The Purpose for Life: (A Saved Heart is a Heart the Wants to Serve) “What I’m ABLE to do, God WANTS me to do!”

My pastor asked me to preach this coming Sunday as he goes through “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

So…Here is my message for Sunday!! Let me know what you think. I used a lot of references from his book…so some of it may sound a little familiar if you have read it.

The Purpose of Life #4 (Part 5) (A Saved Heart is a Heart that Wants to Serve) “What I’m ABLE to do, God WANTS me to do!”

Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at God’s purpose for our lives. We have seen our need to sit at the feet of Jesus, our need to worship through Jesus, our need to be a part of the family of Jesus, and our need to become more like Jesus. This week we want to focus on the fourth purpose for our lives: our need to SERVE Jesus.

I would like to do an experiment, if that’s ok? Everyone here raise your right hand. Come on, get them up there. Good. Now, extend your left hand. Good now take your right hand and pinch your left hand. Did you feel anything? You did? You know what that means? It means you’re still alive and if you’re still alive, it means you should be serving Jesus. This is your true ministry.

When most people hear “ministry,” they think of pastors, priests, and professional clergy, but God says every member of his family is a minister.

Matter of fact, the words used for servant and minister are synonyms, or basically they mean the SAME thing. If you are a Christian, you are a minister, and when you are serving, you’re ministering.

You might be thinking, well preacher, the bible says I am not saved by works. While that is true, you weren’t saved BY service, but you are saved FOR service. In God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.


This morning we are going to read about some men who were in service to their King and we might even learn what it means to be servant of the King of kings.

Our text this morning comes from the book of 1 Chronicles 27:25-34 (NKJV).

And Azmaveth the son of Adiel was over the king’s treasuries; and Jehonathan the son of Uzziah was over the storehouses in the field, in the cities, in the villages, and in the fortresses. Ezri the son of Chelub was over those who did the work of the field for tilling the ground. And Shimei the Ramathite was over the vineyards, and Zabdi the Shiphmite was over the produce of the vineyards for the supply of wine. Baal-Hanan the Gederite was over the olive trees and the sycamore trees that were in the lowlands, and Joash was over the store of oil. And Shitrai the Sharonite was over the herds that fed in Sharon, and Shaphat the son of Adlai was over the herds that were in the valleys. Obil the Ishmaelite was over the camels, Jehdeiah the Meronothite was over the donkeys, and Jaziz the Hagrite was over the flocks. All these were the officials over King David’s property. Also Jehonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, a wise man, and a scribe; and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni was with the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the king’s counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king’s companion. After Ahithophel was Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, then Abiathar. And the general of the king’s army was Joab.

You’ve heard of these guys right? No? You sure? Huh…you wanna know a secret? Me Neither…

But in this anonymity we find something extraordinary. Let’s take a closer look.

In this section of 1 Chronicles, King David is listing those he had in his service. These were men who had been given specific jobs within the kingdom and they had their own responsibilities. Each person on this list had place of special service, they were each called by name, they served in different capacities and they were placed there by the king.

We could spend a lot of time talking about each person and each responsibility but, this morning I would like to focus on ONE of these men.

1 Chronicles 27:28

“…and Joash was over the store of oil.”

First let’s talk about the man himself. Joash was just an ordinary average joe who had chosen to believe in God and wanted to do what he could. So when the local decree went out that the King of Israel, the King GOD chose, saying he needed some workers Joash’s response was “What I’m ABLE to do, God WANTS me to do!!” So he signed up. There was nothing special about this man. He just wanted to serve. He didn’t know what job the king would give him and it didn’t matter. You see, Joash had seen the King. He knew who David was and he knew who it was served. It could have EASILY been that Joash’s father was on the battlefield when David slew Goliath. The stories of David protecting the sheep from the bear and lion must have traveled far. Joash knew that David was God’s anointed, and Joash wanted to serve. Not because of who David was, but because the same God that David worshipped, Joash also worshipped. God works through different people in different ways, but it is the SAME God who achieves his purpose through them all. Joash knew that by serving the King of Israel, he was serving the King of Kings.

Do you have a heart to serve today? You see it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the pitcher’s mound, the in-field or the out-field as long as your OWN THE FIELD. You may feel like it’s not your job to serve, that maybe serving is for the preachers and the teachers. But let me tell you something, if I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and if I’m only concerned about my needs, then I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is a heart that WANTS to serve.

Joash was willing to do whatever the king needed, and boy did he get an important job. The KJV says that he was over the “cellars of oil.” Oil, which was most likely Olive Oil, was used in a lot of ways.

The oil was used for religious purposes:

When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.


Every grain offering, whether mixed with oil or dry, shall belong to all the sons of Aaron, to one as much as the other. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil.

Leviticus 7:10,12

It was used for Lamp Fuel:

And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.

Exodus 27:20

It was used as Commerce:

And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand kors of wheat as food for his household, and twenty kors of pressed oil. Thus Solomon gave to Hiram year by year.

1 Kings 5:11

And it was used as Medicine:

So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

Luke 10:34

In order for the oil to be kept properly, it must be kept AWAY from heat, air and light. That means in order for Joash to do his job, he had to work in a dark damp cellar. This job wouldn’t make Joash famous. It wouldn’t get Joash the spot-light. Most likely he wasn’t going to be seen. He probably wasn’t going to be popular, for who wants to get close to a man who spends ALL DAY. EVERYDAY down in the cellar. He wouldn’t receive much praise, but if the lights were going to be own in the temple, it was up to Joash to keep it supplied.

Don’t miss this church: Before God created you, he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. He planned exactly how he wanted you to serve him, and then he shaped you for those tasks. You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry.

Joash didn’t shy away from the task because it wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do. Most of us wouldn’t have went for a follow-up interview if that’s all the King had to offer. But listen, Joash realized that when God saves you, he saves you for service, not self-centeredness. Joash realized that God equips you with all you need to do his will. This job was what the King NEEDED, and Joash wanted to SERVE.

Today church if you want to ALWAYS be in the will of the Lord, then keep on doing the last thing He told you to do until He tells you to do something different.

What I am ABLE to do, God WANTS me to do.

You might be thinking, being over the cellars of oil couldn’t have been THAT bad. Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes we think of our service to God as an opportunity for us to get noticed. There are lists and lists of men and women throughout the ages who have sacrificed the heart of a servant for a word of recognition. But we don’t have to go to any other scripture to understand what Joash was facing. When you serve the king, there’s always going to be some disadvantages to the cellar.

Joash was unnoticed in the cellar. There was no way Joash could actually get to be a part of the worship service because he was needed in the cellar. Let me ask you a question: do you know how many people work in this church behind the scenes, doing jobs you wouldn’t do so that you can have the best worship experience and you never knew they were there? Do you know how many saints pray over each service and petition the Holy Spirit to visit with us so that your family can get the help they need?

Joash was uncomfortable in the cellar. The cellar wasn’t the most comfortable place to be. It was damp and it was dark. Not all of God’s tasks for us are pleasant, but ALL are needed. It’s bad enough to have to clean your own bathroom at home, but do you realize someone has to clean the bathrooms here at church. Not just the ones that are in the sanctuary but the ones your kids use on Wednesday night, and you know how messy they can be and I can’t tell you the last time I heard someone talk about how COMFORTABLE they were while cleaning a toilet.

Joash was lonely in the cellar. He was misunderstood and misrepresented. He might have been considered weird. Can you imagine how people felt about “the man in the cellar?”

Joash was unappreciated. When people came to the “church” to worship, as they walked out the gate they would shake the priests hand and say, “Another good service preacher,” never knowing the fact that had it not been for Joash, the lights would have went OUT! It’s hard to slaughter a goat when you can’t see anything.

I know what you’re thinking, “SIGN ME UP!!” RIGHT?? I didn’t think so. But here’s the thing, Joash wasn’t looking for greatness, he just wanted to do something great. He wasn’t interested in serving himself, but was interested in serving others. He wasn’t seeking fame and fortune on earth, but by serving the Lord in the cellar, he found fame and fortune in heaven.

If you asked Joash why he wanted to work in obscurity, this is what he would say:

“What you ARE is God’s gift to you; what you DO with yourself is your gift to God.”

What you are ABLE to do, God WANTS you to do!!

If I asked you by whose example are we to live, you would reply, by the example of Jesus, right?

But did you know that the bible says, Christ came not to BE SERVED but to SERVE?

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about Mary and Martha? Martha was upset because she was doing all the WORK while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha wanted Mary to HELP. Martha was busy SERVING CHRIST and Mary was busy being SERVED by Christ. We learned that Martha opened up her HOME, Mary opened up her HEART. But yet today’s sermon is all about serving? Doing work for the Lord? So which one is it then? Am I to serve like Martha? Or be served like Mary? The answer is BOTH. You see, Martha wasn’t in the WRONG for serving, for that was what she was ABLE to do. Mary wasn’t wrong for BEING SERVED, for that’s what she was ABLE to do. The problem Martha had was in the moment when she complained about Mary not helping, she lost the true meaning of service. REAL SERVANTS don’t complain of unfairness, they don’t have pity-parties, and they don’t resent those who aren’t serving. They just trust God and keep doing what they are ABLE to do.

Joash wasn’t focused on who was or wasn’t helping. Joash was focused on the King.

So what does service look like to you?

Before attempting the extraordinary, try serving in ordinary ways. Each week, churches and other organizations must improvise because volunteers didn’t prepare, didn’t show up, or didn’t even call to say they weren’t coming.

The opportunities to get involved at Bethlehem are endless. You don’t have to know what your spiritual gift is or even what you’re good at to serve. Just find a place to plug in and see if you are a good fit. It’s not about excellence, it’s about effort. We don’t need you to be perfect, we just need you.

