QUESTION: "Do you have a booklet on how to read and understand the Bible? Could you advise me what Bible to buy? I have a New Testament called 'Good News for Modern Man.' Is that okay? What about 'The Living Bible'?" Mrs. Lome F., St. Albans, Vermont
ANSWER: We have two free booklets entitled Read the Book and How To Study the Bible. The first explains how to approach and accomplish the task of reading your Bible completely through from Genesis to Revelation. The second booklet concerns itself with important keys that are vital to biblical understanding. In terms of translations, the Worldwide Church of God also publishes a well-researched article assessing the relative merits of various versions of the Bible. Entitled "Which Translations Should You Use?" this reprint article gives valuable points in choosing and using a translation. Good News for Modern Man and The Living Bible are among the translations and paraphrased versions discussed.
Q: "I would like a list of the authors who wrote the 66 books of the Bible under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit. Who wrote the 6rst Bible?" Herman S., Euclid, Ohio
A: The Bible is a collection of inspired books written by various men at different stages in history. The last book apparently was written in the 90s A.D. But though written by men, it is important to realize that the original finished work is God's Word to man. Even though God used human beings as His instruments to transmit His Holy Word, the preparation and approval of every book was directly inspired and supervised by the Creator (II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:21). Since God in many cases has not revealed it, it is obviously impossible for contemporary scholars peering through 2,000 years and more of history to be completely dogmatic about the human authorship of every book in the Bible. The following is, therefore, only a summary of the likely or possible authors of many biblical books. Moses is generally regarded to be the author of the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). Joshua could have been the author of most of the book that bears his name, although some scholars feel that the prophet Samuel could have written or added to it (cf. Joshua 24:29-33). Samuel is generally credited with the authorship of Judges, but he probably used written records and oral traditions from earlier judges, priests and scribes. Samuel also appears to be the author of the first 24 chapters of I Samuel, which comprise his lifetime. There are, of course, other possibilities. The books of Samuel and Kings, originally one book (or scroll), were placed (in the Jewish version) just prior to the book of Isaiah. Some feel that Isaiah compiled and/or wrote the entire Samuel-Kings scroll as an historical introduction to his major prophetic work — the book of Isaiah. He was contemporaneous with some of the historical events narrated in II Kings. A later prophet would have added the ending of II Kings. All the major and minor prophets (and Daniel) apparently wrote the books bearing their names. The 150 Psalms had various authors. David wrote the lion's share, but Solomon, Moses (Psalm 90), Asaph and others wrote one or more. Proverbs is basically the work of Solomon (I Kings 4:32; Eccl. 12:9), although he undoubtedly included many proverbs written or spoken earlier by ancient wise men. Also, certain portions of the book of Proverbs were probably added by other authors and official editors (cf. Provo 25:1; 30:1; 31:1). Ezra and Nehemiah wrote their own books. Ezra is also thought by some scholars to have written (or at least edited) I and II Chronicles. The books of the New Testament generally bear the author's name, either in the title or the opening sentence. Acts was written by Luke, and John wrote the book of Revelation. Hebrews is considered to be either by Paul or by an associate who put down Paul's thoughts.
Q: "Should we use the Apocrypha? If not, why was reference made to II Esdras in one of your books?" John N., Orlando, Florida
A: We occasionally may refer to the Apocrypha for useful historical information, especially in the period from Malachi to Matthew — between the Testaments. Remember that Paul quoted either from a writing (book) or a speech of a Cretian poet in his letter to Titus (1:12). Reliable secular and ecclesiastical sources (even apart from the Bible) can afford us valuable historical insight. However, the Apocrypha itself should not be relied on for divine guidance. For further information about this particular collection of books, write for our free article "Do We Have the Complete Bible?"
Q: "I am reading with interest 'Seven Proofs of God's Church.' In the first proof you quoted Ephesians 4:11-12 and I Corinthians 12:28, which say that the true government of God consists of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Does the government of your church include these offices or am I misreading what you are saying?" E. J. B., Suffield, Connecticut
A: The terms "apostle," "prophet," "evangelist" and "teacher" represent various functions or gifts of the ministry. Each is performed as a result of the Holy Spirit working with the natural talents and abilities of the individuals. Technically, the word "apostle" means messenger or ambassador. He is one who is sent with a message. In the early New Testament Church, it was the function of a prophet to communicate to the apostles special messages which God had personally revealed to them (cf. Acts 11:28; 21:10-11). But today we have the complete Word of God. Apparently there are no such prophets at the present time. An evangelist is one who evangelizes. Timothy was an evangelist who was sent by Paul to evangelize. Titus also fell into this ministerial classification. A pastor is a "shepherd" — one who shepherds or pastors the "sheep" or the "flock" which is raised up as a result of the work of apostles and evangelists. Some ministers are also teachers. They are particularly adept at communicating biblical truth — they edify and educate the congregations as teachers. All ministers are elders — even apostles (I Peter 5:1). But not all elders are apostles! The Church of God today recognizes these offices and functions in its ministry. Each type of ministerial service is the result of the indwelling and working of the Holy Spirit of God.