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What is faith?

I.N.R.I.--the crucifixion inscriptions

What is the Bible to be used for?

Bibles I own

But they're such hypocrites!

What does God mean by forgiveness?  (This one is long.) 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1  [KJV]
--This is my favorite verse in the Bible.  To me, it shows that there are two realms of existence for humans: the physical or what is seen and the spiritual or what is not seen.  I think that if people accepted this division, fewer would feel the need to find "scientific" proof of God's existence. 
     Christians should not feel they have to prove their beliefs.  Their faith is the substance of those beliefs and evidence enough to them.  At least, my faith is enough for me.  That realization came only after I was thoroughly confused by fellow "intellectuals" in college, who demanded proof of things.  My faith in God is just that--mine!  Thus, it's not for anyone else to try to prove or disprove. 
The inscriptions on the cross:

1)  And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS."  Matthew  27.37  [NASB]

2)  The inscription of the charge against Him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS."  Mark 15.26  [NASB]

3)  Now there was also an inscription above Him, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS."  Luke 23.38  [NASB]

4)  Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.  It was written, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS."  John 19.19  [NASB]

    Oh, dear!  Is the Bible contradicting itself?  NO!  Read the next verse that John wrote.  "Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek." [John 20.20, NASB]  
    John clearly points out the reason for the disparity in the four gospels--translation from one language into another.  I am a foreign language teacher, so I deal with this problem daily.  What words do you choose to convey the subtle nuances words carry?  I think this is why the four gospels present different translations.  Each of the men wrote for a different audience, so used the translation that fit each audience. 
    Each of the gospel writers had a different occupation and background, so each recorded different aspects of Jesus' person and ministry: 1) Matthew was a publican--a Jewish tax collector for the Romans; 2) Mark was a native of Jerusalem; 3) Luke was a doctor of pagan origin, perhaps born in Antioch; 4) John was a fisherman from Galilee. 
    Matthew presents Jesus as King, a son of David and Abraham.  He dealt heavily with accounts of Jesus' preaching, teaching and healing.  He wrote for converted or converting Jews, so probably wrote in Aramaic, which was widely spoken at that time.  The converting Jews could also symbolize the larger "type" of weak man.  They were, and would be for millenia, exiles in their own land, a people without power.  All of us have weak times.  Matthew gives hope.
    Mark presents Jesus as a Servant.  He dealt heavily with Jesus' actions rather than words and teachings.  Mark wrote for the Roman world, though he wrote in Greek, since the Romans in the area were highly Hellenized.  The Romans symbolize the strong man. 
    Luke presents Jesus as Son of man.  He showed Jesus' compassion as Saviour of Israel and Mankind.  He emphasized prayer, the Holy Spirit, God's forgiveness of sins, and told about women in Jesus' ministry.  Luke wrote in Greek for the Greeks, who symbolize the intellectual man.  Luke spoke to people who had known Jesus and, being a physician, was careful to describe people and Jesus' dealings with others. 
    John presents Jesus as Son of God, the Word made flesh.  He emphasized the Son of God who gives eternal life, and he used everyday items as symbols.  He wrote for all Christians and those who would become Christians.  I don't know what language John wrote in, but he was the only one who pointed out that the sign was written in three languages, so one can see he intends his gospel for a wide audience.  It is from the Latin of John 19.19 that the acronym INRI comes (remember that "i" and "j" were not differentiated for centuries):
       "Scripsit autem et titulum Pilatus, et possuit super crucem. Erat autem scriptum: Jesus Nazarenus, rex Judaeorum."  

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3.16-17  [NIV]

     I think this translation best gives speakers of contemporary English the idea behind this verse.  Many translations say the Scripture is "inspired" by God.  We've lost the early sense of inspire: to breathe into; thus, verse 16 loses some of its power.  When we read it as intended, that God breathed the words into the very mouths of the authors, we realize just how strong a message this verse carries.  Despite arguments that something has been lost through time and translations from so many sources, God has instilled in the Bible the very essence of Himself, and no matter how many times the verses are recopied, the truth remains in them.  This collection of teachings has stood the test of time--the Old Testament has survived basically unchanged for millenia.  The New Testament is approaching its two-thousandth year.  Not a bad record, is it?  God works in His time, and over time has kept the core of His teachings unchanged, so that everyone may read His words and know they come from Him.  "They" say that when all else fails, read the instruction manual. 
    This is it! 

Bibles I own are listed below.  As I mentioned, I am a foreign language teacher.  In order to get a more thorough understanding of the moods and nuances of the original, I like to compare different English versions.  Inter-version word studies are very interesting.

--Ryrie Study Bible, New American Standard Bible, pub. Moody Press, Chicago.
--The New Scofield Reference Bible, Authorized King James Version, pub. Oxford University Press, New York.
--Holy Bible, New International Version, pub. International Bible Society, New Jersey
--The Jerusalem Bible, pub. Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York
--Good News Bible, Today's English Version, pub. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville
 

--A thank you goes to Dr. James Brodman for providing the Latin translation of John 19.19.
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