The message to the one not serving is this: you can spend the 80 years faithful to a church but never be a servant. A Saved Heart is a heart that wants to serve. What you are ABLE to do, God WANTS you to do!!

The message to the one who is serving in the cellar:

You may be serving in obscurity in some small place, feeling unknown and unappreciated. Listen: God put you where you are for a purpose! He has every hair on your head numbers, and he knows your address. You had better stay put until he chooses to move you. He will let you know if he wants you somewhere else. Your ministry matters to the kingdom of God.

There are more than 750 “Halls of Fame” in America and more than 450 “Who’s Who” publications, but you won’t find many real servants in these places. Notoriety means nothing to real servants because they know the difference between prominence and significance. You have several prominent features on your body that you could live without. It is the hidden parts of your body that are indispensable. The same is true in the body of Christ. The most significant service is often the service that is unseen.

Knowing this, don’t be discouraged when your service is unnoticed or taken for granted. Keep on serving God! “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” Even the smallest service is noticed by God and will be rewarded. Remember the words of Jesus: “If, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, your will surely be rewarded.”

Conclusion: A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night’s dinner. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table that held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding.

All but one. He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him, waved goodbye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor. He was glad he did.

The 16-year-old girl was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?” She nodded through her tears.

He continued on with, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister…” He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, “Are you Jesus?” He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: “Are you Jesus?”

Do people mistake you for Jesus? Isn’t that what a Christian’s goal should be? To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and serve those around us; those that may be blind to His love, life and grace. If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would.

Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church. It’s actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.

You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit. Let us live like he lived. Here to serve, not to be served. Let us live like we are worth the price He paid.

A saved heart is a heart that wants to serve!! What you are ABLE to do, God WANTS you to do!!


Observation Always Involves Theory Part 2: The Multiverse

Ok so before we start this theory on the Multiverse, let’s remind everyone of the disclaimer.

The definition of a theory is the following: a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.

So this post is supposed to be a fun post about difficult subjects within scripture. IT DOES NOT reflect any personal beliefs of mine unless stated. IT IS NOT intended to sway any opinions toward the topic nor confuse the reader about their faith. This post is not intended to be a stumbling block for you. I realize in the grand scheme of things that discussing such theories has NO weight on a persons eternal salvation. Please understand, this is STRICKLY for fun.


Now with that out of the way I asked the google what the bible said about stars. I am going to list the ones that I think are relevant to our discussions today:

Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:14-18

He made all the stars—the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. Job 9:9

Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth? Job 38:31-33




When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Psalm 8:3-4

He counts the stars and calls them all by name. Psalm 147:4

The heavens above will melt away and disappear like a rolled-up scroll. The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine, or shriveled figs from a fig tree. Isaiah 34:4

It is the Lord who created the stars, the Pleiades and Orion. He turns darkness into morning and day into night. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The Lord is his name! Amos 5:8

The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory. 1 Corinthians 15:41

Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and one-third of the sun was struck, and one-third of the moon, and one-third of the stars, and they became dark. And one-third of the day was dark, and also one-third of the night. Revelation 8:12

Did God create life on other planets? This question has been the focal point of so many science fiction films and fan-theories. But is there any scriptural support for a multiverse theory? Did God REALLY create aliens?

Well ALL of this is SPECULATION. There is NO way of knowing any of this for sure and IF God wanted us to know for sure he would have told us. But for fun let’s look at some probabilities.

We are one planet in our solar system.


We are able to know some about the planets in our solar system but we aren’t able to know anywhere NEAR enough. In mine and your lifetime, if all we knew about was our solar system then we would still be small in comparison. TINY even and at the mercy of these bigger planets. But as we are about to see, we aren’t alone.

We are one solar system in amongst MANY.


If we just STOPPED here, the probability for there to be ANOTHER planet CAPABLE to sustaining life is astronomical!!! Just look at all those solar systems within the galaxy. If you think that we are the ONLY “life” within the universe then you are kidding yourself. The sheer probability is amazing. But we’re not done yet.

This is a picture of our galaxy.

NGC 3810: A Picture-perfect Spiral

Isn’t it beautiful? Ok well maybe not, but if you take the solar systems picture and shrink each one to the size of a mustard seed and then incorporate it into the picture above, well, we look so dang small. Imagine the possibilities of MILLIONS if not BILLIONS of solar systems, each having a sun and revolving planets. The possibilities within our very own Milky Way Galaxy are ENDLESS!!!

But wait!!!




A poster-size image of the beautiful barred spiral galaxy NGC 13


Go back up and read the paragraph about our milky way galaxy again. Now come down and look at the pictures below it. Those are different GALAXIES!! GALAXIES!! The things that contain MILLIONS if not BILLIONS of solar systems. The picture directly above is a picture of all the different galaxies within part of our universe. You realize how small you are now? This isn’t exactly based in scripture because scripture doesn’t speak of this in detail. God just made the stars. But Science is key here. Science has been able to help us ask questions and fill in gaps that we didn’t know were there.

With everything we have seen so far, what is the probability that there is another EARTH out there?

I mean another planet that looks very similar to earth that has life on it. Human life. What is the possibility that there is another me on this planet, or another you? The fact is to most of these questions you have just as much of a chance for the answer to be YES as  NO. There is NO way there can be this many systems and WE are the only ones capable of having life.

There is no accurate picture of our universe because there is no way to capture it. But if there are more solar systems than ours; if there are more galaxies than ours; why can’t there be more universes than ours? This whole thing gets bigger and bigger and bigger the further you go out, who is to say that it stops at this universe.

Is the multiverse possible? Is a duplicate earth possible? Is a duplicate Michael Bishop possible?

My answer: YES YES YES!!

Can I prove it? No.

Can you disprove it? No.


Unsolved Mysteries: Multiverse

When asking whether or not the multiverse is possible, you really have free range to explore. The Bible really doesn’t get in the way much. BUT it DOES present some very challenging problems.

Problem Number 1: Multiple Jesus’?

IF there is a multiverse and if there is another earth and more humans on another planet does that mean there was another Jesus? Now I know that is being very presumptuous but you must understand, the sin curse was a universal curse. The bible says it affected ALL of creation. So if there is another planet with life out there, there could very easily be another Adam and Eve and another Fall from Eden. If that’s true then there would have to be another Jesus.

Now is it possible Jesus could be on THIS Earth and ANOTHER Earth all at the same time? Why yes, yes it is for nothing is impossible with God. But this opens more doors to more questions if it is proven true.

The Bible does say that Christ died once and for all but does that only apply to this universe. Can we say there is no other life in our universe based on this scripture? The writers had no way of knowing whether or not there was more out there and probably didn’t ever think to ask that question. Would this verse read differently if they had?

Problem Number 2: What’s the difference?

If there are other earths and if there are other humans and if there are other Jesus’ then are we all on the same REVELATION road or do our paths look different? Did Jesus die on a cross in the other Earth or did he get burned at the stake? What is the difference between this Earth and other Earth? IF Jesus must die on a cross in the other Earth, are all the events leading up to it and leading from it the same as ours?

Problem Number 3: Multiple Words?

If all the above is true, does that mean there are more than one Word of God? Is the Word of God on our Earth eternal only for our planet or is it universal? Are there multiple heavens or multiple hells? Are they all separate or are they connected? Could there be only one heaven and ALL life one the universe be sent to it?

It’s clear the multiverse theory is ALL speculation and raises SO many questions we cannot answer. But at the end of the day, isn’t it really about being bold enough to ask the question??…

Next time on Observation Always Involves Theory: Angels and Folklore

Follow Up: Observation Always Involves Theory

So I was reading in Genesis 1:1 last night out of my NLT and I noticed an asterisk, which means there is a note for the verse at the bottom. This is what I found…

1:1 or In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.

If you don’t know the significance of this statement, read the bottom section of the blog: Follow Up: Observation Always Involves Theory Part 1: The Gap Theory

I am going to attempt to do some research into the Hebrew and Greek to see where they get this variation…I will probably write another blog from my findings…stay tuned.

Personal Preference Should NEVER become Doctrine

We’ve all seen it. We’ve all been in “that” church service. You know, the one where the preacher is beating you over the head with something that you’ve never ACTUALLY read in Scripture. In some ways we could honestly say that’s how ALL of the denominations of the world were formed. Someone whose personal preference became doctrine.

If you pay attention long enough you’ll find someone who says something that ISN’T scriptural AT ALL but they live it hook, line and sinker. One of my favorite preference doctrines concerns the King James Version.

It’s AMAZING how many people buy into the idea of being King James only. Now PLEASE hear me, I am NOT against the King James AT ALL!!! I grew up on this version. Learned A LOT of my Bible from the KJV. Preached MOST of my ministry out of the KJV. But I have NEVER EVER been a supporter of King James ONLY. I had a man once tell me, when asked to support another version of scripture, “I have been preaching King James only for 40 years and I know that it’s not the closest and probably isn’t 100% accurate but I’m not changing my beliefs now.” Do you see how dogmatic we have become?

Since when did we become so easily stupid about the truth. The word stupid means knowing the truth but believing the lie anyways. Again let me say, EVERY version of scripture has flaws. EVERY version had human translators. Which is fine, as long as you don’t declare it the be all end all. It’s when you get to the point where you believe God can only use the KJV to save people. Like there hasn’t been other versions in the history of the world.

Which leads me to my next point. If you want to make something your personal preference, then maybe learn a little of the history behind it. You wouldn’t believe how many people think the 1769 King James Version was the first English translation of Scripture. That’s IGNORANCE and STUPIDITY. We have more resources readily available today than ever before and yet we know so very little. That’s LAZINESS.

