Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Mary bore children after Jesus, a fact that is stated several places in the Bible. One good example is in Matthew chapter 13, verses 55 and 56, where some of Jesus’ critics cited His “earthly” characteristics as a way of “proving” that He was not the Son of God. Here is the entire passage, so you can see the context.
54 And when He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
This passage clearly reveals that these are real brothers and sisters (that is, half-brothers and half-sisters) of Jesus; and children of Mary. Some people try to explain Jesus’ brothers and sisters as being “spiritual” brothers and sisters. However, this is clearly and plainly not correct. Incidentally, James and Judas (Jude) are the authors of the two New Testament Bible books of those names.
Although we agree that the NIV Bible is not the most accurate, to say it is perverse and wrong is an overreaction. (Referring to God's Word, the Bible, as perverse and wrong may even be a sin in itself if you think about it.) As long as you realize the NIV is not a perfect translation, you should be OK. To get a more precise meaning of specific passages or words, you can consider using a concordance to determine the original words. We have online Bible tools that can help, including a link to a free software Bible you can run on your computer on our Online Bible Search Tools page.
You can read other comments we have regarding different English Bible translations elsewhere in this page and on our Reading and Understanding the Bible page.
The name, as written in the original Greek is Iesous, which is pronounced ee-ay-sooce This was later modified to Iesus in Latin, which was the common language of the time. Early English Bibles such as the Coverdale, Geneva, Bishops, and the 1611 King James Version all used the Iesus spelling. It was only in 1629 that Jesus was chosen to represent the phonics of this name in English, since the language was changing. (You can see many other strange spellings in the older Bibles.)
Additionally, a few old Bible manuscripts written in Greek translated the Hebrew name Y@howshuwa (Joshua) as Iesous, in the Old Testament. Perhaps that was a poor choice, since the name then matched the name Iesous (Jesus) in the New Testament and seemed to establish a connection that did not exist.
Before answering, we should state that todays Greek text is a published text that scholars believe best represents the original New Testament text. It is based on their examination of the known Greek manuscripts. (Manuscripts are the handwritten books or scrolls produced before the invention of the printing press.) For the last 120 years, scholars have been divided into two camps regarding what the true Greek text is. Therefore, the key to your question is which Greek text?
Based on our research (hundreds of hours, thousands of pages read, classes attended) the best Greek text is the Textus Receptus. Although it contains a few debatable words, it is overall the best Greek text. The most accurate English translation of this New Testament text is the New King James Version. The other Greek text is often called the Critical Text. It is based on a text proposed by Westcott and Hort in 1881. Although the Critical Text has changed substantially since Westcott and Hort first wrote their theories, this Greek text type has become the most popular. The most accurate English translation of this New Testament text is the New American Standard.
Many people have wondered what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:28 when He said, Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Most of the confusion stems from the belief that Jesus is referring to his Second Coming, which He is not. Bible scholars generally adopt one of two common interpretations for this verse:
The first interpretation states that Jesus is referring to the Transfiguration that occurs in Matthew chapter 17. The supporting evidence is:
First, it is unclear that Peter is really referring to Jesus kingdom in 2 Peter 1:16-18. A more straightforward meaning of verses 16-18 is the simple interpretation: Peter states that he was an eyewitness to Jesus majesty, and is therefore reporting the truth, not just repeating fables he heard from other people. (This could possibly be a defense against the accusations of some false teachers.) It is also unclear how Jesus comes into His kingdom through the Transfiguration. Finally, the phrase there are some standing here who shall not taste death does not seem that impressive for an event that follows less than a week later. Overall, this first interpretation is unsatisfactory.
The second interpretation is that Jesus is referring to the events following His death, burial, and resurrection. These events include:
These events more clearly mark the worldwide coming of Jesus kingdom. We believe that this second interpretation is much more satisfactory.
The Bible records seven suicides. They are:
For more information about suicide, see our page If Someone Commits Suicide, Can They Still Go To Heaven?
