Online Bible Study Resources

October 8, 2021

I’ve been collecting Bible study resources since I was a teenager. I’ve purchased lots of books and electronic books over the years. But I also know what it is like starting out with very little to help you. I’ve pondered whether I could afford a particular book. So free online Bible study resources can be beneficial to people who don’t have a large library at their disposal. Here are a few that I like.

https://www.biblegateway.com

It allows you to read and search multiple translations including some foreign languages along with Greek and Hebrew. Some translations also have audio available. In the commentaries it also provides the IVP New Testament Commentary for free. They also have a paid level which grants access to other, newer commentaries.

https://biblehub.com/

Bible Hub has commentaries, concordances, dictionaries,
topical studies, Greek and Hebrew resources, and a way of viewing multi
translations at once. It also provides interlinear Bibles in Greek and Hebrew.

https://bibleproject.com

This site provides free videos on books of the Bible plus other topics. They are very well done and well worth looking at as you begin to study a book of the Bible or a specific topic.

https://www.biblestudytools.com

This site has online Bibles in various languages. It also has the Society for Biblical Literature’s Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, and Latin Vulgate. It can do parallel Bibles. It can do interlinear Bibles in the KJV and NASB. It has commentaries, concordance searches, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and topical Bibles. Check the site for a list of other resources.
Note: since this is free, the Bible study works will be older commentaries that
for the most part are in public domain.

https://biblia.com

Biblia is an online source by Faithlife (the company which makes Logos Bible Software). You can sign up for a free account and will receive access to a number of Bibles and resources. 

https://www.ccel.org Christian Classic Ethereal Library

A large site of public domain works of interest to Christians.

http://www.para-gospel.com

This site provides the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John side by side. It will display a variety of translations.

https://www.studylight.org/

Provides commentaries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and concordances.

https://bestcommentaries.com

Their tag line is rotten tomatoes for biblical studies. It is a review site for commentaries and other books in biblical studies. This can be a good site to check when considering what commentary you wish to buy. It will let you know whether the commentary is technical, pastoral, devotional, or special study. It will also give you an idea of the viewpoint of the author: critical, Roman Catholic, evangelical, Pentecostal, or Lutheran. It also lets you know whether the commentary is available in three major software packages: Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything on these sites. In fact, the owner’s of some of these sites state they don’t agree with everything on their site. But books provide the opportunity to think through passages with other students of the Bible. Test everything by scripture. Sola Scriptura!

These sites are worth exploring. May you be blessed in your study of the Bible.

— Russ Holden


Life on Loan

October 1, 2021

The parable was told in response to a request; a request that Jesus refuses. A man asks for Jesus to arbitrate an inheritance dispute. Having asked the rhetorical question who made me a judge or arbitrator over you, Jesus concludes with a warning: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15, ESV). Then Jesus tells the story of the rich fool.

The rich fool has a problem – a problem that many of us would like to have. He has so much that he is struggling with where to put it all. What do you give the man who has everything? Answer: storage containers. The rich man decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. That is where many modern readers struggle to understand the story. We hear the word barn and think a large, red wooden structure. Barns in the ancient world were often underground granaries that were plastered or bricked. “Tear down” likely refers “to the deliberate taking down of the barns in such a way that the material can still be used.” This rich man has abundance, and he plots a way to keep it all.

The parable gives the rich man’s inner dialogue.

 …and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ (Luke 12:17–19, ESV, emphasis added)

It is interesting to count the number of times the words, “I” and “my,” occur. If all the world’s a stage, this man acts if he is in a one man play.

But the rich fool has his exit. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:20, ESV). The word for “required” is interesting. It means to demand something back or as due as in the case of a loan. Jesus has given us the image that our life is on loan from God.

What happens when I view my life as on loan from God? It changes everything. My life, my time, and my resources are matters of stewardship. I will have to give an account. I must view things from God’s perspective and priorities.

This changed perspective makes the warnings understandable. The abundance of possessions is not the most important thing; God is most important. If I haven’t laid up treasures in heaven, I have nothing that will ultimately last. God will demand my life back someday. My life is on loan.

— Russ Holden


The Difficult Thing about Wisdom

September 24, 2021

The book of Proverbs was written to make us wise. Yet Proverbs itself indicates that more information is insufficient to produce wisdom. For example, wise words, a rebuke, and even a proverb on the lips of a fool may be to no avail.

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. Proverbs 23:9, ESV

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17:10, ESV

Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Proverbs 26:7, ESV

So what is so difficult about wisdom?

Proverbs lays the foundation for wisdom and identifies the difficult thing for us. We must trust God more than ourself. We must fear/respect/reverence God, so that we go His way rather than our way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV

More information won’t help if the attitude is wrong. It’s like the Tree of Life in the center of the garden all over again for each of us (see Genesis 3). Will we listen to God, or will we listen to our own lusts and the Serpent’s call?

Someone has noted the different approaches people take to the Bible, God’s word.

Some people accept none of it.
Many people accept part of it.
A few people accept all of it.

Some people live none of it.
Many people live part of it.
A few people live most of it.

