Sunday, 20 March 2011

Comparing Bible Translations

Today I share an old but good article snippet on Comparing Bible Translations from John R. Kohlenberger III taken from Navpress 1988.

"The most important book in your biblical reference library is the Bible itself. And the best way to study your Bible is to read it, read it, and read it! But unless your Bible uses words that you are familiar with, you will find yourself as exasperated as the Ethiopian. What can you do when you do not understand the language in your Bible?
The translators of the King James Version (KJV ) said, “Variety of translation is profitable for finding out the sense of the scripture.” Ironically, this principle is especially important when you read the translation they produced nearly four centuries ago!
Genesis 25:29 in the KJV begins, “And Jacob sod pottage.” We all know “and.” Most of us know “Jacob.” But who knows what it means to “sod pottage”? By consulting a modern translation, such as the New International Version (NIV ) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB), we discover that to “sod pottage” means to “cook stew.” Other difficult words in this chapter also become more clear in comparative study. In verse 27 , Esau is described as a “cunning hunter” and Jacob as “plain.” We normally use “cunning” to describe someone who is sneaky and underhanded, and “plain” to describe someone who is ordinary or homely. But modern translations tell us that Esau was a “skillful hunter” and that Jacob was a “quiet” or “peaceful” man.
Even if you are strongly attached to one translation of the Bible for reading, study, and memorization, “variety of translation is profitable for finding out the sense of the scripture.” I strongly recommend that you regularly consult three or four modern versions to aid your understanding and to deepen your insight. (Parallel Bibles, which offer several translations of the same text side by side, can be very helpful.)"
Many of us are attached to one or two Bibles that we used regularly on for scripture memory. But for more in-depth Bible Study, it would be good to consult like what he says above 2-3 different genre type of Bible to get a comprehensive understanding of the word meanings. My favourite selection would be ESV, NASB and The Message/NET, plus occasionally the Amplified Bible for a different understanding.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Human Reasoning vs Divine Revelation

How do we study the Bible to know God?

Much has been said about our own efforts in study by reasoning. Books, manuscripts and theses have been written and argued to promote and defend different theologies and propositions. Many of these are very learned and well-written, and should be encouraged to continue. We defiintely need more discipline in digging into the Word of God and to study it progressively at a higher level.

Another equally important dimension is that of Divine Revelation. Unless God chooses to reveal Himself to us, much of what we studied and thought true could be vain ignorance, for who are we to claim that we can study and know God?

In the Bible, God chooses to reveal Himself to us. We can see many verses supporting this, one of which is Isaiah 43:12 "I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God."

As He reveals Himself to us, through the Word we should draw near to Him and know Him firsthand. He is know-able, which is quite rare as compared to other gods, especially those in the Ancient Near East.

In a way, knowing God through Divine Revelation is more difficult than Human Reasoning as it require us to draw near to God in faith, humility and with a contrite heart. He will definitely reveal but are we willing to draw near? It is easier to choose the path of Human Reasoning as it can be done with our intellect without an encounter with God and a need to look at our own condition and change our ways.

At the end of the day, as we study His Word, both ways are important and we should not weigh too much on one at the exclusion of the other.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Choosing a Bible Translation

Here is a simple guide that is easy to use in choosing a Bible translation (See photo below).

Generally there are two kinds: Word-for-Word, i.e. its very accurate translation but can be a bit wooden and difficult to read. The other kind, Though-for-Thought, where the editors/scholars captured the original idea and translated it into a language that the modern day lay person can understand. Which is better depends on you and your needs. My suggestion is to start with a Thought-for-Thought version and then move to a Word-for-Word kind of Bible later on.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

How to Read a Christian Book?

Leaders are readers. To lead you need to read to enrich and grow your mind. But how do we read a book to get the maximum out of it?

I once read a good book on this above title by David McKenna and summarised the main points below.

How to choose a book:

  1. Be a listener - for other's recommendations, "What book are you reading now?" "What would you recommend?"
  2. Be a looker - look around and see who has what books in the office and/or at home. 
  3. Be a surfer - check it up on the Net, read the book reviews
  4. Be a browser - browse them in the bookshops
  5. Be a sampler - sample the information on the front, back, inside jackets, know who the author is, the aim of the book, etc. 
  6. Be a prober - check out the contents, first lines, first para, last para - how did the author conclude? 
  7. Be a buyer - (1) make the book your own - talk to the author, ask it questions, (2) to build your own library, (3) for your reference
Questions to ask of every Christian book: 
  1. is this book true to the Bible (both in text and spirit)? 
  2. is this book useful for Christian teaching? 
  3. does this book contribute to Christian maturity? does it inspire us to be godly? 
Goals for Reading: 
1. Read for Information
2. Read for Inspiration
3. Read for Instruction
4. Read for Interrogation - i.e. critically examine it, e.g. for books on theology
5. Read for Integration - read several books on the same topic and integrate them

Note - there are some books that you read and re-read, they "grow" with you, one seating is never enough for these books, i.e. the Christian classics. 

