Who's Who? How Biblical Authors Describe Other People and God

Author: Steven Runge

If a friend of mine said, “How’s the kindest, most generous person I know doing today?” I would likely smile and say, “What are you buttering me up for? What do you want?” We generally use a person’s name when speaking to them, only using other descriptive words for special purposes. The New Testament writers often use the same technique to shape how the reader thinks about a particular person or thing. Check out the words Paul uses to refer to different people in his letter to Philemon verses 9b–12, adapted from the Lexham High Definition New Testament: Esv Edition. All descriptive references are bracketed and include this symbol:

“I, Paul, (an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus)

10 I appeal to you for (my child,) Onesimus, (whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)

12 I am sending him back to you, (sending my very heart).”

Why does Paul refer to himself as “an old man” and as “a prisoner for Christ Jesus”? Why not just settle for “Paul”? It evokes sympathy for him. It may even help soften up Philemon, the master of Onesimus, since Paul is going to request that the runaway Onesimus be released from slavery and received as a brother in Christ.

How about the references to Onesimus? Paul could have called him “the slave who ran away from you.” Instead, he characterizes him as a close family member who has played a crucial role serving him in prison. Paul is not sending Philemon a runaway slave, but his “very heart.” Descriptive words play a crucial role in shaping the way we think about people and circumstances.

Remember the disagreement that Paul and Barnabas had in Acts 15 over whether or not to take John Mark with them on the Second Missionary journey? Take a look at how John Mark is described in Acts 15:37–38:

“Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John (called Mark).

38 But Paul thought best not to take with them (one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work).”

It would have been more clear to call him “John Mark” or “him” than the “one who had withdrawn.” Not a very flattering description, but think about how it justifies Paul’s decision not to take him. How would your view of the situation change if Luke had called him “the one who Paul refused to forgive for wanting to leave?”

Think about how the character descriptions in the following passages influences your thinking:

1 Cor 8:6: “Yet for us there is one God, (the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist,) and one Lord, (Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist).”

2 Cor 1:3–4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God).”

Eph 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places).”

This extra information is not necessary to figure out which god Paul is referencing, but plays a significant role in moving the audience to think about God in a particular way. Paul uses these kinds of character descriptions regularly.

In Gal 1, Paul is defending his calling as an apostle, fending off apparent accusations that it was not divine in its origins.

Gal 1:15: “But when he (who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,) was 16 pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone.”

The extra description in Eph 3 comes right after Paul has encouraged the believers not to lose heart over his imprisonment, but instead to place their hope in God’s provision.

Eph 3:20:(Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,) 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

So while extra descriptions like these may be unnecessary for us to know who is being written about, they serve an important purpose for the author of Scripture. They are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Rather than narrowing down from a list of potential people, these extra descriptions are intentionally used by the New Testament writers to influence and shape our thinking. Noticing authorial techniques like this can make our own Bible study and preaching more focused and thoughtful.

Learn more about The Lexham High Definition New Testament at Logos.com/HDNT

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Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

When Giants Walked the Earth

Author: Michael S. Heiser

If they haven’t read it, most people have at least heard the story of David and Goliath of Gath (“the Gittite”). The names of the hero and villain have iconic status. But how many people know anything about the giant Goliath, other than that he lost his head to a boy named David from Israel?

Second Samuel 21:15–22 and 1 Chr 20:4–8 tell us that there were other unusually tall warriors among the Philistines[1]. The lists are not identical, but putting them together we read that there were four: Saph (also called Sippai), Lahmi, Ishbi-benob, and an unnamed warrior. The descriptions are similar to that given Goliath, noting “great stature” and the dimensions of their weaponry. Unlike Goliath or any of the other named warriors, the unnamed giant is said to have six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. This malformation, known as polydactylism, is only mentioned in the description of this giant. The Bible does not mention it when it discusses other giant clans.

Wait a minute—giant clans?

