Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

We need more biblical literacy in America

The University of Florida’s two-volume Hebrew Bible was printed in 1814 in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Price Library of Judaica 

Time for a quiz.

  • What do the following place names have in common: Salem, MA; Sharon, CT; Jericho, NY;  Rehoboth Beach, DE?
  • The name of Samantha Stephen’s mother in the television show “Bewitched” was Endora. What was the significance of her name?
  • What design did Benjamin Franklin want for the Great Seal of the United States of America?

While you are pondering the answers to those questions, let us reflect on the fact that President Trump has embraced proposals in six states to offer classes in biblical literacy.

Let me state, at the outset, that this is a bad idea — in practical terms, and for political reasons.

The ACLU is aware of the dangers and risks; a case in Kentucky emphasized that “Bible Literacy” courses may not promote religion or a particular religious viewpoint, test students on matters of religious faith, nor be designed to instill religious life lessons.”

Also: because of the atmosphere in America today, such classes would undoubtedly become part of the culture wars.

And: even the choice of a Bible — especially the choice of a Bible — is a politically partisan choice. King James? Revised Standard Version? New American Version? For the Hebrew Bible — Jewish Publication Society?

Moreover, with the proliferation of religious and cultural diversity in the United States today, growing numbers of American citizens do not find their primary religious inspiration in either the Jewish Bible or the New Testament, but rather, in the Koran, the Vedas, and in other religious texts.

Or, in no religious texts at all.

Having said that, let me also say that America needs more biblical literacy.

First: knowing about the Bible as literature is a crucial part of what it means to be a literate person.

Notice the precision of my language. It is knowing about the Bible; it is certainly not believing the Bible.

Neither is it reading the Bible for the sake of reading the Bible. To put it in Jewish terms: this is treif (unkosher), and has been since 1963, with Abington School District v. Schempp, which ruled Bible reading in public schools to be unconstitutional.

There is a crucial and subtle difference between a faith-oriented approach to teaching Bible (“This is what you should know and this is what you should believe”) and a literacy-based intellectual and academic approach (“This is what you should know about, because this is part of your literary inheritance.”

Consider what American students have learned, and continue to learn, in their English classes: Greek mythology; Greek theater; Shakespeare; Dickens; Hemingway. Consider the various narratives that they know, just from daily life: Harry Potter, Star Wars, and a plethora of video games that I could not even name.

If they can learn, understand, and appreciate Greek literature for its aesthetic and emotional value, why not the Bible? When I was a teenager, my extraordinarily talented teacher, the late Bob Yesselman, made my soul quiver when I read of the moment when Oedipus learned the truth about his life.

Would there be anything wrong with teenagers having that same moment of catharsis in reading about Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son?

If they can learn about Iphigenia, then why not Isaac — especially because he survived? Why not compare those stories?

Second: knowing about the Bible as literature can help us understand some of the motivations of the founders of our nation.

David Gelernter put it this way:

Winthrop, Adams, Lincoln, and thousands of others found a good destiny in the Bible and made it their own. They read about Israel’s covenant with God and took it to heart: They were Israel. (“Wee are entered into Covenant with him for this worke,” said Winthrop. “Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us.”) They read about God’s chosen people and took it to heart: They were God’s chosen people, or–as Lincoln put it–God’s “almost chosen people.” The Bible as they interpreted it told them what they could be and would be. Unless we read the Bible, American history is a closed book.

Take New England, for example. Early American colonists saw themselves in biblical terms. The English monarchy was Pharaoh. England was Egypt. The Atlantic Ocean was the Red Sea. Their destination was like the land of Israel. (Tragically, horrifically, this meant that the natives were forced to play the role of the Canaanites, which meant that they had to be defeated and extirpated. That is but one of the problems with American exceptionalism, which itself comes from a biblical source.)

Without biblical literacy, we don’t know the meaning of “a shining city on a hill.” We miss the allusions in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We remain deaf to the references in American patriotic songs and spirituals. We lose large pieces of our understanding of how America came to be, and the vision that permeated that founding.

You need the Bible to understand American history — in a way that no other country other than Israel can claim.

Now, to the answers to the quiz.

  • What do the following place names have in common: Salem, MA; Sharon, CT; Jericho, NY;  Rehoboth Beach, DE?

Answer: all of those names find their origins in the Hebrew Bible. As I said before, the original English settlers (though not all of them — see Colin Woodard, American Nations) saw their destiny in biblical terms. That is why biblical place names dot the maps of New England and the Middle States — as well as Utah, and various other places.

