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Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading VI

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Question #1:

Hello Bob,

Today, I had a good fifteen minute chat with my grandfather who is a Christian. He is a smart man, but hasn't been all that interested in the Word throughout his life. I had sent him your answer to my very first question in June (on usury) and he had said it was one of the the best answers he had ever seen. During our chat today, he was questioning the Bible after I said it was God's word and that we should take every verse as God's Word. His big hangup is on translations and languages across thousands of years. And based on the quality of your usury response, he said he wanted me to write you an email on it that I would then send to him. I personally tried to answer the answers he was asking, but he wanted the answers from you.

His questions: Since there have been many translations of the Bible across thousands of years, have there been any material changes from these translations from one language to another or manuscript to manuscript which leads you to think that there are substantial differences from the original Prophets and New Testament writers and the versions today?

Since there are 30 different English versions, are there any substantial differences among them?
Is there an official Roman Catholic Bible or an official Russian Orthodox Bible, and are there material differences among them?

How good is the manuscript evidence of the Bible today?

I know these are a lot of questions, but a couple of my family members have been questioning me about this, and I think one of your responses would clear this up for them. I certainly will pray that it will. Thank you kind sir!

In our Lord and Savior,

Response #1:

I'm thrilled to hear about your grandfather!

As to his question, to be frank, these are the kinds of questions Christians tend to pose to themselves to justify not looking into scripture: "It's pointless, so why should I bother?"; when the real underlying position is, "I really don't want to be bothered with it – or change as a result of it – so here is a good excuse for not having to do so." Blessedly, the Lord has a way of breaking through to every believer who at his/her core is going to prove responsive, even if that transition is a little rough. I'm hoping that this is the case with your grandfather:

(28) “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ (29) He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. (30) Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”
Matthew 21:28 NKJV

You're free to share the above with your grandfather or not. As to his questions, I'll confine my remarks mostly to the New Testament because the principles are the same for the Old (happy to talk more about that later as well). As I'm sure you know, moreover, there is a great deal about this on the website and more to come when I finally get to BB 7 (now posted at the link).

Translations: Every translation of the Bible of which I know has been produced by translating the text of it from the original languages directly, and not from other translations. So while translators are no doubt influenced by their prior understanding of scripture and other translations they have read, they have all been working with mostly the same text (see below). In terms of English translations, they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and I greatly prefer some to others, but any sort of comprehensive reading of different, major translations (leaving out things such as the JW's NWT version and other self-serving cult productions) will show that for the most part they are not only translating the same text but also for the most part are coming up with very similar renderings in terms of the meaning.

For those of us who live and die by the Word of God, every small nuance is important. But for someone doing a literary analysis of different English translations, it will soon become apparent that in 99% of passages the renderings mean essentially the same thing, and that it is rare to find a passage where entirely different meanings are given in differing translations. Where that does happen, it is almost always a result of 1) reading a different text (i.e., the manuscript / textual tradition is understood differently by the different versions), or 2) interpreting the Greek (or Hebrew or Aramaic) in an entirely different way.

In terms of #2, ancient languages are not modern languages and there are places where different scholars understand the same text differently (e.g., because of what word or form or grammatical construction X means elsewhere in Greek, for example, to simplify greatly the issue of interacting with ancient Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic). The solution here is to have recourse to good scholars who are also believers with a deep understanding of scripture (if you understand what you are reading, your chances of translating correctly are obviously better).

In terms of #1, first, the places where the manuscript tradition of the Old and New Testaments are discrepant consist of well less than one percent of the total corpus. And I would rate the number of places where, for example, New Testament witnesses vary in a significant way at less than one tenth of one percent. Second, there are many small discrepancies which do not appreciably affect the meaning. For example, very common is whether or not there is a 'de' or a 'kai' (both words mean "and"), and exactly where it was originally placed (word order is flexible in Greek much more so than in English). And there are other reasons for mild disagreements. For example, the way that the words "we" and "you [all]" and their different case forms were pronounced in the early centuries of our era came to be essentially identical, so manuscripts being copied in a scriptorium, where one reader narrated the text and the other scribes copied it, could easily come to confuse "our love" for "your love" and vice versa – because Paul, e.g., could easily mean either one in an epistle (and usually did). Third, where there are occasional textual variants, it is almost always the case that we have more than enough evidence from the multitudinous number of textual witnesses (among other things) for someone with a good knowledge of textual criticism (i.e., someone who understands how texts were copied, and thus how mistakes tended to be made) to figure out the likely original text; that is especially true for someone who has a deep understanding of what the teachings of the Bible actually are.

That brings me to the most important point. Anyone who looks into this issue can easily find out that the New Testament is a thousand times better supported as to its text than say, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides (my secular research specialty). There are papyri of Thucydides which date to within six centuries or so of the time of writing, but all of our complete manuscripts are medieval. And yet because what witnesses we do have mostly agree, we are certain of the text over 99% of the time because scholars have spent centuries going over it with a fine-toothed comb. In terms of the Bible, however, we have thousands of manuscripts and papyri, and complete manuscripts dating to the fourth and possibly third century A.D., with some papyri dating from the end of the second century. All of these, even these earliest NT papyri, while not complete copies of the entire NT, manifest the same text as the later manuscripts.

My paternal great grandfather fought in the civil war, signing up with the Ohio militia to do so right at its inception. These men were called "the squirrel hunters", and I have both his enlistment certificate and also his mustering out certificate (they signed up at that time only for a one year "hitch"). The distance in time between today and that documented event is about the same as that between the writing of the Chester Beatty papyrus #64 and the gospel of Matthew which the papyrus partially preserves (with no serious textual differences between it and later witnesses). And as I say there are thousands of manuscripts and papyri (not to mention other witnesses such as ostraka, verses written on potsherds). To say that the New Testament is the best witnessed and most solidly textually secure writing coming from the ancient world would be a massive understatement. We don't doubt the text of Thucydides so as to not read his 'History'. How much more then should we not be confident that the Bible we are reading is the same one Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul etc. originally wrote?

Anyone who puts any serious time into this issue quickly discovers that the text of the New Testament we have today (in the original Greek) IS the text of the New Testament as it was originally written. Differences are small, generally insignificant, and easily decided upon by anyone conversant with the issues of textual criticism and knowledgeable in the language. So the real question, the really important question, is "what does the text mean?"

When it comes to translations, most significant differences have to do with the translators understanding the same texts differently. It is often the case in translating the Greek NT that a choice has to be made in rendering things into English. Does it mean X or Y exactly? One of my favorite translations for avoiding this issue is the King James. I like to call it the most creatively ambiguous English translation of the Bible. That is because there are innumerable places where instead of X or Y the KJV has found a way to render the text where it could mean X OR Y (or maybe even Z).

The bottom line here is that anyone who is interested in the Bible need not worry that by reading, say, the NIV versus the ESV one is getting entirely different information. When it comes to things that a believer who is not a prepared pastor-teacher CAN get out of the Bible, those things can be gotten from either one (or from any major English version, and I always tell readers to check other translations wherever they have questions about meaning).