There are several people groups described as giants or among whom giants lived in the Old Testament:[2]

1. There are the Anakim, who are descendants from the Nephilim mentioned in Gen 6:1–4 (compare Num 13:33), and whom the people of Israel encountered under Moses, and later under Joshua (Num 13:22–33; Josh 15:13–14).

2. At one time, before the children of Israel traveled through the Transjordan, the land to the east of the Jordan River was heavily populated with tall people known as Emim (Deut 2:10–11) and the Zamzummim, also called the Zuzim (Deut 2:20).

3. The Amorites, another group that stood in the way of Israel claiming the Promised Land, is described as being exceptionally tall (Amos 2:9–10).

4. Lastly, there were the Rephaim, which are mentioned nearly twenty times, most often in association with the conquest of the Promised Land, when Moses encountered king Og of Bashan, whose bed measured to thirteen feet in length (Deut 2:11, 20–22; 3:11–13; Josh 12:4; 13:13).

Goliath was Rephaim. He and the four giant warriors listed alongside him are descended from rapha (פהר) in Gath (2 Sam 21:22; 1 Chr 20:8). If rapha is interpreted as a proper name, Rapha, then the four warriors were all brothers of Goliath. The biblical text does not actually say this. Only one of these men, Lahmi, is specifically said to be the brother of Goliath. Therefore, it is best to translate the term as “giants” or “Rephaim” as many English translations do.

Some of the Rephaim giants survived the wars of Moses and Joshua and their descendants settled in the Philistine city of Gath. The other warriors who accompanied Goliath may not have been brothers, but they were all part of an enduring and unusual lineage that challenged Israel for their land and opposed their God.

[1] The Bible does not record the height of any of these other men. The height of Goliath is uncertain due to disagreements in the manuscript evidence. These passages also introduce a famous Bible difficulty, telling us that Elhanan killed Goliath of Gath, not David. This is discussed in pgs. 33–35 of this issue of BSM

[2] Aside from the people groups noted here, others may have been unusually large, depending on how we take the location of their names in lists of the clear giant clan groups, and the meaning of their names in Hebrew. Examples are the Horites, the Avvim, and the Jebusites.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

War: What is it Good for?

Author: John D. Barry

Does God call us to war? Ambrose of Milan used the story of David and Goliath as a starting point to discuss war and its social, political and spiritual implications. Ambrose argues that the character quality of fortitude (“the strength of mind that enables a person to encounter … adversity with courage,” Merriam-Webster) helps us respond to God’s leading when deciding to go to war or not.

“[L]et us discuss fortitude, which … is divided into two parts, as it concerns matters of war and matters at home.… Fortitude … is a loftier virtue than [others], but it is also one that never stands alone. For it never depends on itself alone. Moreover, fortitude without justice is the source of wickedness. For the stronger it is, the more ready is it to crush the weaker, whilst in matters of war one ought to see whether the war is just or unjust.

David never waged war unless he was driven to it. Thus prudence was combined in him with fortitude in the battle. For even when about to fight single-handed against Goliath, the enormous giant, he rejected the armor with which he was laden (1 Sam 17:39). His strength depended more on his own arm than on the weapons of others. Then, at a distance, to get a stronger throw, with one cast of a stone, he slew his enemy. After that he never entered on a war without seeking counsel of the Lord (2 Sam 5:19). Thus he was victorious in all wars, and even to his last years was ready to fight.

And when war arose with the Philistines, he joined battle with their fierce troops, being desirous of winning renown, whilst careless of his own safety. (2 Sam 11:15). But this is not the only kind of fortitude which is worthy of note. We consider their fortitude glorious, who, with greatness of mind, “through faith stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong” (Heb 11:33–34). They did not gain a victory in common with many, surrounded with comrades, and aided by the legions, but won their triumph alone over their treacherous foes by the mere courage of their own souls.”[1] 

Ambrose (ca. 333–397 AD) was the bishop of Milan, as well as St. Augustine’s teacher. He is most well known for his defense of the Holy Spirit as a divine part of the trinity. He also regularly discussed major political and social issues facing the church.

