Which Bible Translation is Good for Beginners?

From Kim….

I discovered you on YouTube, by watching some of your Q & A videos. I would like to read and study the bible for the first time, but I’m not sure which translation is best. Which translation(s) do you recommend for beginners? Thank you for your time.

There are different kinds of Bible translation. Some are more literal, some are more of a paraphrase. It’s impossible to perfectly translate a lot of text from one language to another. There is always nuance or a range of meaning that gets lost along the way.

In addition, language is a moving target. Vocabulary and words change over time.

When it comes to English Bible translations, here are some thoughts:

My preferred translation is the New King James Version.

The ESV is also good – but I do prefer the NKJV.

A good Bible translation for beginners is the New Living Translation.

There are some bad (or at least questionable) Bible translations.

  • Bad: New World Translation
  • Bad: Passion Translation
  • Questionable: The Message Translation

Understand that no Bible translation is perfect – understand the different strengths and weaknesses of the translations you would like to use.

So, what Bible translation is good for a new believer or a beginner to the Christian faith?

  • New Living Translation
  • New King James Version

Will everyone who makes it to heaven through faith in Jesus hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

That’s a great question. To be honest, it’s a question I haven’t specifically considered before. My first impression would simply to be say, No. There are some people whom the New Testament describes as believers, who are destined for heaven, but who will be saved by the skin of their teeth. The New Testament also describes some believers who seemingly sin in a way that sort of ends their usefulness on earth, and God brings them home to heaven. So no, not every person who makes it to heaven will cross the finish line gloriously. Not everyone who makes it to heaven will be in fact, a good and faithful servant. Some people will barely make it.

So, what do we do with this? Well, we recognize that the Bible talks about the judgment seat of Christ. At the end of the age, we as believers will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ, where we will be judged according to what we have done or not done for God in this world. We’re not specifically told in the Scriptures that everyone will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But my first reaction is that there will be some who are barely saved.

Now, it’s better to be barely saved and to make it to heaven, than to not make it to heaven at all. Of course, it’s infinitely better. But we should recognize that the Scriptures, at least from time to time, do motivate us by the idea of reward waiting for us in heaven for honoring God.

Are extra-terrestrials referred to in the Bible?

No, extra-terrestrials are not mentioned in the Bible, unless someone wants to consider angelic or demonic beings as extraterrestrials. We would categorize both angels and demons under the general heading of angelic beings because a demon is a fallen angel. Angelic beings, whether they are faithful or fallen, are beings from another dimension and existence, and they come to and interact in our world.

Beyond that, the Bible makes no mention of extra-terrestrials on earth or in the universe.

There are some people who think that modern encounters with extraterrestrials are encounters with demonic beings from another dimension, and that it’s all calculated to deceive people by some purpose of Satan. That’s certainly a possibility, but it’s not something I want to get into right now.

I would just say that the Bible makes no mention of extraterrestrials or beings which live on other planets or in other parts of the universe, unless we want to consider angelic beings, whether they be faithful or fallen, to be extraterrestrials themselves. Except for angels and demons, the Bible is silent about this topic.

How do you balance a relationship with God and the study of the Scripture?

My immediate answer is to say that there is no balance between them because they’re not at differing ends of the spectrum, balancing each other out. That’s not how I think of my study the Scriptures. My study of the Scriptures is a very vital, living, and exciting part of my relationship with God. I never get tired of talking about this.

One reason why I love studying the Bible so much is because I experience deep fellowship with God in my study of the Bible. It’s not the only place where I experience deep fellowship with God. I can experience deep fellowship with God in prayer, in worship, in hearing the Word of God preached, in the receiving of communion at the Lord’s table, and in my own personal time with the Lord. So, there are many ways, but my own time in the Scriptures is a deep and meaningful way in which I fellowship with God.