Which approach describes you? It’s precisely at this point that Proverbs and the rest of the Bible challenges us. The difficult thing about wisdom is that it requires us to trust the Lord with all of our heart. The prerequisite for wisdom is faith.


The Bruise

September 16, 2021

I bruised myself. It was a deep purple bruise, the size of a half dollar on the inside of my right wrist. I wasn’t aware at the time, but I think I know what I was doing when I got it. Three days later I broke the fifth metatarsal bone in my left foot.

It took a week before I saw the orthopedic doctor for my foot. Although my foot hurt some, it was my right knee that was the most painful from walking as to protect my foot. I saw the orthopedic doctor in about a week and viewed the damage in an X-ray. He even took an X-ray of my old arthritic knee. An injection in my right knee helped that pain to go away in a few days. I was put in a boot for the duration. The bruise didn’t seem to get better for about two weeks. During that time I was pretty laid up with my foot and knee. The pain lessened at the end of my second week.

Then the bruise began to heal. It was slow at first, and then the evidence of the bruise began to disappear. And then the bruise was gone. I took comfort in the bruise. It was evidence of the God-given, healing properties of my body. The healing I could see on my wrist, I could trust was also going on in my foot.

Five weeks after the break, I am out of the boot with pain as my guide to activities. I saw the second X-ray, and it was much different than the first one. It reminded me of the body’s marvelous ability to heal. I had a retired dentist friend who I used to visit. He would always greet me with Psalm 139:14 “… for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And the psalm is true.

The broken foot gave me a couple of difficult weeks with the pain. I’ve faced difficulties before. But I’m also aware of the many blessings even in those difficult weeks. You can take comfort even in a bruise.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV)

— Russ Holden


Cain

September 10, 2021

What was wrong with Cain’s sacrifice in Genesis 4? The honest answer is that we don’t know for sure. We are told what Cain and Abel sacrificed, and we are told that God accepted Abel’s and rejected Cain’s. What we don’t know is whether God had given any commands about sacrifice, and if so, what they were. Later reflection in the Bible provides few clues.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4, ESV

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 1 John 3:12, ESV

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. Jude 11, ESV

Some have speculated that the problem was that Cain didn’t offer an animal sacrifice, but even under the law there were grain offerings, and we aren’t given enough information to know if this is the problem. Josephus speculated:

They had resolved to sacrifice to God. Now Cain brought the fruits of the earth, and of his husbandry; but Abel brought milk, and the firstfruits of his flocks; but God was more delighted with the latter oblation, when he was honored with what grew naturally of its own accord, than he was with what was the invention of a covetous man, and gotten by forcing the ground… Josephus, Antiquities 1.54.

Somehow, I don’t buy his explanation, but it illustrates that speculation could be endless. Maybe it was a matter of his heart. Maybe it was in the kind or quality of his sacrifice. Maybe it was both. What is important for us to know is that Cain could have pleased God but didn’t.

What was the mark of Cain? The honest answer is we don’t know. The mark served its purpose in sparing Cain from vengeance, but there is no reason for us to assume that a mark on Cain would have been passed on to his descendants. In fact, that would seem to counter its purpose. I’m old enough to have even heard some racist interpretations of the mark of Cain. Such speculation really comes to a dead end when we realize that after the flood, humanity traced its genealogy through Noah back to Seth not to Cain. Racism is evil, for we are all one in Adam, and we can all be one in the Second Adam – Jesus Christ.

–Russ Holden

 


Archaeology’s Fraction

September 3, 2021

Archaeology provides significant insights to our understanding of the Bible. Insights into culture can help bring a passage to life. Yet, archaeology has limits. Many people, places, and events of the Bible will be unnoticed by archaeology. That should not be surprising, because our knowledge of the ancient world is very limited. Archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi explains that fragmentary nature of the evidence with a number of facts.

  • Archaeology deals with material remains, which include writings, daily items, buildings, utensils, etc. Only a small fraction of these materials remains exist due to erosion and the destructive nature of human beings. Further, theft has stripped many archaeological sites.
  • Palestine had 300 known archaeological sites in 1944. That number grew to 7000 by 1970. Yet archeologists have surveyed only a fraction of the sites available.
  • Of the sites that have been surveyed only a fraction have been excavated. Palestine had 5000 sites in 1963. Of those, 150 had been excavated in part and 26 had become major sites.
  • Of the sites that become archaeological digs, only a fraction of the site is actually excavated. This is due to the enormous costs, the amount of time, and also to preserve the possibility of future archaeological research. Hazor is a site of 175 acres. Yigael Yadin estimated that it would have taken 800 years to clear the site.
  • Only a fraction of the discovered material has been published. For example, 25,000 cuneiform texts were discovered at Mari, but only 3,500 to 4000 have been published.

Grant Osborne summarizes the above survey, “Yamauchi estimates that being supremely optimistic we could have one-tenth of the material in existence, six-tenths of that surveyed, one-fiftieth of that excavated, one-tenth of that examined, and one-half of that published. This means that we have only .006 percent of the evidence.”* The above exercise is not to minimize archaeology, but to interject some humility into discussions about what moderns know.

