Below you will find short interactions with classic theological literature to help introduce you to some of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand. There will also be irregular posts formed out of sermons, Bible studies, or coffee after 5:00pm.
In 1991, William J. Chamberlain published a book called “Catalogue of English Bible Translations: A Classified Bibliography of Versions and Editions Including Books, Parts, and Old and New Testament Apocrypha and Apocryphal Books.” Now I know what you’re thinking; your mother read that to you as a child, so what’s the sense talking in about it even more?
Just in case you weren’t read that book while you drifted off to sleep in your childhood bed, let me tell you that it’s almost 1,000 pages. There are 151 categories of English Bibles listed. Some are well-known translations (at least by the early 1990’s), and some are one-off, privately owned works. But the point stands—there is an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to the availability of the Bible when it comes to the English-speaking world.
What I want to do today is to think through with you how to make the best use of the riches of English Bible translations. This is a practical post on the things everyone should know about Bible translations.
Read the Preface or Website
The best thing you can do is to read the Preface to 4, 5, or 6 of the more well-known translations today. If you don’t have ready access to a few translations, you can find the same information on their websites. Check out the NIV, ESV, NASB, NKJV, NLT, and even the KJV.
In the Preface or relevant section on their website, you’ll find a section on “translation philosophy.” It’s here that the translators will give you an overview of why they made the decisions that they did. They’ll explain the translation of specific (or controversial) words. They’ll explain conventional approaches to translation, such as the name for God, or how “Lord” gets translated depending on where it falls in the Old or New Testament.
The Greek word doulos could be translated 3 ways into English, depending on the context. It literally means “slave,” but doulos could mean someone owned as property, someone working off a debt through years of free labor, or something reflecting more of an employment situation like a servant. There is also the theological implication that Paul says we are doulos to Christ. Context makes the difference, and the various translations will make different choices. Reading the translation philosophy makes a big difference in how you interpret a passage.
When selecting a translation, there is some wisdom in simply selecting one and sticking with it. I was recently speaking with a friend who teaches a foreign language. In her continuing education, she takes classes where the lectures, books, and discussion are completely in the foreign language. She’s studying esoteric things like the usage of third-person-plural in 3 different nations. By all accounts, she’s an expert. What’s interesting is that she mentioned how she still thinks in English. She can speak and read all day in a foreign language, but her mind operates in her native language.
Something similar is at work in Bible translation. As you grow accustomed to a translation, it’ll inform the way you think. You’ll memorize passages in that translation. You’ll use the word choices that translation does. If you’re doing some hardcore studying of a passage or book, then having 2 or 3 translations might be some help. But in your ordinary reading, I’d recommend sticking with the one you have (or at least sticking with the one you choose).
Printed vs. Digital
I have the Bible on all my mobile devices. It’s super handy to have some notes and the Bible side-by-side on the screen of an iPad. If I need reminded of a passage quickly, having it on my phone is great. But there’s some good to come from regular use of a printed Bible.
There are four general categories of printed Bibles: reading, footnoted, cross reference, and study Bibles. All of them have their benefits.
Reading Bibles are usually just the text of the Bible with no extra notes. Some of them don’t even include chapter and verse markings. These are helpful for really soaking in the Word of God without any distractions.
Footnoted Bibles have some basic notes on the pages. I recommend footnotes because translators can include simple explanations in real time. For instance, a word-for-word translation of an idiom in Hebrew might be nonsense in English (do you think an Israelite in the time of Moses would understand what “out of left field” means?). A translation team might leave the word-for-word phrase in the text but include a footnote of its meaning. Or, for example, if a translation always uses the different versions of “slave” for doulos based on context, they might include a footnote reminding you of what they said in the preface. Or, a footnote might show the range of meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word to help clarify how it's used in context.
Cross reference Bibles are essentially footnoted Bibles, but to varying degrees they will include other passages in the footnotes that speak to the same idea noted in the text. For instance, if a passage is speaking about the covenant made with David, the footnoted cross references will list out for you many, if not all, of the other places the covenant with David is mentioned, both Old and New Testament.
