Author Archives: startingoverwithchristianity

The Best Bible Translation

There are a number of different English versions of the Bible available.  Which is the best Bible translation?

Some English translations of the Bible try, in various degrees, to stay true to the manuscript text, while others take more leeway.  Some English translations are really not translations at all but are re-wordings that express the translators’ opinions about what the biblical text means.

The best way to understand the differences in the various English versions of the Bible is to take an example and compare how it is translated in different versions.

In this episode, we look at a short passage from Exodus 4 in six popular English versions of the Bible.  We look at the passage in the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the Living Bible, and the Message.

Which give an accurate translation and which guide you to a certain interpretation of the passage?

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

Translating the Bible

The Bible was not written in English. The earliest manuscripts we have of any books of the Bible are in a form of ancient Greek known as Koine Greek. If we want to read the Bible in English, someone must first translate it into English.

But translation is not a simple process of substituting an English word for a Greek word. Decisions and assumptions have to be made. Every translation is, to some extent, an interpretation.  When we read the Bible, are we reading the Bible itself, or are we reading something that has been filtered and altered to fit the existing beliefs of the translators?

In this podcast, we look at the complexities and pitfalls of translating the Bible. We take one verse from the Bible as an example and translate it into English. There are only 17 words in this verse. It should be simple to translate, but we find that it’s anything but simple.

What we find is surprising and will forever change how you read the Bible.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

The Ten Commandments and the New Covenant

Most Christians know about the Ten Commandments.  Many Christians feel obligated to follow the Ten Commandments, or at least certain interpretations of the Ten Commandments, in their daily lives.  But in addition to the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament contains about 620 more commandments.  Many of these were given at the exact same time as the Ten Commandments, yet you don’t hear much about them.

Are Christians obligated to follow the Old Testament commandments?  If so, which ones?  If Christians only have to follow certain ones, how do you know which ones you have to follow?

Questions like these have been asked in Christianity since the very beginning.

This podcast begins by examining the Ten Commandments.  Exactly what is commanded in those and how do we know?  Do any Christians really follow them?  Then we move on to the other commandments and consider some of the problems created when Christians select which of the Old Testament commandments to follow and which to ignore.

But in doing that, we encounter an even larger question: How do we incorporate the Old Testament into Christianity?  As we consider that question, we have to wonder: Is Christianity an offshoot of Judaism, or is Christianity something entirely different?

Reincarnation in Christianity

Reincarnation is the belief that when a person’s physical body dies, the spirit begins life in another physical form on earth.  Surveys indicate that approximately 25 % of Americans believe in some form of reincarnation.  Christians believe in reincarnation in about the same proportions as the general society, as surveys also indicate that approximately 25% of American Christians believe in reincarnation.

Even though millions of American Christians believe in some form of reincarnation, reincarnation is not an accepted belief within any major American Christian denomination.  American Christianity officially believes that no part of you existed before you were born into this life, and that at the end of this life, your spirit, or soul, goes to its eternal destination.

However, some claim reincarnation was an accepted belief in early Christianity.

In this episode, we examine whether the Bible contains passages that refer to reincarnation.  Then we look to see whether we can find evidence from early Christianity itself that early Christians believed in reincarnation.  What we find is surprising.

Then, we take a general look at how Christian beliefs developed.  We look at various influences upon the process of the development of those beliefs.  Then we look at a very important question: Can a person reject certain beliefs that developed in Western Christianity without rejecting Christianity itself?

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

Where Do Peoples’ Religious Beliefs Come From?

There is often a difference between what people say they believe about God and what they actually do believe about God deep in their hearts.  When asked about their religious beliefs, most people will respond with the things they have been told they are supposed to believe.  But actually, their true beliefs may be very different.  People have difficulty admitting they don’t really believe what they have been told they should believe, even to themselves.

So where do peoples’ true religious beliefs come from?  If they don’t come from what they’ve been told they’re supposed to believe, where do they come from?

In this episode, we consider where our true religious beliefs come from.  We get there in a roundabout way, though.  First, we consider something that is very popular in Christianity today, the effort to make Christianity relevant to peoples’ lives.  That is probably the most widespread trend in Christianity today.

Then we consider something related to that, the question of how Christianity became not relevant to peoples’ lives.  What happened to make Christianity so not-relevant that so much time and energy is expended trying to make it relevant?

We find the answer to that question in the way many modern Christians look at the Bible.  The way many modern Christians look at the Bible leads to a certain picture of God.  It is that picture of God which makes Christianity seem so not-relevant to peoples’ lives.

Then, we look at how all that is tied in with how peoples’ true religious beliefs are formed.  By going about it in this roundabout way, we are able to come to an understanding of how our true religious beliefs are formed, not the beliefs we say we have, but the beliefs we really do have, deep in our hearts.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

Marriage in the Bible: The New Testament

What is a biblical view of marriage?  In last week’s episode, we saw that marriage in the Old Testament is totally different than how we think of marriage today.  This week, we look at what the New Testament has to say about marriage.