  • The name of Samantha Stephen’s mother in the television show “Bewitched” was Endora. What was the significance of her name?

Answer:  “Endora” is a reference to the Witch of Endor whom King Saul consults in First Samuel, chapter 28. A modicum of biblical literacy is necessary for even popular culture. (Trivia question: in the series, how many times did Endora actually pronounce her son-in-law Darrin’s name correctly?)

  • What design did Benjamin Franklin want for the Great Seal of the United States of America?

Answer: Franklin’s preference for the Great Seal was a depiction of the ancient Israelites crossing the Red Sea — with the motto being “rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” As I said earlier, the Exodus from Egypt loomed large in our colonial ancestors’ imaginations.

To repeat: I am not in favor of teaching the Bible in public schools, for the various reasons that I stated earlier. It will only lead to trouble.

That said, I think of the late Mr. Bob Yesselman, my English teacher at Bethpage High School.

He instilled in me a lifelong love of Greek drama and Shakespeare.

Sometimes, I wonder: if I had learned the book of Genesis from him, back when I was a junior in high school, would I have learned to love text a mere five years earlier?

I can only imagine.

 

 

 

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

172 Comments

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  • I agree. The problem is keeping it neutral. It wouldn’t hurt to have a world religions course considering the role religion has played in Western history.

  • I am a little wary of having bible classes in public schools because usually someone(s) somewhere are going to turn it into a pulpit and knowing the bible does not a preacher make. It takes a heap of wisdom, and a person of sound understanding. Finding such a person is going to be VERY difficult. Then there is an issue of all the different sects of Christianity who believe somethings that others do not.

    However, on the other hand, there is so many other classes that also do not belong in public schools that having a bible study class should be included as well. Sex education has turned from being informed of sexuality, sex, both positive and negative to advocating sexual promiscuity up to and including being pornographic. There are other topics taught in schools these days that are far more college level that parents object to, how can a class on the bible be so offensive. It’s an elective so there should be no mandatory enrollment thereby those who do not want to be there do not have to. I would just like to know how it came about where the bible is so offensive that being taught in schools is more objectionable than learning how to put a condom on, how to achieve sexual satisfaction, how to be desensitized to gender ideology, and all the other radical narratives being pushed down the throats of the young and captive.

  • The only biblical/religion in general literacy you will ever need:

    The Great Kibosh of All Religions-

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • I would be very much in favor of a world religion class, as part of understanding world history. We have so little understanding of other faiths in a world that is increasingly intermingling. I think world history classes would be a good place in which to include understanding the basics of different faiths and how those faiths were experienced and how religion influenced nations and peoples, wars and commerce, literature and the arts.

  • If Genesis is correct, God created indulgent self-importance when he created human nature. The first evidence of indulgent self-importance occurred when Eve took the fruit. If indulgent self-importance is a problem, take it up with God. It is part of the human nature He created.

  • RC! Been a while! I still encourage you to re-read Genesis 1 with three new ideas. First, that “day” is an indistinct period of time (as in “back in my day” – works the same in Hebrew as in English), second that most of the verbs are in what can most accurately be described as “imperfect tense” – an action begun in the past and continued and third, the “and” connotes consecutive action (I went to the bank and the grocery – not at the same time, but one after the other). As an example: “in the beginning, God began to create (form from nothing – ex nihilo) the heavens and then the earth.” You end up with something a lot more accurate than you could ever imagine for someone writing 3000 years ago. Or most people writing today, for that matter. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time reading about the Bible, and I think in the Bible too. Try it again with those three ideas. Let me know what you think.

  • If God is the Creator, then he is the Creator of human choice and human free will. He cannot use human choice and human free will to avoid responsibility for all of the consequences of his Creation. He owns it all.

  • God is the Creator, yes. God gives us all free will; yes. God is not in charge of our free will, or you would not be able to resist Him as you do. His wish is that none should perish.

  • Nobody is ever going to teach the Bible in an objective manner. It will always be used to proselytize. The people most likely to support such classes are the ones least likely to object to illegal efforts to proselytize. People who are going to act in bad faith and misuse the authority of a government position as an educator to endorse their faith.

