The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

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The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Sun Jan 10, 2016 3:42 am

Much of the discussion here hinges upon the Bible, and yet I see that many of us show a bit of confusion about the Bible. I would like to offer this thread as a resource for a better understanding of the Bible by all concerned. I will attempt to answer any questions or to explain any ambiguous passages to the best of my understanding and knowledge, and with the understanding and knowledge I can borrow from commentaries and other sources (to be cited as they are used).

This being the civility lounge, I will respectfully respond to respectful queries.

My own qualifications on the subject are over half a century of formal and informal training in Christian theology. Nonetheless, I will acknowledge my potential for error.

That said:

THE BIBLE: AN INTRODUCTION

The Bible is not a "Golden Book." That is to say, unlike many holy books, it is not said to have fallen from heaven in one piece, ready to be read. The Koran (or Quran) is a "Golden Book," as a contrary example. According to Christian theology, the Bible was given by plenary inspiration to writers who recorded their own accounts in their own words of the things they were given to say. According to Muslim theology, the Koran was verbally inspired, that is, angels told Muhammed precisely what to write. The Bible is not views as being a relic in itself -- that is, it is ink on paper wrapped in leather, and if it is lost or destroyed, that is sad but not sacrilege. The destruction or defacement of a Koran is, according to Islamic theology, a sacrilege in itself.

Another important point is in the language of the Bible. The Bible is regarded as being fully effective in any language. If we translate it to Swahili, Ilocano, Urdu, Visayan, or Xhusa, it remains (again, according to Christian theology) the word of God expressed to man through the record of God's interactions with men. A golden book, however, such as the Koran, is valid and authoritative only in its original language. Muslims who wish to read the Koran must learn Arabic, as the Koran in any other language is not regarded as truly a Koran.

The Bible is an anthology. It consists of 66 books, in total, arranged into two major sections. Those sections are called "The Old Testament" and "The New Testament. They contain 39 and 27 books respectively. Some Bibles will also include another section, known as the Apochrypha, which were regarded by the Jewish rabbis as inspirational but not inspired.

The Old Testament is known to the Jews as the Tanakh, an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning "Law, Prophets, Writings." When the New Testament writers refer to "The Law and the Prophets" they are referring to the Tanakh. The Tanakh was primarily written in Hebrew, using a vocabulary of just under ten thousand words. Some portions were written in Aramaic, a related Semetic language.

The first section of the TaNaKh is the Torah, or the Books of the Law. These books are called the Books of Moses, and authorship is attributed to him, though this was likely a "school of Moses" sort of attribution. That is, he had them written. The books of Law are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Genesis brings us from the Beginning to the entry into Egypt by Jacob's children. Exodus describes the departure from Egypt and the giving of the Law. Leviticus is the detailed explanation of the law. Numbers details the events during the wandering. Deuteronomy ("Second Law") records the giving of the law to the new generation, just prior to the conquest of Canaan.

The Writings come next. These consist of 12 books of history, and 5 books of poetry. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel / 2 Samuel, 1 Kings/ 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles / 2 Chronicles, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah are the books of history. They cover the period from the conquest of Canaan to the return from Babylonian captivity. The books of poetry are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon (Song of Songs / Canticle of Canticles). Job is an epic poem on the problem of evil; Psalms is the Songbook of the Hebrews (primarily written by David, but with many contributions by others including Asaph and Moses). The remaining three were written by Solomon: Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings, edited and compiled by Solomon; Ecclesiastes is a philosophical rumination upon the futility of life (compare to Franz Kafka); and Song of Songs is an R-rated poem about human sexuality.

Following these are the Prophets. These may be subdivided into the Major and the Minor prophets, with the sole distinction being the length of the books. Major prophets wrote longer books. Four prophets wrote five books in the major section. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations (by Jeremiah), Ezekiel, and Daniel are the major prophets. Ezekiel and Daniel both wrote parts of their books in a style known as Apocalyptic, in which vivid visions and dreams are described (imagine Salvidor Dali, Edmund Spenser, John Bunyan and John Calvin all having the same nightmare, and you'll get the general idea).

The 12 minor prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Each speaks with a distinct and compelling voice.

