Category Archives: Bible Questions

Questions about the Bible: What Is an Epistle? What Are the Epistles in the Bible?

 

The word epistle comes from the Greek word epistole that means “letter” or “message.” Epistles were a primary form of written communication in the ancient world, especially during New Testament times. Since many of the New Testament books were originally written as letters to churches or individuals, they are referred to as the Epistles.

An epistle would have been written on a scroll. Often, it was dictated and then reviewed by the author before being delivered by a trusted messenger. For example, 1 Peter mentions that it was Peter’s letter written down by Silvanus, or Silas (1 Peter 5:12). Timothy was involved in the writing and delivery of several of the apostle Paul’s letters (Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1), although Paul signed each one to verify that he was the author (Galatians 6:1).

Epistles also generally followed a familiar format. Most of Paul’s letters begin with an introduction that identifies his name and those of any associates, mentions his audience, and gives a greeting. The introduction is followed by the main body of the letter, and the epistles often conclude with a general blessing and personal notes to individuals within the recipient church.

The Epistles of the Bible are all found in the New Testament. They include 21 of the New Testament’s 27 books, extending from Romans to Jude. Thirteen of these Epistles were written by the apostle Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Within this group of Pauline Epistles is a subgroup labeled the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) so-called because they were written during Paul’s two-year house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30–31). The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were written to church leaders and include many teachings regarding practices within the early church.

Following these writings are eight General Epistles (sometimes called Catholic Epistles, since they were written to a “universal” audience) that include Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. The author of Hebrews is unknown (though many have historically attributed it to Paul or one of Paul’s associates). James was one of the earliest New Testament writings and was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7). The apostle Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter. The apostle John (the same author of the Gospel of John and Revelation) wrote 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. The short Epistle of Jude was written by Jude, another half-brother of Jesus (Jude 1:1).

All of the known authors of the Epistles are either an apostle (Paul, Peter, John) or a family member of Jesus (James, Jude). Each of these individuals had a unique calling from the Lord Jesus that included writing letters to others. These letters, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are preserved as part of the New Testament’s writings today.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Bible: What Is the Torah?

 

Torah is a Hebrew word meaning “to instruct.” The Torah refers to the five books of Moses in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The Torah was written approximately 1400 BC. Traditionally, the Torah is handwritten on a scroll by a “sofer” (scribe). This type of document is called a “Sefer Torah.” A modern printing of the Torah in book form is called a “Chumash” (related to the Hebrew word for the number 5).

Here is a brief description of the five books of the Torah:

Genesis: This first book of the Torah includes 50 chapters and covers the time period from the creation of all things to the time of Joseph’s death and burial. It includes the account of creation (chapters 1–2), the beginning of human sin (chapter 3), Noah and the ark (chapters 6–9), the tower of Babel (chapters 10–11), the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and an extended narrative of the life of Joseph.

Exodus: This second book of the Torah includes 40 chapters and covers the period from Jewish slavery in Egypt until the glory of the Lord descended upon the completed tabernacle in the wilderness. It includes the birth of Moses, the plagues of Egypt, the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the giving of the Law to Moses upon Mount Sinai.

Leviticus: This third book of the Torah includes 27 chapters and consists largely of the laws regarding sacrifices, offerings, and festivals among the people of Israel.

Numbers: This fourth book of the Torah includes 36 chapters and covers a span of about 40 years as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Numbers provides a census of the people of Israel and some details about their journey toward the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy: This fifth book of the Torah includes 34 chapters and is called “Deuteronomy” based on a Greek word meaning “second law.” In the book, Moses repeats the Law for the new generation who would enter the Promised Land. Deuteronomy describes the transition of leadership sacerdotally (from Aaron to his sons) and nationally (from Moses to Joshua).

The Torah’s five books have formed the basis of Judaism’s teachings from the time of Moses. Later biblical writers, including Samuel, David, Isaiah, and Daniel, would frequently refer back to the Law’s teachings. The teachings of the Torah are frequently summarized by citing Deuteronomy 6:4–5, called the Shema (or “saying”): “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus called this the “first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:38).

The Torah is considered the inspired Word of God by both Jews and Christians alike. Christians, however, see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies and believe the Law was fulfilled in Christ. Jesus taught, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Bible: What Are the Books of the Bible? What Does It Mean that the Bible Is Composed of Different Books?

 

The Holy Bible is an anthology of writings that includes 66 books in English editions. The Bible consists of two parts, the Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament includes 39 books, and the New Testament includes 27 books.

In the Old Testament, there are four major divisions of books. The first division is the Pentateuch, which comprises Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The second division is called the Historical Books and includes twelve writings: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.

The third division is called the Poetical Books (or Wisdom Books) and contains Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs).