Study Bibles are great for a little extra explanation of what’s going on in the text. Some are just detailed footnotes, some include articles, and some include explanations of certain doctrines. Some might be written entirely by one person, and some might be written by a team of people. No one is an expert on the entire Bible, so I generally recommend a study Bible written by a team of people.
It’s worth noting, very briefly, some of the major differences between the most popular translations out today.
Some translations aim toward a “word-for-word,” or formal, style. For example, if the Greek sentence has 12 words, the translators will try to make sure the English sentence has 12 words in the same order. The problem is that word order means far less in Greek than it does in English. Sometimes, changing the word order is what makes the English sentence make sense.
The opening prayer of Ephesians 1, in Greek, has over 200 words. That’s…1 sentence. That’s nearly impossible to communicate in English, though it’s possible in Greek. Even if word-for-word translators try to keep it one sentence, they necessarily have to add punctuation that’s not there in the Greek to follow English conventions as best they can. The philosophy behind these translations is to let Bible teachers and preachers interpret the difficult passages for you. While there’s some wisdom in that, ordinary people need to read the Bible, too.
Some translators choose a “thought-for-thought,” or dynamic, style. Basically, they prioritize the conventions, grammar, and idioms of English over those of Hebrew and Greek. They will switch out phrases that would be meaningless to English speakers with those that are close in meaning. They will break long sentences down into more conventional lengths for English. This philosophy will naturally be a little more interpretive than a “word-for-word” approach. But with a good Bible with footnotes, much of the threat of pre-digested interpretation is staved off.
“Word-for-word” and “thought-for-thought” translation is a continuum. No translation is purely one or the other. For example, the NASB is often propped up as the gold standard of formal, or word-for-word, translation. However, Greek convention would permit using the present-tense of a verb when retelling a story that took place in the past. It was a way of bringing the reader into the story. However, this would also mean that present-tense and past-tense would be mixed when telling a story. Mixing verb tenses is a big no-no in English. The NASB changes present-tense to past-tense in these instances so the English makes sense. And to indicate when they do that, they italicize those verbs. Every translation makes those kinds of concessions.
All this is to say that no one has an excuse for not reading their Bible regularly. Don’t have one? The church will get you one. Do you have several? Pick one and start. There has never been a better time to be alive when it comes to translation choice.
Take up, and read!
Check out the translation philosophies below.
KJV (it may look funny, but it’s linked from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary)
Today we close out our look at James 3 and how the Christian must control his or her tongue. James has used a couple of illustrations, and he closes with another grouping of imagery to make a similar point: the tongue should not be used to speak good and evil, blessing and cursing.
James writes in 3:9-12, "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."
First, fresh water and saltwater cannot exist together in the same spring. One will take over the other. And both have good uses. Different kinds of fish live in both kinds of water. But they cannot coexist. Brackish water exists, the mixture of fresh and saltwater, but it’s usually considered a waste product and not natural.
Second, fig trees develop figs…and that’s it. Fig trees don’t make olives, apples, or grapes. And each kind of tree takes different kind of care. The point is that you can expect certain trees to give you their respective fruits.
The metaphor is clear: when people praise God and curse each other, it’s incongruous. It's a square peg in a round hole.
Certain kinds of language cannot (or should not) coexist with other kinds of language. We’re not just talking about swear words and the like. But do you speak kindly to someone’s face and dog them to other people? Do you know that what you know is gossip, and still you share it to those who don’t need to know? Do you praise God for an hour on Sundays but don’t consider his ways throughout the week?
What about unverified information? What about things that undermine your witness? Do you sow seeds of doubt while praising the God of truth?