 [1] Ambrose, Three Books on the Duties of Clergy: Book 1. Translated from Phillip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Vol. X (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), pg. 30. Learn more about the church fathers by visiting Logos.com/ChurchHistory

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.


Signed, Sealed and Delivered—to Satan?

Author Michael S. Heiser

Throughout the New Testament, “family language” is used to describe the relationship of believers to God and Jesus. The Lord’s prayer instructs us to address God as “our Father” (Matt 6:9). Hebrews 2:11–12 reveals that Jesus considers believers his own siblings. Paul says Christians comprise “the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). How is it then, that Paul tells Christians living in Corinth that believers who are unrepentant and living in sin should not only be put out of the church (1 Cor 5:9–13), but also “delivered to Satan” (1 Cor 5:5)?

If a person is given over to Satan, does that mean they then belong to Satan? Does the person lose salvation and have to be re-converted to Christ? Nowhere in the passage does Paul suggest that the believer in question becomes an unbeliever or is without hope of salvation.

After demanding the unrepentant believer be delivered to Satan, Paul notes the goal of such a decision is “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:6). What does Paul mean by “destruction of the flesh?” Paul often uses the word “flesh” (sarkos, σαρκός) to refer to the physical body, but sometimes uses it to refer to self-sufficiency, worldliness, or manner of life.[1] Since someone expelled from a church is not going to die as a result, the second possibility is best. Paul is insisting that the unrepentant person be dismissed from the church to live in his or her sin and endure the consequences of their behavior.

Paul’s explanation in verse six helps answer what he means by “destruction of the flesh,” but it does not explain what the phrase “delivered to Satan” means. For that, we need to look to the Old Testament. The Israelites viewed their land as holy ground and the territory of the non-Israelite nations as controlled by demonic gods. Israel was holy ground because that was where the presence of God resided. The opposite was true everywhere else.[2]

This perspective shifted after the formation of the Church. God’s presence was no longer in the Jerusalem temple, but in the temple which is the body of believers (1 Cor 3:16–17).[3] Where a church was, the Lord was present. Therefore the church was considered “holy ground”; anywhere outside the church was the demonic realm. Hence Paul’s thinking: To be expelled from the church—the local manifestation of the place God lives—was to be thrust into the realm of Satan.

[1] W. Arndt, F. W. Danker, and W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pg. 916; H. R. Balz and G. Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 3:231.

[2] For more on the Israelite view of holy ground, see Michael S. Heiser, “Sanctified Dirt,” Bible Study Magazine (Mar–Apr 2009), pg. 42.

[3] The word “you” in 1 Cor 3:17 is plural (“you [all] are that temple”).

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Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

Finding the Trinity in the OT

Author Ryan Rotz

When studying the Trinity, it makes sense to start with the New Testament and the words of Jesus in passages like Matthew 28:19 and John 15:26. But what about the Old Testament? Was the idea of a Trinity or Godhead ever mentioned? Was it heretical, as it is in Judaism today?

These questions get more interesting when you consider Judaism’s monotheistic beliefs. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4; JPS Tanakh) is the first line of the Shema, a prayer recited by Jews every day. This brings up another question. How could Jews in the early church believe Jesus was God if they grew up with monotheism—being taught there was only one God in heaven?

In this video segment, Hebrew Bible and Semitic language scholar Dr. Michael Heiser explains that before Jesus came, Jews did believe in the idea of a Godhead.

Dr. Heiser continues this lesson in the rest of his Mobile Ed course OT291 The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead. It’s the ideal course for those teaching or studying the doctrine of the Trinity and provides excellent content for conversations with Jewish friends.

Watch additional clips and learn more at Logos.com.