The real issue is – as any serious Bible reader knows – that there are many things that can only be sorted out by listening to good, doctrinal Bible teaching. For example, the Trinity is a true doctrine and an important one (obviously). But that word does not occur in the Bible. And if a person had never before heard of the Bible or Jesus Christ, and began reading the Bible for the first time, it is entirely conceivable that said person might never come to a full understanding of the Trinity – absent a good teacher. If a Christian reads the Bible and does see and understand Trinitarian passages and issues, it is doubtless because he/she had been previously taught about it (e.g., in Sunday school).

So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
Acts 8:30-31 NKJV

I encourage everyone to read the Bible, and the more the better (see the link: "Read your Bible!"). It's an investment that pays all sorts of dividends. But to grow up to spiritual maturity requires a depth of understanding and belief in more than can be superficially gleaned by reading English versions without direction. That's the purpose of Ichthys, namely, to help guide anyone who asks me up into their chariot.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I've been watching interviews, discussions and sermons on YouTube about different Christian topics. People like NT Wright, Timothy Keller, John Piper and such. It's all been really edifying. But today I watched a video on a Christian apologetics channel that funnily enough, dealt a blow to my faith. It was an interview with a New Testament scholar who is also a Christian. She believes in God and the resurrection, but she doesn't believe in the inerrancy of scripture. She says that there are many errors in the scriptures. She says that some of the books of the New Testament weren't even written by who they're attested to. She says that Mark copied off of Paul. I believe she said that Matthew was originally anonymous, if I'm remembering correctly. She says that Christianity is centered around Jesus, not the Bible. Therefore, it doesn't matter whether the Bible contains inaccuracies or not.

All this has sowed seeds of doubt in my mind, even though she's not an atheist. She's a New Testament scholar with two master's degrees. She got those degrees from Wheaton college. She's working on her PHD at Duke. She teaches undergraduate and graduate religious classes there. All this lends credibility in my mind, even though I know scholarship isn't the same as faith. I think the fact that she is Christian and does believe in God is what's shaking my faith. If those things she says about the Bible are true, then what else about the Bible or God is wrong? That's what I'm questioning. I don't want to be having these doubts or questions. I wish I had never even clicked on that video. The woman's name is Laura Robinson if you want to see for yourself.

Thank you for your continued prayers. They're always appreciated. I'll keep you in my prayers as well.

Thank you,
p.s., I've remembered a few other things said that I have questions about. Her friend said on their podcast that there are other books and letters that were considered canon by the early church. He gave the example of there being a 3rd Corinthians I believe. And he quoted some document from the early church that said anyone who denies the authenticity of 3rd Corinthians is a heretic. All this makes it sound as if the Bible we have now isn't inspired, it's just what the church decided to include. Her friend also said that the gospel writers changed what Jesus said on the cross to suit them. In one gospel, He asks God "why have you forsaken me?" In another gospel He says "I commit My life into your hands." The woman and her friend are both Christians who believe in God. They're both New Testament scholars. What am I supposed to make of all this? On a more personal note, have you ever had times where you doubted? If you did, could you tell me how you got through it?

Response #2:

First of all, I just posted last week the final installment of Bible Basics, BB 7: Bibliology, and that study is all about the very questions you ask. So while I will say a few things here, please do read that study, because I can't come close to giving you the same level of detail in this short email.

I suppose the first thing I would want to ask this woman working on her Ph.D. is whether or not the Lord Jesus Christ is having personal conversations with her. If the answer is "yes", then we can safely conclude that she is bonkers. If the answer is "no", then my follow-up question would be, "then how in the world do you know anything about Him or how do you know that anything is true, if you haven't heard it from God's own mouth?". There is no response to that question – for those who reject the Bible. Simply put, the Bible is the ONLY source of truth here on earth (except, of course, for the testimony God has left for Himself and about Himself in the creation He has constructed, i.e., "natural revelation"; cf. Ps.19:1-6; Acts 17:22-31; Rom.1:18-21). Every other single snippet of divine truth that you know and believe or that I know and believe came from the Bible, either directly or indirectly (through someone teaching us who got it from the Bible or got it from someone else who got it from the Bible etc.).

If the Bible were not true, then there would be no way for us either to find out the truth or to verify that what we have been taught is the truth. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Living Word of God (e.g., Jn.1:1ff.; Rev.19:13) gave us His written word – so that we might know that truth and NOT be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Eph.4:14 NKJV).

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.
Revelation 1:1a NKJV

The book of Revelation is said to be God the Father's gift to the Son "to show" us wonderful things in the future. That is either a true statement or a false statement. If it is false, then it would be – for those who do not believe the Bible – of a piece with the falsity of the whole book which throughout claims to be the Word of God but which is making false claims . . . if in fact it is not God's Word. But if the statement is true, then it is of a piece with the claims throughout the book, that it is inspired, that it is God's Word, that it is true in every way. And in fact you know in your heart of hearts that it is true, that it is the very truth.

Why do people proffer the horrible lies you report in your email? The devil is the father of lies, lying and liars, and he has an army of liars working for him in this world. In fact, most of what we are bombarded by here in this world is from the source of "cosmos diabolicus", the devil's world system, designed to lead the world astray and deceive it (link). Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean that they are. Someone who makes that claim yet rejects Jesus Christ, or rejects His deity, or despises His work for us on the cross is lying. There are many wolves in sheep's clothing and always have been (Matt.7:15). And in our lukewarm era of Laodicea, even many actual shepherds are incapable of protecting the sheep – because they are lukewarm about the truth (Jn.10:12; cf. Acts 20:29-30).

Trust me when I tell you that Paul never wrote a "3rd Corinthians" and that there was never a time when any godly believer had to be in doubt about what was the Bible and what was not.

E.g., "the gospel writers changed what Jesus said on the cross to suit them" – is nonsense. Have you ever read a history book? Have you ever been interested in a historical topic and read two of them? Are they ever identical? Of course not. And these historians are not "changing things to suit themselves", they are selecting incidents and facts to illustrate what happened. The advantage of the gospels is that everything selected is true because the Holy Spirit superintended the process (not true of secular history). In any history it would be impossible to include everything, and as John confirms, "there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (Jn.21:25 NKJV).

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:1-6 NKJV

Doubting usually follows temptation (just like Eve came to doubt, once her position was challenged), and, like all temptation, to resist effectively we have to make conscious decisions to grow spiritually day by day. The more we commit to believing the truth – after seeking it out and listening to it – the stronger our faith becomes. The more we drift, the weaker we get. Faith in the truth is like a muscle that either strengthens or atrophies, depending on how we treat it.

To that end, I cannot recommend the people you are listening to on the internet. You call them "edifying" but it seems that your faith is going backwards, not forwards. I'm very sure that Ichthys has all you need to grow, but I do realize that it is not for everyone. I also heartily recommend Bible Academy (link).

Keeping you and yours in my daily prayers.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi all,

We know the Lord Jesus Christ is the Word of God (Jn 1:1) and all scripture speaks about him. It is interesting to note how he is presented in all 66 books of the Bible. When we read this individual books, it will help us keep that focus in mind. I hope you find it interesting and helpful.