The fourth division is called the Prophetic Books and includes five Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

The New Testament also includes four major divisions. The first division is the Gospels, which comprises Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The second division includes the Historical Book, the book of Acts.

The third division is the Epistles. These include the thirteen Pauline Epistles (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon) and the eight General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude).

The fourth division includes the Prophetic Book, the book of Revelation.

These 66 books were written over approximately 1,400 years by 40 different authors in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The writings were affirmed by early church leaders (Jewish leaders in the case of the Old Testament writings). The 66 books of the Bible are the inspired words of God that are used to make disciples (Matthew 28:18–20) and develop believers today (2 Timothy 3:16–17). The Bible was not created by mere human wisdom but was inspired by God (2 Peter 1:20–21) and will last forever (Matthew 23:35).

While the Bible addresses many topics, its central message is that the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, came into the world to provide the way of salvation for all people (John 3:16). It is only through the Jesus Christ of the Bible that a person can be saved (John 14:16; Acts 4:12). “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Bible: What Are the Most Famous/Important Questions in the Bible?

 

There are many, many questions in the Bible. It is difficult to give a precise number because ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek did not use punctuation—we can’t just pull out the Dead Sea Scrolls and count the question marks! Often, it is difficult to know if a sentence is truly intended to be a question. But Bible scholars estimate that there are approximately 3,300 questions in the Bible.

This list of questions in the Bible is definitely not complete. It is simply a survey of some of the most famous and important questions in the Bible.

“Did God really say …?” (Genesis 3:1)

This is the first question in the Bible and also the first instance of someone questioning God’s Word. Satan tempts Eve to doubt God’s Word. Eve responds by adding to God’s Word: “And you must not touch it.” God said do not eat from the tree. He did not say do not touch the tree or its fruit. Adam and Eve respond to Satan’s question by disobeying God’s Word. It was all downhill from there. And it all started with a little question.

“Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

This is the first question asked by God in the Bible. Of course, God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were physically located. The question was for their benefit. God was essentially asking, “You disobeyed me; how is that working out for you? Did things turn out like you wanted or how I predicted?” The question also shows the heart of God, which is the heart of a shepherd seeking out the lost lambs in order to bring them into the fold. Jesus would later come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

This was Cain’s question in response to God’s question of where Abel was. Beyond the fact that Cain had just murdered his brother, Cain was expressing the feeling we all have when we do not want to care about or look after other people. Are we our brother’s keeper? Yes, we are. Does this mean we have to know where they are and what they are doing 24/7? No. But, we should be invested enough in other people to notice when something seems to be out of place. We should care enough to intervene, if necessary.

“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

Yes, the Judge of the earth always does right. Abraham asked this question in his appeal to God to spare the righteous and protect them from judgment. If something God does seems unjust, then we are misunderstanding it. When we question God’s justice, it is because our sense of justice is warped. When we say, “I do not understand how a good and just God can allow such-and-such a thing,” it is because we do not correctly understand what it means to be a good and just God. Many people think they have a better understanding of justice than God.

“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

The entire book of Job resounds with this question from Job’s wife. Through it all, Job did maintain his integrity. Job’s “friends” repeatedly say, “Job, you must have done something really bad for God to do this to you.” God rebukes Job’s friends for attacking Job and for presuming on God’s sovereign will. Then God rebukes Job by reminding him that only God is perfect in all His ways. Included in God’s presentation of His greatness are many questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4).

“If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14, ESV)

Barring the return of Christ in our lifetimes, we will all die someday. Is there life after death? Everyone wonders about this question at some point. Yes, there is life after death, and everyone will experience it. It is simply a matter ofwherewe will exist. Do all paths lead to God? In a way, yes. We will all stand before God after we die (Hebrews 9:27). No matter what path a man takes, hewillmeet God after death. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” (Psalm 119:9)

The answer: by living according to God’s Word. When we “hide” God’s Word in our hearts, the Word keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11). The Bible does not tell us everything. It does not contain the answer to every question. But the Bible does tell us everything we need to know to live the Christian life (2 Peter 1:3). God’s Word tells us our purpose and instructs us how to fulfill that purpose. The Bible gives us the means and the end. God’s Word is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

The correct answer is spoken by Isaiah: “Here am I. Send me!” Far too often, our answer is, “Here am I—but send someone else.” Isaiah 6:8 is a popular verse to use in connection with international missions. But, in context, God was not asking for someone to travel to the other side of the planet. God was asking for someone to deliver His message to the Israelites. God wanted Isaiah to declare the truth to the people he rubbed shoulders with every day, his own people, his family, his neighbors, his friends.

