Frequently Asked Questions about the Bible
Keywords: Bible, Holy Bible, alt.bible, Scriptures, Tanakh, Law,
History, Old Testament, Apocrypha, New Testament.
This document covers the following questions:
This FAQ is biased. It reflects the author's Christian beliefs,
reverence for God, and
a great respect for God's Holy Word, the Bible. I believe that the Holy
Bible was inspired
by God, who had His servants speak, write, and preserve His word. The
Bible reflects the
style of the many people involved, but it is from God, and should be
respected as such.
This FAQ is also incomplete, and may contain typos or other errors.
If you have a
suggestion for improving it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The alt.bible usenet newsgroup is for unmoderated, open discussion
of the Holy Bible.
This group is dedicated to Bible study. Appropriate postings all have
something to do with
the Holy Bible. This is a place to ask questions about the Bible, post
answers, post Bible
study materials, post portions of the Holy Bible, and discuss matters
application of Bible teaching. All other topics and materials should be
another news group. This FAQ is also posted to related news groups.
What is the Holy Bible?
The Holy Bible is God's written word to mankind. It has been written
over thousands of
years by many people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and
until today. There are many ancient documents, but those in the Holy
Bible are of great
importance to Jews and Christians, because they explain the way to
fellowship with God and
the way to live.
What is in the Bible?
The Holy Bible is a collection of books. These are arranged in the
(before Jesus Christ) and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the
books as the Jewish
Bible, or Tanakh, and consists of 3 or 4 main sections:
- The Law (Torah), called the 5 Books of Moses. These are Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These tell about creation,
the patriarchs, the miraculous way that God broke the children of
Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and more.
- History. These tell how God has intervened, interacted, and
taught people through history. God's mixture of justice, mercy, and
love are clearly seen in these books.
- Wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song
of Songs), also called the poetic books include prayers, great wisdom,
and some prophesy. Many of the things written in the Psalms were
fulfilled by Jesus, the Messiah. The history and wisdom literature
books combined are referred to as "The Writings" (Kethuvim).
- The Prophets (Nevi'im). These contain God's Word to His people,
both in terms of current activities and in predicting future events.
The New Testament consists of 4 sections:
- The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell about Jesus'
life and teaching.
- Acts records the history of the early church and some of the
miracles done by the Holy Spirit.
- The Letters (also called the Epistles) contain important teaching
for those who follow Jesus Christ.
- Revelation is a book of prophesy that tells about what is going
to happen, as well as sending some warning messages to the current
assemblies of Christians.
For more information, open up a Bible (or access
one on line) and read it.
What is the Apocrypha?
The Apocrypha is a set of books or parts of books that are found in
some Bibles, but
not others. Part of these are considered to be part of the Catholic
Bible, and some
aren't. The set of books that are in the Apocrypha/Dueterocanonical
books are not
universally agreed on, but the Roman Catholic definition is the one
most widely held.
These books contain some "additions" to Esther and Daniel, as well as
interesting history books. I put "additions" in quotes, because they
in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, but
not in any
existing Hebrew manuscripts.
The Apocrypha may be arranged in the traditional Catholic order,
the Old Testament, or in a separate section between the Old and New
Martin Luther first did in his Bible translation into German). The
Luther order is the
more popular one for ecumenical works, now, because it is more
acceptable to more people.
The Apocrypha contains helpful additional history that helps you to
understand the Old
and New Testaments, even for those who don't regard the Apocrypha to be
of the same level
of inspiration as the 66 books of the Bible that all Christians
consider to be inspired by
God. There are also some wisdom books that contain some practical
advice that is at least
as good as what you may find in the works of contemporary Christian and
Churches vary in their position on the Apocrypha. Some say it is good
to read, but not to
build doctrine on. Some build doctrine on it. Some avoid it. Most seem
to avoid the issue.
(My personal opinion is that it is worth reading and preserving, and
that it helps us to
understand the 66 books in the Bible that all Christians agree are
canonical.) Go ask your
pastor or priest about this.