Sanctified Dirt


Author Michael S. Heiser

Elisha’s healing of Naaman the leper, commander of the army of the king of Syria, is a familiar story to many (2 Kgs 5:1–27). Naaman hears that Elisha, the prophet of Israel, can heal him, so he makes the trip. When the two meet, Elisha tells him rather dismissively that he needs to take a bath in the Jordan River. Naaman doesn’t take this well and prepares to go home. At the behest of some servants, he consents to dip himself in the Jordan. He is miraculously healed by the simple act. The display of power, so transparently without sacrifice or incantation, awakens Naaman to the fact that Yahweh of Israel is the true God. Here’s where the story usually ends in our telling, but that would result in the omission of one very odd detail—what Naaman asks to take back home.

In 2 Kgs 5:15–19 the elated Naaman returns to Elisha and begs him to take payment for healing him. Elisha repeatedly refuses. Finally, before embarking for Syria, Naaman makes a strange request: to load two mules with dirt to take back with him.

Dirt? I can think of a few favors I would ask of a prophet in a receptive mood, but dirt certainly isn’t one of them. The request is so odd that it’s hard to avoid wondering if Naaman needed some other kind of therapy. Why would he ask for dirt?

But Naaman was completely in his right mind. In 2 Kgs 5:17, Naaman follows the request with an explanation: “for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord” (ESV). The dirt and Naaman’s new allegiance to the God of Israel are related. Naaman was a man with significant duties in his home country. He couldn’t stay in Israel, but he could take Israel with him. Why would he want to?

Naaman’s unusual request stems from the ancient—and biblical—conception that the earth is the locale for a cosmic turf war. Naaman wanted dirt from Israel because Israel was Yahweh’s territory. The dirt which is Yahweh’s domain is holy ground.

The idea of “holy ground” is an important element of Israelite theology. This phrase is used when Moses is in the presence of the Angel of the Lord and the God of Israel at the burning bush (Exod 3:1–5), and when Joshua meets the Angel of the Lord (Josh 5:15).[1] More broadly, the idea derives from Deut 32:8–9 (compare, Deut 4:19–20) where we learn that when God divided up the nations at the Tower of Babel, they were allotted to “the sons of God.”[2] The nations of the world were, in effect, disinherited by Yahweh as His own earthly family. Immediately after Babel, Yahweh called Abraham and the nation of Israel was created. Israel was therefore “Yahweh’s portion” (Deut 32:9), whereas all the other nations belong to the sons of God whom Israel was forbidden to worship. As a result, Israel was holy ground; the territory of every other nation was not. The rest of the Old Testament is the story of God’s intention to reclaim every nation on earth.

Elisha understood Naaman’s request and granted it without hesitation. He knew the request came from a sincere theological change of heart. Naaman believed that “There [was] no God in all the earth but in Israel” (5:15) and wanted to return to his homeland with holy ground. Even though he would still have to help his aged king bow before Rimmon, Naaman wanted Elisha to know his heart belonged only to the God of Elisha.


[1] The “captain of the Lord’s army” in Josh 5:13–15 can be identified with the Angel of the LORD on the basis of two observations: (1) The parallel with Exod 3:1–5; and (2) The description of the Captain standing before Joshua “with his sword drawn in his hand.” The Hebrew phrase behind this description is found in only two other places in the Old Testament: Num 22:23 and 1 Chr 21:16, both of which explicitly apply the phrase to the Angel of the LORD.

[2] This translation is based upon a correction of the Hebrew text in Deut 32:8 with material from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most English bibles read “sons of Israel” in Deut 32:8, a reading that makes no sense, since Israel did not exist at the time of the tower of Babel, nor is Israel listed in the Table of Nations that resulted from the judgment at Babel. The ESV correctly incorporates the Dead Sea Scroll reading into Deut 32:8. For more information, see MichaelSHeiser.com/DT32.pdf

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 3.

Born Again ... and Again and Again?

Author Michael S. Heiser

Was Jesus open to the idea of reincarnation? The question may seem odd, but it’s one that many people, even biblical scholars, contend has a positive answer.[1] The idea comes from a passage you’ve likely read dozens of times.

