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Torah
Studies on the word of God

Hello. Bonjour. Ciao. Olá. Hallo. Grüezi.

Once every year, Jews around the world celebrate the biblical festival of Shavuot or Pentecost to commemorate the giving of the Torah (תורה) on Mount Sinai. We think that the word Torah means Scripture, usually the Five Books of Moses, but it can refer to all religious learning.

In Hebrew, the word means “instruction” but it is more than that.

It means  An Arrow of faith.

It is derived from ירה, literally meaning “to shoot an arrow.” This word is usually reserved for military or hunting exploits, like the biblical account of David and Jonathan when David said “I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target” 1 Samuel 20.20
The word “shoot” here comes from the same source. Interestingly, shooting is connected to instruction.

The common denominator is hitting the target. The Hebrew describes a great teacher as someone who must be an accurate shooter—hitting the target. A hunter must approach his prey quietly and only looses an arrow when he is confident of hitting the target. In like manner, a good teacher approaches his task carefully and fires arrows of wisdom into the student’s heart and mind, so that the instruction can take hold and be truthfully effective.

This is our motivation, or driving force in making these presentations.
They are designed to help you stimulate your faith and grow in the Lord.

I do not presume to say that I know everything there is to know. I have been in ministry in excess of 50 years now and have read many different versions of the bible from cover to cover so often I have lost count. I am discovering that the more I learn, the more I realize my humanity and how little I really know.

What you shall see here is a summary of some of the principles I have learned. They work for me, but might not work the same way for you. There are many valid reasons for this of course, but that makes little difference because we are all equal before God. The Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us. Jesus said this in John 14:15-17, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15.

In Acts 4:8-13 when Peter and John had been arrested, the account states that Peter...filled with the Holy Ghost spoke to the religious people there who had to admit one thing—they were not well educated men but they had been with Jesus!

When God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle (the account starts in Exodus 25), He chose two men to be in charge of the construction. They were Bezaleel and Aholiab and God filled them with the Spirit of God. See Exodus 31:1-2.

This is a principle seen throughout scripture. Our natural faculties, education or lack thereof and expertise are qualities that God does not need. He looks on the heart, not on the externals, so you can do it!

I had a tertiary level education, studied at a bible college, studied for a doctorate and had a career in the telecommunications industry in Australia that led to executive technical management positions (I finished my secular career as the national administrator of part of the program that computerized Australia’s telephone exchange network. I share this not to brag or boast but to illustrate that, despite such things, they were all as nothing when God called me into His service. Paul deemed his own background and experience to be like dung as he called it in Philippians 3.

Therefore, when you want to study the word of God, you can discover an endless, boundless source of revelation. The bible is complete and cannot be added to or distracted from, but there are times when certain things seem to be hidden and can be brought into the light as the Holy Spirit, who is the revelator, illuminates something.
Consider this as a diamond that has been hidden in the earth and brought into the light. We can look at a diamond and slowly rotate it and as we do, different colours of the light spectrum are revealed as a facet is exposed to the common light source.

If you approach your bible study in such a manner, God can reveal a different facet of His truth to His light on that occasion.

I hope this will help. Let us continue.

The Bible Is Not To Be Altered

Whilst there are scores of different versions or translations of the bible, in which during the translating process, certain parts of the original texts may have been changed, I am not suggesting that we avoid them completely. It is good to compare texts and do a comparison in our studies as I do. My electronic library consists of many more versions than I care to name.

What I am referring to is an attempt to deliberately “change” the text either by way of totally removing portions, or by adding additional words that may or may not be divinely inspired. It is one thing to disagree with certain teachings, merely because we do not agree with a particular doctrine or have not yet seen the truth embodied within, but a different matter altogether by wanting to tear it out of the bible altogether.

What we call “canon of scripture” is our safety net. What it means is that the words are considered to be authentic. They have that certain ring of authenticity about them that other writings do not possess.

The Hebrew and Greek languages themselves may verify this. In a topic called Bible Numerics it is possible to see a “code” woven into scripture that is consistent throughout the bible. If, for example the Hebrew or Greek letter a could also be the equivalent of number one. The letter b could also be the number 2 and so on. Each number can take on definite symbolism. There if only 1 God so one speaks of unity etc. The number 5 can often speak of God’s grace. Man’s number is 6. The number 40 describes trial, probation and testing. To see more on this matter, please visit the page Bible Numerics (click the link).

When we read scripture therefore, it is quite possible to see a definite pattern that indicates divine origin. Deliberately changing this in any way can “break that code”.