It’s worth noting that the unforgivable sin is a sin of the tongue. In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
This is more dangerous than sexual immorality, marital fidelity, economic honesty, greed, covetousness, etc. If you break the first commandment, you'll break the rest. How we speak of God matters more than all these things. If we blaspheme the Spirit of God, we are rejecting the mercy of God and denying the Spirit’s work, which is to apply salvation to us that was bought and paid for by the Son. Can you imagine a greater sin?
Keep in mind the importance of little things: the bridle that guides a horse, the rudder that steers the ship, and the spark that sets a wildfire. To let any of those things loose with unchecked power will result in uncontrollable damage. The horse will buck its rider, the ship will run aground, and the fire will destroy a forest.
But using those things in their proper way, for their intended purpose, results in control, stability and peace. Horses are enjoyed for leisure and labor, boats are used for comfort and commerce, and fires can give you a warm shower and cook your dinner.
Horses can be tamed, boats can be repaired, and fires can be put out. But how much more difficult is it to undo a careless word? Or a blasphemous word against God?
It is better to not say anything and be misunderstood than to say what you mean and to be proven an immature Christian.
The apostle James warns us about the power of our words. Our tongue, James says, has an outsized impact relative to its size. Because of that, our thoughts and words should be kept in reserve unless necessary. He has compared our tongues to a bit that controls a horse or a rudder that controls a boat. A bit or rudder looks almost insignificant, but they actually determine the direction of the beast or boat.
James then compares our words or our tongues to something far more destructive: a wildfire. In James 3:5b-5, he writes, "How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell."
Wildfires are well known today and in the ancient world. Just in the past several years, California and Australia have seen dozens of lives lost and billions of dollars in damage. The ancient world had horrific wildfires, as well. Virgil and Homer, Ancient Greek poets, both wrote about wildfires as poetic devices to illustrate massive destruction. Even today, sometimes the best we can do is simply manage the destruction. We can't stop it. So it is with the tongue.
Now James is focused on the destructive power of our words. It's not a new biblical idea. Again, the Proverbs speak to this.
"A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire." Proverbs 16:27.
"As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife." Proverbs 26:20-21.
He says the tongue is a "world of unrighteousness." Biblically, the "world" is the system that's opposed to God. James has picked up on this at a few points. In 1:27, we're told to keep ourselves unstained by the world. In 4:4, we're told that alliance with the world is being an enemy with God. James' point is that the tongue is the clearest representative of an evil, fallen world.
So many of our problems are rooted in the fact that we say things we shouldn't, or we say them in a way that undermines what we mean. We would rather be right and start a fight than wait to say what needs to be said at the right time. This, says James, is why the tongue is "set on fire from hell."
Hell is the old English world put in place for Gehenna in the Scriptures. It was the place of pagan sacrifices that had been turned into a garbage dump where the fire never stopped during. It became the image of eternal punishment.
Here's the point: an undisciplined tongue is more aligned with hell than a righteous God.
James then writes, "For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (3:7-8).
In relation to all other species, humans are distinct. God made us in his image and gave us the creation mandate in Genesis 1:27. But here's the irony: all of the animals have been domesticated and tamed. At the very least, we understand how to manage the animals, whether it's bringing them into our homes or keep our distance from them.
And yet, we can't tame our own tongues. "No human being can tame the tongue." Now clearly, he's overstating the fact, because he's actually writing to implore us to do just that. But there is always more room for greater maturity in the discipline of our tongues.
Like a restless, unstable animal, the tongue must be bridled to be controlled. And if we're not extremely careful with our words, we speak out of both sides of our mouths.
James the writes, "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (3:9-10).
The worth of every male and female, regardless of age or stage of life, social status, economic worth, education, physical or mental ability, is made in God's image. That fact surpasses all of those other things by an immeasurable degree.
Praise and cursing supports that idea that many Christians are hypocrites. We say one thing and do another. So, it behooves us to speak the truth in a winsome way and to live a life in concert with the truth. No one should be able to look at what we say and what we do and think we're two different people.
Next week, we'll close out our look at James 3 with yet another illustration about the tongue's power.