Below taken from (Prophetic Messages for Modern Times, pp. 205-206) non-exhaustive as general presentation:

1. Genesis: Seed of the woman; Shiloh (Gen 3:15; 49:10)
2. Exodus: Passover lamb (Exod 12:3)
3. Leviticus: Anointed High Priest (Lev 8:7-12)
4. Numbers: Brazen serpent; Star of Jacob (Num 21:8; 24:17)
5. Deuteronomy: Prophet like Moses; the great rock (Deut 18:15; 32:4)
6. Joshua: Captain of the Lord's hosts (Josh 5:14)
7. Judges: Angel of the Lord (Judg 2:1)
8. Ruth: Kinsman-Redeemer (Ruth 2:1)
9. 1 Samuel: Great Judge (1 Sam 2:10)
10. 2 Samuel: Seed of David (2 Sam 7:13)
11. 1 Kings: Lord God of Israel (1 Kgs 8:15; 25)
12. 2 Kings: God of the cherubim (2 Kgs 19:15)
13. 1 Chronicles: God of our salvation (1 Chr 16:35)
14. 2 Chronicles: God of our fathers (2 Chr 20:6)
15. Ezra: Lord of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:2)
16. Nehemiah: Covenant-keeping God (Neh 1:5)
17. Esther: The God of providence (Esther)
18. Job: Risen & returning redeemer (Job 19:25)
19. Psalms: The anointed Son (Ps 23:1, 12); the Holy One (16:10); the Good Shepherd (23:1); the King of Glory (24:7-10)
20. Proverbs: The wisdom of God (Prov 8:22-31)
21. Ecclesiastes: The one above the sun (Eccl 8:70
22: Song of Solomon: Chief among ten thousand; altogether lovely (Songs 5:10;16)
23. Isaiah: Virgin-born Immanuel; wonderful counselor; the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; the Suffering Servant; the man of sorrows (Isa 7:14; 9:6; 52:13;53:3)
24. Jeremiah: The Lord our righteousness (Jer 23:6; 33:16)
25. Lamentations: The faithful and compassionate God (Lam 3:22-23; 31-33)
26. Ezekiel: The Lord is there (Ezek 48:35)
27. Daniel: Crushing stone; Son of God; Son of Man (Dan 2:34; 3:25; 7:13)
28. Hosea: King of the resurrection (Hos 13:10; 140
29. Joel: God of the battle and giver of the Spirit (Joel 2:11; 28-32)
30. Amos: God of hosts and the plumb line (Amos 4:13; 7:7)
31. Obadiah: Destroyer of the proud (Obad 1:8; 15)
32. Jonah: The risen prophet; God of second chances; the long-suffering one (Jon 2:10; 3:1; 4:9-11)
33. Micah: God of Jacob; the Bethlehem-born; the pardoning God (Mic 4:1-5; 5:2; 7:18-190
34. Nahum: The avenging God, the bringer of good tidings (Nah 1:2; 15)
35. Habakkuk: The ever-lasting, pure, glorious, and anointed One (Hab 1:12-13; 2:14; 3:13)
36: Zephaniah: The King of Israel (Zep 3:15)
37. Haggai: Desire of all nations (Hag 2:7)
38. Zechariah: Branch, builder of the temple; King of triumphal entry; pierced onel the King of the earth (Zeh 3:8; 6:12-13; 9:9; 12:10; 14:9)
39. Malachi: The Son of righteousness (Mal 42)
40. Matthew: King of the Jews (Mt 2:2; 27:37)
41. Mark: Servant (Mk 9:35; 10:43-44)
42. Luke: Perfect man (Lk 240; 52)
43. John: Eternal God (Km 1:1-5; 20:28; 31)
44. Acts: Ascended Lord (Acts 1:9)
45. Romans: The Lord our righteousness (Ro 10:4)
46. 1 Corinthians: Our resurrection (1 Cor 15:3-4; 20; 51-57)
47. 2 Corinthians: God of all our comfort (2 Cor 1:3)
48. Galatians: Redeemer from the law (Gal 4:4-5)
49. Ephesians: Head of the church, giver of gifts (Eph 1:22; 2:20; 4:8)
50. Philippians: Supplier of every need, obedient servant (Phil 1:19; 2:5-8; 4:19)
51. Colossians: Fullness of the Godhead (Col 1:19; 2:9)
52. 1 Thessalonians: The coming of Christ (1 Thes 4:13-18; 5:2)
53. 2 Thessalonians: The consuming Christ (2 Thess 2:8)
54. 1 Timothy: Saviour of sinners (1 Tim 1:15; 2:3-4)
55. 2 Timothy: Author of Scripture; righteous and rewarding Judge (2 Tim 3:16-17; 4:8)
56. Titus: Our great God & Savior (Titus 1:3; 2:11; 13; 3:4)
57. Philemon: Payer of our debt (Phlem (1:19)
58. Hebrews: Appointed heir of all things; one greater than the angels & prophets (Heb 1:2; 4; 3:3; 4:8)
59. James: Ever-present God; the coming one; te healer (Jas 4:8' 5:8;15)
60. 1 Peter: Unblemished lamb; great example; Lord of glory; chief Shepherd (1 Pt 1:19; 2:21-24; 4:13; 5:4)
61. 2 Peter: The beloved Son (2 Pt 1:17)
62. 1 John: Word of life; advocate, propitiation; Son of God (1 Jn 1:1; 2:1-2; 3:8; 4:10; 15; 5:5)
63. 2 John: Son of the Father (2 Jn 1:3)
64. 3 John : The truth (3 Jn 1:4; 8)
65. Jude: Preserver and only wise God (Jude 1:24-25)
66. Revelation: The Alpha & Omega; the Lion of Judah; King of Kings (Rev 1:8; 5:5; 19:16)

God bless you all

Response #3:


Question #4:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Regarding your posting to the effect that Greek not Hebrew was the original language of the New Testament, I have facts and discussion to help you fully assess the question of original language of Mathew and Hebrews.

