Teaching Holy Scriptures in Schools

On David Hoffman’s commonplacebook appeared the article Teaching the Bible in Schools in which he expresses that he has long felt that the Bible should be taught in public schools.

U.S. Jews seem ready to believe the worst of this part of the world and browse their eyes on rumours that British schools are banning the teaching of Hebrew. You could wonder if there has still to be given attention to old books like the Torah.

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Hebrew Bible, is a scroll of parchment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last years the world has seen more desecrating cases of religious books and reaction against many religions. Many rumours go around and people get very strange ideas about certain religious teachings.

For that reason I would say that it is not bad that people get a religious education in their school and get to know the main world religions. But such a study has to be given by either a neutral person or by a person who want to give an honest historical picture of those religions, and for example does not do like in the Belgian religious education where Catholic schools equals Catholicism with Christianity.

David Hofman rightly argues that the literary and historic aspects of the Bible should be taught as part of any effort to acquaint American students of their American and Western heritage.

Nothing comes even close to the impact that the Bible has had on Western civilization for the last two thousand years and it is all but impossible to really appreciate our cultural heritage without some knowledge of the Bible.

Melting Pot North America became a big nation because many people form the Old World wanted to build a new life, starting from scratch but taking with them certain values they found more important than political issues. Today the openness to other cultures may be more at danger because more people have nestled themselves in the values of the Old World of two centuries ago. They went back to conservative ideas and selfish protectionism.

Many their ideas got filtered again by similar Old World views with no interest for other cultures, even looking at other cultures as being a possible threat. Everything what may look unfamiliar is considered a possible hazard.

The East did not help the cause. Several Arab groups brought peculiar teachings in the world not conform the Koran, but many Westerners took it for granted that that was what the book of Muhammed thought.

Today not many people do know the Old Scriptures, may it be the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or even later old literature like Dostoevsky, a.o. Many idiomatic expressions have disappeared from the language. Because a lot of Americans do not know any more a lot of manners of speaking and are not aware any more of the Hebrew way of speaking, lots of wrong interpretations are given to Bible verses, by those who are confronted with them. But that number of readers diminished also a lot. Though a lot of Americans seem to call on their Judeo Christian heritage, they have lost their roots and often are not interested any more in the fundamental literature to build up such a Judeo-Christian Value.

Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

A few years ago when the Bible was part of many their education those who read in it got used to different ways to expressing themselves and making it a handy tool to quote from. The content of those Scriptures provided a good base to from a way of living and behaving, creating also a certain attitude to stand over others. The general interest in the Book of books made that many shared a common, biblical, Judeo-Christian worldview, even if any of them explicitly rejected the Christian religion.

We can not ignore it that the Bible has been one of the most important books to this part of the world. Many phrases in our language are continuously given from one generation to the other by reading in those old books.

Roma Downey  and Mark Burnett remind their readers in the Wall Street Journal that many phrases were brought into their language by the Bible.

Have you ever sensed in your own life that “the handwriting was on the wall”? Or encouraged a loved one to walk “the straight and narrow”?

Have you ever laughed at something that came “out of the mouths of babes”? Or gone “the extra mile” for an opportunity that might vanish “in the twinkling of an eye”?

Without the Bible, Shakespeare would read differently—there are more than 1,200 references to Scripture in his works. Without the Bible, there would be no Sistine Chapel and none of the biblically inspired masterpieces that hang in countless museums world-wide.

“In school, you have to know a certain amount of Shakespeare, but no Bible, So there’s got to be a way to look at it from a pure literature point of view. If it wasn’t for the Bible, arguably Shakespeare wouldn’t have written those stories.”

The Bible has affected the world for centuries in innumerable ways, including art, literature, philosophy, government, philanthropy, education, social justice and humanitarianism. Everywhere your travel you come in contact with things which were inspired by the Holy Scripture or by other religious works or religious ‘master pieces’.

One would think that a text of such significance would be taught regularly in schools. But for the United States of America and some European countries this might not be so.

Producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor” and “The Voice”) grown up in England and Roma Downey(Touched by an Angel)  in Ireland, know firsthand of the  educational value of the Bible knowledge. As in Belgium Bible teaching was viewed as foundational to a well-rounded education. Now that they became naturalized U.S. citizens, they want to encourage public schools in America to give young people the same opportunity. But the country of so many denominations and so many fundamentalist Christian groups, does not seem to be open for such an idea, because every denomination over there feels that it may be a threat for their own Bible education program.

the-bible_510x317.jpg

History Channel’s The Bible with Nielsen .

Downey and Burnett created “The Bible,” a 10-part miniseries which premièred March 3 on the History Channel, in a way starting off again a tradition of the older Biblical films that dramatized key stories from Scriptures.

The miniseries’ two-hour cable network première was seen by 13.1 million viewers and scored a 3.3 rating among adults 18-49. That’s more viewers and a higher demo rating than any show on the major broadcast networks that night and ranks as cable’s most-watched entertainment telecast this year. If you include the show’s repeat, the viewership rises to 14.8 million for the night.

Nancy Dubuc, president of A&E Networks said:

“The success of The Bible has catapulted History into one of the most powerful brands across media landscape and we could not be more thrilled and more proud,”

“Clearly there is a nationwide groundswell that was waiting for this moment … An enormous debt of gratitude goes out to everyone and the amazing effort put forth to drive us to this amazing win. Clearly the passion for this project has resonated with our viewers and across the nation. We are thrilled, and the story is only just beginning.”

Their hopes is that it will encourage audiences around the world to open or reopen Bibles to understand and enjoy these stories.

They do not understand why the Bible is not part of the school curriculum.  They compare it with the American students not reading the Constitution in a U.S. government class. For them it is like school administrators not sharing the periodic table of the elements with their science classes or a driver’s ed course that expected young men and women to pass written and road tests without having access to a booklet enumerating the rules of the road.

There lies one of the problems, that many only consider the Bible as a religious book for a few who want to keep certain views about a Creator God. But they forget that the Bible represents as well the history of several people, in particular God’s people, but that it also is a book full of wisdom and valuable teachings about how people tried to find a way to live properly with other people.

The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly

The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though it may seem very difficult, as an ex-teacher I also do believe it is possible to have education without indoctrination.

On this point, believers and nonbelievers should be able to “see eye to eye.” (More Bible goodness.)

I am also convinced that people should get to know their inheritance but also get to know how others think and behave and why. Therefore they not only should get to read the Bible. It would be best that they also read the Koran plus Hindu and Buddhist main works to get an impression of what other religions say.  Knowing the Koran for example shall show them that those Islam terrorist do not behave according to the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. On the other hand it shall also safeguard youngsters falling in the trap of wrong teachings, so avoiding them becoming a pray in the hands of certain Imams who want to destabilise the country.

Interestingly enough, the common desktop reference guide “The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy” best sums up the Bible’s value as a tool of cultural literacy. Its first page declares:
“No one in the English speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible.”

The Bible should be a book to be read by those who have to form the next generation to build a country up.

David Hoffman may cry that God protect the USA from politicians who are completely ignorant of economics, but I do not understand why he thinks the Bible is written by “dead, white men and everyone knows that dead, white men have never contributed anything of worth.” First of all they were quite alive when they wrote down the Words which were given in their minds by the Holy Spirit. And secondly they were no white, the same as Jesus was not a white Caucasian man (like so many Americans and certain Europeans love to think).

I presume Hoffman is sarcastic when he writes:

There is also the danger that some young person may get the idea that there is a higher source of morality than the needs of the state. We can’t have that. They might even find someone other than Dear Leader to worship.

sharonhughson reacts rightly that we do have to be careful not to take the Catholic church as Christianity, which happens too often on the Belgian television, where they often say Christians do believe this or that or do this and that, but than they have it exclusively about Roman Catholics.

Ben Dattilo Says:

I agree, and I am a non believer. Most of the “liberal commie atheist” professors I know feel the same way. Bible ignorance is rife, and is part of a general knowledge deficit among the nation’s youth. I often reference bible stories in class. I am amazed at how many students completely miss the references. I am not convinced that biblical knowledge would lead to increased faith among young people though–some of the openly faithful are among the most ignorant of scripture, while some of the openly faithless have very solid biblical knowledge. It is a mistake to think that liberals are somehow afraid that teaching the bible as cultural foundation on par with assuming that religious people are stupid–even those who would like to see religion disappear would encourage everyone to study the bible thoroughly–seeing it as the strongest argument for atheism.

