Thanksgiving Reflections

November 16, 2018

My Grandmother Holden was born in 1886 and died in 1972. Let me just list a few of the changes that came during her lifetime:

  • 1900 – Kodak introduced the Brownie camera. The US had 10 miles of paved roads and 8000 cars.
  • 1903 – First flight of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.
  • 1907 – First electric washing machine.
  • 1908 – The first Model-T by Ford.
  • 1909 – Plastic was invented.
  • 1913 – Henry Ford created the assembly line.
  • 1923 – Talking movies invented.
  • 1928 – Television was invented.
  • 1929 – Car radio was invented.
  • 1930 – Bringing electricity to rural America occurred from the 1930s to the 1950s!
  • 1932 – Air conditioning invented and scientists split the atom for the first time.
  • 1939 – First commercial flight over the Atlantic. The helicopter was invented.
  • 1942 – Although Penicillin was discovered in 1928, it did not become viable as a treatment until 1942.
  • 1945 – The first computer was built. The microwave oven was invented.
  • 1953 – DNA discovered.
  • 1960 – Lasers invented.
  • 1961 – First man in space.
  • 1967 – First heart transplant.
  • 1969 – Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.
  • 1972 – Pocket calculators were introduced, and the first ones cost over $100.

Listening to older people, you hear stories of the past. None of us are that far removed from a very different time. They recall a time when people had furnaces that had to be stoked by hand, out-houses, horses and early motor cars with bad roads to name but a few items. An older generation lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They experienced rationing and a time before many modern conveniences we simply take for granted.

My kids had a hard time imagining such a time when listening to older relatives, and the truth was so did I. I like thermostats, in-door plumbing, and autos that start with a key or a button and have a heater and air conditioning. When we count our blessings, the difficulty may be to notice them. We take a great deal for granted. It is only as we begin to imagine a different time or place where those conveniences don’t exist, that we can begin to see the magnitude of what we have.

Having received much, let us be wise enough to give glory to God accepting our blessings with prayer and thanksgiving.


Basic Bible Study Tools: Bible Dictionary

November 9, 2018

A great deal of Bible study can be done with a few basic tools. As with any tool the questions are: what is it and what do I do with it? Let’s begin with every reader’s friend, the dictionary.

Through the years, I have asked people in classes and one-on-one Bible studies, “What does this word mean?” I have consistently received fuzzy to wrong answers, which is why I keep asking the question. When you run across a word that you don’t know, you may discern the general meaning of the passage by context. But you won’t really know what the word means until you look it up in a dictionary. Guessing rarely works well especially when the goal is understanding. I’m constantly looking up words.

A standard English dictionary has its place in Bible study. The Bible may have words that are not yet in your vocabulary, and the regular dictionary comes to the rescue. However, a standard English dictionary does have a limitation. It is defining what words mean now. As we read the Bible, we are wanting to know what the word meant at the time this passage was written. For example, the standard English definition will define baptism as sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or immersing them in water because that is the way the word is used in the religious world today.

The Bible dictionary helps by dealing with words in their biblical context and dealing with the specialized words and names of the Bible. What are some of the things you can look up in a Bible dictionary?

  • Words that you don’t know or are fuzzy on, e.g., propitiation, grace, justification, sanctification.
  • People. If there is more than one person by the name you have looked up, the dictionary will help distinguish them. It will give a survey of what the Bible says about this person. Some dictionaries give pronunciations.
  • Bible Places. It will give a description of what happened at this place and what we know about it, and it will describe its location.
  • Books of the Bible. It will provide basic information to the reader: author, date, destination, origin, and an overview of the book.

I would choose a newer dictionary over an older one, so that you have recent archaeological information. The venerable Smith’s Bible Dictionary published in 1863 has Dagon as a fish god. Archaeology has demonstrated he was a grain god. I would choose a dictionary written by conservative scholars (e.g., dictionaries from Holman, Nelson, and Zondervan). Check the preface for theological outlook of the editors and contributors. Dictionaries are also keyed to a particular translation, and some are cross referenced to several translations (like Nelson’s and Holman’s). The preface should let you know the translation on which the dictionary is based. Finally, remember that with all reference works, they must be tested by scripture itself. Bias that doesn’t match up with what the Bible actually says can be found in dictionaries as well as commentaries.


The Bible and Archaeology

November 2, 2018

Admittedly, archeology does not necessarily interest everyone, and some aspects of archaeology can be tedious, but many of the results of archaeology are exciting for the student of the Bible.

Backgrounds. Archaeology has helped us understand ancient customs and the background to certain passages. The Nuzi tablets, for example, contain marriage contacts which obligate a childless wife to give her husband a handmaid who would bear children for the couple. This helps us better understand the actions of Sarah in giving Hagar to Abraham (Genesis 16:1 ff.) and of Rachel in giving Bilhah to Jacob (Genesis 30:1-3). This doesn’t make the actions moral in the eyes of God, but they would have been viewed as socially acceptable for the time.

Translation. The meaning of the Hebrew word, pim, was unknown in 1611. The KJV translators conjectured from the context of 1 Samuel 13:21 that it mean “file.” The KJV reads, “Yet they had a file for the mattocks …” Archaeologists have found small weight stones in Palestine with the word pim on them. The name of the weight was evidently the expression of the price for sharpening the plowshares, making a pim about 2/3 of a shekel. The ESV taking advantage of what has been learned from archaeology has “… and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares…” (1 Samuel 13:21, ESV).

Defense. The criticism of alleged inaccuracies in scripture have been refuted by certain discoveries. For example, the Hittites were unknown outside the Old Testament, and many thought this was a case of an historical error in scripture until archaeologists discovered the Hittite city of Hattusas. Before the ivory finds in Samaria, some skepticism was expressed over the phrase “houses of ivory” in Amos 3:15. We now know that ivories were used either to adorn the walls as paneling or were inlaid in furniture. “Houses of ivory” were houses decorated with ivory not built out of ivory as archaeology has now shown. Amos knew what he was talking about.

Many more examples could be given to illustrate the importance of archaeology to Bible study. But archaeology reminds us that we are dealing with real people, places, and events.