In addition to the earliest history telling us that Mathew was written in Hebrew, we also have manuscript evidence which verifies the fact. It goes against critical scholarship, but it's true evidence. Critical scholarship means scholarship which criticizes the Bible instead of trusting it, which is not something they advertise but it's a fact. The "critical position" or simply "critical" is an academic notation which states disagreement with Scriptural text; because, in the past, academic writings about Scripture which speak against Scripture wanted the reader to know they are not saying that this is what Scripture teaches, so they would note "critical"; but I think today they are more interested in being sneaky about it, or maybe they don't know better because the institutions have misled them. I suppose you are a member of academia, but sometimes you have to step back a bit to see all of what is really happening. The mouth of the little horn of the beast was given power over all languages, so I hope you consider that fully as a Christian should.Here are a couple videos which detail the facts about Mathew's Gospel:
Some of it is redundant between the two videos, but also there are useful details in each video, so I offer both. As I'm aware, all evidence shows Mathew was originally Hebrew, which explains the problems in the Greek such as Messiah telling us to obey the tradition of the Pharisees, the same tradition which Messiah also said makes void the Torah Of The God. In reality it says that the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat so whatever he says do; Messiah was saying the only authority they have is to teach Moses; He was not saying they have the same authority as Moses, but the Greek incorrectly says that. There are genealogical issues also, which I presume you are aware of, but no issue in the Hebrew original (not to be confused with Hebrew translations from Greek, which also exist). I hope you'll watch the videos, so I'll leave it at that. I don't know of even one shred of evidence that Mathew was written in Greek, so I find your responses to be very curious because you reject the statements of Christian Brothers who lived in the era soon after Scripture was written, but I don't have any idea what basis you have for accusing them of lying. To be plain, to state an assumption as fact is to lie. Papias got his facts somewhere, and you accuse him. It's easy to see that Greek was the widespread language so the Hebrew would have been rarely transcribed, and old manuscripts decay to nothing. The Nazarenes were persecuted out of existence by a murderous "Church" because Nazarenes sang both the Song Of Moses and the Song Of Messiah, and that is referred to in revelation where it says that the same mouth which was given power over all languages also overcame the saints; so it's most likely that if Torah (God's own Law) was persecuted then so also Hebrew manuscripts were deliberately destroyed. Before the era in which they were likely destroying the Hebrew manuscripts, yet also after they copied manuscripts a few times, so the earliest era from which we still have some manuscripts remaining, by then there was almost zero use of Hebrew manuscripts so they would have only copied a few to preserve it rather than copy many to use them. If Mathew was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek, we should expect to see today many Greek manuscripts and almost zero Hebrew manuscripts. If there are flaws in the Greek which are not flawed in Hebrew, this would verify the likelihood of Hebrew original. This is exactly what we see, and it is not evidence that Greek was the original. I didn't want Mathew to be originally in Hebrew, I want my studies of the Greek to be studies of the original language, but facts are facts and honesty is honesty and I cannot deny the Truth. The source I would like is whichever source verifies this statement which you wrote: "For instance, you can see the "Paul wrote Hebrews in Hebrew" quotation morphing right before your eyes as it travels from Eusebius to Jerome." It looks like these are separate statements based on simliar and common awareness; they do not tell the same story and the latter does not appear to quote the earlier. Without a source stating that Jerome quoted Clement, I am forced to consider it likely that the Hebrew origin of Hebrews was, at the time, a fact known by many in the Church. In those early years, especially in Papias' time, which language was the original of each of the NT Scriptures would have most very likely been easily available knowledge to learned and literate brethren such as Papias. Therefor, if they only say these books were written in Hebrew and they do not say the originals were Greek, then we have zero basis to accuse the brethren. If you still actively use this website, and update it, you may (if you like) use this question. -Why don't you quote the Church fathers who said that Hebrews and Mathew were originally Greek? Do any such quotes exist? If history only says one thing and no one refuted it, then why do you accuse the brethren?- And lastly, Hebrews is "anonymous" because it's not a personal letter so it does not have the personal statements which we see in the epistles. The audience were anonymous Hebrews; it was written to all Hebrews to address Hebrew stumbling blocks to trusting-in-Messiah, to prove that Yeshua is Messiah and to prove the Gospel. We do see mention of Timothy and Shaul refers to Timothy as being his eyes when he says he will see them with Brother Timothy if he comes shortly, meaning that Timothy was to be Shaul's agent and act and speak for Shaul and report back (standard ancient protocol in an era before telecommunication). Obviously it was written in Hebrew because it was written to the Hebrew people, they used Hebrew Scriptures every Sabbath. It damages your credibility that you reject that Hebrews was written in Hebrew, unless you have good evidence to offer. I have offered plenty of good evidence. In the past two years I have spent over two thousand hours investigating Scripture and doctrine. I never paid to be institutionalized into dogma, my only motive in this is Truth, and I have nothing to lose if Mathew and Hebrews were originally in Greek and/or Aramaic. I just know what evidence there is, because I cared to look. I didn't spend two thousand hours being walked by leash through a program, but rather the Spirit guides me to investigate to the best of my ability (which with modern technology is a pretty fair best, I think). So if you are right and I am wrong, if evidence is on your side, please enlighten me so I won't be deceived any longer. Thanks for reading, I hope to hear back from you Dr. Luginbill. Yhvh bless and keep you and shine His Name His Son upon you.

Response #4:

All of the rest of the books of the Bible have been preserved by the Lord in their original languages and texts.

How would you explain this one original text alone not surviving then?

Question #5:

Thank you for responding.

We do have manuscripts. They are a longer period of transmission (than for the Greek) to our earliest copy, but they also show no signs of translation. For the record, I'm not suggesting we should ignore Greek manuscripts, some things may be lost in transmission, other things we see clearly were lost in translation. I think either video will sufficiently explain the preserved manuscripts, and I think it's the video in the second link which has the more complete explanation of the assessments of whether or not they are original documents. Academia has no motive to acknowledge these documents. As I remember, there are more manuscripts translated into Hebrew than there are transmissions from the original Hebrew; and all that is carefully sorted out by the scholar in the video. I'd like to name numbers, but I don't have it memorized so assuredly. It may be 25 or so, but that may be referring to all Hebrew Mathews instead of just the transmissions. Also, I'm not saying the Greek does not preserve His Scriptures; I'm not exactly prepared to fully dissect what level of perfect accuracy to the original constitutes preservation of His Scripture. What I can say is that Hebrews appears to be a perfect translation into Greek, and so we don't need Hebrew copies; but Mathew is flawed in Greek so we need the Hebrew and we have it. I know some people tend to only accept majority perspectives, but I'm also very certain that Messiah warns us against that in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. Did you watch either video? You may want to asses the evidence for yourself and also assess whether or not he is lying. It seems to me that the evidence is conclusive, unless Nehemia (the scholar) is deliberately lying. Considering his journey out of Rabbinic Judaism into Scriptural Judaism, I think he is an honest man.

Response #5:

Re: "We do have manuscripts." ?!

If any ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the gospel of Matthew exist, that is BIG news to me!

Kindly provide a link to the supposed Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew and I'll have a look.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:


These are the links which state the information. There are three Hebrew versions of Mathew, two translations from other languages, and one which shows zero sign of being a translation; however the Greek does show many signs of being a translation. My personal experience is that the Spirit knows the Truth, and sometimes I read and I'm like "this is not the Truth" so I look up the original language (usually Greek) and 100% of the time it shows the Truth where the English did not. This same method of discovery came upon one of the men who is in one of the videos, because according to the Greek Messiah contradicted Himself and the man knew that such is impossible. He asked his friend who is an extremely qualified scholar to look into it, and the links explain all of that. I have not looked up the document myself (I think there are 4 of them now, maybe 23 or so, but the 23 number may come from a different detail such as total of all 3 Hebrew versions; I'm going on memory at the moment). I think it's called Tovit Mathew or Tophit Mathew; something sounding like that, named for the Jew who preserved it as he was determined to refute it so that Jews would not turn to Messiah. He literally states that if someone copies the document without also copying his refutation, that they are cursed; that is how much he feared this document spreading. Maybe that's a red-flag to you, but the videos total only 86 minutes and so if it's BIG news it is worth an hour and a half to consider for yourself. I am not yet qualified in Hebrew at all and not in a high level in Greek, so I cannot assess much from the document itself, which is why I've not tried to find it for myself. I am very qualified to be Spirit guided and it's sometimes revealed to me that the English cannot be correct, and I'm qualified enough to study Greek vocab using good resources. Because I'm very experienced at seeing flaws in the English, I am well aware of the method by which the contradiction was discovered, and that led to a deep search which discovered the original Hebrew Mathew which the Vatican had in a junk-file; junk-file meaning that no one knew what was in the file but they did not want to throw it away. There are a few proofs in the video of which I am qualified to assess the logic thereof and, though I cannot check for myself, I have no reason to think it is a hoax. I do know it's not a mistake; they are either hoaxing, or they have the accurate conclusion. Instead of repeatedly asking me, I suggest you go straight to my source and spend less than 90 minutes seeing for yourself what you think. You'll get the exact document information and, if it can be found from that info, then you will be able to find it. This isn't about how easily I can prove it to you, but this is about whether or not it is true. I'm not pretending to be the scholar on this matter, but I do refer you directly to the scholar.