The Bible itself is a major source of information about the ancient world. We can appreciate the insights that archaeology provides, but we can’t expect it to confirm all the details of the Bible. The absence of archaeological information about a particular person, place or event doesn’t mean that the person or place did not exist or the event did not happen. Our knowledge of the ancient world is valuable but partial and but a fraction of the past.

–Russ Holden


The Widow’s Might

August 28, 2021

The scene was likely in the court of the women also known as
the court of prayer in Herod’s Temple (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). It was
an area with a simple colonnade on three sides. Along the colonnade were
thirteen trumpet shaped chests for placing contributions. Jesus observed the
rich depositing large sums, but it was a poor widow that he commended. She gave
two copper coins (the King James renders as “two mites”). She gave out of her
poverty. She gave all that she had to live on.

The widow’s gift reminds us of the faith of giving. I can
see my checking account balance. I can see my car. I can see my house, my
possessions, and my investments. But to store up treasures in heaven is to put
my trust in the unseen. It is to claim that the unseen is lasting while the
things of this world are temporary. It is to say that God’s cause is more
important than the things I can touch. It is also to trust God to provide for
the future. Will what I give up today be needed tomorrow? Or can I trust God
that if I seek first His kingdom, all these things will be added also?

The widow’s gift reminds us of the sacrifice of giving. The
rich had given larger sums of money, but the widow had made the greater
sacrifice. Jesus says that she gave her whole life. The word, “life,” was also
used for the things sustaining life, so our English versions will say, “all she
had to live on.” But the point of giving her whole life is significant; she
gave herself completely to God. Like the Macedonians who “gave themselves first
to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5, ESV), the widow also gave out of poverty but
with great generosity. The Lord knows how much we have and how much we give.
Generosity is measured by the sacrifice of our giving and not the size of our gift.

The widow’s gift reminds us of the joy of giving.  Although the widow’s joy is not mentioned in the text, I can’t imagine her walking away in sorrow about those two coins — “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). I suspect she thanked God that she had something to give. There is joy in being a part of something bigger than ourselves. There is joy in being a part of God’s work. It gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Scripture teaches that joy and giving go together (2 Cor. 8:2). “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, ESV).

The story of the widow’s mites reminds us of the widow’s
might. She has left a mighty example of the faith, sacrifice, and joy of
giving.

—Russ Holden



“Not…to the Right or to the Left.”

August 13, 2021

When God gave Joshua his orders for conquering the Promised Land, He also gave encouragement about scripture:

Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:7-8, NASB emphasis added).

One of the themes within the book of Joshua is Joshua’s faithfulness to do all that was commanded.

The metaphor of not turning to the right or to the left expresses the concern to follow God’s word carefully.  In fact, this phrase, “not … to the right or to the left,” occurs 10 times: Deuteronomy 5:32, 17:11, 17:20, 28:14, Joshua 1:7, 23:6, 2 Kings 22:2, 2 Chronicles 34:2, Proverbs 4:27, and Isaiah 30:21. The passage in Isaiah is likely messianic. It is the Teacher who calls, “This is the way, walk in it,” when the people are turning to the right or to the left.

So, it is not surprising that Jesus, the Messiah, said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it”
(Matthew 7:14, NASB). His graphic word pictures seem to expand on the figure of speech, “not…to the right or to the left,” that we have already seen in the Old Testament. We must seriously listen to God’s will to find the blessings of eternal life.

Two problems seem to confront our culture. One is ignorance of God’s word. Many simply do not know when they have turned to the right or to the left and gone beyond God’s will. The second problem is unbelief. Many do not take God’s word seriously enough to allow it to be a constraint on their behavior even when they know what it says. God’s way appears to them to be too narrow.

Yet despite all of this, we are still faced with two paths–one is narrow, and one is broad. One leads to life. One leads to destruction.

May we not turn to the right or to the left!

                                    –Russ Holden


It’s a Small World

July 23, 2021

Have you ever met a perfect stranger and after a bit of conversation find out that you have a mutual acquaintance? Or, maybe in the conversation you find out that someone you know knows someone they know.

Psychologist Stanley Pilgrim did a study on such coincidental meetings. He selected two groups of people at random. He gave people in the first group a letter to be sent to one of the people in the second group. The second group was chosen at random from people all across the country. The instructions were that the first group were to mail the letter to someone they knew that had the greatest chance of knowing the target individual. The first group didn’t know the actual addresses. That person was to follow the same instructions until the letter reached its destination — the target individual in the second group. How many such mailings do you think it would take to reach the target? It only took from 2 to 10 with 5 being the common number.

John Allen Paulos in his book, Innumeracy, suggests that there is a 1 in 100 chance when we meet a stranger that we will have a common acquaintance. But there is a 99 in 100 chance that we will be linked to one another by a chain of only two intermediates.

It’s a small world. We are linked to one another more closing that we may realized. We need to remember the teaching of Jesus:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46–48, ESV)

May we show kindness to all we meet. May we demonstrate the love of the Father in all aspects of our life.

Who knows what may come of a chance encounter, we may find connections we never expected. But more importantly, we may be that person’s connection to hearing about Jesus.

Let us not be afraid to share our faith. After all, it is a small world.

— Russ Holden