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. The New
Testament was originally
written in Koine Greek. There are a few passages in Aramaic and
languages continually evolve, and people speak many
languages, the Holy Bible is
translated by many groups,
with the goal of providing a copy to everyone in their own
What is God's name?
Although there is only one true God, He is called by many names in
the Holy Bible. In
Hebrew, God's most common proper name is represented by the 4
consonants YOD HE WAW
HE, which is usually written "Yahweh" in English. Sometimes "Jehovah"
is used, which is what you get when you combine the vowels for "Adonai"
with the consonants for "Yahweh." This name is sometimes rendered "LORD"
in English translations, not to be confused with "Lord" (the rendition
"Adonai") -- note the small capital letters in one and not the
me, God knows who you are talking to when you pray, so please don't
sweat this one too
Why do different versions of the Holy Bible
differ in some
This is a troubling question for some people. After all, it is
important to know
exactly what God intended, isn't it?
God, in His sovereign will, chose to entrust His Holy, perfect word
to human, fallible
scribes (past and present) and translators (past and present). That
means that some copies
of the Bible have minor copying errors in them. This applies both to
languages and to translations. Computers help modern scribes, but
errors still creep in.
For example, if you have the Bible Explorer CD-ROM, there is a whole
sentence missing from
John 21:17 in the ASV. That sentence is there in my paper copy of the
ASV, but not on the
CD-ROM. Scribes manually copying manuscripts sometimes made this kind
of mistake, too. The
process of trying to reconstruct what the original said from a set of
copies that all
differ in some details is called "textual criticism."
Right now, we have 3 main schools of thought as to what the original
Testament was: the "Textus Receptus," the "Majority Text," and the
"UBS" text. The "Textus Receptus" (received text) is essentially that
which underlies the KJV. The "Majority Text" basically follows what the
of currently existing manuscripts say. The "UBS" text gives greater
weight to a
relatively few manuscripts written on "older" media, even when they
with the majority. The good news is that all 3 of these agree VERY
closely, and they don't
disagree in any way that affects any major doctrine. All 3 certainly
agree with respect to
the central Good News about Jesus Christ being God's Son in the flesh,
who died for our
sin, but rose again, thus giving us hope in the promise of eternal
life. In fact the
Textus Receptus and Majority Text are basically the same in most
places. The UBS text
seems to have several small "dropouts" with respect to the Majority
John 5:4. (Look for it in a footnote in the NIV). It also casts doubt
on Mark 16:9-20 by
bracketing it, even though there are ONLY 2 significant
manuscripts that leave it
out. Nevertheless, the UBS text seems to have developed quite a
following, today, even
though the Majority Text makes more sense to me.
Another source of differences in Bible versions come from the fact
that there is more
than one way to translate the same thing, depending on style, target
translation philosophy, etc. These differences are generally not
difficult to deal with
though, because they mean the same thing. For example:
But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own
selves. -- James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what
it says. -- James
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. --
James 1:22 (NAB)
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who
-- James 1:22 (NASB95)
You get the idea...
Which English translation of the Holy
Bible is best?
Which one do you read and apply to your life?
Here are a few of the best:
- The New King James Version (NKJV) is good for those who
are used to the KJV, but want something in Modern English. The New
Testament is based on the Textus Receptus, but has footnotes where the
UBS and Majority Text differ. This is the Bible my pastor likes to
preach from. The more I work on Bible Translation, the more impressed I
am with the accuracy of this translation and closeness to the original
Greek. Copyrighted, but used
in a public search engine.
- The New International Version (NIV) is the best-selling
English Bible. Its New Testament is based on the UBS Greek text. Its
language is easy to read, and its accuracy is well respected. I often
read from this aloud to my family. This is the Bible my third grade son
reads regularly. The "original" NIV is the 1984 edition. An update was
finished in 2011, which I believe definitely improved the accuracy of a
few passages. It is not freely redistributable, due to copyright
restrictions, but you can find it at the Bible Gateway.
- Todays New International Version
(TNIV) is a language update of the NIV. This translation attempts to be
more gender-inclusive in its language than the NIV, but does not
compromise in the masculine nature of God the Father. It is
copyrighted, and redistribution is not allowed.
