I was brought up to believe that sex before marriage or any man seeing my body before marriage is a sin. I'd like to know what scriptures there are to back this up. I have made the mistake and lost my virginity. Does this condemn me to hell? Or is there forgiveness for this? I think of it this way: I love the person I am with, I intend to marry him, I am not playing around, nor am I one to sleep around. I need to either calm my mind, or make a decision to change my ways.

There can be no doubt that the New Testament classifies any kind of sexual relationships outside of marriage as a sin, so yes, there needs to be some repentance on your part. But the Lord will forgive you of this if you truly and earnestly repent. Notice how in Matthew 5, Jesus classifies even lustful thoughts as adultery. The basic rule in the New Testament, as Matthew 19 shows, is celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage.

The reasons for saving sex for marriage are numerous. First of all, you cannot be sure you will marry this person. Something could happen between now and then. Second, sex is physically the most intimate act you can share, but it needs to be shared in the context of an already extant permanent commitment to each other. You cannot fully love someone you don't yet fully trust, and the trust relationship needs to be fully in place before intimate sharing happens. Third, when you share the marital act outside of marriage you cheapen the special nature of the intimacy of marriage.

In Matthew 10:34, it reads, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword." Then Jesus says somewhere else that "those who live by the sword die by the sword." I can't help but feel a sense of betrayal by these two conflicting passages. God sends the sword, yet he warns us not to live by it? --Ben G.

These two texts are certainly not in contradiction with one another. Matthew 10:34, in its context, has nothing to do with military weapons. It has to do with the division caused in a family when the family is divided over a commitment to Jesus.

As for Jesus' personal stance on fighting and war, it should be clear from Matthew 5-7 that Jesus is a pacifist. He believes in turning the other cheek, in forgiving and loving one's enemies, in leaving revenge in God's hands, and he even condemns the disciples for striking the high priest's slave with a weapon in the Garden of Gethesemane when they are seeking to rescue Jesus from his captors.

My daughter passed away almost four years ago from a car accident. Everyone tells me that she is now in heaven, and I believe that. But the Bible states that when the end comes, and Christ returns, he is going to raise the dead believers first to be with him. If she is now in heaven, how would he raise her from the dead? Is she just in eternal sleep now and not really in heaven, or is she in heaven in her new state? --Linda

This is a fine question, and you should read closely what 1 Thessalonians 4-5 says on this issue.

Both things are true. As 2 Corinthians 5 says, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (cf. also Revelation 6:9 about the saints under the altar in heaven). It is also true however that the dead in Christ will be raised. One could envision them coming with Jesus when he returns, but in 1 Thessalonians 4-5, the text suggests that they rise from the earth and go and meet him in the air. In any case, life in heaven is but a prelude to resurrection of the dead, when believers are finally conformed to Christ's image.

I'm a Catholic dating a Protestant woman. I read the Book of Tobit this morning. I wanted so much for Jessica to read it, but it's not in her Bible. Why is that? --Mike

The Catholic Bible includes certain inter-testamental books like Tobit. The Catholic Church considers these books "deuterocanonical," or having a secondary canonical status.

In the fourth century A.D., the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Church agreed on 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. The 39 Old Testament books did not include Tobit. The Protestant Bible follows the decision of Athanasius in the east and Pope Innocent in the west in about 368 A.D. which said these 66 books and no others.

Does the Bible itself actually identify exactly which side Jesus was pierced with the spear? I always thought it was the left side. --Bob

No one knows.

Someone that works with me told me that, in the Old Testament, God told the Jewish people to go through Middle East and destroy everyone and everything in their way. Is this true? I do read my Bible, but I have not seen such a verse. --Nadia B

Perhaps they are thinking of the haram or "ban" passages from Joshua (more), where the Holy Land is to be cleansed of the enemies of God's people. There is nothing in the Bible about Jews going through the entire Middle East and wiping everyone out.

You wrote: "If you are wondering if there has been a scholarly conspiracy to amend the Bible to suit particular theological views, the answer is basically no, unless you are dealing with versions like the New World Translation by the Jehovah's Witnesses."

Could you provide a couple of examples of how the Jehovah's Witnesses have done that with their Bible? --Davida W.

Perhaps the best example comes in John 1. In the New World Translation, they refuse to translate the text properly; it should be translated "and the Word was God" (John 1:1). They prefer "and the word was a god" (read verse) because they do not accept that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and so God.