It is possible for a person to become so consumed with merely the academic study of the Word of God, that they really give no place for a real and vital relationship with God. This has always been a problem. It was a problem in the days of Jesus, the Messiah. The scribes and the Pharisees, these religious leaders who for the most part opposed Jesus and His mission, were men who knew the Bible forwards and backwards, but they didn’t really know God. If they had known God, they would never have rejected the perfect representation of God, Jesus Christ Himself. So, it is possible for somebody to pursue knowing the Bible in a detached way, so that they miss the God of the Bible. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

My time in God’s Word is of rich and wonderful benefit. I hope the same can be true for you as well. In a way, that’s part of what I do with my whole life and ministry, and the effort I make in writing my commentary throughout the whole Bible and making it available in many different languages. The end goal is not to create a bunch of Bible experts, but to bring people into meaningful fellowship with God in and through His Word. Jesus meets me in His Word, and I want other people to experience that as well.

Should we as Christians celebrate Halloween?

Should we as Christians celebrate Halloween? Or is that holiday satanic and should be avoided?

There are undeniable dark, and occult, and satanic connections to Halloween, and for that reason, there are many believers who will have nothing to do with it in any way. However, we must admit that the modern celebration of Halloween has little or nothing to do with those occult or satanic or dark connections. Certainly you can find people who commemorate Halloween in a dark, occult, satanic way, but for many people, especially families, Halloween is about pumpkins, and candy, and dressing up in costume.

The origins of Halloween are distinct enough from many of the modern practices of Halloween, that I believe this is a matter left up to the individual Christian conscience. I would not as a pastor compel somebody one way or another. I certainly wouldn’t say you must celebrate Halloween; God forbid. But neither would I exercise church discipline on somebody who did celebrate Halloween, in the same way that church discipline might be exercised on somebody who unrepentantly practices some satanic ritual. That would be somebody liable for church discipline, maybe even eventually to be cast out of the church or excommunicated from that particular church body.

But I believe that there’s enough variation between the two that this is a matter left up to the individual Christian conscience. And I would just simply say, believers, seek the Lord. Fathers, God has appointed you as priest in your family, as a head of your home; seek the Lord and decide before Him as to whether God would allow you to do it or not. And if you feel God gives you the permission to do it, then just celebrate Halloween in a way that is detached from any of its occult or satanic or dark associations and origin. I think that can be done.

I believe this is a matter of Christian conscience, and not something we can bind other believers regarding. Now, I don’t mind Christians making a passionate case about why they think we should not commemorate Halloween in any way. If somebody wants to make that argument, fine. But ultimately, it’s going to be up to the individual believer. That’s my perspective on it. I’m sure other people have different perspectives.

What does Genesis 24:2 mean, where it speaks about placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh?

The opinion of Bible commentators on this is not universal. But according to some commentators, this was a vow made, where Abraham’s servant would make the vow by reaching underneath Abraham in some position, either symbolically or literally, and placing his hand on or near the testicles of Abraham. I know we read this and think, good heavens, how can I say such a thing? Well, again, that’s because of what some commentators believe regarding this, but let me just clear this up.

The reason why some people think such a vow would be made is because it was connected very much to the descendants of Abraham, what you might call the seed of Abraham. And since it had a procreative association, this vow related to the procreative ability of Abraham. Now, I want to stress that by no means is this a universally accepted understanding of that passage. But I would say that it probably has more going for it than many other understandings of the passage. As far as I can tell, that seems to make the best sense of it.

It obviously recognized a very solemn, serious vow connected with the potential descendants of Abraham. And that’s why the vow would be made in that manner. Whether it was an actual touching of that particular part of Abraham’s body or merely a symbolic reference to it, I think more likely it was a symbolic reference to it. But there are many things which seem strange to us but were part and parcel of the ancient world.

What’s the best way for a beginner to learn the meaning of Scripture for Bible study?

My answer is going to be right up front. I have a written commentary on the entire Bible. Many everyday Christians use it as part of their daily Bible reading. My Bible commentary is available entirely for free at enduringword.com or at Blue Letter Bible, blb.org; I’m one of many different Bible commentators on that site.

