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Jul 8, 2013

Methods and tools for studying the Bible

Method initiates and precedes study in choosing a topic, approach, or

method. The understanding that only sound methods guarantee results is

vital to Biblical study approach. Thus it is impertive that sound methods

of Bible study be implemented in order to achieve advantage in

understanding and application of God's message.

Understanding of the intended outcome of study is also significant in

ultimately changing life for the better. Rersultingly applications may be

developed based on reading, observation and interpretation which will be

respectively personal, practical, possible and provable.

Acquaintance with Biblical history avails proper use of the tools of Bible

study including  dictionaries, language tools and commentaries. Thereafter

applications will be considered and methods will be completed that aid the

systematic learning of the Bible.

Understanding requires one to transcend own culture in seeking to

comprehend the Bible within its own environment.  Religion as truth

presents beliefs of a particular denomination or teaching of religious

topics from a sectarian point of view.

Per se  beliefs of a single faith group cannot be taught as truth, but

rather as a form of comparative religion, including teaching beliefs of

various wings within Christianity and other significant religions in a

balanced manner, while not promoting religion over the secular.

Regarding sources of Biblical text, some religious groups believe the

Bible to be inerrant while others believe it contains errors. Some

individuals and groups believe the Bible to be inerrant, infallible and

God-inspired, while others believe the opposite.

The Bible may be taught as real history provided consensus has been

reached that these events really happened in teaching a balanced,

acceptable view since some believe that all of these earlier events

happened, while others believe these are fictional, mythical or symbolic.

Genesis may be taught as one of hundreds of creation stories found in

societies and religions all over the world with further description of

three main views about the origin of the universe, along with  variations

encompassing creation science, theistic evolution and naturalistic


About the authorship of the Pentateuch being attributed to Moses, teaching

this as fact would be debatable, because there is no consensus that he was

the author. However, two main views of the authorship of the Pentateuch

may be taught: that conservative Christians believe the books were written

by Moses under the inspiration of God, while non-conservative Christian

theologians hold to the Documentary Hypothesis: that the Pentateuch were

edited by one or more redactors who worked with the writings of four

authors, who lived in various locations in Palestine, over a period of

many centuries with the goal of promoting their own religious views.

With regards to teaching the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus

actually happened no consensus exists on these events, since there are

major deviations among faith groups about these matters. Whereas Jews

regard Jesus as a  human, 1st century rabbi from Palestine, most

Christians view him as the Son of God - one component of the Trinity. Re.

life after death and salvation it cannot be summarily taught that heaven

and hell exist as locations for reward or punishment after death. Varying

beliefs are heralded regarding trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior as

opposed to reincarnation, as different faith groups have varying beliefs

in these areas.

While some believe that heaven and hell are actual locations others

interpret heaven and hell symbolically. Similarly, some believe that

everyone will be saved; others that only some will attain heaven while

some religions teach reincarnation and passing through many lifetimes

before merging with God. Religious liberals and humanists believe that

neither heaven, hell, reincarnation or an afterlife exist. Thus

instruction should include  full range of beliefs.

Neutral stance towards religion would require covering major religious

texts, such the Bible and documents like the Humanist Manifesto.

The Origins and Development of the Bible

Origins and development of the Bible are primarily concerned with the

formation of the Hebrew Bible (oral & writing stage and canonization),

formation of the Christian Bible (oral & writing stage and canonization)

and  process of translation, with some of the ideas being based on

assumptions, provided sufficient evidence exists to back these up.

Origin of  English Bibles  can be traced to when men, under God's divine

inspiration, first wrote Biblical books, transferred from generation to

generation by handwritten copies and  word-of-mouth until men eventually

attempted to collate these teachings into a single comprehensive book.

Most of Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the New

Testament largely in common Greek with all the original compilations of

the Bible originally done by hand.

History and development of the English Bible can be divided into ancient

versions in other languages, early English versions, and the New English

versions (since 1901).  Brief descriptions of the significant versions in

those time periods follow.

The Septuagint Version (285 BC) was a translation of the Old Testament

Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, probably done in Alexandria, with The

Samaritan Pentateuch, being a copy of the Hebrew text done in

Samaritan characters.

The Peschito or Syriac (1st or 2nd Century AD) – A common language

translation of the entire Bible used in parts of Syria.

The Codex Sinia us(330 AD) – A manuscript that contained the Greek Bible.

The Codex Vatican us (340 AD) - It originally contained the whole Bible,

but parts have been lost.