Another personal preference people try to make doctrine is Christian Music. I live in the south and among my parents generation and those who are 40’s and above there is, what I consider, a dying phenomenon called Southern Gospel. I can’t tell you how many people claim the only way you can worship God is through Hymnals or Southern Gospel Music. Again I can’t find that ANYWHERE in Scripture. But truth doesn’t matter when you make personal preference a doctrine. The Bible says if we want to worship God then we have to do it in SPIRIT and in TRUTH. That means as long as the Holy Spirit is in it and the song speaks TRUTH, it can be worshipful to God. But we as Christians like to tell the Holy Spirit what He is or isn’t in. Trust me there are songs by so called Christian artists that have NOTHING to do with God, the Spirit or Scripture.

When personal preference become doctrine, it creates separation between people. Our job as Christians is to bridge those gaps. Not make them worse. You don’t have to agree or even like what someone else does that’s why it is called personal preference. Jesus wasn’t about creating gaps, he was about building bridges. He didn’t tell us what kind of music to worship to, as long as it glorifies him.

My point is this: we all have preferences. We all have things we like. We all have things we don’t like. Just we differ on what we like doesn’t mean you are right and I am wrong. It means that we are different. Just like Jesus takes a different road to get to each of us, so we can take different roads to worshiping him.

Personal Preference SHOULD NEVER be a Doctrine.

The Ten Commandments of Biblical Parenting 3: His Name Should Always Be Kept Holy

Exodus 20:7 (NLT)

“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”

Exodus 20:7 (AMP)

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain [that it, irreverently, in false affirmations or in ways that impugn the character of God]; for the Lord will not hold guiltless nor leave unpunished the one who takes His name in vain [disregarding its reverence and its power].

Exodus 20:7 (CEB)

“Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.

I am going to start this week by asking you a very difficult question

What do you stand for?

Before you answer, understand what I am asking. What are the things in your life that are NON-NEGOTIABLE. What are the things in your life that there is no discussion, it should be understood, I SHALL NOT BE MOVED?

Maybe it’s vulgarity. Speak the word, spank the butt. No questions asked.

Maybe it’s disrespect.

Maybe it’s bad grades.

Maybe it’s drama. I heard a man say one time that when him and his wife got married he told her that there would be no drama in his house that he wasn’t going to put up with it. (yeah right)

What is it that makes your blood boil?

We all know that our nerves are tested or WILL BE TESTED or ARE BEING TESTED RIGHT NOW by our children. Sometimes what we say we stand for or stand against is easily thwarted depending upon maybe what time of day it is or how tired you are.

Let me give you an example: Grayson has outgrown his bassinet and his swing. So we naturally started transitioning him to the baby bed. Well that hasn’t gone so well. It’s a crap shoot on whether or not he will stay asleep all night in it. Most of the time he does, but it really depends upon when we put him down for the night. Last Sunday night it was after 11 and he had just woken AGAIN from being asleep in the crib. Reisa and I, although we want him to learn to sleep in the baby bed and we certainly don’t want him to get to use to sleeping in our bed, made an executive decision to just skip the fight and the crying and just put him in bed with us.

In that moment, Reisa and I compromised for the sake of a good night sleep.

Might not make that big of a difference when it comes to the sleep of your child, but it DOES make a difference when it comes to the boundaries you set in your home.

Did your parents ever compromise their rules because of your sad puppy dog eyes?

Have you found yourself compromising with your kids to keep them happy?

Which parent is more likely to give in instead of standing their ground?

This leads us to this weeks Parental Advisory

Parental Advisory: Compromise Leads to Confusion

We have talked over the last couple of weeks about the necessity for boundaries within the home. And although we ALL want to see our children happy, compromise isn’t ALWAYS the best solution.

For example: How do you set a boundary in your home if its ok to cross the line on Monday but they better not come close to it on Tuesday.

Rules are HARD to enforce ALL the time. But a rule that is enforced is a rule that is respected.

If the child feels as if they can easily get away with x,y,z depending on how they play their cards, then they will look at us as pushovers instead of parents.

Again let me say, I know this isn’t easy but it is very important.

Compromise leads to confusion.

Have you ever seen two parents who disagree on what their child can or can’t do?

What would be a solution to differing opinions within the home?

The bible says that our YES should be YES and our NO should be NO. So let’s make sure that we aren’t confusing our child. They can learn to respect the boundaries as long as they know every day that line is still there and the consequences haven’t changed should they choose to cross it.

Commandment #3: For His Name Should ALWAYS be Holy

So as we continue in this Biblical Parenting journey we have learned two very important principles from God’s Word: (1) Make the Lord Top Priority and (2) Nothing Else deserves our worship. As we keep building on this pyramid we reach the third level: His Name Should ALWAYS Be Kept Holy

So before we can get into how this affects your family and ultimately your parenting, we need to figure out what exactly it means. To do this, let’s look at the very name of the Lord. To start we’ll focus on the WORDS themselves.

When is the last time you heard someone say “Oh my GOD”?

How about the word “JESUS man”?

It’s amazing how effortlessly people us the Lord’s name with NO reverence at all. It’s as if it’s just another word or another slang. We could talk about their motives or their intentions and we might even sympathize that they don’t really know what they are saying. Problem is, what they are saying is meant to be KEPT HOLY!!

When the Israelites asked who it was that was going to deliver them out of Egypt; who was this God of their fathers, Moses told them his name was “I AM”. The actual meaning behind the name that was given is lost to us BECAUSE the Hebrew people considered the name to SACRED for them to speak. That’s why they would later change the name they used from YHWH to Elohim. The name God gave Moses was SO revered by the Israelites that they considered it BLASPHEMOUS to even utter the words.

You see the difference between then and now?

So which philosophy is correct? How should we feel about God’s name? How should we approach the very name of our savior?

Is it ok for us to use his name loosely? Even if we don’t mean anything by it?

I think we all know the answer to that.

But let’s take it a step further.

So before I put some pressure on you about making sure the name of God is kept holy in your home, let me re-establish a working knowledge of WHY His name is to be kept holy.

Isaiah 40:12

Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?

Can we possibly understand just how big our God really is? Can we possibly fathom how much power he has? Can we, for just one moment grasp how much he controls without breaking a sweat? Let’s look at Job and God’s discourse with him in chapter 38.

Job 38:1-41

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’ “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness? As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors. The light disturbs the wicked and stops the arm that is raised in violence. “Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths? Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know! “Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced! “Have you visited the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail? (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war.) Where is the path to the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind? “Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up? “Does the rain have a father? Who gives birth to the dew? Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes. “Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth? “Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct? Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods? “Can you stalk prey for a lioness and satisfy the young lions’ appetites as they lie in their dens or crouch in the thicket? Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God and wander about in hunger?

Who can do all these things? Who? Is it us? NO!! It’s the name of God! It’s the name of the one that we are throwing around carelessly as if it doesn’t make ANY DIFFERENCE.

Because of the unlimited power and holiness of the Lord, His name is rightly revered and should always be kept sacred. When we are using His name loosely we are invoking the name of the very architect of the universe. Please understand the scope of who God is. We are ONE planet in a solar system of 8. Our Solar System is one in amongst maybe millions in our galaxy. Our galaxy is one out of possible millions in our universe. And yet the bible says that God put the stars in the sky as if it were no big deal.

Notice Isaiah’s response when he caught a glimpse of the Lord:

Isaiah 6:1-5

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Isaiah’s response when he seen the Lord was, IM DEAD!! IM DOOMED!! I SHOULDN’T BE HERE!!! I AM UNCLEAN!!!!

Jonathan Edward was a famous preacher in the 18th century who preached a sermon with the most chilling of words ever spoken about the holiness of God. His sermon entitled “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” shows just how close to hell and destruction we really are. A healthy dose of how far we have come because of Christ is needed to help us understand how holy the name of the Lord is.

It wasn’t that long after the Ten Commandment episode at Mt. Sinai that these terrifying words were written.

Deuteronomy 32:35 (NLT)

I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.

Here is what Edwards sermon suggests: “In this verse is threatened the Vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, yet remained, as is expressed in verses 1-35, void of counsel, having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of Heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous Fruit; as in verses 36 and 37.

Deuteronomy 32:1-35

“Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! Hear, O earth, the words that I say! Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! “But they have acted corruptly toward him; when they act so perversely, are they really his children? They are a deceitful and twisted generation. Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Isn’t he your Father who created you? Has he not made you and established you? Remember the days of long ago; think about the generations past. Ask your father, and he will inform you. Inquire of your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High assigned lands to the nations, when he divided up the human race, he established the boundaries of the peoples according to the number in his heavenly court. “For the people of Israel belong to the Lord; Jacob is his special possession. He found them in a desert land, in an empty, howling wasteland. He surrounded them and watched over them; he guarded them as he would guard his own eyes. Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. The Lord alone guided them; they followed no foreign gods. He let them ride over the highlands and feast on the crops of the fields. He nourished them with honey from the rock and olive oil from the stony ground. He fed them yogurt from the herd and milk from the flock, together with the fat of lambs. He gave them choice rams from Bashan, and goats, together with the choicest wheat. You drank the finest wine, made from the juice of grapes. “But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation. They stirred up his jealousy by worshiping foreign gods; they provoked his fury with detestable deeds. They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God, to gods they had not known before, to new gods only recently arrived, to gods their ancestors had never feared. You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth. “The Lord saw this and drew back, provoked to anger by his own sons and daughters. He said, ‘I will abandon them; then see what becomes of them. For they are a twisted generation, children without integrity. They have roused my jealousy by worshiping things that are not God; they have provoked my anger with their useless idols. Now I will rouse their jealousy through people who are not even a people; I will provoke their anger through the foolish Gentiles. For my anger blazes forth like fire and burns to the depths of the grave. It devours the earth and all its crops and ignites the foundations of the mountains. I will heap disasters upon them and shoot them down with my arrows. I will weaken them with famine, burning fever, and deadly disease. I will send the fangs of wild beasts and poisonous snakes that glide in the dust. Outside, the sword will bring death, and inside, terror will strike both young men and young women, both infants and the aged. I would have annihilated them, wiping out even the memory of them. But I feared the taunt of Israel’s enemy, who might misunderstand and say, “Our own power has triumphed! The Lord had nothing to do with this!”’ “But Israel is a senseless nation; the people are foolish, without understanding. Oh, that they were wise and could understand this! Oh, that they might know their fate! How could one person chase a thousand of them, and two people put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up? But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock, as even they recognize. Their vine grows from the vine of Sodom, from the vineyards of Gomorrah. Their grapes are poison, and their clusters are bitter. Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras. “The Lord says, ‘Am I not storing up these things, sealing them away in my treasury? I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.’ “Indeed, the Lord will give justice to his people, and he will change his mind about his servants, when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. Then he will ask, ‘Where are their gods, the rocks they fled to for refuge? Where now are those gods, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their offerings? Let those gods arise and help you! Let them provide you with shelter! Look now; I myself am he! There is no other god but me! I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from my powerful hand! Now I raise my hand to heaven and declare, “As surely as I live, when I sharpen my flashing sword and begin to carry out justice, I will take revenge on my enemies and repay those who reject me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword will devour flesh— the blood of the slaughtered and the captives, and the heads of the enemy leaders.”’ “Rejoice with him, you heavens, and let all of God’s angels worship him. Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles, and let all the angels be strengthened in him. For he will avenge the blood of his children; he will take revenge against his enemies. He will repay those who hate him and cleanse his people’s land.”