These extra books appear in the Old Testament of the Catholic Bible and are called the Apocrypha. They were not generally accepted as part of the Bibles canon (list of included books) until the Council of Trent (a Catholic council held between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563). At that time, the council pronounced the Vulgate translated by St. Jerome to be the official Catholic Bible. (Jeromes Vulgate was a Latin version of the Bible that included these extra books.) Since the Council of Trent, all Catholic editions of the Bible have included the Apocrypha.
However, we know from the writings of Josephus (A.D. 37-c.100) that no book was added to the Hebrew scriptures after the time of Artaxerxes who reigned after Xerxes. Therefore, we know the Old Testament was completed by 424 B.C. and has not changed since that time. The Apocrypha were written centuries later. For that reason and others, most Protestants did not accept adding the Apocrypha to the Bible canon during the Council of Trent. They did not necessarily believe that these extra books were bad, they just knew that they did not belong in the Bible. The Old Testament of most Bibles printed today follow the original Hebrew canon, matching the Jewish Tanakh (the scriptures used by the Jewish religion).
 The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (1976) Artaxerxes, vol. 1, p. 340.
What follows is a brief discussion of a topic that has filled many books. Identifying which Scriptures deserve to be considered sacred refers to a list known as the canon. Canon is a term derived from the Greek word kanon, which was based on the Hebrew word qaneha reed or cane. Since a reed was sometimes used as a measuring rod, the term came to mean a standard or rule. Perhaps the most concise answer to this question comes from The Nelson Study Bible:
A book is not inspired because it is declared to be canonical but is canonical because it is considered inspired. Therefore, the church discovered the canonicity of the Old and New Testament books, it did not determine or cause their canonicity.
The term discovered is a key. Investigation into this subject reveals that the criteria for determining if a book belongs in the Bible was not made up beforehand and applied to a variety of religious writings. Rather, the criteria evolved from a description of those books that Christians (and the Jews before them) already knew belonged in the Bible. Here is a typical list taken from The Nelson Study Bible:
An analogy to discovering the canon would be Sir Isaac Newtons discovery of the law of universal gravitation (published in 1686). Newton did not actually discover gravity. He merely defined more precisely what everyone knew all along.
 The Nelson Study Bible (1997) How We Got Our Biblearticle following page 2178.
Stated simply, Bible codes are generated by a computer program that selects (for example) every 50th character in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, and examines these sequences to see if they spell something. Since words sometimes appear in these sequences, those who find them claim that it reveals messages hidden in the Bibles text.
Stated bluntly, we do not believe that the Bible codes are real for at least three reasons:
We understand that some well-meaning people believe that these codes and their hidden messages offer further proof that the Bible is accurate. Unfortunately, this proof is no better than the similar arguments used to support the Quran. Predicting the future with 100% accuracy (see our Bible proofs page) is a much stronger proof, one which no other holy writing besides the Bible achieves.
There are hundreds of these so-called contradictions listed on the Web. None of those we have seen are actually contradictions. We have explained many of them at the Clarifying Christianity site. All of these alleged Bible discrepancies have been explained in books. A good one is the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer.
We all come from Adam and Eve, who had both sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). Their children had no choice but to marry one another. If incest was prohibited then, humans would have lasted only one generation.
The first time that the Bible prohibits incest occurs during Moses lifetime (see Leviticus 20:11 and the following verses for an example). Prior to that time it was not a written law, so it is reasonable to assume that such marital relationships were accepted (but not endorsed) from Adams time until then. For example, Abraham (a man who followed God faithfully) married a half sister (see Genesis 20:12), something that was prohibited 400 years later (see Leviticus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 27:22).
The Bible does not include all of the details regarding who was related to who (or what their names were), since it puts together only a framework that shows Gods plan. As a result, some people are not named, or their specific relationships are ignored. This does not mean that they were not important, it just means that recording these facts was not essential to revealing Gods plan. The bible is long already. Adding these facts would make it the size of an encyclopedia.
