Inside BST


Inside BST

Inside BST goes behind the curtain of BibleStudyTools.com and into the minds of our editors and developers. You'll discover encouraging stories, information about the site, links that interest us, and devotionals.

Contributors:

John UpChurch, Senior Editor (BibleStudyTools.com)

Alex Crain, Managing Editor (Christianity.com)

Stephen McGarvey, Senior Director of Editorial

Stephen Sanders, A/V Editor

Ready for Questions about Christmas?

During this season, believers often have the opportunity to share their faith. Family gatherings, parties, and other events open natural avenues for telling others why we celebrate Christmas and who Jesus really is. But when you find these opportunies, you'll also likely face something else: questions.

Thanks to the Internet, many people have probably read or heard false ideas about Jesus and His work on earth. They may even be quite skeptical. So, what can you do when you're faced with questions you don't have the answers to?

That's exactly why our sister site, Jesus.org, was built. Here's what the site's about:

Many people have questions about Jesus and on this site you will find biblical answers to the most common questions asked about the birth and life of Christ, his ministry and disciples, and of course the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

So, when someone hits you with a question about why Luke and Matthew's genealogies differ, you'll know exactly where to go. (If you're wondering, here's why.)


No Room in the Inn?

Luke 2:7 has been the source of quite a bit of discussion throughout church history. For many, this verse says that there was no room for Joseph and Mary in "the inn," a tradition that stretches way back. But other Christians suggest that this verse is better translated "upper room" or "guest room," as it is in Luke 2:7.

At the heart of this debate is the Greek word kataluma, which you can see defined in our lexicon. Specifically, the verse says there was no room for them in the kataluma. In the New Testament, this word is used only here and in Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11, with the two latter verses describing the location of the Last Supper before Jesus was crucified.

So, which view is right? Let's dive into our online resources to see what we can find.


Here's John Gill's take:

"It seems that Joseph had no house of his own to go into, nor any relation and friend to receive him: and it may be, both his own father and Mary's father were dead, and therefore were obliged to put up at an inn; and in this there was no room for them, because of the multitude that were there to be enrolled: and this shows their poverty and meanness, and the little account that was made of them; for had they been rich, and made any considerable figure, they would have been regarded, and room made for them; especially since Mary was in the circumstances she was; and it was brutish in them to turn them into a stable, when such was her case."

The People's New Testament describes it this way:

"The khan is usually much on the model of the Eastern house, but of much larger extent. Four rows of apartments are so constructed as to enclose a large yard with a well in the center where the cattle may be kept. The outer wall is usually of brick upon a stone basement. The apartments are entered by the guests from the yard, and are elevated two or three feet above the level of the yard. Below and behind the row of the travelers' apartments was often the row or the long room of stables, into which the floors of the apartments being a little extended, formed a platform upon which the camels could eat."

And, finally, this is the description from The Fourfold Gospel:

"Justin Martyr, who born about the beginning of the second century and suffered martyrdom A.D. 165, first tells us the tradition that the stable in which Jesus was born was a cavern. Caves, however, were never used for stables except when opened on the sides of hills. The one at Bethlehem is a cellar fourteen feet under the level surface. Justine must, therefore, be mistaken."


This Christmas example shows how you can explore God's Word through our site. Just look up a verse, look below the reading pane, and choose a resource for further study. We've made it easy.

Whatever view you take, use our resources to help "dig up" the past and see the amazing truth of Jesus.


The Year of Christ's Birth

One of the most-asked questions during this time of year regards the date of Christ's birth. In fact, historians and theologians have been musing on that topic since early in church history. How do we know? Because we have some of their writings on our site.

Here's just one such examination from Samuel James Andrews from his classic work The Life of Our Lord upon the Earth.


We take as our starting point in this inquiry the statement of Matthew, (ii. 1-9,) that Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great. We must, therefore, first ascertain when Herod died. According to Josephus,1 " he died the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned since he caused Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years, but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven." He was so declared king in 714. This would bring his death in the year from 1st Nisan 750 to 1st Nisan 751, according to Jewish computation, at the age of seventy.

But the date of his death may be more definitely fixed. Josephus relates1 that he executed the insurgents, Matthias and his companions, on the night of an eclipse of the moon. This eclipse took place, as has been ascertained by astronomical calculations,3 on the night of the 12th and 13th March, 750; yet he was dead before the 5th of April, for the Passover of that year fell upon the 12th April, and Josephus states1 that before this feast his son and successor Archelaus observed the usual seven days' mourning for the dead. His death must therefore be placed between the 13th March and 4th April, 750. We may take the 1st of April as an approximate date.2

How long before Herod's death was the Lord born? The Evangelists Matthew and Luke relate certain events that occurred between His birth and Herod's death, His circumcision upon the eighth day, the presentation at the Temple on the fortieth, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, the murder of the Innocents. Whatever view may be taken as to the order of these events, they can scarcely have occupied less than two months. This would bring His birth into January, or February at latest, 750.


