by God to go to church on a regular basis.
God sees our heart. Perhaps it is best to ask is what is well pleasing to God?
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and God has raised him from the dead?
If you do then you are a Christian (ROMANS 10:9) and by grace (divine favor) you are saved and granted eternal life. That is well pleasing to God.
In the first half of Matthew 6 there seems to be a theme, which is "Don't be like the hypocrites".
In verse 2 Do not sound a trumpet as the hypocrites ( before they give money) that they may have glory of men
In verse 5 Do not be as the hypocrite (for they love to pray standing in the synagogues) that they may be seen of men.
In verse 16 Be not as the hypocrite when you fast (for they disfigure their faces) that they may appear unto men to fast.
It seems that the real issue here is that there were some people who did things hoping to get recognition from other people. If they got that recognition, then that was the reward they were seeking. They were being admonished to seek to be rewarded by God, not men. Even though the example of the hypocrite praying in public was used, I don't believe the Lord intended to ban prayers in a meeting of believers. Such prayers are recorded in Acts.
-- Tim Plear
Thanks for your question Jodi.
I am assuming that what you are asking is why the physical act of sex between persons of the same sex is considered sin. If I am wrong in this assumption, I apologize.
To address that particular topic though, the simple answer is that our God, who created us and knows everything about our makeup, says that it is sin for a man to lie with another man the way that males lie with females. The same holds true for two women. The Bible says it is against nature (or contrary to what is natural).
Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
It also calls such affections vile or passions of dishonor. We have to remember that the prophecy (of the scriptures) came not in old time by the "will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"
2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
God had things written in His Word that He wants us to know.
People experience many emotions in our lives. Some of those emotions we know we cannot act upon because the effect of these actions would be harmful. In some situations we may not see the harm in certain behavior right away. That doesn't mean its not there. That is one of the reasons God gave us His Word. We have a standard to refer to when we have questions.
Always remember that God loves you and He can help you deal with anything.
-- Tim Plear
How can the flood be real when nature would dictate that such a thing would destroy all life on earth, including sea life, and would also eliminate oxygen. If one deeply thinks of all that would would be destroyed by being buried under salt water for over a year it become unbelievable.
Thank you for your participation. I apologize for how long it took me to respond. I forwarded your question to one of the participants on our site. He is a doctor, a veterinarian, not exactly a field closely associated with the science involved with your question, but he is a science guy as well as a Bible guy. I knew he would have a better answer than I would. He was prompt with his reply. The delay is my fault. Anyway, here is his response:
When it comes to questions about the Great Flood of Noah’s time, no answers and no evidence will please everyone. There are so many opinions as to what happened, how it happened, and when it happened, that nobody seems to pay an attention as to WHY it happened.
First of all, I’m not sure if I understand the full range of questions in the question your friend asked. He actually brings up more than one “problem.” Here is what he asked:
How can the flood be real when nature would dictate that such a thing would destroy all life on earth, including sea life, and would also eliminate oxygen? If one deeply thinks of all that would be destroyed by being buried under salt water for over a year it, becomes unbelievable.
It will be hard to answer his questions since he starts out with some assumptions that are not based on any facts from the Bible or anywhere else.
The Problem of Salt Water
Where does the Bible say it was salt water? Did it rain enough to cause the ocean to become fresh water? Did the springs of the deep produce fresh water or salt water? The Bible doesn’t say. Does it matter? I don’t know. If you assume that everything remained controlled by the normal forces of nature, then yes, fresh water fish would die if the earth was covered in salt water. But, salt water fishes would die if the earth was covered in fresh water. If it was a brackish mixture of salt and fresh, then probably all fish would die. Do you see the problem? I won’t be able to give answers that he would accept because his assumptions can’t be addressed. This is a “problem” only if you assume that God had no control over the conditions of the earth during the Flood.
One of the main problems is that too many people (Christians included) tend to think the Bible teaches that the Great Flood was a naturalistic process from start to finish, and that God had little or no control over it. In short, many people don’t want to believe that miraculous intervention was a necessary part of the story. Even Morris and Whitcomb in their book, The Genesis Flood, tried to make the Flood fit what they believed about science. Morris was a hydrologist, an expert in fluid dynamics, and he always seemed to try to explain things in a way that didn’t rely on God’s direct supernatural intervention. He was a Christian, but he seemed to want to make the Flood a natural event that science could explain without relying on the “God-of-the-Gaps” argument. That’s the argument that atheists and agnostics throw at Christians when we can’t explain something. They say that when we can’t give a scientific explanation, then we just say, “God-did-it.” In other words we use God as a way to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Morris and Whitcomb tried to make it look that science could answer everything about the Flood. Of course, it was THEIR science (Young-Earth Science) that they used to explain things. In my opinion they failed miserably.