Response #6:

With all due respect, a YouTube video is NOT a "source".

I'm a very busy person with a full time job – more difficult now that I have to do it remotely – as well as with this ministry.

If there are documents, manuscripts of Matthew in Hebrew which have survived from antiquity, I guarantee you that they will either be online or in publications which can be referenced.

If such references are lacking, then there are no such documents, "videos" notwithstanding.

Question #7:

Youtube is simply a media format. The scholar is extremely qualified, his name is Nehemia Gordon. I don't know why one would reject a scholar simply because he reached out to share with non-academics. I never suggested you not research the sources, I just said those links are the lead I can offer. Academia is a political worldly institution, Messiah has warned you about trusting the World, if you don't trust Messiah in His warning that is your prerogative. It may be that academia is the last entity which wants you to know the Truth; and we know academia always has to be dragged kicking and screaming before they accept new facts, so don't expect them to offer this anytime soon. If it's not important to you to check if this has merit, to assess the scholarship for yourself, then I see that it is not important to you; excuses aside.

And no need to respect me, I am no respecter of persons myself and so I ask for no respect.

Response #7:

I'm not rejecting anyone. I'm merely asking for the sort of basic proof any scholar worth his or her salt would demand.

If you wish me to evaluate "texts", show me the texts (online) or give me the bibliographical references so I can get them out of the library.

I don't have time to track this down myself – this is your question to me, right?

But I reiterate, if there are no online references and if there are no bibliographical references then the things do not actually exist.

Question #8:

Ok. I'm reviewing the audio in fast forward to find some details.

Note: It's not true that all data is now online, uploading data takes man-hours, it's not magic. For example, Nehemia paid $2500 to get access to a manuscript hoping it was a Hebrew original but he quickly found it was a translation from a European language. Nehemia was not simply able to go online and find it, not even in the expensive databases which he is subscribed to. Why are databases expensive? To pay for the man-hours required. The Data: You can find some of the data in a book called "Hebrew Gospel Of Mathew" by George Howard; this was Nehemia's first lead on the matter. Nehemia recommends the 1987 edition as opposed to the 1995 edition. Howard was aware of nine manuscripts, but Nehemia has found 28. One of the manuscripts is in the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome and you can look at it on microfilm at the Library Of Givat Ram in Jerusalem. Another manuscript was kept at the Jewish Museum in Livorno Italy, but it was lent out and never returned, yet we have the microfilms still and you can find it at the Library Of Givat Ram; Nehemia tried to contact the man who borrowed it, but Nehemia does not speak the man's language, though I would think they could communicate in Hebrew, but maybe the man does not know Hebrew well enough. One of the videos literally shows photos of these two microfilm images, so you can see the images there if not elsewhere. One video is only audio, so the images are in the other video; they appear at 22:20 and 22:56. The manuscript which is at the Biblioteca Casanatense was recently made available in a miscellaneous file online, "shelfmark only", so it is accessible online but I don't know the shelfmark number. Nehemia Gordon wrote three books, in which the bibliographies likely have information which is more useful to finding the manuscripts: "The Hebrew Yeshua Vs The Greek Jesus", "The Naming Of Jesus In Hebrew Mathew", and "A Prayer To Our Father". Some Clarification: The only detail I'm aware of which I did not find in these two videos, is in the book by George Howard (I probably heard it in another video which is 82 minutes alone). It's the name of the rabbi who's manuscript Howard cited; sounded like Tovit or Tobit, but when I searched for "Tovit Mathew manuscript" and "Tobit Mathew manuscript" a bunch of discussions of manuscripts of the book of Tobit came up and of the book of Mathew, and people with names similar to Tobit Mathew; so if the info came up it was buried under the more-mainstream information. Nehemia reviewed all the facts for himself, looking through many manuscripts over the course of some years, and his second major was archeology so he also researched some archeological facts about the "seat of Moses" in order to fully understand what Messiah was saying. I see where I got the number "four" from in one of my previous letters; that is how many manuscripts Nehemia found which have preserved one specific detail. These are Tobit Mathew (or Tovit) and the two I detailed for you, and one other. George Howard wrote about a process by which Hebrew Mathew was "corrected according to the Greek", this is likely because the Jews who were transcribing feared being killed if it was discovered that these documents have differences from the Greek and Latin, which is why the detail is only preserved in four of the 28 manuscripts. One way we know these four are correct in this detail is that they are the only four manuscripts which do not self contradict. Specifically, Messiah blatantly says to not obey the takkanot of the Pharisees (oral commands), but later Messiah supposedly says "all that they (the Pharisees) say observe and do" and this would be a blatant contradiction (as it appears in English, Latin, and Greek), but actually it says "all that he (Moses) says observe and do" so in reality there is no contradiction.

Response #8:

George Howard's book is about Shem Tov's 14th century translation of Matthew into rabbinical Hebrew.

I could translate Plato into pig-Latin – that wouldn't make pig-Latin the original language in which Plato wrote.

I've heard about this late medieval translation. It's not Matthew's original, however.

Here are some links:

Gospel Questions VI: the Long Ending of Mark et al. [see Q/A #31]

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism [see Q/A #2]

Christians Beware (part 2): Internet Frauds and the Need for Spiritual Discernment

Question #9: 

