If you do not have a Bible, we suggest that you buy one soon so you can check all the biblical references in each lesson and study on your own. We recommend the New King James Version as a first translation. In case you choose to buy a used Bible, the older King James Version is usually more readily available in used-book stores.
You will greatly benefit from looking up in your own Bible every scriptural reference. This is important! Only then can you be certain that your understanding comes specifically from Scripture. Our goal in this course is to assist you in learning and correctly applying the truths of the Bible. The greatest benefit comes from reading the Scriptures directly from your own Bible.
Many thousands of students of the Bible have found that writing out or typing each scripture has increased their comprehension and doubled or tripled what they remember. Reproducing each scripture forces you to look at and carefully consider every word.
We suggest that you also acquire and learn to use an exhaustive Bible concordance. A concordance enables you to find every verse in the Bible in which a particular word is used. With this tool you can search the Bible for verses containing words relevant to your personal study. Most exhaustive concordances also contain an abbreviated lexicon (dictionary) of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words to help you better understand their original meaning. Concordances are available for the most popular Bible versions.
If possible, use various translations of the Bible in your study. Since English has changed considerably since the King James Version was first published in 1611, many Bible students find that a more-modern translation greatly helps their study and comprehension. Here are some strengths and weakness of the three major types of translations.
In some translations, like the King James and the New King James versions, the translators do their best to render every word in the original language into its equivalent or close equivalent in English. This can sometimes make the meaning difficult to grasp in our own language. Yet the Hebrew or Greek text is reflected rather accurately. These are known as literal, or word-for-word, translations. These are the best translations to use when accuracy is vital.
In other translations, such as the New International Version, the translators have attempted to correctly render the thought or meaning of each sentence as close to the thought of the original as possible. These are generally called literary or thought-for-thought translations. This approach makes the meaning considerably easier to grasp, providing the translators' own understanding is accurate. The risk, however, in this type of translation lies in the understanding of the translators. Errors are introduced if the translators' perception of the original meaning is flawed.
Last, and least reliable, are the paraphrased versions of the Bible. In these versions the translators simply tell, in their own words, what they think the original author meant. They can be useful, but only if the translators have clearly and accurately understood the original text. These loose translations are far more prone to contain major misinterpretations of the Scriptures than the other two types. For that reason we should never use them to establish what the Bible teaches. But, occasionally, they can be helpful in making hard-to-understand language more comprehensible.
Occasionally we will recommend additional reading material you may obtain from a library or bookstore. For this lesson we recommend the book Darwin's Black Box, by Lehigh University (Pennsylvania) biochemist Michael Behe (The Free Press, New York, NY, 1996). Dr. Behe thoroughly explains a fundamental scientific impossibility in the widely accepted theory of evolution. His book is especially valuable for those who desire scientific confirmation that life on our planet was created rather than evolved from inanimate matter. It convincingly demonstrates, from strictly scientific evidence, that life cannot spontaneously evolve.
We also sometimes recommend booklets or other items of literature you can obtain directly from the United Church of God, an International Association. We recommend that you request and carefully study each of them. They address specific aspects of these lessons in much greater depth. This literature is available free for the asking from our Web site or by contacting any of our offices. We hope you will request your free copies of this literature. If you have any questions about material covered in these lessons, please contact our office nearest you. We look forward to serving you.