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Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible

Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are some questions that I have received during my years of ministry and via email for this column.

Dear Father Paul: I have just finished a very interesting article on Mary, the mother of Jesus. The author said that “Mary had to be a virgin,” but did not explain why. So why did Mary have to be a virgin? — L.C.

Dear L.C: I can think of two primary reasons. The first was to fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah (Jesus) who was yet to come. There were many such prophecies in the Old Testament for anyone at the time of Jesus to read, but perhaps the best (for your question) is found in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).”

Secondly, if Jesus was, in fact, to be sacrificed (as a lamb, later on the cross) to atone for the sins of all mankind, he had to be a perfect lamb ... a perfect sacrifice ... without blemish ... without any stain of sin. Only a sinless sacrifice would be worthy enough to cancel all of man’s sins ... and counted as adequate by God.

Sin, according to Romans 5:12, is passed on to each of us through our fathers. So for Jesus to indeed become the one and only sinless sacrifice necessary for all mankind to be saved he could not have an earthly (sinful) father. Thus, born of a virgin, with God alone as his father, Jesus was not born in sin. In short, Jesus had no sin nature. He was sinless.

No man, before or since, has ever been born on planet earth to a virgin. His birth to a virgin was a miracle beyond our comprehension. This is why Mary had to be a virgin. Without the virgin birth of Jesus, we would all be lost and without hope.

Dear Father Paul: Why are there so many versions of the Bible. Which one is best? Which one do you use? — Jenny

Dear Jenny: There certainly are a lot, aren’t there? Probably dozens.. I’ve never really counted them all. Probably the main rreason why there are so many versions (translations) of the Bible is because there is a huge amount of money to be made from publishing Bibles.

The Bible has been, for over 150 years, the number one selling book world-wide. Lots of folks feel like they’ve got to have the latest translation.

Just last week the people who publish the New International Version of the Bible announced that they have (after a 25-year run for the current NIV translation) begun work on an entirely new (and improved?) translation which is scheduled for release in 2011.

In my opinion most, if not all, true translations are fairly good. Many folks prefer the King James version. After all, isn’t that the version that the Apostle Paul used and carried with him? Just kidding.

Seriously, Christians can (and do) sometimes get into somewhat “heated” discussions over which translation is best. The truth is, again, most true translations are good. But what is “best” for me may not be “best’ for you.

Different translations use more or less the same ancient Hebrew, Greek and other manuscripts as their sources. However, they may use different translation “methods.” For example, the King James (and others) take the Hebrew and Greek words and translate them (word for word) into the most accurate English words possible, while others, the New International Version, for example attempt to take the original “thought” from the Hebrew and Greek texts and translate those thoughts (thought for thought) into English.

Which is right? Again, it depends upon you.

Most serious students of the Bible have invested in a number of translations. One version I especially like for deeper Bible study is the Amplified Bible. This version is in modern English and gives additional shades of meaning in almost every verse.

There are now, also, wonderful sources for study available on the Internet. One site I particularly like is called the Online Parallel Bible. It’s great. It has the entire Bible verse by verse in over a dozen translations side by side.

But to answer your question more directly, ”Which one do you use?” At Church of the Holy Cross we read (aloud) appointed scriptures each Sunday from the New Revised Standard Version, but I (usually) preach from the New International Version. Go Figure.

Do you have a question? I will try to answer your question in the paper. Email me at or call me at 678-457-3050.

Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Church of the Holy Cross is evangelical, charismatic and sacramental ... all three streams of the ancient, historic church together ... in one church. Visitors are most welcome. More information, directions and service times are available at

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