Some people have a problem called "glossitis." This is when the tongue swells as a symptom of other conditions. Sometimes it's hardly noticeable, and other times it can hardly fit in the mouth. The good news is that it's treatable.
All people have a problem where our tongue works before our minds. If we're not mindful of what we say and the tone with which we say it, we can cause tremendous damage. The good news is that this is treatable, as well.
The book of James has quite a bit to say about the power of our words. Like glossitis, our words are often just a symptom of an underlying condition, in this case, sin's ever-crouching presence.
James 2:1-12 says, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
James is concerned with Christians having the right kind of speech toward other believers and the impact of the wrong kind of speech. Many would agree that speech is the most difficult aspect of life to control, for a variety of reasons. But James’s main point is that the person who claims to be a part of Christ’s church should not be identified with cursing but with building each other up. In other words, the tongue can be destructive and difficult to control, but the Christian can master it.
James begins by saying that very few should take on the role of teacher. This is not just a suggestion, but more of a prohibition. As a teacher, you’re by nature a public person with at least minor influence. Early Christians held the teacher in a high esteem, so that alone made many people want to seek out the position, many of whom were unfit. We read all about the dangers of imprecise doctrine, immaturity in leadership, and the threat of false teachers in the church.
Jesus even warned his disciples about the danger the Pharisees were in, the self-made teachers of the law, because of their hypocritical life (Matthew 23:1-5).
So why be strict about teachers? Because they’ll be judged more severely. They’re held to a greater account. When addressing those who teach just so they’ll be held in high esteem, Jesus says, “They will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:40).
Teachers have to be, out of necessity, precise in their speech. Without thinking, teachers who are lax in the way they present doctrine can cause others to stumble. “Stumble” is a word often used to describe sin. Sin trips us up and causes us to walk in ways country to God’s divine will. The speech of a careless teacher runs the risk of sinning himself and causing others to do the same. This is why they run the risk of a greater condemnation.
But this isn’t only a good word for teachers. James says “we all” stumble in many ways, especially in our words and thoughts. Look at these Proverbs.
“Death and life are in the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov. 18:21).
“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Prov. 11:12-13).
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth” (Prov. 10:19-20).
To have mastery over what comes out of our mouths makes us “perfect.” That’s not a term for sinlessness, but a state of maturity and of high character. So to stand before others and teach the truths of God carries with it great responsibility. Teachers must be more disciplined in what they say because of the position they hold.
James then uses two images to describe the disproportionate impact of our words.
First, we all know that small things have large effects. A new baby in the home might weigh a measly 7 pounds, but he or she completely reshapes the entirety of the lives of the parents. The same is true of our words.
The bit a rider puts in a horse’s mouth gives the rider control of the horse. The last time I rode a horse, I was outmatched. The glassy-eyed dinosaur upon which I was perched started to do its own thing, which included running at an ever-increasing tempo. But, as “The Sound of Silence” played in my mind as I envisaged my looming mortality, with a simple pull of the reigns, I was able to gain mastery over this 2-ton equine beast. Within a few seconds we were back an acceptable gallop.
When you’re out on the waters in a boat, you control the direction you go with a simple rudder. Even in wind and rain, the rudder gives you some control of where you’re headed.
A child can hold a bit in his hands. Anyone can steer a boat with a well-built rudder. But both the bridle and the rudder have an inordinate impact relative to their size. And James teaches us that the same goes for the tongue.
Without a bridle on your tongue, you are promised that it is impossible to have any semblance of control over yourself. It at starts with your words, whether what you say or what you don’t say.
We may think that if we have a healthy body weight or if we plan our meals down to the carbohydrate, then we have ourselves under control. But Scripture says relatively little about bodily health as evidence of self-control.
But our words—that’s where the proof is. Our way of life and our ability to sin or not to sin with our words are inextricably linked in every possible way. For many of us, our spiritual growth is stilted because we have not learned to keep our words under the control of the Spirit.
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence’” (Psalm 39:1).