And he's just getting warmed up. Keep reading this fascinating account as you celebrate the season of Christ's birth.


Awe-Inspiring Version Of ‘Mary, Did You Know?’


Reading Your Way to Christmas

As you can imagine, we love Christmas here at BST. We especially love reading the Bible's account of the frist Christmas over 2,000 years ago. Each year, we learn something new as we explore Scripture, and we want to share that wonder with you.

How? Simple. Our site features a Christmas Bible reading plan that will take you 25 days or less. The readings start with Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Messiah and lead into His birth in Bethlehem.

But that's not the end. We want this reading to be more than just about Christmas. We want them to share the good news as well. That's why these readings lead you from the manger to the cross. You'll see why Jesus came to earth.

Make the Christmas Bible reading plan a part of your yearly traditions, and share them with your family.

And you certainly don't have to just use this plan for Christmas. It's also a great way to remember the crucifixion and the resurrection.


On the Topic of Thanksgiving

If you'd ever like to explore a topic throughout the Bible, the simplest way is by using a concordance, which is essentially a collection of all the verses related to a specific topic. Think of it like a Bible GPS. On our site, we have a handful of concordances to help you in your study.

So, for example, if you're looking for verses about thanksgiving, you could zip over to Torrey's New Topical Textbook ("topical" usually means you're dealing with a concordance). Click "T" from the alphabetical index at the top, and then click "Thanksgiving." (Tip: You could just type "thanksgiving" in our search box, which cuts out all these steps.)

From there, you'll see how the concept is used in the Bible. Like this:


Thanksgiving [n]

Christ set an example of

Matthew 11:25 ; Matthew 26:27 ; John 6:11 ; John 11:41

The heavenly host engaged in

Revelation 4:9 ; Revelation 7:11 Revelation 7:12 ; Revelation 11:16 Revelation 11:17

Commanded

Psalms 50:14 ; Philippians 4:6

Is a good thing

Psalms 92:1


And that's just the warmup. You'll find much more where that came from.


What's the Bible All About?

Does the Bible have a central story? And if so, how can we figure out what it is? Those are the questions Dr. Matthew Harmon tackles in "Reading the Bible in Light of the Whole Story" (a BST exclusive). Here's a little excerpt to get you started:

After his resurrection Jesus made it clear to his followers that we should read all of Scripture as in some way related to his death/resurrection, the call to repentance and the offer of forgiveness through Jesus' name to all the nations (Luke 24:13-27, 44-49). But do we practically do this? Reading each passage of Scripture in light of its place within the unfolding storyline of the Bible can seem like a daunting task. After all, it is easy to see how certain OT passages relate to the gospel of Jesus Christ because the NT authors specifically quote or allude to them. But what do we do when faced with the many OT passages to which the NT authors do not refer? While it is tempting to throw up one's hands in exasperation and pursue the familiar paths of moralizing, there are ways that are more faithful to Scripture itself.

We highly recommend you spend a few minutes reading the rest. It'll give you the "big picture" of Scripture.


Boiled in Its Mother's Milk?

Let's just be honest. Sometimes passages in the Old Testament can be tough to understand. For example, in Exodus 23:19, why does God prohibit cooking a young goat in its mother's milk? Why even bring that up there?

Well, when you're faced with a mystery, many times the issue is simply a matter of context (what's not said). In other words, commands and issues that would have made sense to the original audience have long since been obscured by history. That's why it's good to have a handy commentary close by for such odd statements.

In this particular case, it's very likely that God had an ancient pagan practice in mind, a practice that would have been a form of idolatry. Here's an excerpt from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:

The true sense of this passage seems to be that assigned by Dr Cudworth, from a MS. comment of a Karate Jew. "It was a custom with the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a kid, and boil it in the dam's milk; and then in a magical way, to go about and sprinkle all their trees, and fields, and gardens, and orchards with it, thinking by these means, that they should make them fruitful, and bring forth more abundantly in the following year. Wherefore, God forbad his people, the Jews, at the time of their in-gathering, to use any such superstitious or idolatrous rite."

What Happened to Peter?

If you're like us, sometimes you may wonder what happened to the people in the New Testament after everything was written. For example, what happened to Peter after he wrote his two letters? Well, tracking that down can be tough because few first-hand accounts have come down to us. While the Bible was preserved through the years, not everything else was.

