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Posts Tagged ‘church history’

Catechisms, Confessions and the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 2 Comments

What is the chief end of man?

I can attest that knowing the answer to this question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism has benefited me more than once over the past 20 years or so since I first learned it. The fact that my chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” realigns my thinking to see my life as God does. It is an unchanging truth based on biblical text that I have been able to stand on.

For all that benefit, I never took the time to learn any further points in the Westminster Catechism. Studying confessions and catechisms isn’t trendy in our churches today. I think that is to our detriment.

Perhaps it is too much work to wade through dry statements of belief or memorize them (as was done by previous generations). Or perhaps anything outside of the Bible text is of questionable value. However, our forefathers thought it worthwhile to formulate these various creeds and confessions for the purpose of outlining and passing on the faith. As such, their study is worth considering, especially if you are in the Reformed tradition.

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (SOTR) brings life to the study of these historical documents in two very helpful ways. First, by including the full text of several early confessions and catechisms: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Secondly, it ties the confessions and catechisms to the Bible text providing easy reference between the two and an alternative way to learn and use these documents of faith.

In the SOTR, the Bible text and the documents of faith are fully cross-referenced and the links are easy to use in PocketBible. The catechisms and confessions are published with references to the Bible verses in the footnotes. The direct biblical correlation is easy to cross-check. Even more valuable is the fact that the study notes include references back to related statements in the catechisms and confessions.

For example, as you are reading 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” the study note points you back to the question on “the chief end of man” in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Instead of wading through confessions and catechisms, you have the tenet as you are reading the applicable Scripture. You also see where the same issue is addressed in multiple documents. 1 Cor. 10:31 is cross-referenced to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism. The integration of the two provides an easier and perhaps more memorable way to become familiar with these important documents.

The spirit behind the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (SOTR) is a major revision and expansion of an earlier publication titled the New Geneva Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995). That study Bible was based on the NKJV text. The SOTR is based on the New International Version text.

Like its precursor, the SOTR’s study notes and theological articles are built on the Reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which affirms the unquestionable authority of the infallible and inerrant Old and New Testament Scriptures as originally given by divine inspiration.

The notes and articles included in the study Bible remain faithful to the system of theology represented in the historical confessions and catechisms. However, the authors recognize that the Holy Spirit has continued to bring reformation to the church. Through the Spirit’s illumination many helpful insights into Scripture have come to be widely endorsed by those who have remained faithful to the central doctrinal perspectives of Reformed theology. In line with the claim that “the Reformed church is always reforming,” this study Bible reflects these developments where appropriate.

Like most study Bibles, each book of the Bible has an introduction with an outline of the book and information on author, dates of writing, etc. Each book also includes an article called Purposes and Distinctives that illuminates historical background, major theological themes and literary qualities.  Another unique feature for the Old Testament books is the “Christ in _________” section included in the introduction which explains how the person and/or work of Christ is anticipated in the book.

Over 100 theological articles are included with the applicable Bible book. For example, you’ll find an article on Major Covenants in the Bible with Genesis, The Glory of God: Who gets the Glory? with Ezekiel and Christian Liberty: How Free am I? with Romans.

The extensive study notes provided by the SOTR (over 20,000) offer comments on Scripture from a Reformed perspective along with the already mentioned links to the Confessions/Catechisms.

The editors and contributors for the study Bible reads like a “Who’s Who of Reformed Theology.” The General Editor is Richard L. Pratt, Jr. Th.D. (Reformed Theological Seminary). Theological editors were John M. Frame, M.Phil. (Reformed Theological Seminary) and J.I. Packer, D.Phil. (Regent College). Contributors include Tremper Longman III, Sinclair Ferguson, Wayne Grudem, Graeme Goldsworthy and many more.

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible is available for use with PocketBible on your smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac. The list price is $14.99. The New International Bible version text is sold separately for $9.99.

The Origin of the Bible

Posted on: January 15th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

The Origin of the BibleThis new PocketBible title from Tyndale House is an updated volume of the original classic by Philip Comfort. As the title suggests, The Origin of the Bible is a comprehensive guide to the origin and development of the Bible text, manuscripts, and canon. This updated edition (2102) provides a chapter on recent developments in Bible translation.

The book is divided into five sections. The first section, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” focuses on the Bible’s divine inspiration, lasting authority, and infallibility. The second section, “The Canon of the Bible,” reveals the processes that went into selecting the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament to be part of canonized Scripture. This section also has an essay on the Old Testament and New Testament apocrypha. The third section, “The Bible as Literary Text,” explains the literary background of the Bible and shows how the Bible is a literary masterpiece. The fourth section, “Bible Texts and Manuscripts,” describes the ancient biblical manuscripts that have been discovered and used in forming editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts. The fifth section, “Bible Translation,” provides information about the biblical languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) and Bible translation itself. In addition, this section gives a brief history of the English Bible and of other versions in many languages. The articles in each section were written by Bible scholars addressing their area of expertise (i.e. Leland Ryken on the Bible as Literature).