- The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update (NASB95) is
an excellent translation, with wording that is more literal than the
NIV, and which holds to the style of the original more closely. The
NASB is well known for paying close attention to tenses of words, etc.
It is based on the UBS4 Greek text. Available from Parsons
Technology and Logos, as well
as some printed Bibles.
- The New American Standard Bible (1977) is almost as good
as the NASB95, except that it reverts to archaic English in the Psalms
and in the language of prayer, and is a little harder to read. It is
not widely available on line, due to copyright restrictions, but you
can find it at the Bible
- The World English Bible (WEB) is a revision of the ASV of
1901 into Modern English. The New Testament is revised to reflect the
Majority Text. God's name in the Old Testament is rendered as "Yahweh"
instead of "Jehovah" because that is widely regarded to be more
correct. This is an all-volunteer project still in progress. The
purpose of the WEB is to put an accurate, whole, Modern English Bible
into the Public Domain. Note that there are no other English
translations in this category that I'm aware of. Please see http://www.ebible.org/bible/WEB
for more information. You can have daily readings from the WEB sent to
you by email by sending email to email@example.com
with "subscribe bible" in the body of the message.
- The Amplified Bible (Amp) is excellent for detailed study
of a passage. It seeks to reveal the full richness of the underlying
Greek and Hebrew, and often reveals insights that you might miss in
reading a more conventional translation. This isn't real good for
reading aloud (because of its punctuation and wordiness), but I
recommend that you get one for study to set along side one of the above
translations. The Amplified Old Testament is not available in any
electronic form, because of copyright and greed issues between the
copyright owners. The Amplified New Testament is available from Logos.
- The New English Translation
(NET) is a scholarly translation with extensive notes. You may download
a free copy for your personal use at http://netbible.org.
Here are some other translations that are worth considering:
- The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is an
accurate, readable translation based on the UBS4 Greek text.
- The English Standard Version
(ESV) is an accurate, readable, literal translation based on the UBS4
Greek text. Copyrighted.
- God's Word is a fresh, new translation from the God's Word
to the Nations Bible Society. It is easy to read and well done.
- The New Living Translation (NLT) is a thought-for-thought
translation that seeks to retain the readability of The Living Bible,
but with greater accuracy. Copyrighted.
- The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is another hybrid
Modern/Archaic English Bible. (Archaic in the Psalms and in prayer, as
if God only spoke Elizabethan English.) It is pretty well trusted,
though. This used to be my mother's favorite Bible -- until she got an
NIV. The RSV is copyrighted, but it is available freely with The Online Bible.
- The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is a decent Modern
English Bible with some scholarly respect. It strives to avoid "sexist"
terminology by translating, for example, "brother" as "brother or
sister," and trying to avoid gender-specific language by compromising
on number (i. e. "their" for "his"). Generally, these substitutions are
usually justified by context. This is an ecumenical work, with editions
available that contain the Apocrypha/Dueterocanonical books for not
only the Roman Catholic tradition, but for several other denominations,
as well. Copyrighted, hard to find on line.
- The New American Bible (NAB) is a "Catholic" Bible (with
the Apocrypha interspersed in the Old Testament). It is very readable
and accurate. Copyrighted.
- The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) is a "Catholic" Bible that
is a bit more free in its translation, concentrating on readability and
English style. Copyrighted.
- The New International Reader's Version (NIrV) is a
simplified (3rd grade level) Bible that is based on the NIV. It is the
best limited vocabulary Bible I have seen. Copyrighted.
- The New Century Version (NCV) is a fairly free
translation that reads like a newspaper. It is targeted at the 3rd
grade reading level. Copyrighted.
- The Contemporary English Version (CEV) is the American
Bible Society's latest English entry. It is aimed at a 3rd grade
reading level, but I think it is really more like 2nd grade level. If
you don't mind calling Passover "The Feast of Thin Bread," it is OK.
- Today's English Version (TEV), also called the Good
News Bible or Good News for Modern Man, is an older Modern
English Bible from the American Bible Society. In some ways, I like it
better than the CEV, but it has taken some flak for being too loose of
a translation. Actually, I believe that they did fairly well with a
limited vocabulary. Copyrighted.
