Family Apologia

Because they trust you

Why Different Words?


“Why do some Bible translations have different words for the same verse?” Underlying this excellent question is a subtle doubt as to the trustworthy nature of the biblical text. It is important to be prepared to help youth think through this issue well.

Besides the fact that English can say the same thing in different ways, thereby reading a bit differently because of variety, some translations are based on different manuscripts. At times, one manuscript uses a different term than another manuscript in the same verse.

When approaching this topic, it is important to understand several key terms. The first two are “autograph” and “manuscript.” The original copy of a writing, the one the author writes, is known as the “autograph.” The the term “manuscript” refers to a copy of  the autograph (in this case, the Bible). Due to the challenge of preserving texts over long periods of time, the only items available are copies (manuscripts) of the original writings (autographs) of the Bible (as well as other ancient writings).1

In brief, underlying the different translations of Scripture are various groups of manuscripts. Within the available manuscripts are some differences (called “variants”). The science directly addressing this issue is called textual criticism. Dr. J. Harold Greenlee defines it as follows,

Textual criticism is the study of copies of an ancient writing to try to determine the exact words of the text as the author originally wrote them.2

As a parent, it is important to understand several key points regarding variants and the science of textual criticism. With even a basic understanding, you can help your child intelligently work through this fascinating issue.

First, it is important to point out that the variants (numbering around 400 thousand for the New Testament) are well known to Christian scholars and teachers.3 In other words, this is neither a new issue nor an impossible challenge to address. Notably, variants are discussed by Christian scholars as early as the third century A.D.4

Second, the rise of minor differences in the wording between written copies of any ancient text should not be a surprise. In fact, due to the human copying process this would be expected. As Dr. Bruce Metzger states,

It was inevitable that such handwritten copies would contain a greater or lesser number of differences in wording from the original.5

Metzger realizes that humans bring a degree of inconsistency in any endeavor. Since God used people in the transmission process of preserving His Word, slight changes are expected but pose no real challenge to the Christian faith (more details below).

Third, by far, most variants are minor in nature. Dr. David Black states,

[I]t is essential to keep in mind that the great majority of variants (instances of different wording) between manuscripts are of relatively minor importance. These generally involve such matters as spelling or word order, which minimally affect translation or the sense of the text. Analogous instances of variation in English would include the spelling of “center/centre” and “labor/labour.”6

Clearly, an alternate spelling of terms should not be viewed as a significant challenge to the integrity of Scripture. The overwhelming majority of variants fall into this minor category.

Fourth, variants that are considered to be more significant fail to call into question any major Christian doctrine. Nothing of substance is lost through any variant of the biblical text. John 1:18 serves as a good example.

Variant 1: No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son (υἱος), who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (NKJV)

Variant 2: No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God (θεος) who is in the booms of the Father, he has explained him. (NASB)

In this verse, some Greek manuscripts read “Son” (υἱος, as evidenced by the NKJV) and other manuscripts read “God” (θεος, as evidenced by the NASB). While the goal is to know which reading is the original, notice that nothing of theological substance is lost by either reading. The book of John clearly portrays Jesus as the Son of God, thus the variant “Son” (υἱος) entails no theological problem (1:34, 49; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31). Additionally, the book of John clearly portrays Jesus as God (fully divine), thus the variant “God” (θεος) entails no theological problem either (John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28-29).

Even with a few “significant” variants (though none significant enough to question any main Christian doctrine), it must be remembered that there is (approximately) 99% agreement for the biblical text between the thousands of manuscripts and portions of manuscripts. As Black states,

. . . such variants should not overshadow the overwhelming degree of agreement that exists among the ancient manuscripts.7

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the biblical text enjoys more textual support than any other writing from antiquity. Here is a comparison of manuscript support for three books from antiquity and the New Testament. The results are astounding.