John 9:1–4 ESV

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but in order that the works of God might be made manifest in him (he was born blind). We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”


Notice the disciples’ question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Many presume the question indicates that the disciples believed the man born blind really could have sinned before he was born, and that his pre-birth sins caused his congenital blindness. This presumption is followed by another: that Jesus’ answer wasn’t a categorical denial. Since Jesus doesn’t come out and say, “What a silly idea, don’t be ridiculous!” Some have argued that his response means that in this case the man born blind didn’t sin in a previous life, but perhaps that could have happened in another case. Could this interpretation be correct?

Reincarnation is the belief that the soul migrates from one body to another, different body, in a long (possibly endless) succession. The idea of the “migration of the soul” cannot be found in the Bible, or in other Jewish writers of antiquity,[2] which indicates the disciples were likely presuming something different: People can do good and evil while still in the womb. Paul addresses this misconception in Rom 9:9–13, when dealing with the case of Jacob and Esau. Even if a pre-born person could sin in the womb, this does not involve the migration of a soul.

Romans 9:9–13 ESV

“For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’ And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

Matthew 16:13, where some people suggest that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the Old Testament prophets, is also no help to those who want to see reincarnation in John 9:3–4. Jesus and John were contemporaries, born six months apart (Luke 1:8–36), thus John’s soul could not have migrated into Jesus’ body. Elijah never died (2 Kgs 2:1–17), and so the migration of his soul is also not possible. If Jesus were one of the prophets, who had come back to life, then the prophet would be resurrected, not the prophet’s soul in another body. There are other, more technical flaws in this interpretation of John 9,[2] but from this examination alone, it should be apparent that the idea of Jesus approving of one being born again into another physical body,  is dead . . . again.


[1] The notion that Jesus embraced reincarnation is usually associated with New Age writers such as Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Dolores Cannon. However, J. D. M. Derrett, a highly-respected Greek New Testament scholar, recently promoted this view in a scholarly journal article, “The True Meaning of Jn 9, 3–4” (Filología Neotestamentaria xvi 2003), pgs. 103–106.

[2] See “Did Jesus Allow for Reincarnation? Assessing the Syntax of John 9:3–4” at MichaelSHeiser.com/John9.pdf

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 3.

Are There Really 10 Commandments?

Author Michael S. Heiser

One of the most enduring elements of the Bible and the Judaeo-Christian worldview within Western culture is the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. Even if one can’t recite them all, most people have seen the fiery finger of God etch the commandments into two stone tablets as Moses—for many of us, Charlton Heston—watches in awe.

It seems to go without saying that the list of the Ten Commandments is something that Judaism and Christianity have always agreed upon.  Well, that is not exactly true.

Counting the Commandments


Historically speaking, Jews and Christians—and even denominations within Christianity—have disagreed on exactly how the Ten Commandments should be listed and expressed. In fact, how to precisely spell out the commandments was an issue of considerable importance during the Protestant Reformation. The difference concerns how many commands are to be found in the first six verses and last two verses of Exod 20:2–17, the initial listing of the commandments received by Moses at Sinai.¹ An interactive chart found here illustrates the disagreements.

Context is Key

One point of context is required before we can understand the thinking behind the differences in the listing and expression of the commandments. Any listing of the commandments must result in a total of ten, because three other passages of Scripture fix the number of commandments at ten. Exodus 34:28, Deut 4:13, and Deut 10:4 each clearly tell us that God gave Moses ‘asereth hadvarim (“ten words”; “ten statements”) at Sinai.

Interestingly, the Jewish tradition treats the statement in Exod 20:2 (compare Deut 5:6) as a command when the wording has no imperative force to it at all. This latitude arises from the fact that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament exclusively uses ‘asereth hadvarim (“ten words”) instead of ‘asereth hamitsvot (“ten commandments”) with respect to the contents of Exod 20 and Deut 5. After regarding Exod 20:2 as the first “word” of the ten, verses 3–6 are then thematically understood as speaking to a single prohibition: making idols for worship.