From this text Jonathon makes the following declarations:

  1. The possibility of “slipping” is ALWAYS there.
  2. Psalm 73:18 (NLT) Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
  3. The possibility of “slipping” is ALWAYS sudden.
  4. Psalm 73:18-19 (NLT) Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.
  5. The possibility of “slipping” is ALWAYS of themselves.
  6. Meaning that no one pushes them or makes them fall.
  7. The reason they haven’t slipped already is because the appointed time hasn’t come. “God won’t hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction…”
  8. There is no security for wicked men for ONE moment, just because there are no visible means of death.
  9. It is natural for man to take great care to preserve their own lives, but this doesn’t secure them for a moment.
  10. Then only way to escape this fate is to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

One final declaration to the wickedness of men in this sermon: “You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of Hell, but don’t see the Hand of God in it, but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.”

So what’s the point of all this: If you haven’t figured it out by now, the name of the Lord IS NOT something that should be thrown around carelessly. God isn’t instructing Israel to keep his name Holy because he is needing the self-confidence. Listen to me very carefully here: if WE as parents regard the name of the Lord as sacred and holy, then our EXAMPLE will TEACH our Children to regard his name as sacred and Holy as well.

Should we be fearful of the name of God? Solomon says that the fear of the Lord, (fear meaning healthy respect and reverence) is the beginning of all wisdom. And while you may not be in danger of going to hell because of the blood of Jesus; you still are worshipping a Holy and righteous God who revisits the sins of the fathers up until the third and fourth generations. Keeping his name Holy starts with you. If we don’t keep it holy, our children won’t either. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.



Why Bible Translations Differ: A Guide for the Perplexed by Ben Spackman

I found this article online. It is really a remarkable explanation of the problems with bible translation. Please excuse the Mormon references.

Here is the link if you would like to visit it:

Ben Spackman, “Why Bible Translations Differ: A Guide for the Perplexed,” Religious Educator 15, no. 1 (2014): 31–66.

Why Bible Translations Differ: A Guide for the Perplexed

Ben Spackman

Ben Spackman ( received an MA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, where he pursued further graduate work. At the time this article was published, he was a premedical student at City College of New York, applying to medical schools in 2014. 

Translators frequently consult the Dead Sea Scroll texts, particularly in problematic passages. 

Photo by Berthold Werner. Dead Sea Scroll 4Q175, Jordan, Amman.

(Translators frequently consult the Dead Sea Scroll texts, particularly in problematic passages.)

Brigham Young once said that “if [the Bible] be translated incorrectly, and there is a scholar on the earth who professes to be a Christian, and he can translate it any better than King James’s translators did it, he is under obligation to do so.” [1] Many translations have appeared since 1611, and modern Apostles have profitably consulted these other Bible translations, sometimes citing them in general conference or the Ensign[2] Latter-day Saints who likewise wish to engage in personal study from other Bible translations will quickly notice differences of various kinds, not only in style but also in substance. Some differences between translations are subtle, others glaringly obvious, such as the first translation of Psalm 23 into Tlingit: “The Lord is my Goatherder, I don’t want him; he hauls me up the mountain; he drags me down to the beach.” [3]

While the typical Latter-day Saint reads the Bible fairly often, [4] many are unfamiliar with “where the [biblical] texts originated, how they were transmitted, what sorts of issues translators struggled with, or even how different types of translations work, or even where to start finding answers.” [5] Generally speaking, differences arise from four aspects of the translation process, three of which are rooted in the original languages. An introduction to these four categories as well as a bit of background on biblical languages can go far in helping readers understand and evaluate different translations. Various Bible versions will be cited by common abbreviation, explained either at the first reference (e.g., KJV), or by an endnote. Due to my own academic training, the following discussion focuses mainly on the Old Testament, but similar issues are involved in translating the New Testament.

Category 1: What Are the Textual Sources of the Translation?

Translators must choose a base text from which to translate. Until the 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (often abbreviated as DSS), the oldest and best Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament were dated back to the ninth century AD, far closer in date to modern translators than to the Hebrew authors and editors. This traditional Hebrew text, called the Masoretic Text (or MT), serves as the source of most Bible translations of the Old Testament, including the KJV. [6] Scribes copied biblical texts by hand for generations. Consequently, changes to the text crept in by nature of imperfect copying [7] as well as by intention. [8] On occasion scribes would “correct” a text to the way they thought it should read.[9] If one read a story in which a dog chases a man, the dog catches him, the man bites the dog, but then the man goes to the hospital, you would reasonably assume that it was the dog that bit the man, not the other way around and correct the corrupted text. Scribes also sometimes made changes in pronunciation (e.g., to make sure Yahweh was pronounced as Adonai), made theological changes,[10] or bowdlerized the text. [11] (This term comes from a Dr. Thomas Bowdler, who produced an edition of Shakespeare in 1807 with offensive or inappropriate passages for women and children removed. Ophelia’s suicide, for example, became merely an unfortunate drowning.) Minor textual errors in the Hebrew text are relatively common, obvious corrections or major theological changes much less so. Translators frequently consult the Dead Sea Scroll texts, particularly in problematic passages.[12] The books of Samuel are held to be two of the more textually corrupt books, with many difficult decisions to be made about which text should be used in which passage.[13] Whether translators decide to use the MT, DSS, or both as the basis of the translation is a philosophical decision based upon theological commitments and scholarly presuppositions. Using a different base text will result in differences in the translation.

The base text is often supplemented by reference to ancient translations of the Hebrew scriptures, known as “versions.” [14] These include the Greek translations known as the Septuagint, or LXX; [15]  Aramaic translations known as targums or targumim; the Samaritan Pentateuch; and more in Latin, Syriac, and other languages. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of the existing copies of these versions predated our oldest copies of the Masoretic Hebrew text, resulting in the odd situation of translations that were older than the “original” text. Translators often consult the versions at difficult or ambiguous passages because they show how ancient translators understood the text, and sometimes attest to a textual tradition different than that handed down in the MT. One example is Deuteronomy 32:8–9, in which the MT was apparently “corrected” in a monotheistic direction, while the Septuagint preserved a very different text that was then largely confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew text of Deuteronomy.[16]

The standard editions of the original language texts[17] provide the most relevant variations between manuscripts and the versions in what is called the textual apparatus, a densely abbreviated technical tool. [18] Good modern Bibles often include footnotes that say something like “other manuscripts read X” or “Hebrew uncertain.” The NET Bible often explains its translation in terms of the base text and includes text-critical notes labeled TC. [19] (“Text criticism” is the study of textual variants.) English translations of the versions are available, such as the recent and free New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) [20] or The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, which includes the biblical texts of the DSS with some textual commentary.[21] How much weight should be given to the versions, and under what circumstances are questions of translation philosophy that directly affect the translation. Most Bibles thus include a preface explaining the general choice of texts and other decisions.[22]

Category 2: How Does the Translator Understand the Grammar and Syntax?

While the details are complex, a simple overview of a few of the significant ways Biblical Hebrew differs from English will help the reader gain appreciation for the difficulties of translation. Those unfamiliar with these Hebrew difficulties may wonder how anyone can firmly derive meaning from the text under such circumstances, but the Hebrew is rarely as ambiguous as this section makes it appear.

Like many other ancient languages, Biblical Hebrew had no formal punctuation, no capitals, and variable word order.[23] Consequently, a Hebrew translator cannot always easily determine if a word is a proper name [24] or if it belongs to the ending of one phrase or the beginning of the next. Deciding where one sentence ends and another begins can be difficult, particularly since Hebrew uses “and” much more frequently and differently than English. [25] Translators have to decide where the breaks are in the text, and then how to represent that in the target language. [26] James Kugel provides one example from Genesis 22:8: “Since biblical Hebrew was originally written without punctuation marks or even capital letters marking the beginnings of sentences, Abraham’s answer to Isaac could actually be read as two sentences: ‘God Himself will provide. The lamb for the burnt offering [is] my son.’ (Note that Hebrew does not use “to be” in the present tense; thus, this last sentence would be the same whether or not the word ‘is’ is supplied in translation.)”[27]

Another significant way Hebrew differs from English is that it has only two verb “conjugations,” one that adds suffixes and one that adds prefixes. Whereas English makes liberal use of words to indicate tense and mood, Hebrew does not grammatically indicate tenses such as future, past, or present, let alone those nightmarish tenses like future perfect progressive (“you will have been doing X”). [28] This is not to say Israelites weren’t concerned with time; what English indicates explicitly either within the verb itself (e.g., “eat” versus “ate,” “run” versus “ran”) or by ancillary words (“he will work” versus “he did work”), Hebrew indicates less explicitly via syntax or word order. [29] This again means translators must both decide what the Hebrew means and then how to represent that in English. The lack of explicit grammatical tense and scholarly consensus over the verbal system explains why one translation may interpret a verse in the past tense, another in the future, and another in the present. [30] While perhaps an extreme example, compare the variety of tenses in Isaiah 9:6 in table 1 (emphasis added):

KJV: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


NRSV: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


NJPS: For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named “The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.” NASB: For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.