(Then again, when I ask evolutionists questions about how random chemical mutagens and random ionizing radiation combined with random geologic changes could produce non-random intelligence in DNA, they fall back on the “evolution-did-it” argument… evolution-of-the-gaps.)
One of the first questions that needs to be addressed is whether the Flood was global or local. I believe it was global, but I have read the arguments of many good Christians who argue that it was local. I assume, that your friend assumes, that we assume the Flood was global. If not, then his question makes no sense. If it was local, then your friend’s questions are answered even before asks them. If it was local, then there would be no need to explain a world wide impact. It wouldn’t have had a world wide impact. There would be no need to explain how freshwater fish, or salt water fish, or kangaroos, or Three-Toed Sloths, or Antarctic penguins, etc. could have survived. If it was local, then they were never in danger. The “Local-Only” Flood does not present much of a scientific problem, but it sure presents some major Biblical problems. I don’t need to tell you that because I know you are well aware of them.
Yes, things being under water for a year would have died, and it really wouldn’t matter if it was salt or fresh. BUT things would have died only if God was unable to preserve life in a supernatural fashion. This “problem” is self-defeating. If you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe there was ever a Great Flood. If there was no Great Flood, then the preservation of life, during a Flood that never happened, was never a problem. The problem only arises if you believe there is a God who caused a Great Flood that was out of His control. You have to assume that the Creator was unable to control His creation. To ask this question assumes that the Designer and Creator of life was unable to temporarily modify the environmental, biological, anatomical, and physiological factors needed to sustain life. Yes, nature would dictate that life couldn’t survive such an event, but how does that eliminate a supernatural intervention?
Let me give a parallel “problem.” How could Lazarus come back to life after being dead and buried for four days? Well, if you are an atheist, and you assume that Jesus is not God, then you assume that Jesus didn’t raise him from the dead. It would be nonsense to argue the mechanics of how Jesus could have done it if you assumed Jesus never did it. You have to assume that supernatural intervention is impossible. But how do you use nature to disprove super-nature? You can’t do it. Science is limited to what can be naturally observed and tested. How can you observe or test what a supernatural God could or couldn’t do with His natural creation?
The real problem is not believing if there was a Great Flood; the problem is believing if there is a Great God.
The Elimination of Oxygen
Is he talking about the elimination of oxygen in the water or the elimination of oxygen in the atmosphere? Both of these “problems” have been used to try to disprove the Bible. First, let’s deal with the problem of atmospheric oxygen. This was one of the first questions I got hit with after becoming a Christian when I was in the Navy. A fellow sailor, an atheist, challenged me with these questions.
His question: Did I believe the Flood covered all the mountains, including Mount Everest?
My answer: Yes, I believed that.
His question: Since Mt. Everest is 5 ½ miles high, did I believe the Ark was at a higher elevation?
My answer: Yes, I believed that.
His question: Then how could Noah, his family, and all the animals survive since there is insufficient oxygen to breath at that altitude; the air is too thin to breathe that high up?
My answer: Uhhhhhhh….. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Those were the days before the Internet and the only resources I had were a few fellow Christians, a local pastor, and a good Christian bookstore in Glasgow. (I was in Scotland at the time) Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone who had an answer.
I was afraid that I was going to have to admit that his argument was valid, but then the Holy Spirit hit me up side the head and said, “YOU DUMMY.” Well, it wasn’t quite like that, but it should have been. You see, I was a sailor. I was on a ship. When we were at sea, we were at sea level. When we were in port, we were at sea level at high tide, and we were at sea level at low tide. It didn’t matter how high or low the tides were. We were always at sea level. It struck me that Noah’s Ark would have been at sea level no matter how high sea level was. The atmosphere would have been displaced upward as the ocean rose. The occupants of the Ark would have been in the same oxygen-rich atmosphere for the entire duration of the Flood. There would have been no elimination of oxygen from the atmosphere.