But that doesn't mean we can't dig into history to at least get a glimpse of the lives of the apostles. One of our favorites on this topic is Fox's Book of Martyrs, which chronicles the lives of each apostle and what likely happened to him, as well the lives of Christians throughout the history of the church.

Here's the entry on Peter:

Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus says that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would flee the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, "Lord, where are you going?" To whom He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome says that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was .

And you'll find much more where that came from.


6 Reasons You’ll Love the New Beta

In case you haven’t seen the new banner across the front of our site, we have something new for you to try: a brand new beta site. We spent nearly two years listening to your feedback, examining what’s most useful to you, and studying new technology. All that research helped us design something that will feel both familiar and refreshing.

While there are dozens of new features for you to enjoy, here are 6 that really stand out:

Responsive Design

More and more of you visit BibleStudyTools.com with tablets and smart phones. So, we wanted to make the site work great no matter what your screen size. With responsive design, our site adapts to whatever you’re using… without losing any of the robust features you love. Plus, for the first time, all our audio content works for our mobile users.

Font Sizes

We have gotten many, many requests to allow you to pick your font size while reading the Bible. But we did you one better. Not only can you pick your font size, you can even pick the type of font you’d like while reading. Just tap on the gear icon above the Bible reading pane and choose what works best for you.

Simple Navigation

We have tons of solid content on this site. But we wanted to make it easier for you to find exactly what you need when you need it. So, we examined everything on the site and came up with a much simpler navigation that makes it a snap to get where you need to go, usually in two taps/clicks or less. Plus, it works great on small screens.

All New My Bible

Since we launched My Bible several years ago, it has become one of the most-used features on our site. As you can imagine, we were very careful in how we updated it. But we wanted to make it work as easily on your phone as on your computer. Everything is still right where you expect it to be, but now you can type in notes and highlight verses with ease. You can even see your recent additions on the front page of the site.

Live Search

When you type in our search box, you’ll notice some results that pop up under it. This makes searching for what you want faster than ever. Type in “Mos…,” and you’ll get results for “Moses” before you even finish his name.

Everything at a Glance

Our new home page, puts everything you love about our site right up front. You’ll get the verse of the day, verses by topic, My Bible, articles, and more with a simple tap.

Take the new beta for a test drive and be sure to let us know what you think. We hope you’ll agree that it makes a great thing even better.


Tales of Translation: Which Translation Should You Choose?

Given the three main types of Bible translations (word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrase), which one should you use? The answer is “yes.” We recommend that you use them all.

Word-for-word translations are the most faithful to the original languages. But they can also be a bit more difficult to understand in spots. They’re best for those who are familiar with the Bible and who have read it through many times. They make excellent Bibles for in-depth study.

If English is a second (or third) language or if you’re just starting your Bible reading journey, you may want to stick with thought-for-thought translations. They’re still giving you a faithful translation, and the translators have worked to make them easy to comprehend. When you’re interested in just reading a chapter or book straight through without slowing down for close study, this might also be your best bet.

Paraphrases work great as a second Bible. Read a word-for-word or thought-for-thought translation first and then use the paraphrase as “another look” at what you’ve read. They can really help you see what’s happening in a fresh way.

Whatever you choose, just make sure you take time to read God’s Word. Our site makes it easy to access over 30 translations from anywhere. So, click on over and get started.


Tales of Translation: Paraphrases

You could think of translation styles as varying levels of zoom on a camera. Word-for-word zooms in the closest and gets right to each word. Thought-for-thought zooms out a bit and looks at sentences as a whole. And if you zoom out even more, you’ll get to the area of the paraphrase.

A solid paraphrase focuses on a section of Scripture, which might be an event, a speech, or even a whole chapter. Instead of trying to capture the exact wording, the paraphraser attempts to convey the meaning in modern English. This might require changing the order of words or how something is phrased. They may even change a metaphor or comparison to a similar one in our culture. Beyond this, they also focus on making the poetry of the original language sound poetic in ours.

That doesn’t mean they have free rein, though. The paraphrases on our site do not change the basic facts of Scripture. They maintain the people, places, events, and theological truths found in God’s Word. In fact, if you compare them to a word-for-word translation, you’ll see how similar they are.

For many Christians, a paraphrase helps them cross the cultural divide and get into the Bible. They more readily understand the purpose of the text when it’s presented with the language and rhythms they’re used to. We certainly recommend that you try one out along with the other translations.

If you’re interested in a paraphrase, we have the Message (MSG) on our site.

Next week, we’ll wrap up this series by answering the big question: Which type of translation is best?