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I duplicated some of the responses on the article Teaching the Bible in Schools because I could not reply on David Hoffman his blog, and wanted to have my say here.

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Please do find as well:
  1. Coming closer to Easter a new Bible mini series
    Roma and Mark where taken by watching again Cecil B DeMille’s Ten Commandments. They did want a project spanning the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation telling two to three stories a night.Numbers and Deuteronomy do not suit a photographic picture and are not taken into the story. Logically Jesus his life is only told once.
  2. ‘The Bible’ series on History Channel: Review of Part 1, March 3
    With the first two-hours of “The Bible” series completed, this writer who is an ordained minister of Christian education and who has been a Bible teacher for the past five decades admits that if she didn’t know the Bible before watching the first part, she wouldn’t have been able to understand it from what she saw.
    +
    This article is not to bring criticism to the efforts of Mark Brunett and Roma Downey. However, as a Bible teacher, this writer can say that the series might be just enough to get people to dig deeper into the Bible on their own because there are definitely some major parts that could have been included and some minor parts that could have been left out.
  3. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Wanted “your grandmother” and “your kids” to enjoy The Bible
    The reasoning behind the show? “this is the most-read book in the history of the country,” Burnett told USA Today of The Bible. “We wanted to create something that was visually fresh and exciting and compelling, that your grandmother would enjoy but that your kids would enjoy,” says Downey, who plays Mary, Jesus’ mother, in several episodes. “We wanted it to be the Bible for this generation, that it didn’t have that donkeys-and-sandals feel of Bible movies from our own childhood.”
  4. “The Bible”: How a hit TV miniseries was bornRoma Downey said it started one morning over a cup of tea: “This is an Irish-English household, and everything is either figured out or solved over a cup of tea,” she laughed.The idea that Downey (star of the TV series “Touched By an Angel”) was brewing that morning — along with the tea — was trying to persuade her husband, “Survivor” creator Mark Burnett, that perhaps the ultimate reality would be to bring the Bible to the small screen.
  5. The Bible Miniseries – Pastors, Great Outreach Opportunity!
    Rick Warren said it best when he said, One way to build a bridge between God’s Word and the issues of our day is to tie a sermon series into some cultural event, something that has already caught the attention of many people.”

He cited an example that when we were going through an economic crisis here in America, he preached a sermon on God’s principles for money management demonstrating HOW the Bible offers wise and practical advice on how to handle your finances.
Warren also took advantage on riding the Passion wave by Mel Gibson in that he preached a series entitled, “How Love Speaks: 7 Words From the Cross”.

