Frequently Asked Questions about the Bible

Keywords: Bible, Holy Bible,, Scriptures, Tanakh, Law, Torah, Prophets, 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


What is for?

The 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 of practical application of Bible teaching. All other topics and materials should be redirected to 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 miraculously preserved 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 Old Testament (before Jesus Christ) and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the same books as the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, and consists of 3 or 4 main sections:

The New Testament consists of 4 sections:

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 some interesting history books. I put "additions" in quotes, because they are found 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, interspersed through the Old Testament, or in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments (like 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 Jewish authors. 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.


What language was the Bible written in?

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 Chaldean. Because languages continually evolve, and people speak many languages, the Holy Bible is being translated by many groups, with the goal of providing a copy to everyone in their own language.


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" (Lord) with the consonants for "Yahweh." This name is sometimes rendered "LORD" in English translations, not to be confused with "Lord" (the rendition of "Adonai") -- note the small capital letters in one and not the other. Trust me, God knows who you are talking to when you pray, so please don't sweat this one too much.


Why do different versions of the Holy Bible differ in some details?

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 the original 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 Greek New 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 majority of currently existing manuscripts say. The "UBS" text gives greater weight to a relatively few manuscripts written on "older" media, even when they disagree 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 Text, like 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 vocabulary, 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 (WEB, RSV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. -- James 1:22 (NIV)

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 delude themselves. -- 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:

Here are some other translations that are worth considering:

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 systematically seeks to rob Jesus of His Deity. See John 1:1 for an example, where the NWT renders "a god" instead of "God". The New Testament and Psalms, an Inclusive Version is politically correct to the point of heresy. Avoid those.


Where can I download and read the Bible on the Internet?

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. See for an example. Others allow reading only while online unless you buy a copy, which is better than nothing.


What about Bible contradictions?

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:

  1. What does the text say? (observation)
  2. What does it mean? (interpretation)
  3. How does it apply to me? (application)

The following guidelines are helpful in proper Bible reading:

  1. 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 something.
  2. Literal where possible -- what it says, it means.
  3. Consider the form of the writing in each section (i. e. historical, narrative, parable, poetry, teaching, prediction of the future, etc.).
  4. 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 audience.


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 Johnson. The master copy of this FAQ in html is kept at The ASCII text version is kept at

Last updated 31 August 2004.

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