Present perfect, present perfect, future, future. Past, past, present, present. Past, past, past, past. Future, future, future, future.


Another issue with Hebrew is that, like Spanish, it does not require pronouns with verbs; one can simply say “ate” instead of “he ate.” Thus, lacking an explicit subject, translators must decide if the subject is new and assumed (he? it? God?) or carried over from something in the previous phrase. Ambiguities of this nature combined with lexical difficulties described in the next section occur significantly more often in poetry. Indeed, the ambiguities of Hebrew lend themselves frustratingly well to poetry. It poses particular difficulties, as it is often less concrete and more elliptical than prose. Because poetry in English-speaking cultures tends to be used for aesthetic reasons instead of as a practical or common mode of communication, these difficulties may seem irrelevant. However, poetry is the primary form of prophetic texts such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, as well as Psalms, the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament. Learning how to understand poetic structures and parse out its ambiguities thus takes on much more importance. [31]

Category 3: How Does the Translator Resolve Ambiguities on the Word Level?

Due to the evolution of the Hebrew writing system, the relatively small number of Hebrew texts, and the nature of Semitic languages, a translator may be very uncertain of the meaning(s) of a word. Ambiguity over one word here or there may seem inconsequential, but the amount of variance possible and the import of one lone word can change a passage significantly. To choose one theological example, considerable ink has been spilled over the translation of ‘almah in Isaiah 7:14. “Behold, [the] ‘almah shall conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel.”[32] Should ‘almah be “virgin” (the traditional translation conservative evangelicals still argue for) or “young woman” (the translation heavily supported by usage and lexical research)?[33] How is such word-level ambiguity possible?

The first cause of ambiguity is the nature of the writing system.[34] The Hebrew alphabet was originally an abjad, a writing system that represented only consonants, likely based on a rebus principle. This means that each Hebrew letter is also the name of an object. To write the word ’ab (“father”), for example, one would draw an ’aleph (the word for ox) and a bet (or house).[35] All Hebrew words begin with consonants. (Those words English speakers would consider to begin with a vowel begin with something like a glottal stop, in which airflow is cut off in the throat, as between the two syllables of uh-oh.)

A later stage of Hebrew began to indicate long vowels at the end of words, using y, w, and perhaps h. Later still, y and w became inconsistently used indicators of long vowels inside a word as well as at the end. For example, David is written DWD (w as a consonant) before the Babylonian exile, but consistently in texts afterward as DWYD, with y indicating the long i-vowel (the name is pronounced dah-VEED in Hebrew today). The Dead Sea Scrolls expand on this trend of using a few consonants to represent certain vowels.[36]

Roughly one thousand years after the close of the Hebrew Bible, Jews who had memorized the traditional text improvised a system of indicating the pronunciation with marks above, below, and inside the consonants, called “vowel pointing” or just “pointing.” Until that time, Hebrew did not indicate doubled consonants, which can change the meaning of a word, nor the full range of vowels. [37] Scholars vary in how much weight should be assigned to the traditional pointing, but at times greater sense can be made of a text by replacing the vowels (“repointing”) or redividing a key word or phrase.[38]

For example, if a text had the consonants GDSNWHR in God’s appearance to Moses, and the tradition pointed and divided as “GoD iS NoWHeRe,” it might be thought a bit odd for an Israelite to say. A scholar might repoint and redivide as “GoD iS NoW HeRe” since it better fits the context of a divine presence. Just as BT in English could give us BuTT, BiT, BaT, ByTe, BuT, aBet, or BeT, many Hebrew words vary only in their pointing. In Amos 6:12, the NRSV prefers to repoint the masculine plural marker of “oxen,” –iym, as a separate word yam, or “sea.” Contrast the KJV “Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen?” with the NRSV “Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen?”[39]

One of the more common and complex examples involves whether lō “to him” or lō “not” is the correct reading. This entirely changes the meaning of Job 13:15, an old scripture mastery passage; compare the KJV “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him (lō)” with the NJPS, “He may well slay me; I have no (lō) hope” (emphasis added).

Here is the Hebrew text of Isaiah 9:5 (English numbering) without pointing.

Here is the same text with pointing added.

Finally, here is the same text with the pointing and marks indicating accents and how to “sing” or chant the text, the role of the cantor in a modern synagogue.

Second, assuming the traditional pointing is largely accurate, as it probably is in most cases, another issue deserves consideration: It is usage that determines a word’s meaning. (This, combined with tradition, is the issue with “virgin”/”young woman” in Isaiah 7:14.) The more often a word occurs, the more examples and contexts we have to establish its meaning. However, the Old Testament does not have many words—less than 7,000, many of them related to each other—and words often have multiple meanings. [40]  Add to the small sample size the fact that usage, and therefore meaning, shifts over time, and it can become quite difficult to know just what a word means in a given passage. We can’t haphazardly assume a word with legal or technical meaning will bear the exact same meaning when used in a different genre at a different time. Indeed, conclusions and word studies of this kind require extreme caution. [41]

Particularly when a word is rare, scholars cautiously turn to the versions as well as comparative Semitics. Do Aramaic, Ugaritic, Arabic, or Assyrian/Babylonian use a related word in a similar context? Do the usages there shed any light on its usage in the Old Testament?[42] The combined corpus of these languages dwarfs that of Biblical Hebrew, and is often useful.

Here again the genre of poetry magnifies the difficulties, since poetic texts tend to use more obscure vocabulary and use it in less concrete ways. If the words of Isaiah are great, they are equally rare and semantically difficult. Job is arguably the most difficult text in the Hebrew Bible, with a high concentration of words that occur only once and nowhere else (called hapax legomena) and many other rare words. [43] Indeed, in Job 24:18, the NJPS translation notes that “From here to the end of the chapter [verse 25] the translation is largely conjectural.”[44]

The bottom line is that even with centuries of tradition and scholarship, ancient translations, and modern lexicons, sometimes meaning cannot be established with any degree of certainty. For some passages, that has serious implications. When reading through the list of non-kosher animals in Leviticus 11, the Jewish Study Bible notes a high degree of uncertainty as to what particular birds are intended. Jews have a practical need to know which birds are kosher and which are not.[45] But again, translations must say something, and good scholarship recognizes its own limitations. One scholar has suggested that gaining interpretive humility is one of the advantages of learning biblical languages. “Seeing the messiness of the text—the text-critical problems, the ambiguities, the instances (particularly if reading in Job or Proverbs) in which you stare at a line but you have no idea what it means and neither does anyone else but the translations have to say something so they grab a phrase out of thin air—causes you to be more humble in your interpretive approach. You come to realize that you are not the master of the text.”[46]

At both the word level and higher, the structure of Hebrew lends itself to ambiguity, multiple meanings, puns, and subtle allusions. While lending itself easily to poetry, this tendency also makes it infuriatingly difficult at times to understand and to translate. One of my graduate professors joked that every Semitic word has at least four meanings: the primary meaning, its opposite, something to do with sex, and something to do with camels! He was exaggerating, but not by much.

Category 4: What Conscious Choices are Being Made about Translation Philosophy, Style, and Register?

Translation is a tricky process, but particularly so when involving religious sensitivities. After resolving textual issues (category 1), working through the grammar and syntax (category 2), and weighing lexical ambiguities (category 3), a translator might have a good idea what a passage means in Hebrew, but must still work out what it should convey in the target language and how it should convey it. This means that even if two Bible translations used the same underlying text (e.g., MT versus DSS), and the translators understood that text the same way, and agreed on the meanings of every word, the English from each translator could still vary greatly. One could simply charge “translator bias,” but this is not often the case, and examples of flagrant bias tend to be publicized and debated.[47] To English-only readers, all these decisions and issues remain below the surface. An illuminating example of the difficulty Bible translators have in weighing these issues is available on YouTube.[48] Translations can rarely indicate the debates, the deliberate or unconscious choices made by the translator(s), or that the Hebrew text in question may be terribly difficult to understand or fraught with textual issues; regardless of the difficulties involved, at the end of the day a translator must provide a translation. [49]

Translating involves an original language and a target language. No language exists in isolation; each is embedded in and reflects its cultural matrix. The more “distance” there is between the original and the target languages in terms of linguistic similarity, [50] time, and culture, the more difficult translational decisions become. This also means that evaluation of a translation’s accuracy and utility can change; an excellent translation for 1611 may become a terrible translation by 2013 because the target language and culture have shifted.[51]

Formal or dynamic translation.

Translation is not a science, but has begun to be studied like one. Those introduced to foreign language for the first time often fall into thinking that it’s simply a matter of substituting the equivalent words. An elder in my district in the Missionary Training Center once exclaimed, “Il est à propos le temps!” Intending to convey a frustrated “It’s about time!” he had simply looked up each English word in his dictionary, substituted the French word he found there, and strung them together. His final phrase was good French (“It concerns the time!”), but did not mean what he intended. (A propos has since made its way into English, meaning “relevant to the matter at hand.”) All translation, particularly Bible translation, is much more complex than the word-for-word substitution he performed, particularly where idioms and cultural references are concerned.