Next week, we’ll look at the other image James uses, but in the context of the effect of our words: a wildfire.
If you talk about the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures with those who don’t confess any kind of Christianity or are only loosely affiliated, a lot of times their eyes will glaze over. A lot of people don’t necessarily actively hate the Bible, but the idea that it is inerrant and inspired and has authority over their life isn’t of any real importance. It’d be like someone trying to explain to me the importance of the various ways paint is made and the different properties of paint. All that matters to me is that it sticks to drywall. That’s how a lot of people view the Bible. It has some good qualities, but what’s the bottom line?
The questions that people are asking about the Bible in our post-truth, secular age aren’t really anything new. People have always asked versions of these questions. But we also know that there are always questions behind the questions. Sometimes we mask the real question so we get to ask it without really asking it. Or we have an agenda and we want to make a point by asking loaded questions. And then, sometimes we just ask honest questions. We sincerely want to know.
We’re going to look at three common questions that we’re all confronted with, in one form or another. These are honest questions, not questions made up to spin a yarn in favor of the Bible or to find some confirmation bias. These are honest questions we’ve all asked in one way or another.
Question 1: Isn't it best just to spiritualize the Bible since it's full of contradictions and therefore can't be true by modern standards?
What are we assuming when we ask this question? The Bible is full of errors. It's inherently untrustworthy. But it's human nature to try to spiritualize things to get out of accountability for your knowledge. It’s even a Biblical idea. In the book of James, Jesus’ cousin, he writes, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and does not to do it, to him it is sin (4:17).” We want to spiritualize everything. By spiritualizing the Bible, you're essentially dumb-ing down hundreds and hundreds of years of Holy Spirit-inspired revelation to a pop-psychology book, because the Bible claims to be Holy Spirit-inspired, not pop-psychology.
The question behind the question is, "What is true?" And the assumption is that you know what's true already and what's not. You are the self-appointed filter through which you sift everything you read in Scripture. You are the final authority. In Psalm 119, it says, “You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently (v. 4).” How can I say this? Never in the history of civilization has there been such a paradox like we have now in the West, especially in America. We want total independence, but we want democracy. We want to decide what is best for ourselves, but we want it provided for us. Doesn't that make us god? We're independent because our decisions and what we believe shouldn't be impacted by anyone despite who they impact. But we're democratic, in a sense, because if something good happens to one person, it should happen to me. We've all been jealous of that person because they praise God for something that is good, and we're mad at God for not giving us one, too. We have placed ourselves firmly in the center of the judge's seat. We decide what's true, and no one else, especially God, gets to weight in.
We like to pretend we know what truth is on our own. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t a spiritual sense to the Bible. From the earliest Christian teachers of the Bible, they looked for a spiritual sense to whatever they read. But they never did so because they thought it was littered with errors.
Question 2: Isn't the Bible just another sacred book, like the Qur’an?
This is a very Western/First-World idea. The assumption behind this question is that all these books are morally equivalent. Therefore, you are obligated to respect all these books in the same way. Islam has the Qur'an. Hinduism has the Vedas and other holy texts. Buddhism has very loose definitions of what constitute holy scriptures. What this question forces you to do is to make your faith a private matter. You choose to believe one of these books or all of them. It's a matter of choice.
The question behind the question is asking, "What makes the Bible stand out?" That's a fair question, and Scripture addresses this very issue. In Romans 10, Paul is talking about how through Jesus, salvation is offered to all people in every nation. In doing so, he quotes some OT passages from the book of Isaiah. What he quotes is a question, asking, "Lord, who has believed our message? (Rm. 10:16)" He's saying that the gospel message will go out to all the world. He goes on and from Isaiah's question, Paul deduces that, "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Rm. 10:17)"
So what makes the Bible stand out? Only these texts have the words of Christ, who is God. Nowhere else does any text even claim to have the words of Christ. It's a very simple idea, but it's one that's often overlooked. It's often assumed that all religions point to the same god. And some religions even teach that. But only Christianity teaches that salvation comes from hearing and hearing the words of Christ alone.
