Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why are there so many different Bible translations?

Often times an individual will decide they need a new Bible. Maybe the one they have had since childhood has worn out or they just are ready for a change. A person decides to go to their local bookstore to buy a new Bible and they are quickly inundated with numerous different translations to choose from. King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard version etc. The shopper wonders to him/herself, “why are their so many different English Bibles?” A person may assume that all English Bibles are the same, but they learn quickly that this is not the case. This post will provide a couple of reasons why this is so.

Reason #1 - The Constantly Changing English Language. 

Below is a quote from the King James Bible (Hebrews 1:2) from the year 1611. 
“Hath in these last dayes spoken vnto vs by his Sonne, whom he hath appointed heire of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”
This not way English sounds today, the language has changed over time. As language continually changes, there will always be a need for newer translations. Words will often change meaning. Publishers are aware of this, so new translations are always being formed. The Bible has not changed, but the language it has been translated into has. 

Reason #2 - Philosophy of Translation

Different translations are designed to meet different goals. Most would say that they desire a literal word for word translation. The sentence structure in Greek or Hebrew, however, is different than English. Because of this difference, translators have to decide how “literal” they want to translate a passage.

Another consideration when forming a Bible translation, is the level of readability. At times, when striving for accuracy, readability will suffer. Some translations are written at level for children and others are written for the highly educated. 

Translations will differ depending on whether or not they are a “paraphrase”. A paraphrase is more or less a summary of a passage into English rather than a true translation. Each type of translation has its place, and thus there are many different English Bibles.

Which Bible Should I use?  (Taken from a previous post)

A quick google search for a "Bible Version Chart" will give one a basic understanding of the different versions and their philosophy of translation (some philosophies of translation are better than others for study).

When seeking out an English translation for personal study, I recommend a version that is accurate (preferably a word for word translation) and readable (preferably in modern English).

You have  3 different types of translations (In order from most accurate to least). 
  • 1. Word for Word
  • 2. Thought for Thought 
  • 3. Paraphrase. 

I only recommend "Word for Word" translations. "Thought for thought" and "paraphrased" Bibles are great for comparisons, but not for deep study of the Word. The most popular Bible in America is The New International Version. The NIV claims to strive for "a balance between word for word and thought for thought". Although a very popular translation, one would be better served using a "Word for Word" translation as their primary study Bible and save the others for casual or personal devotional type reading.

The most common "Word for Word" translations in use today are the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). One would not be doing themselves a disservice in choosing any of these translations. 

Of the "Word for Word" translations available, the three I recommend (in this order) are: 
  • 1. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 Update). 
  • 2. The English Standard Version (ESV).
  • 3.The New King James Version (NKJV).
    • (These 3 versions successfully balance accuracy with readability).

Due to its older English, I do not usually recommend the King James Version to new Bible students and I have not spent enough time in the Holman Christian Standard Bible to offer a recommendation as of yet.

My primary study and preaching Bible is the New American Standard Bible, which I will often cross reference with the English Standard Version. - These versions are the ones I will usually give to a new Christian or recommend for a person to purchase (The New King James in a very close 3rd).
Side Note: I recommend that you also familiarize yourself with the many free electronic tools available today. You can download many great Bible apps for your smartphone (this way you can study wherever you go). I have an ESV app on my iPhone by Crossway publishers that is free and very easy to use. There are many other apps that contain multiple versions.  When on my computer I will often use or These sites are free and contain all of the common English versions plus dictionaries and more.

Remember the best Bible is the one you read! Spend time in the Word of God... it will change your life. 

By Cliff Sabroe

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Was Jonah swallowed by a fish or a whale?

Children in Sunday school have debated this question for many years. Was the creature that swallowed Jonah a fish or a whale? The text of the book of Jonah reads,
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17 ESV).
The aforementioned verse usually satisfies the curiosity of most students, and they are left with the conclusion that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and not a whale. We are taught in school that fish are not mammals... but whales are. In modern biology there is a distinctive difference between a “fish”and a “whale”.

Skeptics, however, are quick to point out that in the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus does not call the creature a “fish” but a whale”. It reads.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40) (Note: Most other english translations use the word “fish and not “whale”).
What do the dictionaries say?
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Often times there is more than a one word translation of a term into English, and at times there is not even an equivalent term. 

The Hebrew word for “fish” in (Jonah 1:17) is the Hebrew term “dag” and according to the (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon), the word “fish” is an accurate translation. 