By ensuring that we refer as much as possible to the original language, we can both receive the inspiration and revelation that God wants us to receive and avoid error.

Jesus said that His word would last forever in Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33. Because God’s words are creative and true, we dare not presume to change them. The scriptures themselves tell us not to do that.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

References:

Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, 18:20, 27:26
Psalm 119:161
Proverbs 30:6
Jeremiah 23:36, 26:2, 36:23
Zephaniah 3:4
Matthew 5:19, 15:6
2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 4:2
Galatians 1:8
1 Timothy 6:14
2 Peter 3:16

Why read a bible?

One may well ask why we should read a bible.

We could provide hundreds of passages by way of answer but will provide a brief overview  in the hope that you will pursue this further at your own leisure later. When we shall try to do is give the principles involved with a few reasons.

In many churches, a bible is not given the honor and respect due. During service in many places, the set reading for the day, usually comprised of one Old Testament verse and one New Testament verse is read by a person chosen for that part of the service. Often times the reading is closed with something like “This is the word of the Lord” and people respond with a “Thanks be unto God”. On most occasions, that is the only bible reading anyone has for the rest of the week.

If indeed we are supposed to live how God intends, namely “not by bread alone, but by every word of God” as seen in Deuteronomy 8:3 and quoted by Jesus in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4, many people would die from starvation.
This sounds critical but it is true. We would die if we relied only on physical sustenance to such an extent.

We are spirit beings, comprised of a spirit that must be fed, just as much as our physical bodies that also need to be fed.
The third part of our being is our soul, that deals with our minds, wills and emotions. This too needs input. It is in this area where we make decisions to act in a certain way. Sometimes what we do, or think, may be regarded by Good as sin—but, other than our conscience telling us so, we might not know that something is a sin, unless we know that it is, because God has said it is.

This is one reason to read a bible.

Another reason is that because of Jesus, we have been given an inheritance that may be likened to a last will and testament. Here, someone bequeaths certain things, or leaves an inheritance to another that is documented in a last will and testament. The word of God can thus be likened to that will. Unless we read its contents the recipient does not know what has been left to him or her.

The bible is often treated as a religious object to be analyzed and dissected by theologians and seminarians in an academic manner only. There is merit in this of course, but such an approach tends to focus more on the intellectual approach only and so negates the revelation aspect that the Holy Spirit breaths into the words. The bible is, after all, inspired by Him.

It is easy to devote considerable time and effort in such studies, looking into the genre, parsing, the layout of the book being studied and such things, but not really receive the input direct from the one who inspired it and that... is what matters most. Debates rage over the reason why a certain person wrote a book and whilst such approaches may have literary merit, it often seems that the one who inspired such writing, the Holy Spirit, is not mentioned.
He is the teacher and the light bringer.

Scriptures are not just mere religious topics. Many convey practical information. COVID-19 is now a term with which most of us are familiar and isolation is a common phrase and activity.

The bible told us to isolate under certain conditions hundreds of years ago. The Old Testament tells us how to handle food, about hygiene, how to conduct proper business with each other, how to  create property boundaries and what to do in disputes.

We may laugh as Jews for not eating pork, but such meat products were classified as unclean by God to prevent contamination and illness. We have improved handling methods today including refrigeration, but the principle remains the same.
The bible tells us what to do when we need to go to the bathroom and instructs women in personal hygiene and such matters.

Somewhere, in some way, all issues of life, every answer we may need in everyday living may be found.

This hopefully touches on a few good reasons to read a bible, but the issue now is how to go about it and we shall share some thoughts on this shortly.

We read the bible because it has been written for a purpose. Some of the reasons are listed below.

John 20:30-31
Romans 15:4
1 Corinthians 10:11
1 John 1:4
1 John 2:1
1 John 5:13

It can be a blessing to us.

Joshua 1:8
Psalm 19:11
Matthew 7:24
Luke 11:28
John 5:24
John 8:31
Revelation 1:3

It can provide nourishment for the soul

Deuteronomy 8:3
Job 23:12
Psalm 19:10
Psalm 119:103
Jeremiah 15:16
Ezekiel 2:8
Ezekiel 3:1
Matthew 4:4
Luke 4:4
Acts 20:32
1 Corinthians 3:2
1 Timothy 4:6
Hebrews 5:13
Hebrews 6:5
1 Peter 2:2
Revelation 10:10

If can provide direction and light

Psalm 19:8
Psalm 119:105
Psalm 119:130
Proverbs 2:6
Proverbs 6:23
Romans 15:4
1 Corinthians 10:11
2 Corinthians 4:4
2 Timothy 3:15
2 Peter 1:19