The biblical authors, every one of them, was adamant that the entire Bible contained signposts pointing to Christ. Basically, the idea is that Christ did not suddenly appear in the New Testament. Christ was at the creation of the universe and he'll be there when it's all made new. In 1 Corinthians, Paul even places Christ in places we may not have noticed him in the Old Testament. He says in chapter 10, that the Israelites drank from the spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ. If you read the text he's quoting, you may not read Jesus in there, but Paul reassures us that Christ is found in every word of the Bible.
Question 3: Doesn't the Bible teach a lot of things that we wouldn't stand for today and therefore is barbaric?
This is how a lot of us get away with simply dismissing the Bible completely. Many read the Old Testament especially and see all the patriarchs with multiple wives, having slaves, and playing favorites with their children. Their conclusion is that the Bible condones such behaviors. This is a superficial reading that is on par with believing Mark Twain condoned overt racism because he wrote Huckleberry Finn. No one believes that because they've read the story with an eye toward the context.
When you read about Solomon having concubines, God "giving" King David several wives, and Abraham having slaves, you also read about the terrible wrath they endured for their behavior. The Bible constantly upsets the cultural defaults. The cultural default of the day was to have many wives, own slaves, and favor the eldest child. God, manifesting his power through the Bible, upsets man's wisdom. To read those stories and come to the conclusion that the Bible is an outdated manual for barbarism is to come to the text with an agenda and not let the Bible speak for itself. In a word, it’s lazy.
It's true that there have always been groups of people who used the Bible for their own glory and not God's. People have used texts out of their context to condone racial slavery, even in America's history. But when people point that out and use it to show how the Bible shouldn't be applied to our enlightened, postmodern lives, they ignore the cold hard facts that a vast majority of people have never used the Bible to do that. In fact, before the Civil War, bishops and pastors in Britain were writing to pastors in America in support of their efforts to abolish slavery.
One of the things that often hangs people up is the notion that God commanded genocide of thousands of people at various points in the Old Testament. A lot of this stems from cherry-picking a few verses here and there to make a point. Even early in the Old Testament, in the book of Genesis we’re told that God wanted the Israelites to “drive out” the Canaanites from the Promised Land. It’s well-accepted by many scholars of the ancient Near East today that the Canaanites practiced what we don’t allow even today—things like infant sacrifice, bestiality, incest, and stealing a person’s humanity by forcing ritual prostitution (or do we?). One of the traits that stems from God’s love and justice is that he limits evil. A careful reading of the text shows that it’s not just that God is going to give the Israelites the Promised Land. He doesn’t allow evil to run rampant. Also, God waited 400 years before he commanded Israel to drive them out.
Sometimes language trips us up. We are told that God wants Israel to utterly destroy and leave nothing alive when they drive the Canaanites out. We know from other ancient Near Eastern war texts that this was common hyperbole—not that different from us wanting the Colts to destroy their opponent. We’re even told later by Joshua that there were remnants of the Canaanites still there, and he warns the people about marrying them and getting involved in idol worship again.
You don’t need to be a scholar to find all of this out. All of this is right there in the Biblical text itself. Of course, there are parts that need a good level of interpretation, but a basic tenant of Bible study is that “it was meant to be understood.” All too often, we come to the Bible without acknowledging our confirmation bias. We already know that God is a monster who killed thousands of people, and then we read what the text actually says and make it fit. Then we’re left to either make the Bible subject to our own ideas, or we’re left to swallow our pride and allow the text to speak for itself.
There are a thousand different questions people have about the Bible. These are a small selection. If the Bible can’t stand up to scrutiny, then it’s really not worth believing in. At the end of the day, the inescapable truth is that the answer the Bible gives about why it exists is to point you to Christ. In this way, like Paul tells Timothy, we are made complete. There is room to question it, there is room to study it, but there is no room to deny it.