- The Jewish New Testament is an interesting mix of Hebrew
and English terminology that brings out the Jewish nature of the Rabbi
called Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. Highly recommended for all Jews.
- The Revised English Bible (REB) is a very readable
British English (as opposed to American English) Bible, a revision of
the New English Bible (NEB). It is available both with and
without the Apocrypha. It has a respectable list of churches that
endorse it. Some bracketed sections of the UBS4 Greek text are omitted
entirely, so don't look too hard for the story of the woman caught in
adultery in this Bible. Copyrighted.
- The Philips New Testament is a free translation/paraphrase
that is easy to read, and has good impact. Copyrighted.
- The Living Bible (TLB) is a paraphrase of the KJV that
sacrifices accuracy for readability. Sometimes it makes a point pretty
well. The flashlight in Psalms 119:105 seems a bit odd, though.
- The Message is a paraphrase that claims to be a
translation. It is very earthy, and is a great commentary, but not very
- The King James Version (KJV), sometimes called the Authorized
Version (AV) was quite revolutionary when it came out in 1611 (and
was revised a few times to correct its large collection of typos). It
is still very popular, in spite of its archaic and difficult to
understand language. Indeed, there is a cult-like following of this
translation that claim that this is the only true Word of God, superior
even to the original languages. While that claim is bizarre, there are
a vociferous few people on this news group who hold to that opinion.
The King James Version of the Holy Bible is in the Public Domain. You
can publish, copy, distribute it for free, or sell it, all without
having to ask anyone's permission.
- The Webster Bible (a revision of the KJV bible) has
updated spelling, but retains the same grammar and almost all of the
wording of the KJV. The Webster Bible is in the Public Domain.
- The American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 is a revision
of the Revised Bible, a revision of the KJV for language and to take
advantage of some new (then) manuscript discoveries to allow greater
accuracy. The ASV uses "Jehovah" for God's name, instead of "LORD"
(which the KJV and many others use). The language of the ASV is less
archaic than the KJV, but still far from modern. The ASV is in the
- The Bible in Basic English (BBE) is an extremely limited
vocabulary translation (1,000 words). The BBE is very wordy, and some
passages are hardly recognizable. Other passages come out amazingly
clear and accurate, considering that the target language has far fewer
words than the original languages used. It accidentally entered the
Public Domain at least in the USA, by being published without a
copyright notice back when that was required. It remained copyrighted
in Great Britain, and regained its copyrighted status in the USA when
the GATT treaty went into effect.
- Tanakh, the Holy Scriptures is a good Modern English translation
of the Jewish Bible (the same as the Christian Old Testament) from the
traditional Hebrew text. "Tanakh" is an acronym for "Torah (Law),
Nevi'im (Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings)." This is the work of
Jewish scholars and rabbis from the three largest branches of Judaism
in America, done with reference to other Jewish and Christian
translations. I recommend this as a good reference for both Christians
and Jews who speak English. This work is copyrigheted by the Jewish
- The Young's Literal Translation (YLT) is somewhat
archaic, but it is fairly well done and is freely available on line.
- The Darby Translation is another somewhat archaic
translation. It is freely available on line.
- The Weymouth New Testament in Modern Speech is a decent
translation of the New Testament only. It is freely available on line.
- The Hebrew Names Version (HNV) of the World English
Bible is an edition of the World English Bible that uses traditional
Hebrew names instead of the Greek/English forms common to most English
translations of the Holy Bible. For example, "Jesus" is rendered
"Yeshua" and "Moses" is rendered "Moshe." Like the WEB, the HNV is in
the Public Domain. It is available on line at http://www.ebible.org/bible/hnv.
You can have daily readings from the HNV sent to you by email by
sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "subscribe hnv" in the
body of the message.
- The New English Translation (NET) Bible is a new
translation being done by the Biblical
Studies Foundation (which is run by some people of good
reputation). The NET is copyrighted, but available on line. In fact,
this study Bible was designed to be read with a web browser.