In the New Testament, we find what many Christians believe is the religious basis of marriage.  We then look at marriage among major New Testament figures and consider the question of whether Jesus was married.  We next look at Jesus’ troubling teachings on adultery and divorce.  We also find the New Testament has other troubling things to say related to marriage.

In the latter Middle Ages, the institutional Church decided marriage could be yet another revenue source and another source of power in society.  It was at that time that The Church made marriage a part of institutional Christianity.

But are the claims institutional Christianity makes about marriage born out by things contained in Scripture?  In this final segment of a two-part series on marriage, we will conclude our overview of what the Bible says about marriage.  Then, you won’t have to depend on what other people tell you the Bible says about marriage; you will know for yourself what the Bible says about marriage.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

Marriage in the Bible: The Old Testament

What does the Bible say about marriage?  Is “one man/one woman” traditional marriage what the Bible promotes?  In this first part of a two-part series, we look at what the Old Testament says about marriage.

First, we look at what many Christians consider to be the biblical basis for marriage.  Related to this, we next look at the reason opposite sexes are attracted to one another.  Both are connected to a passage from Genesis that says, “And they shall be one flesh.”

We look at multiple wives, the practice of polygamy.  Polygamy was common in the Old Testament.  Then we look at concubines and arranged marriages.  We discover a surprising thing about the marriage “ceremony” itself in Old Testament times.  In contrast to much of marriage in Christianity today, marriage in the Old Testament was not in any way considered to be a religious affair.

A look at the seriousness with which adultery was regarded comes next.  Related to adultery is the issue of divorce, which in Old Testament times was normally allowed and very easy.  Then we consider some interesting issues related to rape and engagement.

Overall, we will see that marriage in the Old Testament was much different than we think of marriage today.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

How to Get Your Sins Forgiven

Many Christians believe the purpose of Christianity is to get your sins forgiven.  This idea says God is a God of justice who demands payment for sin.  Jesus paid the penalty for sin by His suffering and death on the cross, and now God is able to extend an offer of forgiveness.  Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that forgiveness would be possible, but each person, individually, has to “get” forgiveness.

But does the Bible itself indicate that God demands payment for sin?  Some claim it does, but does it?  We’ll look through both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and instead of finding that God demands payment for sin, we’ll find something entirely different.  Rather than payment for sin, rather than forgiveness of sins, we’ll find that the real issue is repentance.

Many people believe repentance means being sorry for your sins and asking for forgiveness.  But is that really what repentance means?  Again, we’ll look at the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and discover that repentance means something entirely different.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.


Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday.  Jesus was crucified because He was in conflict with the Jewish leaders and they wanted rid of Him.  But Christianity has always seen a deeper meaning to the death of Jesus.

Many Christians believe the deeper meaning is that Jesus died so we could get our sins forgiven.  This is what is known as the Atonement in Christianity.  The idea is that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin so we can get forgiveness for our sins.

However, this idea is completely unconnected to Jesus being killed because the Jewish leaders wanted rid of Him.  It’s like trying to fit together two completely separate and unconnected things.

But there’s another way to look at why Jesus died on the cross.  This way sees a deeper meaning to the death of Jesus that is connected to the Jewish leaders wanting rid of Him.  It is found by looking at the roots of the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, looking at what the Jewish leaders actually were and represent.

By doing this, we develop a completely different way of looking at the death of Jesus, one which pictures God as being for us, on our side, instead of foaming at the mouth wanting to punish us.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.

The Gospels: The Life of Jesus

The Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are the first four books of the New Testament.  They tell what happened to Jesus when He was on earth.  The Gospels present Jesus healing people.  Jesus did not do spiritual healings.  All the healings of Jesus were of physical sickness and disease.

Jesus was also a teacher.  Major teachings of Jesus are found in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain.  Jesus also used parables.  The parables of Jesus are difficult to interpret.

Twelve disciples assisted Jesus.  Other people also regularly followed Jesus as He traveled around Galilee.

Jesus drew large crowds of people and was hugely popular with the people.  Jesus did not follow Judaism.  The teachings of Jesus were different than Judaism.  This led to conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders.  Eventually, the Jewish leaders had Jesus killed.  Jesus was crucified and died on the cross.

But Jesus rose from the grave.  The resurrection of Jesus is the high point in all four Gospels.

This podcast examines the possible existence of what biblical scholars term the Q source.  It examines what is known about the early life of Jesus, before His public ministry.  It also talks about how much of what people say about Jesus and the Gospels in general is speculation.

The religion of Christianity is based on peoples’ interpretations of what Jesus did, and what happened to Jesus, when He was alive on earth as a human being.

For a transcript of this podcast, click here.