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Forgiveness is tough. Peter’s suggestion of seven-fold forgiveness probably seemed, to him, to be superbly gracious. Jesus’ answer showed how feeble our forgiveness usually is. We are to forgive because God has forgiven us of so much more (Colossians 3:13). We forgive not because a person deserves it. “Deserve” has nothing to do with grace. We forgive because it’s the right thing to do. That person might not deserve our forgiveness, but neither did we deserve God’s, and God forgave us anyway.

“What shall I do then with Jesus?” (Matthew 27:22)

This was Pilate’s question to the crowd gathered at Jesus’ trial. Their answer: “Crucify Him!” Their shout a few days earlier had been different: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). It is amazing how unfulfilled expectations and a little peer pressure can change public opinion. In first-century Jerusalem, people who had an errant view of Jesus and His mission rejected Him; so, today, people who come to the Christian faith with an errant understanding of who Christ is will eventually turn away. We must make sure we accurately present who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about when we share our faith.

“Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

This question, from Jesus, is one of the most important that a person will ever answer. For most people, He is a good teacher. For some He is a prophet. For others He is a legend. Peter’s answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” is the correct answer (Matthew 16:16). C. S. Lewis addresses the issue of the various understandings of who Jesus is in his bookMere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36)

If the cost is one’s soul, then whatever is gained—even the whole world—is good for nothing. Sadly, “nothing” is what the vast majority of people strive after—the things of this world. To lose one’s soul has two meanings. First, the more obvious meaning is that one loses his soul for eternity, experiencing eternal death in hell. However, seeking to gain the whole world will also cause you to lose your soul in a different way, during this life. You will never experience the abundant life that is available through Jesus Christ (John 10:10). Solomon gave himself over to pleasure and denied himself nothing, yet he said, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained” (Ecclesiastes 2:10–11).

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18) and “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

It is interesting to see the very different responses of Jesus and Paul to what was essentially the same question. Jesus, knowing the self-righteous mindset of the rich young ruler, told him to obey the commandments. The man onlythoughthe was righteous; Jesus knew that materialism and greed were preventing the man from truly seeking salvation. The man first needed to understand that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. Paul, recognizing that the Philippian jailer was ready to be saved, declared, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The jailer believed, and his family followed him in accepting Jesus as Savior. So, recognizing where a person is at in his or her spiritual journey can impact how we answer someone’s questions and change the starting point in our presentation of the gospel.

“How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)

This question came from Nicodemus when Jesus told him that he needed to be born again. People today still misunderstand what being born again means. Most everyone understands that being born again is not a reference to a second physical birth. However, most fail to understand the full implication of the term. Becoming a Christian—becoming born again—is beginning an entirely new life. It is moving from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life (John 5:24). It is becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Being born again is notaddingsomething to your existing life; it is radicallyreplacingyour existing life.

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)

We are saved by grace (Ephesians 6:8). When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, all of our sins are forgiven and we are guaranteed eternal life in heaven. Salvation is God’s gift of grace. Does this mean that a Christian can live however he or she wants and still be saved? Yes.Buta true Christian willnotlive “however he or she wants.” A Christian has a new Master and does not serve himself any more. A Christian will grow spiritually, progressively, in the new life God has given him. Grace is not a license to sin. Willful, unrepentant sin in a person’s life makes a mockery of grace and calls into question that person’s salvation (1 John 3:6). Yes, there are times of failure and rebellion in a Christian’s life. And, no, sinless perfection is not possible this side of glory. But the Christian is to live out of gratitude for God’s grace, not take advantage of God’s grace. The balance is found in Jesus’ words to the woman taken in adultery. After refusing to condemn her, He said, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Children of God will face opposition in this world (John 15:18). The devil and his demons oppose us. Many people in the world oppose us. The philosophies, values, and priorities of the world stand against us. In terms of our earthly lives, we can be overcome, defeated, even killed. But, in terms of eternity, God has promised that we will overcome (1 John 5:4). What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to us in this world? Death. For those who are born of God, what happens after death? Eternity in the most glorious place imaginable.

There are many other great questions in the Bible. Questions from seekers, questions from scoffers, questions from discouraged believers, and questions from God. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but be ready to accept God’s answer when it comes.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Bible: What Are the Modern Equivalents of Biblical Weights and Measures?

 

The use of weights and measurements was common in ancient times, just like it is today. The problem is that the words used for various measurements were usually specific to that culture. Today, most people don’t know what a “shekel” is or what is the difference between a “furlong” and a “fathom.” Some Bible translations have replaced the archaic words with modern equivalents or approximations. Other translations simply transliterate the Greek and Hebrew words for the measurements.