That's right, Shem Tov( I conflated "Shem Tov" and "Tobit" in my head). Thank you. This will be the last I encourage you to look into this, but first I have a request: -Please offer me the source which convinced you that Shem Tov is a translation? "I've heard about" is not very convincing compared to a solid argument which is coupled with a full assessment performed by a highly qualified expert who I've heard from enough that I have good reason to trust both his honesty and due diligence. Did you inspect the manuscript for yourself, or else research a detailed assessment of the matter? I'd sure like if you'd offer me that lead, so I can more easily check the counter-evidence. At this point I'll go searching for a detailed assessment, but if you remember where you were shown the evidence that would sure help me out. Let me ask you about two arguments which we are both capable of assessing for ourselves: -Why does the Greek contradict itself while Shem Tov does not contradict? -Shem Tov only made the manuscript to refute it, and placed a curse on anyone who transcribes it without including his refutation. Why would he even want the document to exist in Hebrew? Wouldn't he rather not translate it so Jews would not read it? Seems it already existed and that's why he wanted to refute it. If you don't have those answers, then it's food for thought. Academia often needs correcting, and when the facts are being straightened out we have opportunity to be on the right side or the wrong side of that process. We also see the words of Zechariah quoted in Mathew 27 but it states they are quoted from Jeremiah; I don't know if this detail is correct in Shem Tov, I bet it just says "the prophet" like it does for every other quote in Mathew, but I'll sure look into it. This issue may be an unrelated detail, but we do see a surprising amount of problems with Greek Mathew in contrast to the other books.
I'm finding some interesting contrasts between Shem Tov and our received. Based on all the evidence, it seems Shem Tov is not a trustworthy document; but I have much more scouring to do. Because the earliest Church fathers tell us Mathew was written in Hebrew, and all evidence considered, it seems that Shem Tov does preserve some details from the original, but also has been deliberately and drastically altered over the centuries to speak less highly of Yeshua. Anyway, it's complicated, so if you don't want to try to sort it out that is understandable. I really have no choice, I must make my best assessment. Thanks for the discussion. Sorry if I was ignorant and wasted your time.

Response #9: 

No worries, my friend.

"seems that Shem Tov does preserve some details from the original".

That is where the scholar in me is highly skeptical. If there are no fragments whatsoever for 13 centuries of any such Hebrew gospel of Matthew, and then suddenly a millennium and a half later a "manuscript" miraculously appears, well, it's not as if there hasn't been a cottage industry over the centuries to produce everything mentioned in scripture and many things not mentioned and present them as "original documents" when in fact they are forgeries.

For example, we read of the "Book of Jasher" in Joshua and Samuel. And lo and behold a ms. of it pops up . . . in the 19th century. But it turns out to have been concocted from whole cloth.

For something like Matthew's gospel, of course, a person who knows Hebrew well could produce a Hebrew translation of the Greek original and then proclaim the translation he has "found" to be the "original Matthew" – which is in fact exactly what we have in Shem Tov. If as falsely claimed the manuscript were based on the original, the author would have had to have had an exemplar which was a copy of that original – where did that come from? And more to the point, where did it go?

If I were to tell you that this book written in English I just handed you was a new revelation from God, and that I had translated it from an unknown language written on golden tablets with the aid of magic glasses, you would be well within your rights to ask to see the tablets and the glasses. "Trust me!" is not sufficient.

In Jesus Christ, the God-man, the Savior of the world, the only Way to salvation through faith in Him, His perfect person, God and man forever, and His perfect work, in dying for the sins of the entire world.

Bob L.

Question #10:

Thanks Bob.

I am actually thinking again that Shem Tov's Mathew does come from the Hebrew original. The main complaint is that Mathew, as the author, never says Yeshua is Messiah, but if he is writing to the Jews he likely did not want to say "I'm telling you Yeshua is Messiah" but rather chose to tell the story and document where others call Him Messiah. If you'll bear with me one final moment here. It seems to me that when they translated it into Greek they emphasized that He is Messiah because the Greek audience would mostly miss all the clues which make it blatant to 1st century Jews. Now this changes my perspective, in the past I would've thought that such clarifications would be edits and so a proof of something awry. But, I now think that Yhvh inspired such clarifications (if my theory is correct, I will read a translation of Shem Tov, I can at least assess the document for fitting or not-fitting with what we've received). This theory makes sense because the name of Jeremiah obviously doesn't belong; some might think that means God's words were not properly preserved, but I think "obviously" is the operative word in that regard, we know the quote is not from Jeremiah and so the truth of the text is preserved in that knowledge. It's less about technical knit picking and more about the fact that His words are preserved and we have received them; there is technicality to knit pick, but it's not worthy of causing any discredit to the authenticity of the document. Thanks for the discussion, it sure helped me. I had some growing pains, which is good.

Together with you in Messiah,

P.S. When I say "Not worthy of causing discredit to the authenticity of the document" I refer to Greek Mathew and Mathew in general, I'm not addressing objection to "Shem Tov" with that statement."Shem Tov" is what it is, and I only have my best assessment which has barely begun.

Response #10:

We can't really assess the validity of Shem Tov unless and until we examine his exemplars, that is, the collection of mss. he consulted in his edition (if that is what it is); however, if it is instead a back-translation from the original Greek into Hebrew – as all the evidence suggests (with no actual evidence that it is anything else) – then I would prefer and recommend rather F. Delitzsch's translation of the Greek New Testament into Hebrew. He was a real scholar with a strict Jewish background and his translation is enlightening and thought-provoking for all the reasons you probably find Shem Tov interesting. But it's not Matthew's original either. Matthew wrote that one, inspired by the Spirit, in GREEK.

In Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.

Bob L.

Question #11:

Thanks. I see that I put you in the middle of my own journey here, and you have been very gracious.

Response #11:

Thank you.

In Jesus our one and only Savior, God and man in one person forever.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Robert,

You know what. I should have thought about my question before I sent it. Thanks anyhow – beautiful typology/symbolism indeed.

As an additional series I am planning and starting to draft a typology series. The series will be Christ focused. I reckon that typology correctly explained in depth, clearly, and in sufficient quantity really has the potential to increase a believers faith. Plus, typology has the potential to be abused by a scholar reckoning too many things as symbols or a scholar denying historical events (eg Jonah and the whale) and then diluting any value to the type. Plus, you have some limited information on this but it's not crazy flushed out such as your Tribulation types. This I think gives me an opportunity to add some value.

Unger will be helpful with this.

In our Savior and Lord,

Response #12:

The classic Christian work is by Hegestenberg, Christology of the Old Testament (originally in German; link to free copy at Gutenberg).

Other Ichthys links to consider:

Biblical Metaphors and Symbolism

Symbolism and Allegory

Hermeneutics, Typology, Christophany, Theophany and Anthropopathism

Typology and Sequence in Old Testament Prophecy (in CT 1)

Old Testament Typology

Prophetic Types of antichrist

The Analogy of Noah and the Great Flood

There's a lot of this sort of thing scattered around Ichthys if you look up "types" and "type" with the site search function (site:ichthys.com: ).

What you say about going overboard is true; that was a huge problem in the early church-visible (one thinks of Origen). Then there are also those interpreters who don't want to find types anywhere even when they are clear and even when missing them is a mistake that results in misinterpretation.

I had a theology prof in seminary who wanted to dismiss the altar sacrifices of the Law as having anything originally to do with the cross . . . until I quoted John the baptist, "Behold! The Lamb of God!" (I should have quoted Revelation too).

Keeping it in between the two limits, namely, of not making a type out of absolutely everything on the one hand or of over-scrupulously denying things that actually are types on the other, is the challenge.

In Jesus our hope.

Bob L.

Question #13:

I have a question to the experience of Jonah foreshadowing our Lord's experience:

Is the men rowing against the storm part of the type in the sense of human works and effort to appease God only makes God's wrath worse (Jonah 1:13)?

Is God commissioning Jonah part of the typology because God also directly commissions Jesus our Lord?

Is it safe to say that just as Jonah was baptized into the raging sea, our Lord was baptized into the Lake of Fire to suffer for all the sins of the world? The Bible doesnt say for sure, but from a couple of simple deductions and the baptism imagery, I would say that it is not a stretch considering what happens to unbelievers.