Chart comparing support for books from antiquity 8

Book Written Earliest Gap # of Copies
Gallic Wars 100-44 B.C. 900 AD 1,000 yrs 10
Annals A.D. 100 A.D. 1100 1,000 yrs 20
Natural History A.D. 61-113 c. 850 c. 750 yrs 7
NT A.D. 50-100 c. 125-325 50-225 yrs Over 5,000

This chart shows that the support for the New Testament far exceeds the support for other texts from the same era. It must be noted that other books from antiquity also have variant readings (sometimes substantial) yet are accepted as reliable. If minimally supported documents can be accepted as reliable, then a book like the Bible should be too.

Parents can help their children think through this issue with clarity. Here are some helpful things to begin the process:

  1. Does a typo (spelling mistake) in a document render it untrustworthy? As you prepare for this topic and discussing these issues, be sure to look for typos in news reports, textbooks, and other common sources of information. Even with modern capabilities (e.g., computers and copy machines) typos exist. Are these sources considered untrustworthy due to typos? Why or why not?
  2. Of all books available from antiquity, no other text is as well supported as the biblical text. How should the massive amount of support for the biblical text be viewed?
  3. If you have further questions on this excellent issue, how should you proceed? Hopefully, the inquiring mind will pursue the truth even further. Delve into this topic. Read up on it. Find out more. Discover. Learn. Trust in God’s Word by applying it to your life.

Feel free to contact for more information on this topic. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter (familyapologia) for even more resources.


1. Wendy Widder, Textual Criticism, ed. Douglas Mangum, Lexham Methods Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 34.

2. J. Harold Greenlee, The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), 2.

3. Daniel B. Wallace, The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation., accessed February 21, 2017.

4. Bruce M Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration 3rd (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 151-152.

5. Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), xvii.

6. David Alan Black, New Testament Textual Criticism : A Concise Guide (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), 13.

7. Ibid.

8. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 408.

Who Am I?

If your child were to ask, “who am I?”, how would you answer?

Family Apologia


If your child were to ask, “who am I?”, how would you answer? This question is very important and needs a good answer. As important as it is to understand who we are, understanding who Jesus Christ is will put anyone’s life into perspective. So important is this question that Jesus asked a similar version of His disciples. While on the way to some villages by Caesarea Philippi, Jesus questioned His disciples. He asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27)

They replied with several answers: 1) John the Baptist, 2) Elijah, and 3) one of the prophets (Mark 8:28). When pressed, Peter stated that Jesus was “the Christ (Messiah)” (Mark 829).

Parents can take several principles from this passage as they talk with their children:

  1. To begin with, Jesus engaged in discussion with His disciples. Notice that the discussion was not simply what to believe (stating biblical facts)…

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What Happens to Children Who Die?


What happens to children who pass away?  The issues of heaven and hell are commonplace. When speaking of those who do and do not enter heaven, the issue of children is certain to arise. This topic evokes more concern than most because of the innocence surrounding those most vulnerable in life. Youth are especially interested in this question because they want to know how Christianity views and treats children with direct implication to God’s love and justice on the line.

With the goal of keeping an open dialogue and helping youth think through this challenging issue, here are a some questions to pose:

  1. Does God send everyone who sins to hell? (No, Christians sin but do not go to hell).
  2. When speaking of “sending someone to hell” (condemnation), what is the basis for this as noted in Scripture? John 3:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
  3. Specifically, what reason does God send someone to hell? (Hint: it’s the same reason for anyone!) See previous verses.
  4. What insight does 2 Samuel 12:15-23 provide on the issue of children dying?
  5. What does Scripture say about those who sin (Ezekiel 18:20)?
  6. Exodus 32:32-33 is a bit surprising with an implication for those who are young. If a person begins life with his/her name in the book of life, and it is removed at some point thereafter through sin, then it is quite possible that small children/infants already have what is needed (though unknown to them). On the book of life, also see Psalm 68:28; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:; 20:12, 15; 21:27.
  7. It is clear, also, that Scripture does not endorse universalism (the view that everyone is saved eventually). Matthew 7:22-23; John 3:18; Revelation 20:15

While Scripture does not directly address the question “what happens to children who die,” it is possible to glean biblically consistent views on the matter. At the same time, it is important to keep clear on key doctrines. Often confusion on one point can be used to cast unnecessary doubt on clear teachings throughout Scripture.