The Vulgate (400 AD) – A Roman Catholic scholar in Bethlehem by the name

of Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin.  This Bible became the

standard in the Catholic church for well over 1000 years.

The Codex Alexandrinus (425 AD) – This Bible is another Green translation.

All of the earliest attempts at translating the Bible into English were

fragmented.  Bishop Aldhelm of Sherbourne translated the Psalm into Old

English around 709.  Venerable Bede, a monk at Jarrow, translated a potion

of the Gospel of John.  By 900 AD all the Gospels and most of the Old

Testament had been translated into Old English.

John Wycliffe (1380) – was the first to plan a complete English

translation of the Bible from the Latin, based on the Latin Vulgate.  He

completed the New Testament prior to his death, and his friends completed

the work after his death.

William Tyndale (1525-30) – Driven from England by persecution, William

Tyndale shared Wycliffe’s desire to produce a Bible that the common

English speaking person could understand.  Using the Latin Vulgate and

other ancient sources, Tyndale translated  New Testament and Pentateuch

before he was martyred.

Miles Coverdale (1535) – A friend of Tyndale’s Coverdale  published a

complete Bible.  It is generally believed Coverdale used Tyndale’s work in

producing his New Testament.

Matthew’s Bible (1537) – It is widely accepted that a friend of Tyndale,

John Rogus, did most of the work on this Bible.  Based largely on

Tyndale’s previous work, it also contains evidences of

Coverdale’s work as well, being considered an updated Tyndale’s Bible.

The Great Bible (1539) – This Bible takes its name from its great physical

size.  Based on the Tyndale, Coverdale, and Matthew’s Bibles, it was used

mainly in churches.

The Geneva Bible (1560) – Produced in Geneva by scholars who had fled

persecution in England under Queen Mary, this Bible was based on the Great

Bible and on  English translations of that day.  Though very scholarly, it

was a popular Bible because of its small size.

The Bishop’s Bible (1568) – Revision of the Great Bible and Geneva Bible

done under direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of


Douay-Rheims Bible (1582-1610) – The New Testament was published in Rheims

in 1582 and the Old Testament in Douay in 1610.   Revision of the Latin

Vulgate, this has become the generally accepted English Version for the

Roman Catholic Church.

King James Version, KJV (1611) – The most popular translation, this Bible

was done during the reign of King James the I of England.  47 scholars,

divided into 6 groups, worked on this translation.  Based largely on the

Bishop’s Bible, many Hebrew and Greek texts were also studies as well as

all the other available English translations, to insure the best results.

Revised Version (1881-1884) – Designed to be a revision of the KJV, the

Revised Version had the advantage of being able to access some of the

ancient manuscripts.

New English Versions (1901 to Present)

American Standard Version, ASV (1901) – This revision of the Revised

Version incorporates many of the readings first suggested by the American

members of the Revision committee of 1881 – 1885.

Complete Bible: An American Translation (1939) – Often referred to as the

Goodspeed Version, this translation was done by Edgar J. Goodspeed and

J.M. Povis Smith.  Using as many ancient texts as possible, Smith and

Goodspeed produced a very readable and yet accurate translation.  Also

included in this translation was the Apocrypha.

Revised Standard Version, RSV (1952) – The National Council of Churches of

Christ procured the copyright to the 1901 ASV Bible in the 1920’s.  Work

began on a revision to the ASV, but was abandoned in favor of an entirely

new translation.  Since many more Hebrew and Greek manuscripts were

available to these scholars than were available in 1901, the RSV is

considered to be much more accurate.

New Testament in Modern English (1958) – First published in 1958 and

revised in 1973, this translation, done by British writer J.B. Phillips,

is one of the best readings of the New Testament.

Berkley Version (1959) – This modern English version was done under the

direction of Dr. Gerrit Verkuyl.  Dr. Verkuyl translated the New Testament

from the Greek himself.  The Old Testament was translated by a committee

of 20 scholars with Dr. Verkuyl overseeing the project.

Amplified Bible (1965) – this modern English Version was sponsored by the

non-profit Lockman Foundation of California.  Committees of Hebrew and

Greek scholars tried to pay particular attention to the true translation

of key words in the ancient texts.  By bracketing explanatory words or

phrases directly in the text, they eliminated the need to look elsewhere

on the page for the other helps.