Revelation 20:14-15 (NASB) 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

In Jesus

Response #13:

I will observe that you can correctly say, e.g., "they rowed hard, but human efforts are never effective in the face of the will of God; just as human works generally . . ."; and "the Lord compares His death and resurrection to Jonah's experience in the belly of the big fish; and Jonah was commissioned (add other similarities) just as our Lord was". In other words, these are good and interesting observations which you can certainly make without recourse to an over-reliance on the word/concept of typology.

Remember, that typology is a interpretive lens which is only valid because the Bible itself makes the comparisons; typology does not have "power" in and of itself. In other words, declaring something a "type/antitype" does not allow making deductions otherwise not obviously present in scripture. If we start looking for these things, we may be tempted to find meaning where it really doesn't exist – in terms of being put there by the Spirit for the reason of a type. After all, the men actually did row to no effect; and all prophets are commissioned, but if we start teaching that they are all types of Christ, that dilutes things quite a bit.

As to #3), while I do see what you are saying, the lake of fire is a definite place; Christ remained on the cross for the entirety of the three hours, so I don't know how that could have happened. Also, while Christ did say He had a "baptism to undergo", He was talking about the cross, not water (baptism in scripture is sometimes water-less – as in the baptism of the Holy Spirit); and I don't recall anything about baptism with Jonah. In other words, good teaching always moors every possible point to direct teachings from scripture, and is careful about drawing deductions which aren't actually taught.

In Jesus our dear Savior.

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Dr. Luginbill:

If God is omniscient how can He regret? Does the word translate different than what we generally understand it to mean?

“The Lord regretted making human beings…” Genesis 6:6
“The Lord regretted he had made Saul king…”1Samuel 15:36

Thank you!

Response #14:

There is a lot of this sort of thing in the Bible. We call these "anthropopathisms" (see the link), that is, God presenting Himself to us as behaving in a way and from motivations we as finite and limited human beings are capable of understanding. So of course the God who planned every single thing from before He created the world doesn't react to circumstances in time, but we do; and this is also His way of communicating to us how we should "feel" about things as seen from His perspective. It's actually a good way of getting across to us the seriousness of rebelling against Him.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

Myself and my family, plus two Christian friends, have received some teaching in recent weeks that is throwing us into confusion. I have searched your website but can’t find anything on the following we’ve been taught so far ( which is making me feel a little ‘sea-sick’ and never heard of before ):

Our Christian journey while alive on earth starts in Egypt (the world) pass through the Red Sea (baptism) end up in the wilderness and only get ‘rest’ in Canaan once we have passed through the Jordan (?). Possible second baptism?

Similarly our walk is like the three parts to the Temple where once in the holy of Holies we can find rest. Once there you can’t leave.

The axe John the Baptist talked about (Matthew 3:10) representative of chopping out the sin root. It’s not so much the fruit of sin but dealing with the root of sin.

Mixed up with above is the emphasis on baptism of fire .... but all of this is drip fed and nothing reaching a conclusion yet.

My friend now thinks she’s in the wilderness and wants to know how to get rid of the root of sin?! I think it sounds like holiness /second blessing /entire sanctification teachings but I’ve never come across this before but can’t see this procedure in the bible ( ie a full consecration to the Lord brings a full filling of the Holy Spirit and fully sanctified). I am desperate for help please??? My family hasn’t gone back , but need to say why if this indeed incorrect teaching....

Many thanks in advance


Response #15:

This really is "nutty" stuff!

To start with, the Israelites didn't start in Egypt; they went down there in the fourth generation. And they didn't stay there. And when they left, they only tarried in the wilderness forty years because of unbelief. And it was not the same generation that left which went into the land. And the most important point of all: the Bible NEVER draws any parallel between the experience of Israel as a nation and the life of a Christian believer. There is no biblical justification to do so.

This is taking what might be an interesting illustration (where the points surely do not all fit) and turning it into a Bible doctrine and telling people to live their lives by it! This is as bad as anything the RC church has done or other cults which only use the Bible to further their agendas. Bottom line: I would steer clear of any group that mishandled the Word of God in such an obvious way.

Scripture has many clear mandates, especially in the New Testament, to guide our Christian lives. We don't need to fall back on allegory – especially when it is only loosely tied to the scriptures and when the allegory is not authorized by them . . . and clearly violates them in many places.

The other things you mention fall into the same category. We find rest in the holy of holies? What does that mean, exactly? The temple does represent specific things with the holy of holies representing the presence of God. But we are to have rest down here, on our journey (e.g., Heb.4:1-10). So that is a direct contradiction of scripture.

The root is the root of sin? Where does it say THAT in scripture? God is the one who holds the axe in John's analogy and He is the One who is going to cut down all bad trees. Bad trees are unbelievers. We all sin. We all have a sin nature. Sin is forgiven when we confess (1Jn.1:9). And we gain gradual victory over sin as we grow spiritually (or certainly should). But this weirdness is only spreading confusion about the Word.

As I'm sure you know, there's no "second blessing"; all believers have the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9). And as to the baptism of fire, that happens after the second advent (it's the removal of all who took the mark of the beast so that none enter the Messiah's kingdom; see the link).

I would counsel your friend to 1) start reading her Bible (if she does, she'll surely see that all this "teaching" is nonsense); 2) find a good place to grow through the correct teaching of the truth: test the fruit; if the fruit is good, then eat the fruit; if it's bad, find another tree.

Best place for an overview of the Christian walk at Ichthys is BB 6A: Peripateology (at the link).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Are Hodge's epistle commentaries and Unger's gospel commentaries helpful resources?

Response #16:

When it comes to commentaries, I have found them less and less useful as time goes by. I get some help from Unger's OT set; don't have nor have I ever used (to the best of my knowledge) his NT set (did he write that himself or is it a production of his estate as many things with his name on it now are?). I do have some of Hodges but, along with his systematic theology, I think you'll find that they are steeped in Calvinism and tend towards sermonizing on the one hand and not particularly enlightening linguistic commentary on the other.

Question #17:

I am inclined to see the Lazarus and the Rich man as a parable because
1. It is in a string of parables
2. It is a story used to make a point about the earlier comments about the Pharisees seeking money, and actually being detestable in the sight of God because they did not get the truth of the Law and were therefore unsaved. Even if they had good things in this life, they would have bad things in the next life.

Therefore I'm learning towards this being a parable -- it fits with our Lord's style of teaching. This is one parable however where the accessories have significance because we learn something about a part of the world that we did not know about before. For example, in other parables Jesus uses comparisons with the earthly world such as the rapid growth of a small seed. Since we already know about this world from observation we don't learn from the accessories. In this case we learn about the make up of the underworld, something we cannot observe or know fully. For this reason, the accessories are important because they tell us about the underworld.

I think I am in the middle of the road interpretation here. I think it is likely a parable since this it connects with other commentary communicating a principle and also in context it would make sense as a parable. While also I would cherish the unique accessories we learn about since it is about a part of reality we do not know much about. Whether this event actually happened however, I don't think we can say for sure like the other parables in Scripture.