Who Am I?


If your child were to ask, “who am I?”, how would you answer? This question is very important and needs a good answer. As important as it is to understand who we are, understanding who Jesus Christ is will put anyone’s life into perspective. So important is this question that Jesus asked a similar version of His disciples. While on the way to some villages by Caesarea Philippi, Jesus questioned His disciples. He asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27)

They replied with several answers: 1) John the Baptist, 2) Elijah, and 3) one of the prophets (Mark 8:28). When pressed, Peter stated that Jesus was “the Christ (Messiah)” (Mark 829).

Parents can take several principles from this passage as they talk with their children:

  1. To begin with, Jesus engaged in discussion with His disciples. Notice that the discussion was not simply what to believe (stating biblical facts). Instead, he inquired of them what others believed about Jesus, as well as what they believed.
  2. The question Jesus asked assumes interaction with others. The disciples can only say what others believe if they talk with them (those outside of their group). Contact with others is very important. Be sure to provide a basis for your children to have quality interaction with others. This way your children will have an opportunity to learn and grow through interaction with others and the chance to talk with them about our Lord.
  3. Note, though, that the question does not ask, “Who do non-Christians (or Christians for that matter) say that I am?” The question is open ended so that any answer will follow. What is the understanding of others about the person of Jesus Christ? That is an important question even today. Notice that multiple answers are provided. Different people often have differing views of who Jesus is. In Jesus’ day, many people thought He was quite the impressive person (John the Baptist, Elijah, or a prophet). Today the answer will likely vary as well but take a different direction. Many believe that Jesus was a good man with good moral teaching. Others think He was a myth (thus never existed). Yet some believe He is the Christ but not divine. Parents will find out who their children are interacting with by asking questions of their kids. Remember, rather than panicking when biblically unsound replies arise, be sure to view wrong answers as a golden opportunity to teach your children specifically about Jesus and an opportunity for your child to teach others (albeit kindly and, often, over time). Being prepared to discuss the answers is important. Did Jesus really exist? Being prepared with an understanding of historical knowledge is important. Was Jesus merely a man or divine as well? Have your kid(s) delve into God’s Word on this essential point. More information is coming to Family Apologia for these particular issues.
  4. Be sure to find out what your children believe about Jesus. If the answer is less than accurate, avoid having a spiritual panic attack. Instead, gently ask them clarifying questions, seek to find out specifically what (s)he believes and (as specific as possible) why. Work on guiding him/her through the biblical facts. This may take a time or two of getting together to discuss this topic. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open!
  5. The immediate passage ends (vs. 30) with Jesus warning the disciples “not to tell anyone about him.” This refers to the public proclamation of Jesus being the Christ. In a nutshell, Jesus’ time of revealing was yet to come (Mark 14:61-62). Once it had arrived, the proclamation began. While we do not know all of the reasons for the brief time of being quiet on the public proclamation, there is wisdom on seeking the “right time” to discuss spiritual matters with non-Christians just as there is also a “right way” (Col. 4:2-6).

In this short passage, we see several key principles useful for parents. Ask specific questions of your kids. It is a good idea to begin discussions with non-personal questions (who do others say Jesus is) before moving on to personal questions (who do you say Jesus is). Interaction with others is very important. Kids will grow spiritually as they talk with others and begin to think through eternally significant issues. Open ended questions (questions that avoid simplistic answers or yes/no replies) prove to be more engaging. Try this and see what happens. Parents, your conversation skills will improve the more you do this. Keep up the good fight. . . especially with your kids (1 Timothy 1:18-20)! The kids may not realize this but they truly are counting on you to help them figure out life. Guiding them toward the Lord of life is needed on a regular basis.