Now let’s look at the “problem” of elimination of oxygen in the water. Well, that wouldn’t have been a problem either. Atmospheric oxygen diffuses into the water quite nicely. Even at the deepest parts of the ocean, six miles down, there is sufficient oxygen for deep-sea creatures to live. As long as water is moving, the turbulence keeps creating a supply of oxygen from higher up the water column. AND MOST IMPORTANT: The concentration of oxygen in the water does not depend on depth alone. It depends on salinity, temperature, turbulence, local mineral concentrations, and a whole bunch of other things. Even with an increase in ocean depth of 5-6 miles, the concentration of oxygen at the surface would have been the same. Since we don’t know the temperature of the water, and we don’t know the salinity of the water, and we don’t know the turbulence of the water, we can’t use the mathematical equations that scientists use today to determine oxygen concentrations. This means that no one can determine how much oxygen was in the Flood’s water; not even your friend. He can assume there was no oxygen in the water, but he has no way to know what the conditions were. If the ocean was warmer during Noah’s Flood, then more oxygen would have dissolved. If the ocean was more saline, then it would have held more oxygen. If there was more turbulence, then there would be more mixing, and more oxygen would have diffused down to deeper depths. Since no one knows what these factors were during Noah’s Flood, no one knows if there was a problem with oxygen levels at deeper levels. As it turns out, the question isn’t even scientific since there is no way we can observe, measure, and test the conditions of the water as they were during the Flood. To ask the question assumes that the conditions of the Flood waters were such that life could not be sustained. But, to make such an assumption requires that you know something about the conditions of the Flood waters. He is not asking a scientific question because he had no science on which to base his question.
It also assumes that God didn’t know how to keep things alive. But, of course, He is the One who created them, and He is the One who designed them, and He is the One who could alter the conditions of the water so that they would be supplied with plenty of oxygen. In other words, the problem is only a problem if you first assume it is a problem. It’s the “anti-God of the gaps” argument. When we say that God performed a miracle, they fall back on the “there-is-no-god” response; therefore, the miracle never happened. They don’t prove the miracle never happened; they just assume that miracles can’t happen because there is no supernatural God capable of performing miracles.
I know your friend will have lots of other “problems” with the Flood and with the Bible, but the real problem is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Let me put this in a medical frame of reference. I would ask him this:
If your dog was shot by a .45 caliber pistol, and the bullet pierced a major artery, as a veterinarian, the first thing I need to do is to get in there and stop the bleeding. How I treat the surface wound, whether or not I’m going to use a cosmetic surgical closing, what kind of suture material I will use, or what kind of antibiotic I will use as a follow-up are all unimportant at the time. If your dog dies, none of that stuff matters. The same thing is true about your eternal destiny. It makes no sense to argue over issues that do not matter if you do not get saved. This is one of the most depressing things I think about when it comes to people who claim to be scientific and who claim they are searching for answers to questions about the universe. If you die and go to hell, you will never be able to have your questions answered. You will be in fire and torment and ignorance forever. You will never discover anything new in hell. On the other hand, if you put your trust in Jesus Christ, then not only will you be spared eternal damnation, you will be in the presence of the Creator Himself who will give you all the answers to all the questions you could ever ask about the universe. If you love knowledge, why would you reject the chance of living in the presence of the One who possesses all knowledge?
Well, Ken, that’s all for now. I hope it helps. I will pray that it will.
Your brother in Christ,
"With all of the different branches of Christianity and all of the different interpretations of the Bible, where do all of these branches get their different viewpoints? What are they basing their differences in beliefs on? In other words, if we are all reading the same Bible, where or how are we coming up with these differences in beliefs?"
Excellent question. It gets to the very heart of what is and what is not Truth when it comes to the things of God. Last I heard, there were over 4,000 different denominations that consider themselves to be Christian. They are obviously not all basing all their beliefs on the same source for Truth. If we were all accepting the Bible (as originally written) as God’s Word, the only source for Truth, and taking the same approach to it, there would be far fewer disagreements among us. The various “interpretations of the Bible” are not primarily due to a lack of scholarship in being able to understand what is written. They are primarily due to fundamental differences in how we view what is written.
Many, even most, Christians are woefully ignorant of the Scriptures and do not even believe that they are the Word of God. Many believe that the Bible (and by “Bible” I am throughout referring to the Scriptures as originally written) CONTAINS God’s Word, but not that it IS God’s Word. Their real standard for truth is whatever conclusions they have come to from their personal life experiences. They only accept the parts of the Bible that are consistent with the conclusions they have already come to.