Jerusalem Bible (1966) – Basically a Roman Catholic translation, this

Bible was originally a multi-volume translation done in French at the

Ecole Biblique et Archeologuque in Jerusalem.  Using all available sources

including the Dead Sea Scrolls, this translation also included extensive

scholarly notes.  In the English translation, the original documents were

again used with references made to the original French translation.  The

Jerusalem Bible also includes the Apocrypha.  Although the notes are

strongly Roman Catholic, the translation is relatively non-sectarian

New Testament:  A New Translation (1968-69) – Translated by William

Barclay of England, this translation is neither technical nor difficult.

The problem with this Bible is the extensive intrusion of Mr. Barclay’s

own personal views in the text.

New English Bible, NEB (1970) – A committee of scholars from the leading

denominations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, cooperating with

the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, was to produce a new translation

from the Hebrew and Greek.  This Bible was to be used as an authoritative

version along side the KJV.  Due the NEB’s rather free use of the English

language, many verses of scripture became almost paraphrases rather than

translations.  The Apocrypha is included in the NEB.

New American Bible, NAB (1970) – This Roman Catholic translation

originally came directly from the Latin Vulgate.  The Catholic Biblical

Association of America compared this translation to the Hebrew and Greek

manuscripts then available.  The three volumes Old Testament and single

volume New Testament were then combined into a single volume.

New American Standard, NAS (1971) – The Lockman Foundation f La Habra,

California (see Amplified Bible) set out to produce the most technically

accurate translation of the Bible possible.  Partially because of their

dissatisfaction with the RSV’s revision of the 1901 American Standard

version, the Lockman foundation chose to use the best Greek and Hebrew

texts available to revise the ASV.

Living Bible, LNB (1974) - This is the work of one man, Kenneth N. Taylor.

Not a translation in the true sense, Mr. Taylor set out to produce a

paraphrase of the ASV Bible using the words and terms his children could

readily understand.

Today’s English Version, TEV (1976) – Often referred to as the Good News

Bible, this was a project sponsored by the American Bible Society to

produce a Bible in English for people whose primary language was not

English.  Mr. Robert G. Bratcher did the work on the New Testament, and it

was published in 1966.  The Society then continued the work to include the

Old Testament.

New International Version, NIV (1978) – The New York Bible Society

sponsored this translation of the Bible.  A committee was formed to search

worldwide for Bible scholars from colleges, universities and seminaries

that would represent varied backgrounds and denominations.  Each book of

the Bible was assigned to a different team of scholars, who then used the

best available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts to do the actual

translation.  Additional committees checked and re-checked the

translations for accuracy as well as comprehension.

New King James Version, NKJV (1982) – Thomas Nelson Bible Publishers and

the International Trust for Bible Studies co-sponsored this update of the

1611 KJV Bible.  119 scholars worked on this project to make the KJV

version more accurate and readable and yet maintain the grace and beauty

of the original KJV text.

Revised English Bible REB (1989) – Under the auspices of the Universities

of Oxford and Cambridge, a committee of leading Bible scholars revised and

updated the New English Bible.  This was the first major revision of the

New English Bible since its release in 1970.  Particular attention was

paid to archaic words, phrases, and sentence structure.  This

re-examination was done by referring to the most current manuscripts,

commentaries and exegesis.

New Revised Standard Version NSRV (1990) – This Bible was released in late

1990 and culminated 15 years of work by special committee of scholars.

This committee was under the sponsorship of the division of Education and

Ministry of the National Council of Churches.  This original Revised

Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version can trance their

roots to the King James Version.

The cultural & geographical location of the Bible

The cultural & geographical location of the Bible refers/relates not only

to archaelogical material, but also pertains to points of interest

concerning history, chronology, geography, literature, religion and social


The Bible can be considered a primary document basic to  understanding of

the philosophical, literary, cultural and scientific tradition. Focus is

placed on ideas developed in Hebrew Bible and their respective impact.

As interest arises in these ancient places, the role played in history of

ancient Israel & life & thought of people is portrayed.  Archaelogical

sites of ancient Israel reminds of importance of geographical situation of

the sites.

Archaelogical investigation in Palestine & surrounding lands have

transformed attitude & understanding of ancient Israel & Old Testament,

studied together in rightful setting within ancient Near Eastern world.

Culture is formed by a combination of  the ordered way in which a set of

human beings conduct their lives with many streams flowing into it such as

the customary ways of  one's forebearers becoming accepted as the norm and

also new ideas that may arrive to reshape that norm; also rebeliousness

against culture due to new information and processing of old information

resulting in change as well as moral and spiritual revivals.