Copyrighted, but online at http://www.bible.org/netbible/index.htm
Actually, there are so many good translations that it is easier to
list the ones to
avoid: the New World Translation is notoriously inaccurate, and
seeks to rob Jesus of His Deity. See John 1:1 for an example, where the
"a god" instead of "God". The New Testament and Psalms, an
Inclusive Version is politically correct to the point of heresy.
What Bible study software is available?
There is a LOT of it, for different platforms, at different prices
(ranging from free
to extremely expensive), and with vastly varying features, quality, and
performance. A few good ones are BibleWorks,
Logos, Online Bible and Parsons
Quickverse. For free open-source Bible study software, see
Please see the Bible
FAQ at http://www.storm.ca/~sabigail/faqs/softfaq2.htm for more
Where can I download and read the Bible on the
There are many places. Here are some good starting places:
Why can't I download some Bible Translations?
It is probably because they are copyrighted, and the copyright owner
chooses not to allow them to be given
away freely. See the copyright notices at the Gospelcom Bible Gateway.
Because human laws allow "authors" of translations or their employers to
claim copyright and restrict all copying of a translation for the purpose
of maximizing the money they make or other reasons, many do-- even organizations
ostensibly operated as Christian ministries. This used to be almost universally true
except for those few translations that were in the Public Domain by expiration of
copyright (which takes a long time) or by explicit and repeated dedication to the
Public Domain. Now, there are some refreshing exceptions to this rule in that some
translations in some languages are being released under licenses that permit free redistribution.
for an example. Others allow reading only while online unless you buy a copy, which
is better than nothing.
What is the value of pi in the Bible?
This is kind of a trivial question, but it seems to surface quite
often. Pi (the ratio
of the circumference to the diameter of a circle) is really not given
in the Bible. There
is a pair of references that seem at first glance to indicate that this
value is 3, but a
closer reading shows that it really doesn't.
Now he made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim,
circular in form, and
its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference. Under
its brim gourds went
around encircling it ten to a cubit, completely surrounding the sea;
the gourds were in
two rows, cast with the rest. It stood on twelve oxen, three facing
north, three facing
west, three facing south, and three facing east; and the sea was set on
top of them, and
all their rear parts turned inward. It was a handbreadth thick, and its
brim was made like
the brim of a cup, as a lily blossom; it could hold two thousand baths.
- 1 Kings 7:23-26
2 Chronicles 4:2-5 is similar, describing the same temple
furnishing. Since the
"sea" was flared "like a lily blossom", the diameter measurement was
made "from brim to brim," but the circumference measurement was
direct measurement made below the flared brim. If you paid attention in
you could compute the amount of the flare of the brim to be about
(10-(30/3.1416 ))/2 =
0.225 cubits (about a handbreadth) on each side. Construction of a
scale model using these
dimensions and description is left as an exercise for the reader.
Those who claim the Bible is full of contradictions generally only
find them because
they don't really read what the Bible actually says in its own context.
To really read the Bible to find out what it means, you need to read
with the following
questions in mind:
- What does the text say? (observation)
- What does it mean? (interpretation)
- How does it apply to me? (application)
The following guidelines are helpful in proper Bible reading:
- Scripture interprets Scripture. If an idea you get from one verse
is out of line with the rest of what the Bible says, you need to
reevaluate what you thought that verse said. "Let everything be
established by 2 or 3 witnesses" before you make a doctrine of
- Literal where possible -- what it says, it means.
- Consider the form of the writing in each section (i. e.
historical, narrative, parable, poetry, teaching, prediction of the
- Consider grammar and history. This means understanding how
natural languages work in general, and at least something of how the
original languages of the Bible work. It also means that it is helpful
to understand the history, culture, geography, etc., of the original
What does the Bible say about ______?
Fill in the blank. Homosexuality, ordination of women, and some
other topics tend to
generate lots of discussion (and noise). My advice to you is to search
the Scriptures for
yourself, and ask God to reveal His truth to you.
Who wrote this FAQ?
If you have comments or suggestions about this FAQ, please send them
to Michael Paul
master copy of this FAQ
in html is kept at http://ebible.org/bible/biblefaq.htm.
The ASCII text version is kept at
Last updated 31 August 2004.