Category Archives: Tools

The Elusive Quest for the “Best” Bible Translation

I ran across this comic today, posted in an excellent piece by Andy Naselli, a New Testament instructor at Bethlehem College & Seminary, founded by Minneapolis pastor, John Piper. Naselli’s argument is that while many Christians tend to argue that their favorite Bible translation is the best, and every other translation is inferior, it would greatly help if we had some humility here.

Evangelical Christians can get pretty picky when it comes to Bible translations that they implicitly trust. But one of my pet peeves is when people, who have absolutely no background in biblical scholarship, tend to think they know better than people who have been studying the Scriptures in-depth for decades.

The latest brouhaha is over a new Bible translation, the Christian Standard Bible, which is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) was completed in 2004, by a team of scholars, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention.  The new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a modern revision of the HCSB.

Critics have charged that the Christian Standard Bible, produced by conservative evangelical scholars, have nevertheless “changed” the Bible to make it “gender inclusive,” thus hiding a liberal agenda. But as I wrote a few years ago, in one of Veracity’s most widely read posts, the issue of “gender accuracy” between the ESV and NIV 2011 translations, two of the most popular translations read by Christians today, tends to vary from passage to passage. In other words, sometimes the ESV is more “gender accurate” than the NIV 2011, but in other cases, the NIV 2011 is more “gender accurate” than the ESV. I tend to prefer the ESV, but I see a number of strengths in other translations, such as the NIV 2011, and the new CSB.

It is true that no scholar, even conservative evangelical scholars, operates without a personal bias. Even the best scholars can be wrong at times. Therefore, one should not take the message of the comic to mean that the average person, without a PhD, should never be able to make their own informed decisions, when reading the biblical text, in order to understand its meaning.

All I am saying is that we all need a little dose of humility, and not quickly dismiss a Bible translation, simply because one or two passages in a different translation do not conform to our own presuppositions. My suggestion would be to visit BibleGateway.com, and pick some passages in your favorite Bible translation, and then compare them to something like the new Christian Standard Bible. Who knows? Perhaps reading something in a different translation may give you greater insight into the Bible.

Here is an interview with Trevin Wax, publisher of the CSB, about the new Bible, and with Tom Schreiner, one of the lead translators, and then a brief comparison review at BibleGateway.com, with other translations.


Faith Bible College Class Opportunity


Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands


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The NIV Faithlife Study Bible: A Review

Plumb LineAre you curious about the Bible?

Thankfully, there are a number of great study Bibles available today, with helpful tools to get you into God’s Word. But I want to tell you about a new one, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, that I am really excited about, and why I recommend it.

The NIV Faithlife Study Bible has actually been available online for sometime now, from Faithlife, the company known for its Logos Bible Software. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible was designed for online use, either from an iPhone, iPad, Android, Logos Bible Software package, or via web browser on your desktop computer (and it is FREE!!!). It has detailed verse-by-verse notes, to aid your understanding, plus some visually engaging graphics, charts, timelines,  and sidebar articles. Plus this online version, links into other helpful study resources, including Veracity’s “blogger-in-chief,” John Paine’s favorite, the NET Bible.

Now, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible has been released as a standalone book, something that you actually hold in your hands. I like the digital stuff, but there is still something about having a bound stack of paper in my hands, that I can take to a Bible study small group. Here is a sample.

But aside from the helps, there are some other fundamentals as to why this is such a good Bible. First, they used a really good Bible translation, the NIV 2011. I did a pretty extensive review between the ESV (English Standard Version) and the NIV 2011 (New International Version) a few years ago here on Veracity, and my verdict in my analysis was close. For me, the ESV just barely edged out, for the purposes of doing in-depth Bible study, but the NIV 2011 is right there behind it, too.

Secondly, Faithlife sought to give a broad perspective, with respect to various denominational traditions, as to the content of the study note materials. They are committed to this idea that the study of the Bible should not be conducted inside an echo chamber, where all you hear and read is from a single evangelical tradition. Unfortunately, there are some study Bibles out there that only give you one point of view, typically the perspective of the guy with his name of the cover (In other words, if you ever see something like the Morledge Study Bible in your local Barnes and Noble, you are better off if you take a pass on it).

Thirdly, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible has a great team of scholars behind the project.  Only four editors are listed, but the scholar that I know and respect the most is Michael S. Heiser. Heiser has a great blog for Bible nerds, like me, and he is the host of the Naked Bible Podcast. These are solid, orthodox believing scholars, with their hearts and minds set on the plumb line of Scriptural authority, who have a passion for making the background and details behind God’s Word accessible to the ordinary person.

Are there any downsides to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible? Well, from what I have seen, the maps in this study Bible are not as good, as compared to what you find in my ESV Study Bible. With respect to the online version, it takes some time getting used to the navigation, which at first can be confusing. But once you get the hang of it, it is rather cool.