Below are several terms and their approximated equivalents in both metric and imperial measurements. Since some ancient terms varied by area, we have differentiated Greek and Hebrew measurements.

Weights:

Hebrew: Talent (3,000 shekels or 60 minas, sometimes translated “100 pounds”) 34.272 kg 75.6 lbs Mina (50 shekels, sometimes translated “pound”) 571.2 g 1.26 lbs Shekel 11.424 g 0.403 oz Pim (2/3 shekel?) 7.616 g 0.258 oz Beca (1/2 shekel) 5.712 g. 201 oz Gerah (1/20 shekel) 0.571 g 0.02 oz

Greek: Litra (30 shekels, sometimes translated “pound”) 0.4 kg 12 oz Talent 40 kg 88 lbs Mina 571.2 g 1.26 lbs

Linear Measurements:

Hebrew: Reed (6 cubits) 2.7 m 8 3/4 ft or 3 yds Cubit (2 spans, sometimes translated “yard,” “half a yard,” or “foot”) 0.5 m 18 in. Span (1/2 cubit or 3 handbreadths) 23 cm 9 in. Handbreadth (1/6 cubit, 1/3 span, or 4 fingers, sometimes translated “3 or 4 inches”) 8 cm 3 in. Finger 1.8 cm 0.73 in.

Ezekiel’s Cubit (found in Ezekiel 40:5): Reed (6 of Ezekiel’s cubits) 3.1 m 10 ft, 2.4 in. Cubit (7 handbreadths) 0.5 m 20.4 in.

Greek: Milion (8 stadia, sometimes translated “mile”) 1.5 km 1,620 yds or 0.9 mi Stadion (1/8 milion or 400 cubits, sometimes translated “mile,” “furlong,” or “race”) 185 m 1/8 mi Kalamos (6 cubits, sometimes translated “rod,” “reed,” or “measuring rod”) 3 m 3 1/3 yds Fathom (4 cubits, sometimes translated “6 feet”) 2 m 2 yds Cubit (sometimes translated “yard,” “half a yard,” or “foot”) 0.5 m 18 in.

Dry Measures:

Hebrew: Kor (10 ephahs, sometimes translated “cor,” “homer,” “sack,” “measures,” “bushels”) 220 L 5.16 bsh or 200 qts Letek (5 ephahs, sometimes translated “half homer” or “half sack”) 110 L 2.68 bsh Ephah / Bath (10 omers, sometimes translated “bushel,” “peck,” “deal, “part,” “measure,” or “6 or 7 pints”) 22 L 3/5 bsh Seah (1/3 ephah, sometimes translated “measure,” “peck,” or “large amount”) 7.3 L 7 qts Omer / Issaron (1/10 ephah, sometimes translated “tenth of a deal” or “six pints”) 2 L 2.09 qts Cab (1/18 ephah, sometimes translated “cab”) 1 L 1 qt

Greek: Koros (10 ephahs, sometimes translated “sack,” “measure,” “bushel,” or “500 quartsbus”) 525 L 14.9 bsh Modios (4 omers, sometimes translated “bushel,” “bowl,” “peck,” “corn-measure,” or “meal-tub”) 9 L 1 pk or 1/4 bsh Saton (1/3 ephah, sometimes translated “measure,” “peck,” or “large amount”) 7.3 L 7 qts Choinix (1/18 ephah, sometimes translated “measure” or “quart”) 1 L 1 qt Xestes (1/2 cab, sometimes translated “pot,” “pitcher,” “kettle,” “copper bowl,” or “vessels of bronze”) 0.5 L 1 1/6 pts

Liquid Measures:

Hebrew: Cor / Homer 208 L 55 gal Bath (1 ephah, sometimes translated “gallon,” “barrel,” or “liquid measure”) 22 L 5.5 gal Hin (1/6 bath, sometimes translated “pints”) 4 L 1 gal (4 qts) Log (1/72 bath, sometimes translated “pint” or “cotulus”) 0.3 L 0.67 pt

Greek: Metretes (10 hins, sometimes translated “firkins” or “gallons”) 39 L 10 gal Batos (1 ephah, sometimes translated “gallon,” “barrel,” or “measure”) 22 L 6 gal Xestes (1/8 hin, sometimes translated “pot,” “pitcher,” “kettle,” “copper bowl,” or “vessel of bronze”) 0.5 L 1 1/6 pts

Coins and Monies: Denarius / Denarion: a day’s wage (“penny” in KJV) Daric / Drachma / Dram: a coin weighing 1/4 oz or 8.5 g Lepta: the smallest Greek copper coin; of unknown weight (translated “mite” in KJV) Kodrantess: the smallest Roman copper coin; of unknown weight (translated “mite” in KJV)[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.