RE: Harper Collins Study Bible

Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Sun, 31 Aug 1997 12:46:42 -0400

Tamera writes:

>Also, the professor claims the Bible is not the inspired word of God and is
>full of errors. He went on to give evidence of this, and that the
>"original" copies are not original and are full of errors themselves and do
not agree. Any ideas on this one?


Other respondents have already commented on the various Bible
translations, so I won't comment on the Harper Collins Study Bible (with
which I am not familiar) other than this:

Since the various books of the Bible were written in ancient languages
and some of the words they used are unknown to us (for example, nobody
seems to be sure what the "gopher wood" was that Noah used to build the
Ark) translators have had to "guess" at the proper meaning. The reason
we have so many translations is that all translators come with their own
intellectual, credal, and cultural baggage. Any translation should be
considered in this light. If, as one correspondent suggests, the NRSV
is, "as far as possible, a word-for-word translation rather than a
paraphrase like the NIV," it should be quite useful as a study Bible,
especially in a comparison with other versions.

What bothers me much more than the selection of a Bible translation is
the comment about the professor. I wonder, Tamera, if you haven't made
a mistake in taking this course. I know I'm a bit out on a limb here,
because none of the other correspondents have mentioned this.

If you are a Christian (and I assume you are, otherwise you would not be
asking the question), you are basically seeking advice (by taking this
course) from either a non-Christian or at least a skeptic.

Is this not the same as, for example, a vegetarian asking for advice on
nutrition from the American Cattle Association, the Pork Producers of
Canada (I'm just guessing at these organizations, but you get the
point), of asking the advocates of wind and solar power for the merits
on nuclear power, or asking Jesse Helms about the status of the economy
in Cuba?

I believe that we can study the Bible at a number of different levels.
We can study it as a history book, as a set of books describing the
culture of the Jewish people, as a book with a lot of good ideas that
are worth following, or as the Word of God. If we consider the Bible to
be the Word of God, we take it to be the only source of information for
our redemption. That's the bottom line: the information in the Bible is
sufficient for our salvation, it is sufficient to tell us, and the world
at large that 1) we were conceived in sin and destined for eternal
death, 2) Christ, as the Son of God and one member of the Trinity, came
to earth and died for our sins and 3) we can have eternal life by
believing in Him, believing that He died for our sins.

Once we get outside this central message, we may quibble about the
actual words that Jesus supposedly spoke, the sequence of the miracles
that he performed, the location of the Sea of Reeds that Moses and the
Israelites crossed, etc. But to me, these are not as important as the
central message.

Comments are often made about discrepancies between the four gospels.
Imagine if they had been identical! Critics would have argued that they
simply copied from each other or were in collusion. I can see at least
two reasons for these discrepancies (there are probably more, but I'm
writing this as I think):

In the first place, the Bible deals with topics that we, humans, cannot
fathom or express in words. Revelations is a good example; how can
anyone describe heaven? John tried but even if he could have used the
proper words, would we have understood them? Think back of the "gopher
wood." For John to explain heaven would be something like you traveling
back into time and trying to explain television or telephones. Not only
would you have to use terms, such as transistor, capacitor, electron
beam, etc. that were not familiar to people in the 1600's, but you would
have great difficulty describing a television screen. Another example
that comes to mind is the story about the five Indian (East Indians) who
came across an elephant. One touched the trunk, another the tusks,
another the legs, etc. When they cam back to their village, they each
explained the beast that they had come across as "like a tree," "like a
snake," "like a hard stick," etc.

The other reason for the discrepancies is that people remember different
things about an event. Imagine that you send a Sunday School class to a
county fair and then have them tell you about it. You'll get as many
different stories as there were kids.

The main thing to remember is that God inspired the authors to tell us
about God's greatness and His plan for our salvation, that Jesus came to
earth and died for our sins, and that the Holy Spirit has been sent to
help us. God did not dictate the words; he used humans to get the point
across. We can either see this big picture, or we can nit-pick the
Bible and find all sorts of discrepancies that blind us towards the

I would use the above paragraph to "test" your professor: is his aim to
bring you closer to Christ, or is he trying to throw up roadblocks that
keep you from Him? If it is the former, you're in the right class, if
not, keep in mind that you (or your benefactor, parent, or whoever) is
paying him! Make sure you get your money's worth!

Hope I've been of some help.

Chuck Vandergraaf
Pinawa, MB Canada

To all members of the ASA discussion group:

Now that students are returning to campuses all over North America, we
should remember them in our prayers. Especially students that will be
attending secular institutions need our prayer support to help them
weather the challenges to their faith.