Who Cain married was one of these unnamed people. She was probably a sister. The only other option would be that Cain waited for one of his brothers and sisters to marry and have a daughter that he could marry. Knowing what a teenagers hormones are like makes that seem unlikely. Also, since there is no time period implied between Genesis 4 verses 16 and 17, we can assume that Cain was married at the time he killed Abel. There is nothing in the Bible record to indicate that a generation had passed when that happened, so the marrying a sister theory makes the most sense.
Summarizing, it is likely that Cain married a sister, but was not committing a sin in doing so because God allowed those unions in those times.
The Bible is silent regarding the name of Noahs wife. There has been some speculation, though. In Genesis 4:22, a man named Lamech had a son named Tubal-Cain, whose sister was named Naamah. Also, in Genesis 5:28,29 another man, also named Lamech, is revealed to be Noahs father. Since the Bible refers to Naamah (and perhaps because the two fathers had the same name), people speculate that she might have married Noah. Frankly, this evidence does not prove that Noah even knew Naamah.
Since the Bible names Noahs three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth (as it named Noah), and since the sons wives were not named (as Noahs wife was not), it is more likely that Noahs wife was not Naamah, but rather an anonymous, but virtuous woman.
We are not aware of such a passage in the Bible. Some cults teach that the mark on Cain (Genesis 4:15) was turning him black, but there is no reason to believe this, based on the text. The original Hebrew word used for mark is owth, which means a sign or token and has nothing to do with changing the color of a persons skin.
We have heard many debates over who the 144,000 are. Based on the Bible text, it makes sense that they are Jews who converted from Judaism to Christianity. That is, they will see the truth and finally become savedbecoming a special remnant God kept for Himself and fulfilling the statement that the first will be last.
This question typically comes from someone who has talked with a Jehovahs Witnessa member of what was called the Watchtower Society prior to 1931 (when they changed their name). The Jehovahs Witnesses teach that there is an elite group of 144,000 that will be in heaven with God. That much is true, as we wrote in the previous paragraph. What is false about their belief is that they claim that these 144,000 are all Jehovahs Witnesses! (They used to say that the 144,000 was everyone who was a Jehovahs Witness. To keep from limiting their expansion, they changed their story in 1931. Now they state that the chosen 144,000 will go to heaven and the people who became Jehovahs Witnesses later will live on an earthly paradise.) The Bible does not support either version of their beliefs.
In the Bible, Jesus revealed where people went after death in Luke 16:19-31. His teaching contrasts sharply with the statements of the Jehovahs Witnesses. He refers to Hades (imprecisely translated hell in some Bible versions) and a paradise referred to by the name Abrahams side or Abrahams bosom.
Hell was created for the devil (Satan) and his angels (demons), and people do not yet go there. Rev 20:13 tells us that Hades will give up its (unsaved) dead at that timewho will be thrown into the lake of fire (hell) two verses later in Rev 20:15. From these verses, it is apparent that the very unpleasant Hades described in Luke 16 is a sort of holding area for the unsaved dead, who will later go to hell. To learn more about hell and Hades, click on this sentence.
What about the saved people? 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 tells us what will happenthe saved dead will be raised first. Then the living saved will join them. You will also notice that everyone goes to the same placethey will always be with the Lord. There is no special group of 144,000 separated out of these saved people.
Note: by the terms saved and unsaved, we refer to people who have and have not gotten right with God through Jesus. To find out what getting right with God means, click on this sentence.
Copyright © 1998-2006 by Clarifying Christianity (SM).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All information contained in Clarifying Christianity is a resource for questions dealing with Christian issues. It is not to be taken as Christian counseling. Seek a qualified Christian counselor for help with all such issues. If you choose to work with a Christian counselor, it is your responsibility to ask pertinent questions before you begin, to assure yourself of their qualities and abilities.5521