Welcome to my website. My goal is to help you & me grow in our ability to understand, love & live the Bible. On this site you can find training help, resources for your church, and inspiration for engaging the Scriptures. Enjoy!
Let's be honest. Certain parts of the Old Testament can seem just plain weird, "recurringly odd and unaccommodating," as Mark Coleridge puts it. And no part of the Old Testament seems more foreign than those sections that detail God's laws for Israel.
In a post last week, I mentioned a bit of “cultural background” behind the story of David and Goliath, noting that David’s sling was not child’s toy but rather a serious weapon. I wrote that sling stones could be 3+ inches in diameter, the size of a peach or even a baseball, and could travel over 100 miles per hour—serious weapon indeed. Through the years I have found that understanding aspects of cultural background can shed great light on passages in the Bible.
The question is, how can we get at reliable information on the cultural background behind Scripture? Let me mention three categories of “power tools” to consider for your Bible reading and study.
Harold Goddard writes, "The history of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in." As we live in the modern world, we see the evidence of Goddard's statement all around us. People have particular views of the world, and those views often are driven by the stories they have embraced.
God wants to pull us into his Story and shape us by it. You may not be terribly familiar with the Old Testament stories, which play a vitally important role in telling the Grand Story, but there are a number of reasons why we should read those stories (which make up a bit less than 50% of the Old Testament).
Sometimes the experiences of life in this world can make us feel rather small. The powers—powerful people, powerful governments, powerful forces in the world—are loud in their posturing against God and his people. “Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers conspire together” (Ps. 2:1-2). They think they are big, and they can make us feel small. Further, the normal experiences of life, whether illness, or financial distress, or relational turmoil, can be hard, soul-grinding, reducing us, making God seem distant or small.
From time to time, especially when I have been teaching on Bible translation at a church, someone will approach me and ask, “Which translation is the best?,” or “Which do you recommend?” It is a good question, especially since there are so many options out there in English, and people rightly are concerned to get a translation that is true to the original writings of the Bible.
If we look at 1 John 5:7-8 in the KJV, we find the following:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:and these three are one.And there are three that bear witnessin earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Compare this, for instance, to the ESV, which corresponds to all modern translations:
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”
The question, “Why the difference?,” marked out in bold type in the first quotation, makes for a fascinating story and is perhaps the clearest example of why some words found in the KJV are not included in our modern translations.