Ask Your Preacher
Sometimes, in the margins of my Bible (King James), there will be another Scripture listed next to some of the verses in the text. Are these cross-referenced verses supposed to be comparing verses from different books of the Bible? Even if they reference New Testament verses with Old Testament verses? Have there ever been cross-referenced verses to non-canon books?
Cross-references identify commonalities between different parts of the Bible—chains of similar themes, words, events, or people. Depending on the particular company that produces the Bible you are using, your copy may have a lot of cross-references; it may have very few. Cross-references can be helpful study tools, but they aren’t part of the original Bible; they are just helpful tools put in by the printing companies to further your studies. As far as referencing apocryphal books, some Catholic Bible printers do reference non-canon books because they are of use to those who practice Catholicism… but most Bible printing companies do not.
When Jesus talked to His disciples, He said, "When you fast..." Later, in Pauline epistles, we read about the early church, and fasting is still referred to sometimes. As christians, my understanding is that today we are to follow the Word by its commands, inferences, or practices. So when it comes to fasting, are we as christians to be fasting? It's interesting to me that we are told what to do when we sing and why, what day of the week to gather together by example, but nothing that I have found has made it clear to me details about fasting. So should we be regular "fasters" today?
Dear Snack Time,
Fasting is a Biblical practice, but there are no specific guidelines for when to do it. Fasting is the practice of not eating for a designated period of time. Jesus once fasted for forty days (Matt 4:2). Fasting is often associated with times of grief and difficult decisions (Joel 2:12). The New Testament doesn’t require fasting, but it also shows the benefits of fasting during times of difficulty or when important decisions needed to be made (Acts 14:23). Jesus’ disciples were noted for not fasting as often as the rest of the Jewish community (Matt 9:14), an indication that fasting doesn’t have the same level of emphasis in the New Testament. There is a time for fasting, but it is purely up to personal discretion.
What is a graven image?
Dear Feeling Wooden,
A graven image is a carved statue, trinket, figurine, etc. that is used for idolatrous worship. A graven image is something that has been molded, carved, painted, etc. to depict a false god (Isa 44:17). Many cultures, from the ancient Romans to the Mayans, had graven images as a regular part of their art.
Why do most christians wear wedding rings? I heard that ancient pagan Romans were probably responsible for beginning the use of engagement and wedding rings. Originally, the ring was placed on the third finger of the left hand because of a superstitious belief that a vein from this finger runs directly to the heart. Although this superstitious idea is no longer believed by most people, wedding rings are still placed on the third finger of the left hand by the majority of wearers. There is nothing in the Bible saying we should do this. Why have christians held on to this pagan practice?
Dear Ringed Out,
Many people wear jewelry that depicts ancient idolatrous behavior (almost all Native American artwork falls into this category) or practice traditions that have ancient pagan roots… the important thing is how those traditions and jewelry are perceived today. As Paul said, “We know that an idol is nothing” (1 Cor 8:4). The wedding ring and the tradition of wearing it on the third finger of the left hand have no intrinsic evil to them; it is only if those traditions are perceived as acts of idol worship that they become sinful. If people believed you were wearing your wedding ring for pagan Roman purposes (or if it offended your conscience), you would have to stop (1 Cor 8:7-9). However, most wedding ceremonies today state that the ring is a symbol of unending love – not a symbol of pagan worship. The wedding ring’s beginnings may or may not be idolatrous… nobody knows definitively where the tradition comes from. Regardless of its past, in today’s society, wedding rings almost universally represent a pure commitment to matrimony.
Are there really such things as ghosts?
The idea of ghosts cannot be found in the Bible. Ghosts are supposedly the souls or spirits of those who have died. These dead souls are presumed to be wandering the Earth interacting with the living from time to time. The Bible tells us what happens when we die, and there is no Halloween-ish spiriting involved. Jesus told the story of a wicked rich man and a faithful poor man named Lazarus in Lk 16:19-31. When these two men died, the rich man immediately woke up in torment, and Lazarus was escorted to Paradise (Lk 16:22-23). This is what happens when the righteous and the wicked die. There is no wandering or ghostly haunting. In fact, the rich man was specifically told that the dead aren’t sent back to the Earth to preach or effect the course of events here (Lk 16:27-31). We die, and then we wait to face the judgment (Heb 9:27).