The Origin of the Bible requires PocketBible for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, PocketBible for Mac OS X, PocketBible for Windows Phone, PocketBible for Android, PocketBible for Windows Store, PocketBible for Windows PC or MyBible for Palm OS. The list price is $9.99.

Is Your Bible “Missing” Verses?

Posted on: January 13th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 20 Comments

We occasionally receive reports from PocketBible users that a PocketBible Bible is missing a verse (or verses). These “errors” are usually discovered in a group Bible study situation. Following along as someone else reads, you realize that a verse appears to be missing in your Bible. But in this case, there is more to this than meets the eye.

What are these “missing” verses and why are they missing?

The numbering scheme for verses in the English Bible was first used in the Geneva Bible in the year 1560. This pattern was followed in subsequent English translations including the King James Version, published first in 1611. In the years since these Bibles were translated, many additional manuscripts have been found which predate those used by the translators of the Geneva and King James Bibles. Because of their age, these older manuscripts are believed by many scholars to more accurately represent the original documents. In many cases, however, they do not include all the verses that are in the more recent manuscripts.

Translations such as the New International Version, Revised Standard Version, and other newer translations take advantage of these more recently discovered manuscripts and therefore do not include all of the verses found in the older translations. Rather than reinventing a numbering scheme for the whole Bible, the translators decided to use the same verse numbers as the older Bibles but leave the missing verses blank (or move them into footnotes). The result of this is that several verses in these newer translations appear to be “missing”.

The affected verses are:

  • Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14
  • Mark 7:16; 9:44,46; 11:26; 15:28
  • Luke 17:36; 23:17
  • John 5:4
  • Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29
  • Romans 16:24

For the Revised Standard Version, in addition to the above list, there are other verses and points of interest:

  • Matthew 12:47; 21:44
  • Luke 22:43,44
  • The order of Exodus 22 in printed form is 1, 4, 2, 3, 5. PocketBible displays these verses in numeric order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  • James 1:7,8 was combined in verse 7 leaving 8 blank. 3 John 14 was split into 14 and 15.

Another point of view

Some are quick to jump on the idea that the newer translations are removing text from God’s Word and therefore are not to be trusted. It is important to note that it could just as correctly be argued that the older translations added text to God’s Word. Where one comes down on this argument depends on the nature of one’s own research, or on which scholars one decides to trust. We’ve determined it’s best to present a variety of options to you so that you can come to your own conclusions when choosing the Bible (or Bibles) that you find to be the most beneficial to your own spiritual growth.

If you enjoy learning about the history of the Bible, consider the PocketBible book: The Origin of the Bible by Philip Comfort.

The Trail of Blood: Following the Christians Down Through the Centuries

Posted on: September 15th, 2013 by Craig Rairdin No Comments

Back when I was at Parsons Technology in the late 80’s and 90’s I was attending a Baptist church. Somewhere along the way I picked up a copy of this little booklet — probably at a Jack Hyles or Curtis Hudson revival meeting. The Trail of Blood is a history of the church starting with the church in Jerusalem through the present day (well, through the early 1930’s, which is when it was written). What’s interesting about it is that it lays out ten or twelve distinctive doctrines that the author identifies as characteristic of Bible-believing Christianity and follows those doctrines — not the dominant churches of the day.

Whether you attend a Baptist church, consider yourself basically “baptistic” in doctrine, or are just interested in church history, this is an interesting book. I happened to think of it the other day, contacted the copyright owner, and discovered that it has recently passed into the public domain. So I quickly tagged it for PocketBible.

The Trail of Blood suggests that it was the Catholic church that split from the “true church” and points out that Protestant churches didn’t so much rise out of traditional Christian doctrine but rather Catholic doctrine, and that Catholics and Protestants together persecuted those who held to the doctrines that the author believes Paul and the early church would be most comfortable with.

Admittedly, this is a controversial title. (That’s why we didn’t make it free — so it wouldn’t show up automatically in everyone’s download account.) Obviously by suggesting that Catholics and Protestants are branches of the same, doctrinally flawed stock, he will offend most of Christendom. And contemporary scholars with access to more recent archaeological discoveries and historical documents would challenge his characterizations of some early groups of Christians. But the concept is an interesting one to consider and certainly worth dropping a dollar on to learn more. The historical chart it includes, showing the “trail of blood” through the centuries, is worth at least that much.

If it bothers you, skip it. But I think many of you would find it fascinating. In my case, while I no longer fellowship with a Baptist church, it was very formative of my understanding of the transmission of truth through the centuries.

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