There are actually three imperative statements in this group of verses (“You shall have no other gods before me”; “You shall not make for yourself a carved image”; “You shall not bow down to them or serve them”), but to consider them as separate commands would move the total beyond ten.

Christian perceptions of Exod 20 are not rooted in the Hebrew terminology ‘asereth hadvarim (“ten words”), and so Christian formulations do not regard verse one as the first point of the Decalogue. As a result, all of Exod 20:2–6 is considered the starting point, and the imperative wording (“You shall not”) prompted the “commandment” terminology so widely known and used today.

Augustine's Enumeration & Influence

The enumeration adopted by Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism originated with Augustine. While they prefer it, the enumeration of Augustine is not a point of dogma. Section 2066 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is representative of the acknowledgement that, “The division and numbering of the Commandments have varied in the course of history.”³ Reformed Protestants and Greek Orthodox Christians also reject verse 1 as a command, but distinguish verse 3 from verses 4–6 as the first and second commands. This position is likewise not dogmatically taken.

The last two verses are the other major point of divergence in expressing the number and contents of the commandments. Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism divide Exod 20:17 into two commands to achieve the number ten, a necessity in view of seeing Exod 20:2–6 as the first command. This dichotomy is perhaps puzzling, since the entirety of the content of verse 17 speaks about one’s household and possessions, and in light of the thematic grouping at the beginning of the Decalogue. Thematic grouping at the beginning of the Decalogue and thematic splitting at the end doesn’t make sense—unless one keeps in mind the need to wind up with ten!

Despite the numerical disagreement over how to count the commandments, the moral core of the Judaeo-Christian ethic has never been in doubt among those Jews and Christians who take the Bible seriously. A lack of certainty on how to count the Ten Commandments is no impediment to understanding their importance for honoring God and our fellow human beings.


Catechism: A summary of religious doctrine often in the form of questions and answers.

¹With respect to the second listing of the commandments in Deut 5, this issue concerns Deut 5:6–21.

²Orthodox churches do not consider verse 2 a prefatory comment. Rather, all of verses 2–3 are considered the first commandment.

³Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Doubleday, 2003). See also note 20a in The Jerusalem Bible (Doubleday, 1966) on Exod 20.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 2.

What’s in Your Bible?

Author Vincent Setterholm

Jews and Christians throughout the centuries have produced bibles that vary in content and organization.

Canon Comparison Chart

Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther doubted the canonicity* of the Apocrypha*, but when Luther prepared his translation of the Bible into German, he did not remove the Apocrypha; he simply moved those books to an appendix. This tradition continues in many European bibles.

The English were the first group of people to remove the Apocrypha altogether. In 1599, an edition of the Geneva Bible was published without the Apocrypha. In 1615, during the reign of King James the First, George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the penalty for printing a Bible without the Apocrypha to be a year in prison! But over the next three centuries the growing influence of Puritans and Presbyterians over the populace, the government, and the British and Foreign Bible Society led to a strong tradition of printing bibles containing only 66 books.

The situation today reflects this bifurcation. The bibles used by many European Protestants, as well as the Anglican Church, still include the Apocrypha. Most other English-speaking Protestant churches have bibles without the Apocrypha.

See a complete chart that compares the canons of different church traditions at BibleStudyMagazine.com/Canon.


Apocrypha:Jerome, the translator of the early Latin Bible, maintained a distinction between those books he considered canonical and the non-canonical books that should be read for the edification of the church. With some modification, this list of edifying books is sometimes called the “Apocrypha.” Other theologians, such as the influential Augustine, did not maintain this distinction, and were more inclusive in their canon lists.

Canon: (kanōn; κανών)comes from the Greek word for “reed” or “rod,” used as a straight edge or ruler for measurement. In biblical studies, when we talk about a canon, we mean that list of books that a community considers both authoritative and inspired. Canonical books form the standard against which other writings, doctrines and practices are measured.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 1.