It can have great influence and effect

Psalm 147:18
Jeremiah 1:18
Jeremiah 5:14
Jeremiah 23:29
Ezekiel 37:7
Hosea 6:5
Luke 4:4
Luke 4:8
Luke 4:32
Acts 2:37
Acts 6:10
Acts 18:24
Acts 19:20
Romans 1:16
1 Corinthians 1:18
Ephesians 6:17
1 Thessalonians 1:5
1 Thessalonians 2:13
2 Thessalonians 2:8
Hebrews 4:12
Revelation 1:16
Revelation 11:10
Revelation 19:15

It is the foundation for our faith

Proverbs 29:18
Isaiah 8:20
John 12:48
Galatians 1:8
1 Thessalonians 2:13

Principles of bible study

This section is being rewritten

Parables

God often speaks to us in His word by using parables, types and shadows.

Such things use everyday objects or events to explain spiritual principles.
The Tabernacle is one of the most profound illustration. It speaks volumes about Jesus and God’s plan of salvation.

The parables of Jesus bring the kingdom of God into perspective. He picked well known objects to use as a foundation for His teaching. By His own words, the parable of the sower and the seed in Mark chapter four, is the key that can unlock all parables.

This parable is about the word of God—nothing else. Despite many excellent teachings on this parable, every one of them fail if they are not based on God’s word. Let us see:

Once again Jesus went to teach the people on the shore of Lake Galilee and a massive crowd surrounded him. The crowd was so huge that he had to get into a boat and teach the people from there. He taught them many things by using parables to illustrate spiritual truths, saying:

Consider this: A farmer went out to sow seeds. As he cast his seeds some of it fell along the beaten path and soon the birds came and ate it. Other seeds fell onto gravel with no topsoil and the seeds quickly sprouted since the soil had no depth. But when the days grew hot, the sprouts were scorched and withered because they had insufficient roots. Other seeds fell among the thorns, so when the seeds sprouted so did the thorns, crowding out the young plants so that they could produce no grain. But some of the seeds fell onto good, rich soil that kept producing a good harvest. Some yielded thirty, some sixty—and some even one hundred times as much as was planted! If you understand this, then you need to respond.

Afterwards, Jesus, his disciples and those close to him remained behind to ask Jesus about his parables. He said to them, “The privilege of intimately knowing the mystery of God’s kingdom realm has been granted to you, but not to the others, where everything is revealed in parables.

“For even when they see what I do, they will not understand, and when they, hear what I say, they will learn nothing, otherwise they would repent and be forgiven.

Then he said to them, “If you don’t understand this parable, how will you understand any parable?

Let me explain: The farmer sows the Word as seed, and what falls on the beaten path represents those who hear the Word, but immediately Satan appears and snatches it from their hearts. The seed sown on gravel represents those who hear the Word and receive it joyfully, but because their hearts fail to sink a deep root into the Word, they don’t endure for long. For when trouble or persecution comes on account of the Word, they immediately wilt and fall away. And the seed sown among thorns represents those who hear the Word, but they allow the cares of this life and the seduction of wealth and the desires for other things to crowd out and choke the Word so that it produces nothing.

“But the seed sown on good soil represents those who open their hearts to receive the Word and their lives bear good fruit—some yield a harvest of thirty, sixty, even one hundred times more than was sown!

He also gave them this parable: “No one lights a lamp only to place it under a basket or under the bed. It is meant to be placed on a lampstand. For there is nothing that is hidden that won’t be disclosed, and there is no secret that won’t be brought out into the light! If you understand what I’m saying, you need to respond!

Then he said to them, “Be diligent to understand the meaning behind everything you hear, for as you do, more understanding will be given to you. And according to the depth of your longing to understand, much more will be added to you. For those who listen with open hearts will receive more revelation. But those who don’t listen with open hearts will lose what little they think they have!

Jesus also told them this parable: “God’s kingdom realm is like someone spreading seed on the ground. He goes to bed and gets up, day after day, and the seed sprouts and grows tall, though he knows not how. All by itself it sprouts, and the soil produces a crop; first the green stem, then the head on the stalk, and then the fully developed grain in the head. Then, when the grain is ripe, he immediately puts the sickle to the grain, because harvest time has come.

And he told them this parable: “How can I describe God’s kingdom realm? Let me illustrate it with this parable. It is like the mustard seed, the tiniest of all the seeds, yet when it springs up and grows, it becomes the largest plant in the garden. And with so many enormous spreading branches, even birds can nest in its shade.