  • Story and Typology
    Brother Andrew Perry wrote a new book about the narrative stories we have in the Bible.
  • Accuracy, Word-for-Word Translation Preferred by most Bible Readers
    Most American Bible readers prefer word-for-word translations of the original Greek and Hebrew over thought-for-thought translations and value accuracy over readability.
  • Getting to know the Truth
    A question and answer television program broadcast over KAZT-TV Channel 7, in Prescott, Arizona, to over 3,000,000 homes on Sundays @ 7:30 AM. brought this question forwards:
    Q. How can we know for certain what is absolutely true in Bible teaching?  Should we not just accept everyone, and not bind our views on others?
  • Why believing the Bible
    Often we hear people  arguing that Jesus did not exist. But that would be the same as saying Alexander the Great, Stalin or Hitler did not exist. You may either like or not like those persons, you cannot neglect the historical evidence that those persons existed and did certain things which shall stay imprinted in human history.
  • Unsure about relevance Bible
    We are aware that many say that the Bible is a great hoax. But did those who laugh at it did dare to have a closer look at it. Did they dare to investigate it?
    Have they not checked that it also could be a message of great relevance and help?
  • Possibility to live
    Those who look into the Book  of Books and dare to take time to study this Word of God may be sure that God is looking down. He wants to know if there are any who would like to understand His Words, any who really want to seek Him.
  • Power in the life of certain
    Many acknowledge the Bible as a literary masterpiece, but it is much more than that. It is the most widely circulated book in existence. Over 90% of the population of our planet have access to it. More than any other book, the Bible has the power to change people’s lives,
  • Appointed to be read
    There has never been such a choice of what to read and indeed how to read it. Either by means of the printed page or electronically, everybody wants our attention and usually our money. There is only one place where we can read about the unbreakable promises of God, and that is in the Bible.
  • Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #1 Christian Reform
    The 41 Christian Puritan Separatists known collectively as the Leiden group did have perhaps better hopes and ideas than those who looked for the pure gold. They had left Europe on Sept. 16, 1620 with the ship “Mayflower” with 102 passengers, to set off from Plymouth, England on it journey to the New World.
    +
    The South of Europe, were many Jews and Muslims had brought a lot of knowledge and wealth to the country.
  • Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #2 Roots of Jewishness
    The ones who fled the Old World for religious reasons hoped they could make a place where many would live according the Law of God and would enjoy the peace of the children of God. But soon they had to face conflicts in the New World as well.
    +
    The non-trinitarian Christians and Jews were more peaceful and did not want to give up their pacifist ideas to get more wealth. For them the Mozaic Law was much more important than any human law.
    +
    In the Holy Scriptures is clearly written that we do have to abstain of violence and should go for love between each other and peace.  Though in history of men there have been many battles and also wars between Gods people and others.
    In the West, though Jesus had preached pacifism, and many Christians who had fled the Old World because of the many battles, the newly formed communities also started to  fight against each other. The different camps fought for freedom and honour and demanded the churchgoers also to take a stand.  This made that as in the Old World also priests and pastors took up the arms.
  • Christian values and voting not just a game
    For almost 2000 years, the biblical claim all humans are made in the ”image of God”, and so are profoundly and inherently valuable, has called on those who believe that idea to treat men and women as ”sacred”, regardless of capacities or contributions to society, has conquered many places. But having placed men above nature, many where not so kind to the other elements of Creation, and did not bother so much about plants or animals. They were considered just part of the universe to be used by the humans.

 

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  • “What is the Judeo-Christian ethic?” (altruistico.wordpress.com)
    The term “Judeo-Christian” refers to something that has its source in the common foundations of Judaism and Christianity. The Bible includes the Jewish Scriptures of the Old Testament, so the moral foundations laid down in Judaism are upheld in Christianity. The first use of the term “Judeo-Christian ethic” was apparently by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1888 book The Antichrist: Curse on Christianity. The early uses of the term “Judeo-Christian ethic” referred to the Jewish roots and identity of the early Christian church, but it wasn’t used to speak of a common set of morals until much later.
  • Texas Schools Implement Carefully Crafted Law By Teaching Bible As 100% Fact (wonkette.com)
    back in 2007, the Texas legislature passed a law mandating that all public schools in the state include instruction on “the Hebrew Scriptures” and the New Testament and their impact on literature and history.
    +
    The report (PDF) by Dr. Mark Chancey, a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University, found that despite the law’s statement that Bible classes “shall not endorse, favor, or promote” any particular religious perspective, several districts nonetheless had curricula that

go into detail about the nature and implications of divine inspiration by suggesting that God dictated the words of the Bible to its writers; that the Bible’s inspiration guarantees that it is free of any historical, scientific or theological error; or that God safeguarded the copying of the biblical text through the centuries and thus prevented any significant scribal errors or variations between manuscripts.