Thus the pattern of the Tanakh, by types of book, is 5/12/5/5/12 for Law/History/Poetry/Major_Prophets/Minor_Prophets. The Tanakh ends in about 400 BC.

The New Testament begins its story in about 3 BC, and covers the remainder of time to the end of time. The first four books are Gospels, or biographies of Christ. Three of these, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are spoken of as "Synoptic" or "Seeing with one eye" because they record the same events, though mostly from different perspectives. Mark (John Mark, Barnabus' nephew) wrote first, recording the memories of Simon Peter. Matthew wrote to answer Jews who were critical of Jesus and his teachings. Luke wrote to record events for those who had not seen Christ in the flesh. Luke continues his story with Acts of the Apostles.

But between Luke's first and second books there lies John, the non-synoptic gospel. While the synoptic gospels attempt to organize events according to chronology, John attempts to give brief stories about events in the life if Jesus, with little regard for Chronology. Logically, the story of Nicodemus would fit well closer to the crucifixion, but John has it as Chapter 3. The moving story of the Woman at the Well, in John 4, might have happened any of the many times Jesus led his disciples to Galilee and back. John consistently refuses to name himself, referring instead to "Another disciple" or to "The disciple whom Jesus loved." This gospel is much more like our modern idea of a narrative story, and thus is a good starting point for those wishing to read the Bible.

Romans, 1 Corinthians / 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians / 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy / 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are letters written by Paul to churches or individuals. Hebrews may have been written by Paul; I suspect the Son of Encouragement as the author. Following Hebrews are the General Epistles: James, 1 Peter / 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude.

The final book, Revelation, or the Revelation of John, or the Apocalypse of John, is the last book in the Bible, and the only full book of prophecy in the New Testament. It is written almost entirely in the Apocalyptic style that it shares with the second half of Daniel and most of Ezekiel.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Stacie Cook » Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:42 am

Thanks Og3.

Hope you won't be posting any spoilers. I haven't made it to the ending yet.... ;)



But Og, the Bible was just wriiten by men, not God. How can we trust anything in it?
There are so many translations. Isn't it all up to each person's interpretation?
How can there be any consensus on any meanings?
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:29 am

Stacie Cook wrote:Thanks Og3.

Hope you won't be posting any spoilers. I haven't made it to the ending yet.... ;)

But Og, the Bible was just wriiten by men, not God. How can we trust anything in it?
There are so many translations. Isn't it all up to each person's interpretation?
How can there be any consensus on any meanings?

Spoiler: In the end it turns out that Jesus did it all.

Worthy questions, Stacie. Let's look at the first one, But Og, the Bible was just wriiten by men, not God. How can we trust anything in it?

If the claims of the Bible are true, the Bible was written by men, who were specifically commissioned by God to record these events. This was not a dictation; this was a plenary inspiration. It would be like me telling you to write down what you saw at a traffic accident. I'm not going to object if you mention a blue car that was actually aqua-marine blue-green, but I'm going to cough if you write down that it happened on Thursday, not Friday. *Ahem.* Thursday? That's better.

Thus we have different viewpoints and different focuses, but one landscape.

But is that landscape a realistic and authentic picture of the real world, and real events? For that, we also need logic. We apply the same amount of trust to the Bible that we would apply to any document of similar age. Let's use as comparisons Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, which would be within 100 years of the Gospel of Mark, give or take, and Herodotus' Histories, which would be roughly contemporary with Ezra or Nehemiah. In each case, the authors described events which they intended for us to accept as true history (i.e. Vandiver's "History B," what really happened, as opposed to "History A," or stories/Logia which may or may not accurately represent History B).

We can accept all four, reject all four, or pick and choose which to accept and which to reject. But if we are seeking truth, we need to apply a consistent set of tests to all four documents, and to treat each with the same skepticism and/or grudging respect. We don't need to reach the same conclusion for each, but we need to reach our conclusions the same way for each.

So what are some tests that we can apply to a document, in order to see if it should be true history or apochryphal Logia? Well, some that have been used in the past are Provenance (meta-data, if you will, or the historical circumstances of the document), Internal Consistency (how well it agrees with itself), and External consistency or how well it agrees with sources and data outside itself. Remember that we must apply these tests equally, blindly, and fairly.