In Matthew, when Jesus speaks of this event, the word translated “whale” in the KJV is the Greek word “ketos” which according to (Thayer’s Lexicon) can mean “sea-monster, whale, huge fish”. 

Are we asking questions the text is not intended to answer?
Yes, the book of Jonah is not a book on the Animal Kingdom (nor is the book of Matthew). Our modern classification of animals was not around at that time. Although we make a big difference between a Whale Shark and Humpback Whale, they most likely would have not. When the book of Jonah uses the term “fish” (Hebrew - dag), we cannot definitively say that it would exclude aquatic mammals like a whale, and we cannot say with certainty whether or not the Greek word “ketos” that Jesus used, meant “whale” or “fish” 

We do not know for sure what swallowed Jonah. Did it have gills or a blowhole? We will most likely never know. All we know, is that a big creature in the ocean swallowed him...and later vomited him up on the shore (Jonah 2:10).

By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is masturbation a sin?

This question was submitted by email. Remember you can submit in questions anytime to All email correspondence is private and will not be shared. 

Although many are afraid to ask, this is a question that most have. Is masturbation sinful?

Answer: It can be, but it depends on the situation in which it occurs. Usually when one engages in self-stimulation they are also having lustful fantasies (sometimes accompanied by pornography or other stimulating images). This is sinful, and in our modern internet age, with the ready availability of pornography, this problem and temptation afflicts many. 
(NOTE: If you are struggling with an addiction to pornography, please confess this struggle to one you are close too, have them help keep you accountable and please install filtering software on your computer to help protect you and others who may use it. You may not be able to overcome this temptation on your own, allow others to help you).
Jesus said in (Matthew 5:28):
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. 
The fantasy and lust that accompanies masturbation is sinful, thus a person should not engage in that behavior.

Are their any times when masturbation would not be sinful?

Answer: Yes, their are a few times I can think of when masturbation would not be sinful. 
  • A child or a mentally challenged person sometimes will engage in self-stimulation out of ignorance and innocence. This would not be sinful, but it would be wise to discourage it. 
  • A husband and wife may choose to engage in masturbation as part of a mutual married sex act. If the fantasy is for one’s spouse, and together you are engaging in this behavior, it would not be sinful and may be used as part of an active married sex life. 
  • A man may be required to provide a semen sample to a Doctor for medical reasons. In this case self-stimulation would most likely be permissible as long as one does not engage in inappropriate fantasy or views pornographic materials in doing so.

Conclusion: Although the Bible does not specifically condemn masturbation, lust is strongly condemned! Most of the time when one is masturbating they are viewing inappropriate material (like pornography), or fantasying about engaging in a sinful behavior (like sex with someone or someone in the nude). Lust makes masturbation sinful. 
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15)

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from ESV Bible)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How does one become a member of a church? Does church membership matter?

Before this question can be answered, some terms need to be clarified and defined. 

What does the word “church” mean?

The word “church” in its most simple and literal sense means “assembly or gathering”.  Often times people will say “I am going to church”, when they are talking about attending the assembly. The word church is at times in reference to a local body of believers like the churches mentioned in the beginning of the book of Revelation (such as  “the church of Ephesus”). 

The word “church” may also be in reference to the universal body of Christians in all locations. This is what is being referred to in passages like (Ephesians 5:25) where Jesus is said to have died for the church, or in (Colossians 1:18) where Jesus is called the “head of the church”. 

When does one become a member of the church?

Once you believe in Jesus (John 8:24), change your life/Repent (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), God saves you by His grace and adds you to HIS CHURCH (Acts 2:41,47).
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A person does not “join” the church, but instead, at the moment of their salvation, God adds them to the church. For a person to say they are a Christian, but not a member of the church, would be an impossibility. 

What about local church membership?

The Bible does not specifically outline how a person becomes part of a local congregation. It would be assumed that one would assemble regularly with the people who brought him or her to Christ. It is important for an individual to be part of a local congregation in order to be spiritually shepherded and encouraged.

What if you move to a new town? Can one choose to not be a member of any church?

The Bible is full of examples of how local churches are to function. You do not have Christians ever mentioned as living in a specific locale and refusing to gather with other Christians (except for those “forsaking the assembly” in Hebrews 10:25). 