How Do You Know?

libraryOne of the most common questions is, “How do we know it’s true?” Youth want to understand how the truth of Christianity is known. The magnitude of this question increased with the wealth of information available from the information age. However, this need to know isn’t a random desire dreamed up to annoy adults. The need to know, that is, the need to be sure that what is believed is true, is a God-given intellectual desire.

This is why Jesus willingly addressed Thomas’ question regarding His resurrection. As you recall, several of the disciples saw the resurrected Lord. However, Thomas was not one of those who initially saw Jesus after His resurrection. The disciples told Thomas “We have seen the Lord!” (John 12:25). However, this was not good enough for Thomas. Instead of simply believing the quality testimony of those who knew Jesus perosnally, Thomas replied, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger in the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 12:25). Clearly, Thomas needed a basis for knowing that Jesus’ resurrection was, in fact, true.

We are not told how the disciples responded to this skepticism but Scripture does fill us in on how Jesus addressed the issue. Eight days later Jesus appeared yet again. One difference with this post-resurrection appearance is the presence of Thomas. After speaking to the group as a whole (“Peace be with you”), Jesus turned to Thomas and said, “Reach here with your finger, and see my hands; and reach here your hand and put it into my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:26-27).

Parents can draw several principles from this passage:

  1. Not everyone will believe a trustworthy testimony, and that is okay! Application, youth will not always believe their parents, pastors, or other source even if what they say is true. Wanting to find out what is true, even with good testimony, is just fine.
  2. Not every challenge needs to be answered right away. Notice that Jesus did not appear to Thomas for eight days. One can imagine the questions Thomas had, the claims he heard (and rejected), and the troubled heart he wrestled with in the mean time. Application: sometimes an issue needs to be thought through for a while before a good answer is given. . . or accepted.
  3. It is important to address questions directly as Jesus did. While still kind, Jesus answered Thomas’ objection directly. He did not say, “just believe.” Application: avoid answers that distract from the issue at hand.
  4. It is important to avoid dismissing honest questions. Too often Thomas gets a bad reputation in most churches. However, if you read the Scriptures on Thomas’ final time with the resurrected Lord, he is not rebuked but embraced. Application: take honest questions seriously. There is no need to panic when some youth do not understand, or even accept, key biblical facts. . . yet.
  5. We will not have an answer to every issue. Notice that the original disciples could not provide the necessary information to satisfy Thomas. Application: the comes a point when the person needs to encounter our Lord for himself/herself. In the mean time, avoid the (usually implied) false standard that Christians must have every answer to every question or they have none.
  6. Strive towards a changed life. Thomas and the disciples lived out the truth of Christ’s resurrection. We must do so too. Application: now that you know this is true, it needs to impact your life.

As a parent, be sure to take baby steps in helping your children know the truth of the Christian faith. Be kind to them, and yourself. It is likely you will not have answers to every question at this time. That is okay. You too are a work in progress but do not give up. Simply pursue finding solid answers to the questions. It is a weekly, even daily, journey. And keep up with Family Apologia for answers. More posts are added regularly!

Snack Time

Healthy snacks are a fun additive to the day. Consider adding some spiritual snacks to the family diet as well.

  • Simply ask your youth the single best piece of advice learned during youth group, Sunday school, or other event. Follow this up with a few inquisitive comments such as, “what makes this helpful for you?”, “how will this help you at your next get-together with friends” or other applicable question.
  • Ask for your youth’s advice on something you are working on such as how to make a particular biblical truth relevant (e.g., practical ways to proclaim the Gospel to this generation).
  • Find out who the kindest person is in his/her life and what makes that person stand out.

Showing interest in each family member let’s them know they are important and their views are valuable. Open communication in these areas also makes it far easier to talk about the more substantive issues in life later on (e.g., potential doubts about God, struggles with forgiveness, etc.).

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