Pyramid of Christian books (start from the basics) - for a well rounded library
  • Bibles: literal, dynamic versions, and newer translations
  • Biblical Reference: Bible Dictionary, handbook and commentaries
  • Biblical Study: Books that help explain about the Bible
  • Christian Devotion: devotion books, books on prayer, spiritual disciplines
  • Christian Inspiration: biographies
  • Christian Living: family
  • Christian Understanding: theological books, church history, worship
  • Christian Witness: evangelism, disciplemaking, missions
  • Christian Action: social actions
  • Christian Thought: apologetics, ethics
  • Author of your choice - those books that you resonate with. 
It has been almost ten years since I last read and made this summary of what i gleaned from this book. I realized that for most parts of my life, I had been a lazy reader and wished that i had been more disciplined to read more. 

It's still not too late to start reading again. Today.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Bible Study Methods

Over the years, I have compiled a list of the various Bible Study (BS) Methods. These are listed below for all to refer and try.

1.      Q & A BS – e.g. from Studies in Christian Living, Design for Discipleship by Navigators.

2.      Verse Analysis – Choose a verse; ask what is it about; determine the context; ask questions about it; draw applications for yourself.

3.      ABC BS – Choose a passage/verses; A title; Best Verse; Challenge – truth of challenge & application of challenge; Difficulties of passage; Essence – i.e. outline of passage.

4.      Search the Scriptures – Choose a passage; Point of passage; Parallel passages – look up the cross references; Problems of Passages; Profit of Passage – application.

5.      Advanced ABC BS – Choose a passage; give the passage a title; Application; Basic Passage – i.e. key verse; Cross-Reference; Difficulties; Eminent Truth; Final Study – do a passage (psg) outline.

6.      Comprehensive Book study – Choose a Bible book;
A)    Major Headings in Book Survey:
v  Principal Personalities;
v  Historical Setting;
v  Purpose of book;
v  Themes;
v  Style;
v  Key Words;
v  Geography;
v  Overview/Outline;
B)    Chapter Analysis:
v  Passage Description
v  Observations
v  Q & A
v  Cross Reference
v  Notes and Comments
v  Title
v  Theme
v  Conclusion
v  Applications
C)    Book Summary:
v  Book Title
v  Final Outline
v  Main Theme
v  Main Conclusions
v  Final Applications

7.      Topical BS: Choose a topic (e.g. stewardship, fruits…); scripture passage studied; summary or outline; key verse/favourite verses; illustrations; problems; applications

8.      Bible Character: Choose a character; scriptures used; biographical sketch; key verse; leading lesson – lesson from his life; problems; applications.

9.      Doctrine study: what is the doctrine about, what are the supporting verses for it, what are the debates on it, how can I apply this doctrine in life. A Systematic Theology Book will be helpful for this BS.

10.  God’s character: study the various aspects of God's character.

Monday, 7 March 2011

How to Study the Bible?

There are many ways to study the Bible and this blog does not attempt to suggest the best way to go about doing it. A simple search on google will reveal many answers coming from Navigators, Christianity Today and even from eHow and

The Bible can also be studied at many levels. From the beginner's level to the seminary level of doing a complete book survey complete with word study in its original language.

I would like to suggest a simple beginner level for a start and then in the later blogs show other ways and more advanced approaches to the Bible.

Most Bible Study practitioners would start with a simple question, i.e. which book of the Bible do you want to start off? For beginners, it would be good to start with an epistle from the New Testament. Something short like the book of James or Titus.

You would need a Bible and a note book to record down your thoughts. For the Bible, if you can afford it, a study Bible would be good as its gives you more background material on the book. Choose a simple to read translation like ESV or NIV, though many would insist on NASV for accuracy.

Before doing the study, ask God in prayer for wisdom to see truths in the text and courage to apply them in your daily life. It is the Holy Spirit who illumines the Word to us and gives us understanding, not our intellect.

A simple framework approach to Bible Study is to use the acronymn OIA. O for Observation, which is, "what do I observe from the text?" I for Interpretation. What is the text saying? A for Application, what can I applied into my daily life from what I have learnt today. This OIA approach is taken from Howard Hendricks Living by the Book. (click link to read book at Google Books)

After your study, share it with others. As you share, you are learning it twice.

When was the last time we studied a passage in the Bible?

In this busy age, most of us hardly have time for ourselves, not to mention devotion times or prayer. Once a week, we may force ourselves to attend a small group (or CG) and we would have given ourselves a pat on the back and said, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Studying the Word is an important necessity in modern living. One of the reasons so many of us are weak and have little spiritual foundation is that our basics are weak. We have little spiritual depth in the Word. What better way to increase our spiritual depth than to study the Word directly for ourselves? Not just to read about someone else' study or thoughts, but to spend time and dig into the Word for ourselves and encounter God firsthand.

How do we study the Word?

There are many good tools in the market and in the Internet. This blog will attempt to surface out the good ones to share. Beyond the tools, what is needed is the heart. We must first desire to study the Word, the medium where God chose to reveal Himself to us. This desire will then inspire us to invest our limited time in His Word, rather than tv or Internet surfing.

May you start this year afresh studying His Word. Make a plan. Choose one simple book of the Bible to start with. Identify one Bible study format that can guide you and follow through it for this year.

God bless.