People will read a chapter from the Bible, then go to my commentary and read through it again. It helps them gain understanding. We receive wonderful emails, sometimes even from young teenagers, who are grateful for the Bible resources we offer.

Our resources are clear and easy to understand. At the same time, I believe that they take the Bible seriously enough to be a benefit even to those who are well studied in the Scriptures, who have been pastors or preachers or Bible teachers for many decades.

So, use a good Bible commentary. Since I’m answering your question, I would recommend to you my own Bible commentary. That’s an excellent way to gain understanding of the Bible. Now, some people are better audio learners; it might be helpful for them to watch a YouTube video going through the Scriptures, or listen to a podcast or recorded teaching. You can do that on my YouTube channel where we’re recording this Live Q&A. For example, I have a new video series of verse-by-verse study through the book of Psalms available right now on YouTube. I think we’re currently part of the way through Psalm 119. We release a new video each week, and we’ll probably be releasing these Psalms studies for another several more months before we finish the book. Good verse-by-verse teaching is another great way for you to learn how to look at the Scriptures. Observe what the Scripture says, interpret what it says, according to good interpretive rules, and then apply it to your life.

Was the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew prior to being written in Greek?

No, I believe there is virtually no evidence for that. The kind of evidence necessary to prove that would be a very early manuscript of a New Testament book in Hebrew. But we just don’t find these. There is virtually zero manuscript evidence for that theory, such as manuscript evidence or even evidence from church tradition or teaching.

Now, there may be one exception to that. There is a little bit of evidence, though it’s not strong, for this theory. There are people who believe that Hebrews was a sermon preached by Paul the Apostle in Hebrew, or perhaps Aramaic, which Luke translated into Greek. Maybe, but there’s really no way of knowing. But there is virtually no evidence for the supposition that the entire New Testament was written book by book in Hebrew through the decades of the first century, and later translated into Greek.

Does Satan have a leash? Can he possess people against their free will?

Since demons have possessed people as seen in the Bible, it seems that the devil is not bound to respect our free will. Does God say more on this matter in His Word to us? Does Satan have a leash?

Satan definitely has a leash. Satan cannot do whatever he wants. There are boundaries placed on the activity of Satan by the sovereignty of God, and Satan can only operate within those boundaries. The devil is not God. He cannot do whatever he pleases. That’s the simple truth of the matter.

We don’t know exactly what might open a door for demonic possession. Honestly, the Scriptures aren’t clear on this. People suggest many things, such as occult activity or satanic worship; sometimes they suggest things that are thought to be harmless, like Ouija boards or tarot cards. Some people think that demons can gain an open door by associations with others who are demon possessed. Sometimes people think that there’s trauma which can be inflicted on a person that opens up a door to the demonic. People think that drug use can be a door to the demonic. These things are suggestions. We really don’t have firm biblical evidence that declares this to be so.

So yes, Satan is on a leash. And no, we don’t know with clarity and certainty what causes demonic possession. But isn’t it better for people to be safe? Listen, if you are an unbeliever, if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, have not surrendered to Him, have not put your faith in Him, have not repented of your sins, or don’t even know if there is a God, or are not yet a believer — I would still tell you not to get involved with occultic things. Don’t get involved with drugs or other things that are associated with the demonic realm. You may be opening doors to demonic possession that you don’t intend to open up. I can’t say that if a person does these things, they will certainly become demon possessed. But these are things that I think at least create a risk for demonic possession. And that’s a risk that no one really should take at all, of course.

Does the Bible say anything about the destiny of those who have deathbed salvation experiences?

The Bible certainly says something about their destiny. It says that they’re going to heaven. Consider this: there is one deathbed conversion in the Bible. I regard that one deathbed conversion to be the thief on the cross, who, in the last hour of his life, called out to Jesus and said, “Lord, receive me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” The thief went to the same heaven where somebody who served Jesus faithfully for 80 years goes. Now, we may not say that’s fair, but it’s a marvel of God’s grace. As we discussed earlier today, it may be that a person who repents on their deathbed really has no reward, or very little reward in heaven. But there is one clear deathbed conversion in the Bible and that man went to the same heaven where everybody else goes.