Established patterns of behavior may also be perpetuated or the boundaries

pushed in order to obtain degree of divergence in an effort to improve or

destroy society in opting for standard or alternative approcached.

Via reference to culture & geographical context of the Bible, the Bible

may be studied from the outside inwards, in consideration of contribution

to study of content of the Bible.

Western culture is indebted to the Judeo- Christian tradition which

created these writings . Knowledge of the Bible, then, is important  for

religious commitment to Judaism or Christianity and any person requiring

information and education.

Difference in culture & geographical locations/context may also contribute

to difference of opinion.  Character, value of evidence, rel. to other

material, purpose & date are thus all taken into consideration.

Thus it cannot categorically be stated "The Bible says" unless respective

views of writers are examined within the cultural & geographical context

of the Bible.

Thus the Bible itself must be interpreted & re-interpreted on the basis of

cultural & geographical content which often lead to different views re.

Problems contained in Bible study.  As example different views have been

proposed regarding date of Exodus from Egypt & settlement & Palestine.

Western culture differs significantly from that of ancient Near East.

Understanding requires transcending culture in seeking  comprehension of

the Bible. Biblical authority refers to acquired power, respect and

esteem. Bible also has authority, due to canonizing books while rejecting

other books as noncanonical, although the Bible's authority derives from

God, as source of inspiration. Converesely interpretation refers to ways

of understanding the Bible, evident in a variety of approaches. World

views also affect we interpretation of the Bible.

As such interpretation of events and scriptural meaning should ideally be

studied with cultural & geographical context of the Bible.  In order to

obtain a deeper understanding & insight into Biblical scriptures a greater

acquaintance with Biblical history, culture & geography is absolutely

imperative.  Although the same events are recorded, accounts of it may


Cultural & geographical context (& content) can be regarded as not only

complementary, but mutually explanatory.  Thus information studied within

cultural & geographical context of the Bible becomes more striking &


However, impact of cultural & geographical context (& content) of the

Bible is mostly indirect, yet this indirect contribution is immense and

abundantly evident. Cultural & geographical context, although too immense

to elaborate on specific examples, in essence renders more credibility to

Biblical tradition.  Interpretation with reference to cultural &

geographical context can be pursued too far in contributing to historical

truth & spiritual truth.

Then again culture & geography can & does confirm truth of individual

assertions in the Bible as undeniable & offers confirmation of truth, but

reference to truth implies something more than conformity with known facts

of culture & geography. Different patterns & levels of spiritual life are

established & distinguished.  Also the type of religion against which the

prophets so strongly inveighed cultural & geographical context bears

witness to.

Mankind's view of God differs considerably, as is evident from differing

perceptions of God with the pagan world having a vastly differnt concet

compared to Israel's God, Yahweh that stood against  so-called gods of

pagan world. Resultingly Israel struggled between faith in Yahweh and

delusion of traditional power.

Biblical text has a relationship to ancient history in connection with

ancient civilizations and affinity of literary forma with ancient


The Bible as authoritative for Christian faith and practice allows for

comprehension of its message, resulting in a stronger sense of identity,

and hope in learning more about our spiritual heritage.

Cultural & geographical context reflects a profounder truth in Bible &

distinctive contribution of the Biblical characters is evident in

archealogical research, confirming the truth of the Bible & reaffirming

better understanding & just interpretation.

Biblical interpretation and  authority has been used, to promote

particular religious, moral, social and political values in culture and so

have visual images such as painting and sculpture been linked to biblical


Culture & geography provides confirmation of the truth of the Bible in

understanding & rightful interpretation thereof.

The most probable interpretation of the Bible can thus be obtained through

careful comparison of context relating to cultural & geographical

location.  Interpretation of Biblical matter depends on literature in a

geniune desire to seek meaning.

Various interpretation as a cultural activity range beyond the province of

biblical images in functional reading and visualization  of the Bible.

Yet, functionality of culture & geographical context is not per se proving

or disproving Biblical contents, but although limited function is

indispensible, it provided context.  Conversely, without the Bible, many

cultures & geographical locations would go unexplored.

Despite geographical location,

May God provide navigation

Symbolically speaking  re. Culture

In flight of turtle dove and vulture.

                                            Hercolena Oliver

I pray today

God grant me: Peace, understanding & forgiveness as it may

Understanding of culture: through knowledge of geographical locations And

for those in heaven: well-deserved vacations.

                                            Hercolena Oliver

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Monday July 8, 2013, 2:27 am
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Hercolena Oliver
female, age 45, single, 3 children
Durban, AA, South Africa
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