Elders are to help shepherd a local flock of Christians. How could this happen if one is not part of a local congregation? The Bible mentions a church gathering together and trying a restore a lost brother (Matthew 18). This could not happen if one is not part of a local church. The church is to raise up elders from its membership. If a local church had no members, this would be impossible (1 Timothy 3). A local congregation is to reach out and meet the needs of widows (1 Timothy 5). This would not be possible without local church members working together as one. The church functions because each member depends on one another. 

There is not set way that a person “places membership” in a congregation, however, it is needed for a person to let a congregation know that they desire to be at that location full-time. Some congregations have you fill out a “getting to know you” type form, others have you stand and introduce yourself to the congregation, while others just list your name in the directory. However it is done, the leadership of a church does need to know who they should expect at services. It is important for ministry coordinators to know who they can call on to staff programs. Being an active member of a local congregation of the Lord’s church is very important to one’s spiritual growth.

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Should Christians celebrate Christmas? What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday? Is Christmas a religious or a secular holiday?

This post will attempt to present a Biblical view of the Christmas holiday as well as answer many of the questions that believers have this time of year.

Is December 25th Jesus’ Birthday?
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not give a date for the Nativity. This author is of the conclusion that the time of the Savior's birth is more likely to have occurred in Spring instead of the Winter. Luke 2:8 reads:
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8)
Most scholars note that shepherds guarded their flocks day and night only at lambing time, which would be in the spring. In winter the animals were kept in corrals unwatched. In the early years of the church you do not have any mention of a celebration in relation to the birth of the Messiah. 

What is the origin of the Christmas holiday?
When “Christmas” was first celebrated is up for debate as well as when was December 25th first designated as the date of the Nativity. Concerning this point Dan Graves at writes:
No one knows for sure on what day Christ was born. Dionysus Exiguus, a sixth century monk, who was the first to date all of history from December 25th, the year of our Lord. Other traditions gave dates as early as mid-November or as late as March. How did Christmas come to be celebrated on December 25th? Cultures around the Mediterranean and across Europe observed feasts on or around December 25th, marking the winter solstice. The Jews had a festival of lights. Germans had a yule festival. Celtic legends connected the solstice with Balder, the Scandinavian sun god who was struck down by a mistletoe arrow. At the pagan festival of Saturnalia, Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor. Drinking was closely connected with these pagan feasts. At some point, a Christian bishop may have adopted the day to keep his people from indulging in the old pagan festival.
There is good evidence that the Christmas holiday was formed in order to serve as a “Christian” alternative to pagan celebrations.

Does God require us to celebrate Christmas? 

*POINT: There are NO set days in Christianity that God Requires us to Observe other than Sunday.

Multiple passages (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10) teach that Sunday is a holiday for the Lord. During Bible times there were individuals who were trying to coerce Christians into celebrating holidays brought over from Judaism but Paul rebukes them for trying to require something that God does not and tells the Christians to not allow these individuals to pass judgment on them.
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” -  (Col. 2:16-17)
Some Christians choose to not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday or not even at all. They should not feel “pressured” into celebrating a certain day. No one has the right to religiously bind on others any special day carried over either from pagan practice, or an expired divine religion (i.e. Judaism).  Christians should not let themselves be pressured to conform. Do not feel pressured to keep any “day” just because someone says you should.

Is it ok to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday? What about keeping secular  Christmas traditions?

The Bible makes it clear that it is acceptable for Christians emphasize certain days (for religious reasons or not) as long as they do not violate two rules. 
  • #1 - Nothing sinful is done during the celebration (such as worshiping an idol - Galatians 4:8-11).
  • #2 - That the day is not bound upon nor required of others (Romans 14:5-6)

One may choose to make up there own special days or even utilize ones that were left over from religious practices (As is the case in Romans 14). According to Romans 14, it would be wrong for me to demand that others celebrate the day with me, but it would also be wrong if brethren condemned me for celebrating such a day. An individual may even choose to take a certain day and use it to remember an event in Scripture (as many do with the birth of Jesus in December). 

Many Christians understand that there are a lot of false ideas about Jesus presented during Christmas time. Because of this, some choose to just celebrate Christmas as a “national” or “secular” holiday. Celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday and not a religious one would also be Biblically acceptable.  As a Christian I have the Scriptural right to celebrate secular events and days as well as long as the celebration does not cause me to engage in sinful behavior.