If we argue against the Bible because it says that the sun rises and sets (and we know this to be false; the earth rotates), then we must also object to any sunrise or sunset found in Caesar or Herodotus. If we accept the number and relative age of the existing manuscripts as evidence for the Bible, then we must give similar points and similar credence to a similar number of documents and relative age in other documents (and here, both Caesar and Herodotus don't measure up to the Bible, but we don't want to make a rash judgment). If we point to similarities between events in Caesar and events in, say, Pompey's Diary or Vercingetorix' Memoirs (and I don't know that either of those documents/titles even exist), we must also credit the Bible when an external source is in harmony with it.

But before we go too far down this road (which I hope to do in a later post), let's look at your other question: There are so many translations. Isn't it all up to each person's interpretation?
How can there be any consensus on any meanings?

The answer is "with hard work and diligence." The Bible is not meaningless words on a page, like some word-soup inkblot test. It makes specific claims and it states specific assertions. Much of it is crystal clear: I have yet to hear so much as a single argument that hinged on John 3:16, for example. There are passages that need to be read carefully and deliberately, either because they are uncertain in meaning or because they have layers of meanings, but for the most part, the Bible is unambiguous.

When one finds a passage that requires further study, several questions can help us to dig deeper:
What does it appear to mean on the surface?
What was the writer trying to express in the remainder of this chapter (before and after)?
What do the individual words mean?
Are there ancient figures of speech embedded in this?
What have scholars through the ages believed this passage to mean?
Do other translations clarify the meaning?
What does God say that it means when I pray about it?

Thinking here of Jesus quip regarding a camel passing through the eye of a needle: On the surface this seems to say that it is impossible for a rich man to be saved. But we know that there were some rich followers of Jesus, so this seems unlikely. It might also be hyperbole. Before and after this passage, the writer was talking about sacrifices that must be made to follow Jesus. So the idea that riches might be a great burden -- hyperbole, in other words -- seems to be an interpretation consistent with the context.

19:24 πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν is the original Greek, and it seems to be consistent with the hyperbole interpretation. For example, we don't find that the word "Kamelos" was sometimes used to mean camel and other times a thread. Matthew Henry (a well-respected ancient commentator) says this:
[2.] He saith that the conversion and salvation of a rich man is so extremely difficult, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, v. 24. This is a proverbial expression, denoting a difficulty altogether unconquerable by the art and power of man; nothing less than the almighty grace of God will enable a rich man to get over this difficulty. The difficulty of the salvation of apostates (Heb. 6:4), and of old sinners (Jer. 13:23), is thus represented as an impossibility. The salvation of any is so very difficult (even the righteous scarcely are saved), that, where there is a peculiar difficulty, it is fitly set forth thus. It is very rare for a man to be rich, and not to set his heart upon his riches; and it is utterly impossible for a man that sets his heart upon his riches, to get to heaven; for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 1 Jn. 2:15; James 4:4.


Thus the idea of hyperbole is supported by ancient consensus as well.

Compare against this, if you are inclined to work it as an exercise, the idea that Jesus referred instead to a small gate in the East Wall of Jerusalem, through which one might get into the city when the gates were closed, called the Eye of the Needle Gate. The idea was that one would have to leave wealth and chattel outside, and could escape robbers or violence, but at the cost of one's wealth; chattel such as camels could not get through. Does this idea fit as well as the hyperbole idea?

But really, this is overthinking in most cases. How do we interpret anything? How do we understand even the TV Guide magazines or the stop sign at the street corner?
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:04 pm

Translations:

So the question is fairly asked why there are so many translations of the Bible, and how one is to know what translation to use. In order to answer, I must first give a bit of history:

The TaNaKh was originally written over a period of about 950 years, from about 1350 BC to about 400 BC. It was primarily written in Hebrew, though some portions were written in Aramaic -- perhaps 3 or 4%, total, was written in Aramaic. James Strong did an exhaustive analysis and identified about 10,000 distinct Hebrew words used in the TaNaKh, which he cataloged and numbered. If you would like to know how many times the word "A" occurs in the OT, Strong's Exhaustive can tell you, and tell you exactly where.