I am still wedded to my trusty ESV Study Bible, with the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, a close runner up, but the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is right up there near the top of the list. You can always try it out online or via a SmartPhone app, to see if you really like it, first. Michael Bird is an Australian Bible scholar, who is an enthusiastic endorser for the NIV Faithlife Study Bible. View his videos below, and consider getting this study Bible for you, or a friend, who really wants to dig in deep into God’s Word.

Read other Veracity reviews of study Bible material, including my review of The Reformation Study Bible, my review of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, and a general survey of available eStudy Bibles. Also, do not miss this from John Paine, the Veracity “blogger-in-chief”, with his analysis of online study tools.


Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Robert Spencer's The Truth about Muhammad paints a very different portrait of the founder of Islam, as compared to the work of popular author Karen Armstrong, who describes Islam as a religion of peace. How do you figure out who is telling the right story?

Robert Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad paints a very different portrait of the founder of Islam, as compared to the work of popular author Karen Armstrong, who describes Islam as a religion of peace. How do you figure out who is telling the right story?

Within a few weeks of the 911 attack on the World Trade Center, Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, who now specializes as a scholar of comparative religion, and very popular author, wrote an essay for TIME magazine. In the essay, Armstrong makes the case that the terrorists who destroyed the twin towers did not represent the true face of Islam. The prophet Muhammad, she argues, sought to heal the rifts between different, warring tribal factions in 7th century (A.D.) Arabia.  In portraying true Islam as a religion of peace, she concludes:

The vast majority of Muslims, who are horrified by the atrocity of Sept. 11, must reclaim their faith from those who have so violently hijacked it.

I have been listening to an audiobook by a Catholic popularizer of contemporary scholarship, who specializes in Islamic history, Robert Spencer. Listening to The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion has been a challenging experience. Spencer notes that while some Koranic texts do suggest that in Muhammad’s early career, the prophet did seek to promote peace, the story of his later life suggests a more complicated, and much darker story. According to Spencer, the theology of jihad, or “struggle,” was used to justify violence against Jews, Christians, and others who resisted Muhammad’s message towards the end of his prophetic career. This tradition is still appealed to today by the followers of extreme Islamic groups, such as ISIS, who are demonstrating their commitment to erase Christian believers from much of Syria and Iraq.

Karen Armstrong, who champions efforts to bring peace between different religious traditions, and who wrote her own book about the life of Muhammad, begins her review of Spencer’s book this way, “Like any book written in hatred, his new work is a depressing read. Spencer makes no attempt to explain the historical, political, economic and spiritual circumstances of 7th-century Arabia, without which it is impossible to understand the complexities of Muhammad’s life.”  Spencer, the intellectual force behind JihadWatch.org, and no stranger to visceral public debate, responds with:

“Reading this, I doubt Armstrong actually read the book. Or maybe she just wants to make sure no one else reads it.” (retrieved from jihadwatch.org).

So, which narrative is correct? Is Islam a religion of peace, or a religion of violence?

Strangely, I know many Christians who never give much thought to the study of religious history, considering the matter to be of little consequence to their daily lives. Yet I would contend that such ignorance provides little consolation to the families of those who lost loved ones during the 911 attacks, or to the millions of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS, looking for sanctuary in Western countries in our current time.

Lurking behind this debate over Islam is the debate among Christians as to the history of violence even in the Bible. I have been studying the Book of Joshua for the past few weeks, and I am struck by the message that God gave to Joshua to drive the Canaanites out of the land, and to claim the ancient land promise given to Abraham and his descendants (see these Veracity posts on Christian Zionism). Here are some vital questions for believers today:

  • Is the Book of Joshua a justification of ethnic genocide, or was it a directive by God to execute judgment against the wickedness of the Canaanites? Would God ever command Christians to do the same today?
  • What does it mean to “trust God” in the face of evil and wickedness, and to what extent are believers to engage in combating such evil and wickedness?
  • What should be our priority, sharing our faith with non-believers, or doing what we can to prevent or restrain acts of violence?

Such questions require thoughtful consideration by Christians. The questions are complicated because people are complicated. For example, while it is surely true that Islamic extremists threaten with acts of violence, the vast majority of Muslims regard their faith as essentially peaceful. Islam is not a monolithic movement. But should our view of Islamic extremism cause us to love our Muslim friends and neighbors any less? I hope not. I hope that we as believers would make the sharing of our faith, the Good News of the Gospel, our highest priority.

Where do we go to sort out these things? For me, I have been strongly encouraged by the testimony of Nabeel Qureshi. Qureshi grew up in high school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in a family of Muslims who belong to an Islamic sect that strongly believe Islam to be a religion of peace. Yet when Qureshi attended Old Dominion University, he met a Christian friend who challenged his understanding of Islam. After several years of friendly, yet intense, back and forth dialogue, Nabeel Qureshi became a follower of Jesus. Over the years, Qureshi has had a powerful ministry with Ravi Zacharias, encouraging other Muslims to reconsider their understanding of Islam and consider afresh the claims of Christianity. Below is a five minute clip where Qureshi addresses the tough questions (PLEASE NOTE: Nabeel Qureshi recently announced that he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and his survival chances over the next few years is quite low. Please pray for him and his family).


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