Beginning in the mid-twentieth century with Eugene Nida, a linguist and Greek scholar, Bible translators today talk about two endpoints on the spectrum of translation theory. On one end is “word-for-word,” “formal equivalence,” or “text-oriented” translation, which is more literal but less understandable. The translator chooses to preserve more of the original language at the cost of being less accessible to the target language and culture. On the other end is “thought-for-thought,” “dynamic/functional equivalence,” or “reader-oriented” translation, which is more understandable but potentially less reliable.[52] The translator does more interpreting in order to smooth and adapt to target language and culture, intending to create the same understanding and response among the new audience as among the original.

If a translator has misunderstood the meaning embedded in the cultural/language matrix of either the original or target language, than the meaning will be deformed.[53] For example, Isaiah 1:18 reads, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” How should one translate “snow” for a tropical culture that has no concept of winter? “White as wool”? Since the text says “white as snow,” could one translate “white as wool” and footnote (if a translation allows) saying “white symbolized purity for the Israelites”? What if in the target culture, the color white represents death instead of purity or sinlessness? If blue were the paradigmatic color of purity, would “blue as the sky” be acceptable? And so on. Essentially, is it the words that matter or the concepts? How much can, must, or should one deform the text to be true to and accurately convey the message of the text? Sometimes one must translate what the text means instead of what it says. [54] Every translation is a traitor, goes the saying, and this difficulty was recognized long ago by the rabbis. “One who translates literally (according to its form) is a liar, while one who adds [to it] is a blasphemer.” [55]

Continuing this example, let us assume a thought-for-thought translation philosophy; most translations understand “white” in Isaiah 1:18 to represent purity, sinlessness, or forgiveness. What if this equation is mistaken? One scholar concluded that “the formula to be made white as snow is not a blessing in the Hebrew Bible. Rather it is a curse. Thus, also in Isaiah 1:18 we have a judgment speech or rîb [pronounced reeve], which calls the people to judgment. The signs of the judgment are red, as the sign of guilt, and white, the sign of punishment. Come to judgment, if your sins are as bad as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow, a sign of curse and disease.”[56] If this is true, the thought-for-thought translation has seriously mistranslated as “purity” where it should indicate “judgment.” (It may also provide new perspective on Miriam being turned white in Numbers 12:10–12 after speaking against Moses.) A word-for-word translation that simply read “white as snow” would not convey either concept, but allow all interpretation to the reader. In other words, a word-for-word translation puts the onus on the reader to construct a meaning for the passage, whether through tradition, research and study, or problematic “face value”[57] readings. The responsibility for any misunderstanding also falls upon the reader. A thought-for-thought translation offloads much of the responsibility in understanding original contextual meaning onto the translator.

To the left, right, and in between the two points of word-for-word/formal and thought-for-thought/dynamic translation, three more positions can be identified. More literal than formal equivalence is “literal,” between formal and dynamic is “mixed,” and even more interpretive and loose are “paraphrases.” Though every translation is somewhat eclectic depending on the passage, each one generally falls into a particular category, and online guides show generally where a translation falls along this spectrum of translation philosophy.[58]

On one side of the spectrum, there is the literal extreme; Everett Fox’s commendable The Five Books of Moses attempts to capture more of the flavor and rhythm of Hebrew, with the result that the English is sometimes odd. A familiar passage reads, “At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth, when the earth was wild and waste, darkness over the face of Ocean, rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters—God said: Let there be light! And there was light.”[59]

At the other extreme, paraphrases like The Message risk sounding too loose and disconnected from their original context, too casual, perhaps even non-scriptural[60]: “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best—as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”[61] Thus reads the Lord’s Prayer.

The KJV is far towards the word-for-word/formal end of the spectrum; however, its target language was English of the 1500s. The instructions to the KJV translators to revise Tyndale’s version (1526) and the Bishop’s Bible (1568) and leave their text unchanged unless necessary resulted in the KJV already sounding archaic when published in 1611.[62] For example, by the end of the sixteenth century, -eth endings on verbs were still written but had dropped out of speech and were pronounced as -s as standard practice.[63] Four hundred additional years of linguistic shift has not made the KJV more accessible, and this has definite effects on such fundamental LDS matters as missionary work.[64]

Choice of register.

Register is a broad sociolinguistic term that refers to different kinds of language appropriate for a given audience and context. For example, I would speak to a close group of friends at a casual gathering differently than I would to the President of the United States in a formal presentation. I would explain a concept differently to a Primary class, than to my Institute class, than to a missionary contact. The choice of “register” also affects translation. Translators must know their purpose in translation and their audience, and then further decide what kind of language is contextually appropriate for that combination.[65]

One example of this is the reading level chosen for a translation. The NIV has been translated at an eighth-grade reading level, whereas The Message (quoted above with the Lord’s Prayer) is around a fourth-grade reading level. A different kind of example concerning register and genre comes from a critique of a recent anthology of ancient Near Eastern texts:

The [Ugaritic] Baal Cycle is a larger than life tale and its ancient readers likely read it as such. When translators render epics like this in immediately accessible, common vernaculars they inescapably fail to translate aspects of how these stories were received and preserved. These were and are grand, expressive stories; encountering the Baal cycle should feel different from reading legal texts or proverbs.[66]

Should a Bible translation be formal or informal? Archaic or modern? Should it reflect differences in style, tone, genre, and dialect that exist in the original? For modern readers of the KJV, both the nature of the translation and non-fluency in its archaic language contribute to a very flat reading;[67] that is, imagine a movie in which every character spoke in the same voice, energy, emotion, and tone, never raising the pitch or lowering the volume regardless of the setting.

The original language texts are not so flat, but vary in many ways. The Gospel of Mark, for example, is low, common “street” Greek with grammatical infelicities, in contrast to the educated and refined Greek of Luke. Esau’s grunt for grub, “Let me gulp down some of this red red stuff” starkly contrasts Jacob’s careful and lawyerly response.[68] Hebrew had different geographic accents and/or dialects, both a Northern Hebrew and a Southern Hebrew (perhaps like Texan, Brooklynite, or Midwestern English).[69] Both Jacob’s servant and then Jacob himself travel north into Aramaic territory to meet Laban, and their own language changes to match Laban’s Aramaic “accent.”[70] I have an American friend with an Indian mother and grandparents; in conversation with them, her English takes on a different accent, vocabulary, and cadence. Changing registers is something speakers often do unconsciously based on audience and context, and the original texts reflect such changes. Reading the original languages or modern translations which try to capture some of the text’s original “flavor” can thus provide a very different experience than the lordly but flat monotone of the KJV. Perhaps this is what led Joseph Smith to exclaim, “My soul delights in reading the word of the Lord in the original, and I am determined to pursue the study of the languages, until I shall become master of them, if I am permitted to live long enough.”[71] Should a translation attempt to capture the flavors of the underlying text?

Appropriate language.

Another issue of register concerns differing cultural expectations in terms of sacred writing and language. That which is taboo, shocking, or offensive in one culture may not be in another. While a few originally inoffensive passages became so by translation into a different time or culture, sometimes the prophets intended to shock and offend. One scholar even advises, “If you do not wish to be shocked and disgusted, then stay away from reading the prophetic texts.”[72] Some of these difficult passages have been bowdlerized in the past, some overlooked due to archaic language, and some just never noticed due to their relative obscurity.[73] For example, “The Hebrew Bible regularly uses the root ŠKB . . . ‘lie (with)’ as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. But on four occasions the more direct verb ŠGL . . . occurs. Scholars agree that ŠGL was a word for sexual intercourse, but it may or may not have been vulgar (therefore, we cannot supply an exact English translation). In each of the four instances, ŠGL appears as part of a threat or condemnation, and always with the clear intention of shocking the audience . . . Obviously, the authors of these lines [in Deuteronomy 28:30, Isaiah 13:16, Jeremiah 3:1–2 and Zechariah 14:2] deliberately chose strong language—if not actual vulgarity—in order to horrify, upset and rattle their audience.”[74]

The English in 1 Samuel 25, involving David, Nabal (“Fool”), and “every one that pisseth against the wall,” was not offensive when first published,[75] but has now become so as American English has shifted. Translating in such a way as to avoid offending readers, as most modern translations do, turns out to obscure important connections within the story.[76] Even if justifiable “to provoke revulsion and disgust” and contextualized within its own time and culture, the graphic sexual, violent, or scatological imagery used by several prophets, particularly Ezekiel, challenges scholars and those who hold the Bible in high esteem.[77]

How should translators deal with these passages, far more numerous and problematic than most readers realize? They are not limited to the Old Testament. For example, Paul’s use of “you foolish Galatians” may be deliberate use of an ethnic slur to forcefully grab the attention of his audience, equivalent to “you stupid rednecks!”[78] In Philippians 3:8, he disdainfully describes as “dung” (KJV) all he gave up to gain Christ (potentially a considerable amount)[79] but some scholars bluntly suggest a different four-letter word is a more accurate translation. The NET Bible notes that skubalon “was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers.”[80] Complicating matters, the same skubalon letter contains “the admonition of Paul” to seek out whatever is pure and commendable, among other adjectives (Philippians 4:8). How does Paul reconcile his use of language with this admonition?