Then on the other hand, you could argue that this story would be an outlier among the parables because it is the only one that uses a spiritual setting (the underworld) to communicate another spiritual point (better to be a looked down upon believer here and now then a highly esteemed unbeliever) while all the other parables use earthly examples to make a spiritual point. No need to respond quickly.

Response #17:

As you know, I teach that our Lord's relating of Lazarus and the rich man in the underworld in Luke's gospel is NOT a parable.

It depends to some degree on what a person means by "parable".

He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables".
Mark 4:11 NIV

The purpose of parables is to teach the truth but without forcing it down someone's throat. This has the effect of not casting pearls before swine (so as to be trampled) and also of veiling the truth from those not willing to accept the truth (fulfilling the prophecy of, e.g., Is.6:10). So in the parable of the tenants (Matt.21:33-46; Mar.12:1–12; Lk.20:9-16), the scribes and Pharisees realized that Jesus had spoken this parable against them (e.g., Lk.20:16), but they didn't understand all the ramifications of it. Had Jesus said, "You and your type killed all of God's prophets; now He has sent me, His Son, and you will kill Me too – and then God will destroy you and give the ministry of the Word to the gentiles", that would have been direct teaching and not teaching via parable. But the truth and its meaning are the same either way.

And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Luke 13:2-5 NKJV

The above is certainly not a parable, but it is using a report of actual events to present biblical truths. In this case, Jesus is asked about a particular event, and He responds adding another event for good measure – both things happened.

Did the events related in the case of Lazarus and rich man actually happen? It is not actually possible to say that the events in many of the parables didn't happen, but because our Lord doesn't name names or give places, they have a generic application – and the willing are encouraged to apply them to themselves.

The main problem with some people's assessment of our Lord's relating of Lazarus and the rich man as being a "parable" is that then they want to go and say that "since it is a parable" that the events "never happened" and therefore "we can't accept the details as anything more than illustrative". So, in their view, therefore, "there is no way we can say that there is consciousness in the grave" because "this is just a story, a parable". In other words, wrongly characterizing this passage has given many an excuse to excise the truth that it presents.

But consider:

"There was a certain rich man . . ." – statement of fact.

". . . there was a certain beggar named Lazarus . . ." -- statement of fact.

Indeed, our Lord presents everything in this "story" as a series of statements of fact. That is because they happened. Since all this actually did happen, and since all of the things that go along with this "story" – such as the description of paradise and torments are truthful and accurate and not "just made up for the purposes of the story", I am reluctant to call it a parable (on top of the other reasons you discuss). Because that gives some people the wrong idea, and it allows other people to diminish the truth of what this chapter teaches "because it is only a parable".

In Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Would you then say that the teaching of the unjust steward is not a "parable". Although it does teach a spiritual truth about not forcing something down one's throat, it never once says that it is a "parable". Therefore, its in the spirit of parable teaching, but not a parable because it doesn't explicitly say so?

In Jesus

Response #18:

On the parable of the unjust steward, you probably already have the Ichthys link, but here it is again just in case.

On parables generally, there are other links in the subject index, but the main point I would like to make is the one I tried to make last time we discussed this, namely, that it may be a mistake to worry too much about "is this a parable or not" because the content of what is being taught is really what is at issue. As in the example of the one you mention, my question would be "what difference would it make to the interpretation?" And, in general, it would never make any difference since we would be understanding the details and applying them the same way whether or not a) it actually happened or, b) it is a "story".

The biblical point about parables in teaching is to avoid the direct approach so that a) unbelievers who have no interest in the truth don't even understand the point; but b) believers who are interested can see the truth objectively first and then apply it to themselves and respond accordingly whereas to directly tell them might cause offense.

A good example of the latter is the following in Luke 7:36-50 where our Lord realizes that His host is "thinking wrong" about Mary pouring ointment on His feet et al. So He first gives the principle in what we could call a short parable (I would call it that) about two men forgiven a debt and letting Simon figure out for himself that the one forgiven much is more grateful than the one forgiven little; then our Lord directly applies it to Mary (and by application to Simon and the ones listening).

Of course, while Mary was responsive – in faith – for having been forgiven much, the truth is that we are ALL forgiven much, but some are more grateful than others. And the other Pharisees present didn't accept the truth at all – as unbelievers never do. So that in a nutshell tells us all we need to know about parables, which are "side stories" or "parallel stories" in the application of the etymology of the word: 1) A story we can relate to easily and draw natural conclusions from, being objective about the details and more importantly the obvious conclusions because the details are not about us personally; 2) A direct application to us and our own lives (if we are willing to make it); 3) A lack of application – and hence of true understanding – on the part of those who reject the truth and are not willing to apply it to their lives (even if the details are explained to them).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

 How many parables are there in total in the New Testament? I looked this up on gotquestions and they give a list - "Here is a list of parables in the Bible, defining parable as “a fictional yet realistic story that illustrates a spiritual truth”:


You can see the list on the link. Would you say this is pretty accurate? Based on their definition, they show that the NT contains about 37-38 parables.

Response #19: 

I read this in scripture:

And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
Mark 4:33-34 NKJV

So the biblical definition of a parable seems to me to be not connecting the dots directly when teaching, but instead letting people who are truly interested draw the appropriate conclusions from the illustration if they are inclined to do so – in order to be able to speak the truth to those who are not interested in it and not provoke violent opposition of the sort that would have ended Our Lord's ministry before the time.

So I don't think there's much profit in counting up parables since the definition is not as clear as sources like this seem to think. In the narrative about Lazarus in paradise, for example, we have our Lord relating things that actually happened – the details are not "fictional". And it's not entirely clear to me that many of the "parables" our Lord told didn't actually happen at some time and place just the way He said they did.

Getting hung up on the form is a mistake. Once we understand why our Lord taught that way, we can concentrate on the content – which is what is truly important.

Here's one link to parables at Ichthys apropos of all this.

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob,

The parable of the minas and talents are parables addressing Jesus Christ's evaluation of believers at His second advent.

Why then is there an unbeliever being addressed here (the third slave who puts his mina into a handkerchief).

I do not see an opportunity for this kind of dialogue between Lord Jesus and an unbeliever at the second advent except for the purging of the Jews, which this parable is not discussing.

Definitely would appreciate some clarification on this.

In our Lord

Response #20:

It's not unusual in the Old Testament and also in the gospels – before the Church Age interpolation was explained (cf. "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Acts 1:6) – for all of eschatology to be rolled into one. I call it "Prophetic Foreshortening". 

Nothing in the parable is untrue; and the only adjustment needed for complete understanding is just what you mention, namely, that the evaluation of the unbelievers comes later; but it does come right on the heels of a believer-only judgment (that of the millennial believers, the "Friends of the Bride"); put together, these are the sheep and the goats.

So you can understand this parable as being the same as the sheep and goats judgment – which comes immediately after this parable in Matthew chapter twenty-five . . . and which has the same interpretive issue, namely, the judgments at the end of history but with the Church Age not yet being visible. Revelation of the Church Age and the mystery doctrines related to it would require the completion of our Lord's mission and the sending of the Holy Spirit (see the link).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

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