A prevalent view is that the Scriptures are not absolute truth and, actually, that there is no such thing as absolute truth. You may interpret a particular Biblical passage to mean one thing to you and that is good for you. Someone else interprets the same passage to mean something else to him and that is good for him. There is no right or wrong interpretation. This view is both absurd and cowardly. No one needs to take a stand on anything. Everyone gets to believe anything he wants and no one is any more right or wrong than anyone else. If such were true, there would be no communication from God to man. If the passage means whatever I want, not what God wants, the whole book is completely pointless.
The Scriptures are not of our own private interpretation.
2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy [anything spoken forth, not just foretelling of future events] of the scripture is of any private [idios- one’s own] interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time [at any time] by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The Roman Catholic church is up front about stating that the written Scriptures are not even their primary standard for truth, let alone their only standard. Edicts of the Pope and church tradition are both stated to be of higher authority.
The myriads of different interpretations are caused primarily by these and other unsound approaches to God’s Word. The wide variances are not because the Bible cannot be understood. Among those of us who endeavor to simply read the records and believe what they say, there are still differences, just not nearly as many.
God’s Word tells us to “study” to show ourselves approved unto God, “rightly dividing” the Word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study [spoudazo – give diligence] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [orthotemeo – a straight, right cutting, implying that other cuttings are not “straight” or right] the word of truth.
When we give due diligence to rightly dividing God’s Word, with honesty and reason, identifying and forsaking unfounded tradition, there need not be such differences among us. The Bible is understandable, but learning the Truth takes effort and a willingness to reject all previously held beliefs upon seeing scriptures contrary to those beliefs. Unfortunately, there are relatively few people who are willing to do this.
Thank you for your question, JS.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were two different sects among the Israelites. Both adhered to the law of Moses and also accepted the other written Scriptures as the Word of God. The Pharisees also had a set of oral traditions and laws that they proclaimed to also be the Word of God. The Sadducees rejected these oral traditions and laws. Thus, the Pharisees were the more legalistic of the two groups.
The Pharisees believed in angels as well as evil spirit beings. The Sadducees believed in neither. The Pharisees believed in life after death.
The Sadducees did not. [That's why they were so "sad-you-see." ]
Both opposed Jesus, though the Gospel records of the Pharisees doing so are more frequent.
Thank you for your participation.
The record does not say how many magi visited "the young child" at "the house" where the family was staying. There were no magi at the stable the night Jesus was born.
Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The gifts consisted of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we do not know how many individual gifts there were any more than we know how many magi there were.
How many wise men there were and when they arrived is a miniscule point in God's Word. But since it is so easy to read a single verse in the Bible and see that the traditional scene is incorrect, what does that tell us about churches that have nativity scenes with magi? Everytime I see such a scene in front of a church, I know that it is a church where people care more about tradition than they do about God's Word.
God bless you.
Hi. Thanks for your question.
"Election" is used a few times in association with salvation. The Greek word translated "election" basically means to choose. We are the "chosen" of God in the sense that God predetermined that He would choose out for Himself all who would believe, not that He would predetermine who would believe and who would not.
The "wise men" were "magi." (The word in the Greek text for Matthew 2:1 is the adjective form, "magos".) "Magi" is the name given by the Babylonians,
Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, soothsayers, sorcerers etc. It is the same name that is translated "sorcerer" (King James Version) in Acts 13.
Acts 13:6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
I take it from their close observation of the stars, that these men were more along the lines of astrologers than other categories of ancient "wise
men." Had they been kings, I think the record would have said so. It begs the question, however, "How could pagan astrologers have had such knowledge about the birth of Jesus Christ?" The record does not say, and we will never know.
There is a possible explanation that deserves consideration, though again, we’ll never know. Were these "wise men" from Babylon? There is a record in the book of Daniel that could give reason to reflect on the possible source of the knowledge of these men. An abbreviated account of the record follows:
Daniel 2:2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
Daniel 2:9 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.
26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?
27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
Daniel 2:46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.
48 Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel had been previously associated (in the mind of the Babylonian administration) with the astrologers, magicians, and soothsayers. He was subsequently promoted to ruler over the whole province, including over all the "wise men" of Babylon. Did he have further revelation and teach the "wise men" of Babylon about signs in the sky that would appear when the "King of the Jews" would be born? Did they then pass on this revelation from one generation to the next while they continued to observe the signs of the heavens? It’s possible. We’ll never know, but they recognized something that no one else did.