  • What Happens When Texas Public Schools Teach the Bible? (truthdig.com)
    The Earth is just 6,000 years old, racial diversity is the result of a curse being placed on Noah’s son, the sun can stand still and move backward and the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical principles. These are some of the startling things Texas students are being taught, according to a new report that looks at how public schools in the Lone Star State are promoting “religious fundamentalism” disguised as Bible courses.The Texas Freedom Network’s “Reading, Writing & Religion II” report, which examines the 57 school districts and three charter schools that teach classes about the Bible, reveals that more than half of the school districts are ignoring the 2007 guidelines set forth by the state that were designed to simultaneously improve the quality of religious courses while also protecting the religious freedom of students.
  • The Bible (christianitytimes.wordpress.com)
    Burnett shot the majority of The Bible in the deserts of Morocco in 2012 to give the film an “authentic look and feel.”For two hours each Sunday night millions of viewers will see the Bible come to life in a way never before seen – with two episodes airing each week. The final episode of the miniseries will air on Easter Sunday and will feature the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • ‘Bible’ Producers Dismiss Obama-Satan Connection As “Utter Nonsense” (witn.com)
    The producers of the cable TV miniseries on the Bible say Internet chatter that their Satan character resembles President Barack Obama is “utter nonsense.”Mark Burnett and Roma Downey said Monday the Moroccan actor who played Satan in the History channel series, Mehdi Ouzaani, has played Satanic characters in other Biblical programs long before Obama was elected president.
  • Mark Burnett and Roma Downey: The Bible in the Bible Belt (kfor.com)
    “More people are watching ‘The Bible’ and are talking about ‘The Bible’ than in decades,” Burnett said. “It’s amazing! Oprah was tweeting on Sunday. Then Bishop Jakes was tweeting and Oprah said, ‘Are you watching The Bible, too?’ And they started going back and forth on Twitter about the story of Sampson.”
  • Nurturing Faith in the Family (amandaclairedesigns.typepad.com)
    “Humans will understand that God’s words are found in all of the world’s Holy Scriptures, and that no scripture is more authoritative, more complete, more accurate, or more authentic than any other, but that each contains great wisdom and each leads to a greater understanding of The Only Truth There Is”
    +
    even more confusing is how do I explain to him that I read the Bible but that I interpret it in the way that I feel guided to inside my own heart which doesn’t always tally up with the more typical interpretations? It makes using a devotional very challenging and so we haven’t got any of those.
  • Christian Madarasas: Making A Comeback? (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
    By the time Napoleon started secular education in France, Christian Taliban reared in Christian madarsas, had already wiped out entire populations in North America and Australia, ravaged the South American and African continents – and killed tens of millions in India and Asia.
    +Conservative, Christian America is doing everything possible to stop yoga.Starting with licenses and regulation, going to stories planted in New York Times on the ‘harm’ that yoga can cause, to a conspiracy theory that yoga is a plot by Hindu ‘missionaries’ to convert Christian Americans. Canada is not far behind in this anti-yoga activism by the Church.
  • Report finds Texas public school Bible courses promote proselytizing, religious bias (secularnewsdaily.com)
    Americans United has long warned that all sorts of church-state problems can arise when public schools try to teach Bible courses, and now a report by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (TFN) has confirmed our fears.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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4 Responses to Teaching Holy Scriptures in Schools

  1. On http://tapbb.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/invest-in-teachers/ you can read: “Public schools are likely to get a lot worse. Texas is on the way of banning higher level thinking skills from their state curriculum. The Republican Party of Texas has a platform plank against teachings HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills). As goes the Republican party so goes the Republican controlled State Legislature. As goes the State of Texas so goes all American Educational Publishing companies because they are that big a share of the market. As goes the Educational Publishing Companies so go most public school systems, because there, fulltime degreed teacher aren’t willing to work without books. ”

    You could also say
    Public School teachers have a very different task (job) than do Jewish Studies and Hebrew School teachers or Christian Bible School Teachers. Today the problem with a lot of Public School and private schools the teachers have to live in a world of metrics and evaluation, where to much time is lost on making evaluations.
    In many schools it became more important to have enough pupils and to have good results in the evaluation reviews. “It is all about the test.” It is still also all about evaluation of teachers via their students’ progress.

    The job of the Jewish or active Christian teacher is first and foremost affect. Our job (like it or not) is to lead our students into a Faith of God, religious future. It is (in old language) to “build Jewish or Judeo-Christian identity;” in today’s mission statement language for the Jews it is written as to “build Jewish engagement.” We have to create people who take on a Christian engagement of peaceful thinking and respectful handling of everything and everyone.

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  2. Pingback: Catholicism, Anabaptism and Crisis of Christianity « Stepping Toes

  3. Pingback: Al-Fatiha [The Opening/De Opening] Süra 1:1-3 In the name of Allah the Merciful Lord Of The Creation | Stepping Toes

  4. Pingback: The Bible a book of books – Relating to God

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