In about 100 BC, a group of 72 rabbinical scholars who spoke Greek as their primary language felt the need to translate the TaNaKh into Greek. They worked independently, then diligently compared, finding complete agreement in the work. The result is the Septaugint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Christ was born in 1 BC, probably in June, and as a man, he endorsed the Jewish Scriptures as received, meaning that if you are a follower of Christ, you must also acknowledge the Jewish Scriptures, and note the importance of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. We have at least a few partial manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures dating to the time of Christ, notably the Isaiah fragment found in the caves at Qumran.

The first Christian writings in the New Testament are the Pauline Epistles. After these, the General Epistles and the book of Mark were written, then the other synoptic gospels, and then the Acts of the apostles. All of these wre written prior to 69 AD, and very likely before 62 AD, as the most severe persecution had apparently not yet begun.

In 70 AD, on orders from Vespasian, Titus destroyed the temple and Jerusalem, and forbade the habitation of Jerusalem by Jews or Christians. It was in this war of 67-70 that Joseph BenMatthias, later called Flavius Josephus, was captured. He set out to demonstrate the History of the Jewish People for his Roman masters, producing Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish Wars.

In about 80, John wrote his gospel; a few years later he wrote Revelation; and in 90 he died. The oldest fragment we have from the NT is a portion of John's Gospel, dated to 120 AD, only about 40 years after the autograph. The most commonly used language in this period was Greek, so the gospels in their entirety were written in Koine Greek. In fact, at one time the New Testament was the only example of Koine Greek, but since that time, many receipts and banking records have been found in Koine Greek, leading one to conclude that it was the language of everyday life.

In 325, Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin, producing the Vulgate.

For political reasons, it was forbidden in England to translate the Bible into English for the general public, though there were other editions for clerical use, such as the Bishops' Bible of 1585 or the Douay-Rheims of 1609. Men such as William Tyndale moved to Holland in order to have the freedom to translate the Bible into English.

In 1611, King James I of England (who was James II of Scotland) authorized the translation of an English translation for general reading and public or private use. To this end, he assembled a blue-ribbon panel of scholars, whose work resulted in the King James Edition of 1611. Please note that James had nothing at all to do with the work, other than permitting it to be done. Anyone who states that King James removed portions, or altered the Bible in any way, are speaking from ignorance.

In the mid-nineteenth century, scholars tried to re-translate the Bible from its original languages, resulting in the Revised Standard Version of 1901. As an example of a difference, consider John 1:14, where we are told that Christ "Pitched his tent among us." The RSV states that he "Tabernacled" among us, which is closer to the literal Greek "Pitched his tent" alongside us. The Tabernacle was the tent used as a temple before the First Temple (of the three) was built.

As the English language changed further, it became increasingly difficult to understand Elizabethan English, and so newer and better translation have emerged. The New American Standard of 1970 was written with a more literal word-for-word approach, whereas the NIV (1975) was translated with an idea for idea approach.

To Be Continued...
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Simplyme » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:36 am

Quick inquiry....

Should this not be in the Xtian only section?

Xtians and Atheist see the bible in a Apples and Oranges kind of way. What is there to be civil about?
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Stacie Cook » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:35 pm

It's a Q&A. If an atheist wants to ask a question then they wouldn't be able to if it was in the christian section....
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Simplyme » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:39 pm

What sort of question do you think we would want to ask that we have not asked before?

You do realize some of us(most) believe the bible was written by man and that there is nothing spiritual or magical about it? It's a book. Just like Harry Potter....just older. And we know who wrote Harry Potter.
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:51 pm

Simplyme wrote:Quick inquiry....

Should this not be in the Xtian only section?

Xtians and Atheist see the bible in a Apples and Oranges kind of way. What is there to be civil about?

No, because it is opened for the express purpose of reaching an understanding about what the Bible is and what it is not, whether it is or is not valid as a source of fact and truth, and what it asserts versus what it does not assert.

I hold a different worldview from Sayak, yet was able to be civil to him in discussing Hinduism (which neither of us accept, but in which he is knowledgeable).
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:54 pm

Simplyme wrote:What sort of question do you think we would want to ask that we have not asked before?

You do realize some of us(most) believe the bible was written by man and that there is nothing spiritual or magical about it? It's a book. Just like Harry Potter....just older. And we know who wrote Harry Potter.

