This Ask Pastor George email is a big one and will take more than one blog post to cover everything. However, as a Pastor I hear the heart crying in this email,so I’m jumping it to the head of the list. We will be breaking this down and spending more than one blog on this letter.
I have a very hard time identifying myself as a Christian, because I’m not sure I believe it. I know I don’t buy into some things, and it’s hard for me to say ‘yes I believe this God thing and the Son thing and the Holy Spirit thing’ when I know that King James messed with the bible by omitting things that displeased him. It makes me doubt the entire book because I don’t know what is left out, if anything was changed, the fact that you can translate some of the words to several words in English. I’m struggling to have faith. Sometimes I want to believe and then other times I don’t. One of the hardest teachings for me to buy into is the concept that if you are not of Christian faith and believe in Jesus as the Son of God then you go to hell or are denied entry to heaven (though in my brain they are the same concept). I don’t understand how a kind and just God would deny someone who was devout in another religion, such as Islam or Judaism, and a generally good person, entry to heaven, but a murderer can be ‘saved into heaven’, so to speak, by using the sinner’s prayer. Granted I know the murderer would still get his penance, but it is just, on a moral stand-point, wrong that he could be saved into heaven, but those of a different faith would not be. All of the major world religions share many teachings, though the wording may be different. I know I’m not God and I can’t make the decisions for Him but it seems that the moral compass is a bit skewed in this situation. Iif indeed a Muslim who is devout and good, who believes Jesus as a prophet and not as a Son of God can get into heaven, then why is that passage in the Bible that says more or less ‘there is no way into heaven but through me [referencing Jesus I believe]’? The entire concept of believing in the wrong religion or being taught in the wrong religion will send you on the fast track to damnation bothers me. HELP!-
I am going to start with the first thing you mention and we will deal with that one today. The Bible as we know it. Has it been changed? How do we know what King James, or anyone else for that matter, didn’t leave out or change things to please himself. To answer that, have to look at how the Bible was translated and how it was maintained before it was translated.
Also we have to look beyond King James because that is not the only translation out there now. There are two questions that must be answered to give us peace about the Bible. The first is- How were the books which are included in the canon chosen? The second is- How do we know those books are still as accurate as when they were written?
There are entire seminary classes on this topic but I am going to try and keep it down to three blog posts. Let’s start with: Why are some books included in Scripture and some aren’t? You may be surprised to know that King James actually had very little to do with the translating and choosing of scripture.
Here is an article that will give you the basics of how the choices were made. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/canon.html The choice to limit the old testament to 39 books was actually not made by the church at all, but was made by a group of Jewish Rabbi’s. Their reason was that of the 46 books that had been included, only 39 were in Hebrew, proving them to be authentic.
The church followed them in their selection but again, it wasn’t King James who made the final decision. It was Luther, who wasn’t even English but German. Catholics, for several years kept all 46 books, but eventually moved seven of them into a section of Scripture called the Apocrypha, meaning “hidden works”. The reason for that is because they are not found anywhere written in Hebrew, the language used by Jewish people in the Old Testament.
Here is another little known fact: the 39 books that make up the Old Testament only have two known original Hebrew copies. There are a thousand years between them and yet they are 95% similar. The only differences are in the way words are spelled, but not a change so much as a misspelling. The content and meanings stay the same.
Finally on the Old Testament, yes, Hebrew words can mean more than one thing but that is always based on the context of the word with the other words around it. What is impressive historically is that there is no meaning change in over a thousand years.
Next blog will talk about how the New Testament books were chosen. Until this question of the Bible is fully answered, I will be blogging daily.
‘Struggling’, I pray that this helps explain some of the reasons the Bible contains the books it does. Stay with me till the end of this topic and you will see the accuracies of Scripture as we know it. Next week I will tackle the next part of your Email. The question of How a kind and just God would send the devote of other religions to hell.
Until tomorrow, keep thinking and asking questions. After all Jesus also said “seek and you will find.”