Why are these passages so troublesome? Setting aside those examples in which prophets intended offense, other reasons exist. Modern readers have come to apply certain assumptions and expectations to the idea of “Holy Scripture” which were foreign to its authors. John J. Collins remarks, “When [certain Old Testament] stories are read as Scripture, they become more problematic, because of a common but ill-founded assumption that all Scripture should be edifying,” i.e., positive and uplifting.[81] Ancient prophets did not labor under many of the assumptions we attach to scripture today, because they are largely modern assumptions. The contents of our “Holy Scriptures” did not become such until long after they were written or preached. “Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah et al. had no sense of the white-covered, gold-cross embossed Bibles in which their prose was to be packaged, nor had they been briefed on the standards of Western literary decorum against which they would inevitably offend.”[82] Even our basic concept of “scripture” today would be somewhat foreign to them.[83] Certainly they would have thought they were operating under the Spirit of the Lord, but they were rarely conscious of authoring something that would become canon or “Holy Scripture,” because it did not exist as such. Few prophets have ever written with the idea of “I am adding to the canon,” because there was neither a formally established canon nor a concept of canon (generally in the Old Testament period), or because the canon was something other and past; in the New Testament period, “scripture” referred broadly to the writings of Old Testament prophets (as in 2 Timothy 3:15), not things such as Paul’s letters or the Gospels which were being written at the time. Indeed, Peter and Paul (and sometimes Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants) were simply writing letters to congregations, not attempting to produce canonized and inspired writing fit for all Christians in all times.

The writings eventually canonized as the Bible accurately reflected life in its variety, with language humorous and serious, sacred and profane. But once combined with other books (Greek ta biblia, source of the term “Bible,” means “the books,” not The Book) and canonized as “Holy Scripture,” certain expectations and assumptions came to be applied to each book and passage as though these criteria existed at the time, and prophets had written with them in mind. Consequently, the kind of language expected by the target community does not always match the kind of language used by the prophets. Should the translator privilege sensitivities of the target community, who may expect “Holy Scripture” to use elevated, archaic, antiseptic language, or should they provide culturally accurate translations of the text, which would create the same kind of reaction among its readers as among its native audience?

Leaf from a 1611 King James Bible showing Psalms 130-33, chapter headings, illuminated letters, and marginal notes.

Kent P. Jackson

Suggestions for Personal Study

The typical Bible reader who is aware of differences between versions cannot directly investigate the reason for those differences in the original languages. However, a multitude of useful tools are available to attack this problem from a different direction.

Multiple translations.

The easiest and first step is to become familiar with several translations, noting what each appears to say and areas of agreement or disagreement. Most modern Bible translations have been produced by committees of translators, and represent some degree of scholarly evaluation of textual variants and other relevant issues. Where multiple modern translations agree with each other but differ significantly from the KJV (textual scholars would say “agree against” the KJV), as a general rule I would favor the rendering of the modern versions. My personal recommendations would be the NRSV (scholarly/ecumenical), NJPS (Jewish), NIV (evangelical, various editions), NAB or New American Bible, Revised Edition (Catholic), and the NET Bible (discussed below).[84] For those that include them, check each translation’s footnotes of for useful indicators such as “Hebrew uncertain” or “other versions read X.”

Single-volume resources.

Besides the various translations of the Bible, there is also a range of accessible resources that can explain to some degree what is taking place under the surface of the English text. While certainly not necessary to consult with any frequency, simple awareness that these resources exist means the interested student knows where and how to search for answers when the need arises.

•  The most accessible of these is the NET Bible with its myriad footnotes at Study Bibles based on reputable translations will provide more footnotes of this kind than simple translations. For example, the Jewish Study Bible comprises the NJPS translation with notes, maps, introductions, and more from a Jewish perspective. Other good recommendations include the NIV Study Bible (evangelical), the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV, scholarly/ecumenical), and the Jewish Annotated New Testament (NRSV, commentary from a Jewish perspective).

•  Robert Alter, a Jewish professor of Literature and Hebrew at UC–Berkeley, often explains his translational decisions in difficult areas by referencing other versions and the original languages.[85] Moreover, his translations are enlightening and enjoyable to read, often capturing literary nuances lacking in others.[86]

•  Another potentially useful volume is The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible.[87] Authored by several prominent scroll scholars, the text contains a heavily annotated translation of the biblical scrolls with commentary focused on textual differences between the traditional Hebrew text, DSS, and other ancient versions. Differences between the Hebrew manuscripts and scrolls are printed in italics. The authors also provide a helpful introduction to the primary ancient translations.

•  Bruce Metzger, a notable scholar of the Greek New Testament, published a one-volume layman’s guide to textual variants of the New Testament.[88] Arranged by chapter and verse, this should be a go-to resource for New Testament questions.

Multivolume resources.

Multivolume works that are often available in public and college libraries can also address these issues in great depth. The UBS Handbook Series by the United Bible Societies (UBS) is one such work. These books were written primarily “to assist Bible translators but are also helpful for others who wish to study, reflect on and communicate the Scriptures. Although the commentaries are based on the original biblical languages, it is not necessary to know these languages to benefit from the commentaries.”[89] These go verse-by-verse, avoid technical language, compare multiple translations, and discuss major textual differences. Like other UBS publications, they are relatively expensive.

Also in this category are the most powerful and most difficult references, namely, commentaries, which vary greatly in length, focus, intended audience, and perspective. One-volume commentaries will rarely prove useful since they lack the space necessary to comment verse-by-verse. The greater depth of multivolume commentaries brings issues of greater expense, bulk (unless purchased electronically), and unevenness, as each volume is usually written by a different author. The most suitable commentary will offer a translation as well as discussion of and justification for it. The strength here is also the weakness: depth enough to explain these issues often means technicality, which is likely to lose or confuse readers without technical training.

As space prevents making specific recommendations for each book of the Bible, a few general suggestions and brief notes on series must suffice.[90] Many of these are available at local public and university libraries.

·      Anchor Bible Commentary—Now published by Yale University (and renamed accordingly as the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary), no denominational orientation, academic. Older volumes are being updated, so more than one volume may exist for a given book.

·      JPS Torah Commentary—Jewish Publication Society, scholarly Jewish perspective, covers Genesis through Deuteronomy under this title. A selection of other Old Testament books and passages such as Ruth and Jonah are covered under the series title JPS Bible Commentary.

·      New International Commentary—Eerdmans, Protestant perspective, semi-technical, conservative.

·      New Interpreters Bible—Abingdon Press, variety of perspectives. (I find the commentary on Romans by N. T. Wright to be particularly illuminating.)

·      NIV Application Commentary—Zondervan, conservative evangelical perspective, less technical, and more useful “modern application” suggestions as Latter-day Saints tend to expect. The authors provide a bridge between ancient and modern perspectives.

·      Word Biblical Commentary—Thomas Nelson, Protestant perspective, semi-technical.

Samples of these commentaries are often available on, the website of the publisher, or Google Books.

Original language resources.

The last category involves those resources dealing with words in the original source language. It is possible to research the underlying Greek and Hebrew without any formal training; however, the risk of misunderstanding and misusing this information cannot be overemphasized! Even students with a year or two of formal training tend to fall into common errors. The serious Bible reader who delves into these should begin by reading John Walton’s essay on word studies and D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies.[91]

The following process allows the non-specialist to make use of some accessible lexicons. As BYU philosophy professor James E. Faulconer devotes a chapter to this process in his excellent short volume Scripture Study: Tools and Suggestions (now available online), what follows is a brief summary.[92] Essentially, one looks up the English word, then chapter/verse reference in Strong’s Lexicon, which assigns a unique number to every Greek and Hebrew word. This indicates what original language word is behind the English in any given passage. Several recent Hebrew lexicons are keyed to Strong’s numbers, making them accessible to the nonspecialist; in other words, Strong’s can provide a bridge from the English word to the proper Hebrew entry in one of these other lexicons. Free tools allowing Strong’s Lexicon lookup are available online, such as at

There is a caveat to this approach—I cannot recommend relying upon Strong’s for any but the most general interpretive guidance. Besides being outdated, Strong’s provides only brief translational equivalents which can mislead, since the translation of a word is not always its meaning. That is, a simple translational equivalent cannot always adequately convey a native understanding of a word, particularly when it bears technical or cultural meaning. For example, the root PQD occurs some three hundred times in the Old Testament, with a bewildering variety of translational equivalents, including “to visit” (Genesis 21:1), “to appoint” (Genesis 41:34), “to muster troops,” (Numbers 1:3), “to be numbered” (Exodus 30:13), and “to punish” (Isaiah 10:12). The meaning of PQD that contextually demands such different translational equivalents in English is “to assign a person or thing to what the subject believes is its proper or appropriate status or position in an organizational order.” [93] Israelites had no need to say that. They just said “paqad.” Since Strong’s does no more than list the confusing array of seemingly-unrelated English translational equivalents, it should be used only as a stepping stone to more complete tools.

Of all the volumes keyed to Strong’s numbers, I recommend these: the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (or TWOT, 3 volumes, evangelical), Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (or TLOT, 3 volumes, translated from German scholarship), and the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (or NIDOTTE, 6 volumes, evangelical). The last is the most extensive, containing essays on each word as well as some more general background essays. All three are available for electronic purchase from Logos, Accordance, or Bibleworks.[94] Electronic editions greatly facilitate the process, since one can go directly to the desired Hebrew lexicon from English words.[95] None of these lexicons includes every Hebrew word; hapax legomena would not generally be included.[96] The standard academic lexicons[97] do contain those references, but are probably inaccessible to nonspecialists because of their highly technical and abbreviated nature. They are also not keyed to Strong’s, making it very difficult to look up a Hebrew word without knowing the language. In spite of not treating every word, TWOT, TLOT, and NIDOTTE remain excellent tools accessible to the non-specialist.

Follow Up: Observation Always Involves Theory Part 1: The Gap Theory

In light of a blog I posted last week: Observations Always Involves Theory Part 1: Gap Theory

My friend sent me this response via email and I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss on the blog. I won’t be addressing the different “versions” of scripture on this blog BUT I will try to expound upon this topic one day this week, hopefully. What I will be doing is addressing the question about why one version of Isaiah 14:12 differs from another version of Isaiah 14:12. For the most part we will be sticking with this verse, except for a few examples. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

From my friend: “As you know I’m a KJB (King James Bible) ONLY person, so much so that I do not consider any of these other so called “versions” a Bible. That being said, I know we disagree and I’m not looking for an argument or trying to change your mind and don’t try to change mine it wont work!! Haha. I just want an explanation for a verse comparison because I want to see how you are processing things.