The bible was also written by men. We admit that from the getgo. See my first post, in which I stated that the Bible is not a "Golden Book."

Christians assert (and orthodox Jews assert for the TaNaKh) that the writings were directed by God at a general level, like what would happen if you asked someone to write down what they had done and seen today.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Simplyme » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:00 pm

No, because it is opened for the express purpose of reaching an understanding about what the Bible is and what it is not, whether it is or is not valid as a source of fact and truth, and what it asserts versus what it does not assert.


But I know what the bible is. A book. I also know what it is not, a book inspired by a god.

I hold a different worldview from Sayak, yet was able to be civil to him in discussing Hinduism (which neither of us accept, but in which he is knowledgeable).


Yes but on Hinduism, neither of you accept the concept. On xtianity, you do accept the concept. We do not. So ,why would we want to ask you about this particular book? What special unique knowledge do you think you hold that we have never heard?
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Stacie Cook » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:52 pm

Simplyme wrote:Yes but on Hinduism, neither of you accept the concept. On xtianity, you do accept the concept. We do not. So ,why would we want to ask you about this particular book? What special unique knowledge do you think you hold that we have never heard?


See, look. You do have a question. Way to go!
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Simplyme » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:09 pm

Stacie Cook wrote:
Simplyme wrote:Yes but on Hinduism, neither of you accept the concept. On xtianity, you do accept the concept. We do not. So ,why would we want to ask you about this particular book? What special unique knowledge do you think you hold that we have never heard?


See, look. You do have a question. Way to go!


I do. Now lets see if I can get an answer.
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Simplyme » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:13 pm

Christians assert (and orthodox Jews assert for the TaNaKh) that the writings were directed by God at a general level, like what would happen if you asked someone to write down what they had done and seen today.


Yes, they assert, but with no good reason. Directed by god? What does that even mean, to a person that does not believe in a god? If you ask me to write down what I did and seen today, I can guarantee you it would have nothing at all to do with direction from a god. So how is that like what would happen?
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:48 pm

Simplyme wrote:
No, because it is opened for the express purpose of reaching an understanding about what the Bible is and what it is not, whether it is or is not valid as a source of fact and truth, and what it asserts versus what it does not assert.
But I know what the bible is. A book. I also know what it is not, a book inspired by a god.
What leads you to believe that?
I hold a different worldview from Sayak, yet was able to be civil to him in discussing Hinduism (which neither of us accept, but in which he is knowledgeable).
Yes but on Hinduism, neither of you accept the concept. On xtianity, you do accept the concept. We do not. So ,why would we want to ask you about this particular book? What special unique knowledge do you think you hold that we have never heard?

I believe myself to be quite well educated on the topic, though I will bow to qualified responses which exceed my learning on the subject.
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Re: The Bible: An Introduction with Q & A.

Postby Og3 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:58 pm

Simplyme wrote:
Christians assert (and orthodox Jews assert for the TaNaKh) that the writings were directed by God at a general level, like what would happen if you asked someone to write down what they had done and seen today.

Yes, they assert, but with no good reason. Directed by god? What does that even mean, to a person that does not believe in a god? If you ask me to write down what I did and seen today, I can guarantee you it would have nothing at all to do with direction from a god. So how is that like what would happen?

If I asked you to write down what you have seen and done today, I would not be dictating what you should write. The result would be an admixture of your own viewpoint and the events, with emphases on the things you found important.

Thus, your account, while not having been my words, would have been at my direction.

That is how we believe that God inspired the Bible: By telling people to write down the events they had seen and heard. That is why many of the prophets began by saying, "The LORD says," or similar words prior to a passage.

For example, when Paul wrote letters which became a large part of the New Testament, we believe that he did so of his own free will, without having God dictate the words to him. Yet, he wrote because God ahd laid it on his heart that he needed to write to these people on these subjects. If Paul makes a point of listing the number of trials and troubles that he underwent, then we would say that perhaps Paul is going outside his primary mission a bit... and yet, he expresses what god wants us to know, namely, that Paul regarded his sufferings and his qualifications as an apostle to be of no value compared with the sacrifice of Christ.

And then again, we can also learn from his sufferings, so perhaps he wasn't so far off course after all.

This is the idea that we are expressing in saying that God directed certain people to record the events they had seen and heard.
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