One older commentator explained it like this: There is only one deathbed conversion in the Bible, so that no one would presume; but there is one deathbed conversion in the Bible, so that no one would despair. In other words, if there’s only one, don’t assume that you’re going to have the time; don’t put off salvation until your deathbed. There’s only one instance of that in the Bible, so that no one would presume. But there is one deathbed conversion in the Bible, so that no one would despair.

Friends, don’t presume before you ever approach your deathbed. Put your faith in Jesus Christ now, repent of your sin, turn away from sin and self, and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Trust in who He is, and what He did, especially what He did at the cross and in His resurrection. He paid the penalty you deserved, to set you free from the powers of darkness and fear. Put your faith in Jesus Christ today. Don’t wait until your deathbed. But in the case that someone might be listening to me from their deathbed, you can trust in Jesus Christ today and be saved.

How can we share the gospel to an atheist? What do they believe happens after they die?

Virtually every atheist believes that nothing happens after death. You simply cease to exist. There is no life after death. I can’t think of a single atheist I know who believes in life after death. I think most people who believe in reincarnation believe in some God or other.

But an atheist believes that when a person dies, that’s it. There is nothing beyond this life. There’s a very real sense in which that means this life is meaningless and fundamentally unjust. They believe there is no ultimate justice in the universe. If there is no life after this life, if there is no final judgment of God, and settling of all things according to His righteousness, then the terrible abuser in this life, who dies without ever having to pay the full penalty of what he inflicted upon others, gets away with it in every sense. What a terrible thing to think about. Anybody who loves justice should believe in God and believe in the concept of life after death.

How would you share the gospel with them? Listen, they may not believe in God, but you do. Just speak to them very naturally about your own faith, and about what the Bible says about the God who really is. We sometimes feel like we must change everything about what we believe or how we speak, when we speak to somebody who believes differently than we do. Oftentimes we need only to share our faith openly, enthusiastically, and let them see the light that shines within us.

Why are more people holding to the post-Tribulation rapture view today?

I don’t know if I have firm evidence of that, but I think what you say may very well be the case. It is possible that more people today believe in theories of a post-Tribulation catching-away, or Rapture, of the Church. If we assume that’s true, I think these things come in and out of fashion. Therefore, we shouldn’t believe these things only because it’s fashionable, or only because somebody else teaches it. We should do our own research.

I can tell you many notable Bible scholars whose position agrees with mine concerning the End Times, eschatology, and the last things. They believe what I believe about the Millennium, the catching away of the church, and the nature and the existence of the kingdom of God on this earth. However, I would not say that I believe in these things because those people believe them. I’d like to think that to the best of my imperfect ability, I’ve gone to the Scriptures myself in order to discern them, and have come to my own Biblically-informed conclusions. Some of these things are cyclical in nature; they ebb and flow in popularity. That’s why we shouldn’t base our beliefs on such things merely because of their present popularity.

Was there a divine intervention in Portugal by the Virgin Mary where miracles occurred (known as the Miracle of Fatima)?

I haven’t researched this extensively; perhaps if I did, I would arrive at a different conclusion. But my immediate response to this is No, I don’t believe so. I don’t believe that it would be within the purpose and plan of God for Mary, the mother of Jesus, to continually appear on Earth. I think that these are often distractions that lead to idolatry of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Personally, I would not refer to as the Virgin Mary, because I don’t believe that she remained a virgin. I believe that Jesus had brothers and sisters; I think that’s what the Scriptures clearly state. Certainly, she was a virgin when she conceived Jesus; that was done by a miracle of God, not by the normal process of people having babies. But I do not believe that she remained a virgin the rest of her life, and the Scriptures do not teach that.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been made an idol by many people. I certainly wouldn’t accuse every Roman Catholic of idolatry when it comes to Mary, but certainly, it has been a problem among some Roman Catholics. And it’s something to address. That is what gives me a skepticism regarding these appearances that people talk about, whether they be Fatimah or others throughout history.