Isaiah 14:12 you mentioned in one of your blogs. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (KJB)

This is referred to as the fall of Satan or Lucifer. How do we find the name Lucifer removed from the NLT, which will give a distorted view of whom this verse is referring to. As well as calling him the “shinning morning star” when plainly in Revelation 22:16 Jesus names Himself as the “Bright and Morning Star”

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Rev 22:16 (KJB)

Would this not be confusing to certain people and as we both know that God is not about confusion in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:33 (KJB)
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

Could all these so called “versions” be an attack on the Word of God and a way in time to be used as a strong delusion because a simple change in God’s word which may I add, God states that it is pure and is settled in heaven, cause enough confusion to make a person believe a lie concerning Satan?   

Ok so before I get into the Isaiah text, let me address the question you asked at the end of the email.

“Could all these so called “versions” be an attack on the Word of God and a way in time to be used as a strong delusion; because a simple change in God’s word, which may I add God states that it (His Word) is pure and is settled in heaven, can cause enough confusion to make a person believe a lie concerning Satan?”

To answer your question…Yes and No. I’m not sure ALL versions are created equal but what I think you aren’t understanding here is that the King James Bible is a VERSION of God’s Word. That’s why it is called the “King James VERSION“. So when you ask the question about the other “versions” you HAVE to include the KJB in that discussion as well.

Matter of fact, unless you have the Authorized King James 1611 as your primary version of choice, then what you have is a NEWER VERSION of the King James. If your argument is against updated versions of scripture, then why are you using a version of the King James that is 158 years OLDER than the original? And I am sure you know that there are versions of God’s word that are OLDER than the King James. Just so you know, there are over 100,000 changes in between the 1611 and the 1769 version you read from every Sunday. That’s a lot of stuff that was changed. Do you not question why that was?

God says his WORD is pure and settled in heaven, NO WHERE IN SCRIPTURE WHETHER GREEK, HEBREW, ARAMIC, LATIN SPANISH, CHINEESE OR GERMAN DOES IT SAY THE KING JAMES VERSION IS PURE AND SETTLED IN HEAVEN. NO the King James was NOT the first English translation and NO the King James does NOT get everything right, but for that matter NONE OF THEM DO. The King James has errors just like the all the ones before and the ones after. William Tyndale was the first person to translate the New Testament into English before he was martyred for treason. Did you know that in comparison from the Tyndale to most of the later versions, up until the 1611, there is about a 90% exact copy rate. That means that most English scholars believe that 90% of Tyndale’s New Testament matches with the Greek. But there is still 10% that they don’t agree with. There is still 10% that Tyndale got WRONG!! Oh and by the way the verse in the NT that says God’s Word is God breathed and inspired was in the Tyndale New Testament. How can God’s word be “God breathed and inspired” and how can we be warned about adding to and taking from YET WILLIAM TYNDALE GOT 10% of his translation WRONG!! What of the people in 1525 who ONLY had Tyndale’s NT to read? They believed that it was “God breathed and Inspired” but their translations was only partially right. Now how are we supposed to know whether or not the King James has anything that wasn’t translated correctly.

Need an example?

Daniel 3:25 (KJB) He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Have you ever wondered how Nebuchadnezzar KNEW that the fourth man was the “Son of God”? How could he POSSIBLY know that considering that the term “Son of God”, referring to Jesus, WASN’T USED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT AT ALL. No one knew that Jesus was be the literal, SON OF GOD. Sure there were plenty of references to a Son but NEVER was the phrase used in the OLD  TESTAMENT as the “Son of God”. So HOW, just HOW did Nebuchadnezzar, look into a fire that, by the way, he WOULDN’T have been able to see clearly through considering it was SO hot that you could DIE by just getting to close, recognize that there was a fourth man who just so happened to look like Jesus, even though mind you, HE DIDN’T EVEN BELIEVE IN THE GOD OF THE HEBREWS!! What I am trying to say is, the KING JAMES BIBLE GOT THIS ONE WRONG!! What Nebuchadnezzar actually said was “son of the gods”. He was pagan! An unbeliever!! A vessel of dishonor!!

And furthermore, it could have been an angel God had sent into that fiery furnace. We built a doctrine about this story based on what the KJV said and WE GOT IT WRONG!!! We don’t know if it was an incarnate Jesus or whether it was one of the angels, the BIBLE doesn’t say and honestly we have no idea. You say the Isaiah text gives people the wrong impression about God, well how would our church people feel if we attributed this even to Jesus when it was actually an angel? How would they feel about us preaching Jesus in the fire when old Nebby actually said “son of the gods”?

Now to the Isaiah text.

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

So firstly, most texts DO say Lucifer. But the ONLY use of  הֵילֵל hêylêl, or the word used for Lucifer, in the Old Testament is in the Isaiah text. So here is my explanation.

Most likely this passage refers to the Assyrian King who declared himself King of Babylon, Tiglath-pileser III. Now I understand that what Isaiah was writing was a message for the King delivered by God, but you must understand, Tiglath-pileser III wouldn’t have known WHO LUCIFER WAS!!! The Assyrians had their own set of pagan gods and wouldn’t have gotten the reference to Lucifer. One could argue that the reference wasn’t really for Tiggy but was made for us, the problem with that is, until Myles Coverdale in 1539 wrote the first authorized version issued by the Church of England called “The Great Bible”, the book of Isaiah would have been still considered a letter to “. . . Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”

Please note however:

“Isaiah offered a “song of contempt,” or taunt, against the king of Babylon. This passage has also been taken as a metaphorical reference to the fall of Satan (Lucifer), the “shining morning star” (v. 12). This interpretation is suggested by the Latin translation of “shining star” as Lucifer (lit. “light-bearer”). This later Latin identification has nothing to do with Isaiah’s original reference to a real king who would die and be powerless in Sheol, the place of the deceased spirits (v. 15). Calling the Babylonian ruler the “morning star” may have been a sarcastic reference to his pretense and arrogance.”

Now to the reference about Jesus being the “bright and morning star”. When we study out the Hebrew word for Lucifer in Strong’s Concordance, this is what we get:

1966. הֵילֵל hêylêl, hay-lale´; from 1984 (in the sense of brightness); the morning-star:—Lucifer.

Now if we go to the Septuagint, which is the OLD TESTAMENT translated into GREEK, this is what we find:

[ is.14.12 ] πως [HOW] εξεπεσεν [FELL OFF] εκ [ON] του [THE] ουρανου [HEAVEN] ο [THE] εωσφορος [MORNING STAR –] ο [THE] πρωι [PROI] ανατελλων [RISING] συνετριβη [WERE BROKEN] εις [A] την [THE] γην [EARTH] ο [THE] αποστελλων [SENDING] προς [TO] παντα [ALL] τα [THE] εθνη [NATIONS]

This isn’t translated out to be Lucifer, but morning star. If you’re asking me about how this verse measures up to the one in Revelation:

Ἐγὼ Ἰησοῦς ἔπεμψα τὸν ἄγγελόν μου μαρτυρῆσαι ὑμῖν ταῦτα ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ῥίζα καὶ τὸ γένος Δαυίδ, ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρός, ὁ πρωϊνός.

This last phrase highlighted in Red means: bright morning star.

Here is my point: there is no confusion between the two verses because the words used aren’t the same.

הֵילֵל hêylêl in Hebrew means the morning star, Lucifer.

εωσφορος Heōsphóros, which is the parallel word in Greek means, morning star, Lucifer.

Both Hebrew and Greek use one word to refer to Lucifer.

In Revelation, the reference to Jesus as bright and morning star is three words: ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρός, ὁ πρωϊνός . If it was referring to Lucifer they would have used the Heosphoros word. I know our congregations won’t know this difference that’s why it is up to US to know the difference.

I believe you said it yourself in the email that God is not the author of confusion, so we need to know how to combat these situations.

You claim KJB only, which I am completely fine with. But in order to understand the differences between these two phrases and what they mean, I had to turn to something older and more accurate than the KJB. I had to go back to the original Greek and Hebrew.

Please understand that your KJB only philosophy is your personal preference. Personal preferences aren’t dangerous until we try to make them doctrine. Then it can become disastrous. Next thing I know you’ll be telling me you can ONLY be saved through the preaching from the KJB. And BTW, the ONLY way that the KJB would be the SOLE “pure and settled in heaven” is if you could ONLY be saved through the preaching of the KJV.

Are these other versions stumbling blocks for the Gospel? Well let me ask you: Did Jesus go to the cross in the original language. Sure he did. Did he rise from the dead in the KJV? Sure. Did he ascend to the father in the NLT? Last time I checked. Is he pleading my case RIGHT NOW in the ESV? Yup!! Is he coming back for his bride, the church, in the NIV? You bet. Can you still be saved by calling on the name of Jesus in the AMP? Absolutely.


Whether that be Bishops Bible, Douy-Rheims Bible, Tyndale New Testament, The Geneva Bible, De Nyew Testament in Gullah, New Living Translation, The Authorized 1611 King James, The New King James, The Coverdale Bible…etc.

As long as people are getting saved by the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that salvation leads them into a lasting personal relationship with Jesus, does it REALLY matter if they prefer the KJV or not?

Can we really deny the success of say Bethlehem UMC since we don’t use the KJV but primarily the NKJV and the NLT?? Is all of that success fake? It would be fake if you could only TRULY WORSHIP JESUS THROUGH THE KJV.

Thankfully that’s just not the case.