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Frequently Asked Questions

Dealing With

The Bible

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ball Did Mary have children after Jesus?

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?
55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
56 “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"
57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

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.

ball I read at another site that the NIV bible is perverse and wrong. Is that true?

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.

ball Isn’t Yeshua the correct spelling for Jesus’ name? I heard the name Jesus came about from a bad translation.

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.

ball What is the most accurate English translation of the Greek (New Testament) text?

Before answering, we should state that today’s “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.

ball Jesus told His apostles that some of them would be alive when He comes into His kingdom. What did He mean?

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:

i The first interpretation states that Jesus is referring to the Transfiguration that occurs in Matthew chapter 17. The supporting evidence is:

  • Claims that Peter gave it this interpretation in 2 Peter 1:16-18.
  • Since three of the twelve apostles saw it (Peter, James, and John), they interpret them as Jesus’ reference to “some standing here.”
  • All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place the Transfiguration immediately after Jesus’ prediction.

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.

ii The second interpretation is that Jesus is referring to the events following His death, burial, and resurrection. These events include:

  • Jesus becoming our Savior and being exalted to the right hand of God (for one example, see Acts chapter 2 verses 32 and 33).
  • The apostles became bold (finally), preached how to get right with God through Jesus, and started the Church (see Acts chapter 2).
  • People who were not Jews could get right with God through Jesus (see Acts chapter 10 and beyond).

These events more clearly mark the worldwide coming of Jesus’ kingdom. We believe that this second interpretation is much more satisfactory.

ball Who committed suicide in the Bible?

The Bible records seven suicides. They are:

  • Abimelech (Judges 9:54), which might not be considered a true suicide, since he was probably mortally wounded already.
  • Samson (Judges 16:30)
  • King Saul (1 Samuel 31:4)
  • Saul’s armorbearer (1 Samuel 31:5)
  • Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)
  • Zimri (1 Kings 16:18)
  • Judas (Matthew 27:3-5)

For more information about suicide, see our page “If Someone Commits Suicide, Can They Still Go To Heaven?”

ball Why does the Catholic Bible have more books in it?

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 Bible’s “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. (Jerome’s 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.[1] Therefore, we know the Old Testament was completed by 424 B.C.[2] 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).

    [1] Josephus (late first century AD) Flavius Josephus Against Apion, Book 1, 8.
    [2] The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (1976) Artaxerxes, vol. 1, p. 340.

ball I heard that the bible as we know it was compiled about the year 300. Who decided what was put in and what was not?

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 qaneh—a reed or cane. Since a reed was sometimes used as a measuring rod, the term came to mean a standard or rule.[3] 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.”[4]

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:

  • Was the book written by a prophet (or apostle) of God?
  • Did miraculous signs or accuracy of fulfillment serve as confirmation of the prophet’s message?
  • Is the book internally consistent with the revelation of God found in the teachings of other canonical books, especially what God gave through Moses?[4]

An analogy to discovering the canon would be Sir Isaac Newton’s “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.

    [3] Neil R. Lightfoot (1988) How We Got the Bible, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, p.105.
    [4] The Nelson Study Bible (1997) “How We Got Our Bible”—article following page 2178.

ball Can you explain the Bible codes?

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 Bible’s text.

Stated bluntly, we do not believe that the Bible codes are “real” for at least three reasons:

  • The Bible itself states that God made his messages clear. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 is one of many examples. Something that requires a computer could not reasonably be called “clear.”
  • A popular “Bible Code” book states that put together as one string without spaces, the Old Testament is 304,805 characters long. If the original (“autograph”) copy of the Bible text differs by one character, the “hidden messages” would be wrong, because the sequences would change. Although we do believe that the message of the Bible is accurate and true, we are not confident that these folks have correctly defined every one of the 304,805 characters and placed them in perfect order.
  • If God intended to put codes in the Bible, there would be a lot more of them than the few scattered phrases people find using the Bible code computer program.

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 Qur’an. 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.

ball I read that there are many contradictions in the Bible. Is that true?

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.

ball Where did Cain’s wife come from? Was it one of his sisters? What about Incest? Isn’t that against the laws of the Bible?

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 Adam’s 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 God’s 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 God’s plan. The bible is long already. Adding these facts would make it the size of an encyclopedia. smile

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 teenager’s 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.

ball Do you know the name of Noah’s wife?

The Bible is silent regarding the name of Noah’s 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 Noah’s 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 Noah’s three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth (as it named Noah), and since the son’s wives were not named (as Noah’s wife was not), it is more likely that Noah’s wife was not Naamah, but rather an anonymous, but virtuous woman.

ball Is there a passage in the bible about God turning a man black?

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 person’s skin.

ball Who are the “144,000 from all the tribes of Israel” in Revelation chapter 7, verses 4-8?

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 saved—becoming 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 Jehovah’s Witness—a member of what was called the Watchtower Society prior to 1931 (when they changed their name). The Jehovah’s 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 Jehovah’s Witnesses! (They used to say that the 144,000 was everyone who was a Jehovah’s 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 Jehovah’s 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 Jehovah’s Witnesses. He refers to Hades (imprecisely translated “hell” in some Bible versions) and a paradise referred to by the name “Abraham’s side” or “Abraham’s 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 time—who 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 happen—the “saved” dead will be raised first. Then the living “saved” will join them. You will also notice that everyone goes to the same place—they 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.

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