Jesus used many parables such as these as he taught the people, and they learned according to their ability to understand. He never spoke to them without using parables, but would wait until they were alone before he explained their meanings to his disciples. Mark 4:1–34

We see here that Jesus spoke to different classes of people, that I can class as “them” and “us”. He spoke to the crowd, the multitude or the people on the shore. This included the disciples, ordinary folk who we find everywhere, religious people who are found in all kinds of places, including churches, mockers and scoffers who are with us today and casual observers, who are also still with us.

He spoke to everyone of them and concluded by telling them to pay attention to how they received what He said. We can all hear things, but not hear...

When He had dismissed the crowd and was alone with His disciples and others who had joined them, He clearly stated that they alone would understand His meaning. To everyone else, His words would be mysteries.

Jesus then stated that the seed was the word! He added that everything that was hidden (to others)  would be disclosed (to them) and there is no secret that won’t be brought out into the light!. He told them that if they understood what he was saying, they needed to respond. This also applies to us.

Then he said to them, “Be diligent to understand the meaning behind everything you hear, for as you do, more understanding will be given to you. And according to the depth of your longing to understand, much more will be added to you. For those who listen with open hearts will receive more revelation. But those who don’t listen with open hearts will lose what little they think they have!”

Mark brought this to a conclusion by saying:

Jesus used many parables such as these as he taught the people, and they learned according to their ability to understand. He never spoke to them without using parables, but would wait until they were alone before he explained their meanings to his disciples. He revealed the meanings to the disciples and those who joined them, but never explained it to others.

This is the key to proper bible study.

Basic rules

There are a few basic "rules" or ways people interpret scripture. The question arises as to which version is best. I suppose that this is a matter of personal preference, but hasten to add that many modern translations may err slightly for a range of reasons and might always not be evident to a casual reader. The original Hebrew and Greek languages contain certain core elements lacking in other versions. These things are the little funny shaped marks above or beneath a letter that has real significance. Omitting them can change the entire meaning of the word.

The original language may also contain a numerical equivalent, that, when not included in the translation might break distinctive “code”. For example, the Hebrew letter a could also be the number 1 and so on.

You may like to peruse the page devoted to bible numerics and the like that explain further.

My personal preference ifs the King James Version, because it is likened to study resources like Strong’s numbers where certain words have a number allocation, like an index. Looking to that, reveals original meanings of words and we can then see what the real meanings may be. I urge you to also check them. My personal library consists of scores of bible versions in electronic format and I can compare translations quite readily. I urge you not to rely only on one version and compare verses between translations.

There are certain “laws of bible interpretation” you may like to consider and they are devoid of any bias and if we are honestly seeking truth, perhaps it would be best to avoid certain “versions” that exist. We have the Catholic bible, a Presbyterian version, a Seventh day adventist bible, a Calvin bible, a reformed bible and many others all aligned towards their respective belief patterns. Which is true? Many vary according to denominational persuasion, culture and tradition and are often man-made concepts, thus subject to change. God’s word never changes.

When we desire to properly assimilate scripture, we must approach it from God’s perspective and not from man’s viewpoint.

To ensure this, it is essential to rely on the original language of the day, but this may make it difficult for those who do not have access to such resources. Nevertheless, there are many web based facilities that provide such things and I urge you to look for them.

Another point of consideration is one’s  understanding of the antiquated wording of the KJV. Many people avoid it because of the old english words like thee, thou, thy or thine without stopping for a moment and see what they mean. If they opened a modern English version  side by side with the KJV and compare the words, it does not take long to understand and to do so quite easily. Thou means you. It really is simple, especially when we ask the holy Spirit for His help.

Other ways to correctly ascertain accuracy is by applying certain laws of interpretation and I shall merely touch on them for illustration purposes. There is the “law of first mention” where we see something mentioned for the very first time in scripture. It can establish a precedent. There is the law of much mention” that means if it is important, God repeats Himself. He states a thing so often you cannot misinterpret it. The third one to consider is the “law of last mention” that is the last time God says something on a topic. That is His final say on the matter.

When you read something in your bible, you may like to make a note of that and see if it is said anywhere else. That way you may be able to see the overall picture and not just an isolated occurrence.

You may start to see that the variables seen are enormous. My advice to you is not to lock yourself into anything, but be open to the Holy Spirit. If I am in doubt, I simply quit and ask Him for help!

Pray Theology & commentaries Which version? How much & how often? 5


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