Some individuals have a problem with certain holiday traditions that have their origin in pagan practices (if it violates their conscious, they should not do it). There is nothing wrong with engaging in behavior that had its origins in a false practice as long as you yourself are not engaging in any sinful behavior. The name of our day of the week “Thursday” comes from the word “Thor” (the Norse God of Thunder). In fact the name “Thursday” means “Day of Thor”. To use that name today is not an endorsement of pagan religion. (The same would go for Easter Eggs or Christmas Trees). 

  • If a Christian chooses to engage in the traditional Christmas activities, that is his or her right.
  • If a Christian chooses not to, because it violates their conscience (because of its Religious or Pagan roots) that is his or her Scriptural right.
  • Even if a Christian chooses personally to remember the birth of Jesus on December 25th without teaching something the Scriptures do not teach, that is his or her choice
  • No one has the right to condemn either person because of them choosing to or to not esteem certain days.
Final Thoughts:
  • It may be wise to not do certain things that give the impression that you believe that December 25th is Jesus Birthday. 
  • One should also use caution with “Christmas Songs”. Some teach things that are false and offer worship that God is not pleased with.
  • Don’t get overly preoccupied with correcting everybody who does believe that December 25th is the exact day Jesus was born, their interest in Jesus may serve as an opportunity for sharing the Gospel.
Jesus is the Reason for Every Season:
Jesus birth was a miraculous event no matter what day it happened. It fulfilled many prophecies and proved His Deity. It is a marvelous event because Jesus would ultimately “…save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus was born, lived, and died to save mankind. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Citations from NASB and

Thursday, November 20, 2014

During the time of the Old Testament, did the Gentiles have to become Jews in order to be saved?

It was possible for a Gentile to become what is called a “Proselyte Jew” (a convert to Judaism). If a Gentile wanted to partake in the actions of the Jewish nation they would need to keep all the requirements of the covenant. In the book of Exodus it reads,
But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you. (Exodus 12:48-49)
Was Gentile conversion to Judaism necessary for salvation?

No... although a Gentile could convert (in part) to Judaism, it was not a necessity. The Jewish nation was a family that could trace its roots back to Abraham. A Gentile could never do that. God made a special covenant, with a special family, in order to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. 

The Jews were never commanded to convert the nations (ie. the Gentiles). Nothing in the Old Testament speaks of Jewish evangelistic outreach toward the Gentiles. Also, the Gentiles were never commanded to become Jews in order to be saved. Before the formation of the Israelite people there were opportunities for people (non-Jews) to be saved. One would assume that such a policy would remain until the time of Christ.

Jonah was a Hebrew prophet. He was told to go to Nineveh (a Gentile city) and tell them to repent. They repented and were spared. There is nothing said about the citizens of Nineveh becoming Proselyte Jews. 

Also, in the letter to the Romans, Paul makes this statement,
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16).
The Gentiles had a law written on their conscience that God held them accountable to. It was not the law of Moses, although parts of it were in alignment with it. 

Now, all people (Jew or Gentile) are accountable to the same message (the Gospel). Under the New Covenant, all people must follow Christ in order to be saved. This is what Paul declares in (Romans 1:16).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB. Image from 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is it ok to question my preacher or pastor? Should I just trust they are teaching the Truth?

Christians are to love all people, be kind to all and it is true that “love hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). This does not, however, mean that we should be naive, gullible or immediately believe everything we are taught. The New Testament makes it very clear that we are hold ourselves accountable to the Word and not just take a preacher’s word for it. If we are not careful it would be easy to be misled and end up being “...children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

We should question and examine!
Several passages of Scripture teach us to examine what we are being taught.
(Acts 17:10-11) “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” 
The Christians in Berea were being taught by the Apostle Paul, yet they still examined the Scriptures.
(1 John 4:1-3) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God...”
Some teach things that are false, John makes it clear that it is up to us to “test” what is being taught. He warns that there are “false prophets”.
(1 Thessalonians 5:20-22) “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil”.
At the end of his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul by inspiration tells them to not “despise” prophecies, but instead “test” them. If the message is good (ie. true to God’s will), “hold fast” to it. If a teaching is evil, “abstain” from it.

It is VERY biblical to question what you are being taught. This does not mean we assume that everyone is teaching something false, but instead we analyze everything we are being taught in light of Scripture. If what we are being taught by our teachers is biblical, then we should hold fast to it. If it is contrary to Scripture, we should reject it.

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from ESV Bible) (Image from