    Your argument is crap. Whataboutism in the plainest sense. Sex education is taught because it is a public health issue. Frankly parents are not generally doing an adequate job on average. The most effective classes in that regard tend to be the most straightforward and honest on the subject

    “how can a class on the bible be so offensive”

    Easy, it is using government funds for promotion of one’s faith. The chances of it being taught objectively at a HS level are zero.

    Sex education classes, real ones not useless abstinence only ones, have a track record of leading to declines in teen pregnancy and STD prevalence. It serves a secular and rational purpose.

    Teaching the Bible does not have such utility and will inevitably be used to give offense to those who do not share the teacher’s version of faith.

  • Problem is, nobody is going to teach the Bible in a public school setting in an objective manner. It will always end up as a way to promote a given sectarian view.

  • Leave it to Sunday Schools. We don’t need it in our public schools. Period. There is no way anyone is going to teach the Bible in such a setting in an objective manner. It will always used to proselytize.

  • I’d support Biblical literacy classes for Christians … if they were actually interested in the subject. Sadly, they’re not. Historically, Christians have, collectively, refused to actually follow the Bible’s contents. Yeah, they occasionally will cherry-pick stuff from it that they like to hear and is convenient for them to propagate, but they more or less consider all that “turn the other cheek,” “blessed are the meek,” “sell all you have and give it to the poor,” “go to your inner room to pray,” and “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword” stuff to be for pansies and weaklings, and they’re not having any part of it. 

  • Why are you so sure that the Bible cannot be taught as literature? It’s taught that way in many college classes.

  • Because a high school setting creates too many temptations to proselytize for teachers.

    College settings one is dealing with people who are basically adults and they have far more independence than a HS would. There is a far more voluntary nature to choosing and even attending classes which HS does not have.

    The people who push for these classes in public high schools schools are not interested in teaching it as literature. The intent is to promote their faith.

  • But they are still fairy tales. Might as well have Paul Bunyan take the place of Abraham and Santa Claus as Moses!!

  • Just an FYI — I graduated from a public secular high school that taught a non-sectarian “The Bible as Literature” course every year. Remarkably, there were zero complaints from ANY of the students, parents, teachers, admins, local media, or even the regional ACLU thugs. No proselyzation, no lawsuits, nada. Go figure.

  • Already refuted in actual public high school classrooms. It’s as simple as not pretending the sky is falling.

  • So your personal sin and selfishness choices, are actually God’s fault. (You really gonna lay that claim on God, come Judgment Day? Mm-mmm !!)

  • I cannot speak to other parts of the nation, but in my local school district in Hamilton County, TN, the Bible class is funded by and run by Evangelicals only. They only allow Evangelicals teachers or ministers to teach the classes, and it’s taught from the Evangelical perspective. The school board has no input on the curriculum or standards. The parents of Jewish, Catholic, Mormon and other faith groups who won’t allow their kids to go to the Bible class are seeing their kids punished by being made to sit in a room and do nothing while the class is going on. But, because the Evangelicals are the majority and the majority on the school board, nothing is being done about the situation. The class is basically Sunday School for Evangelicals during the middle of the school day. The teachers also object because it takes away from valuable class time where they are under constant pressure to do well on state exams and test scores for reading, math, science, etc. Their point is, that churches have all day on Saturday and Sunday for Bible classes. In the South, Bible classes are almost certainly Evangelical controlled and used for proselytizing the Evangelical faith.

  • Interesting comment. However, when people treat the Bible as literature, be prepared to encounter different takes on the stories.

    For instance, a few translations state that Potiphar was a eunuch. Taken literally, this means that Potiphar’s wife was unable to have a child by her husband. That gives an insight into the motivation of Potiphar’s wife, when she tried to seduce Joseph (Genesis 39). In the previous chapter there is the story of Judah and Tamar, where Tamar seduced her father-in-law after she had been tricked out of her right to bear a child according to the Levirate rule, The placement of these two stories so close together invites readers to view the situation of the women in a similar light.

    In this and many other passages, the Bible is open to different interpretations. Another obvious example is the Song of Solomon, which traditionally was interpreted as showing the love of God for Israel (or the church) but which now is seen as love poetry.

  • A comparative religions course focused on familiarizing students with religious literature in general, and perhaps emphasizing the overall influence of Judeo/Christian literature – including the Bible – on Western culture would probably satisfy the basics. To focus solely on the Bible (assuming one version is selected), however, could border on endorsement and would seem to readily lend itself to abuse by teachers.

    By all means, review the impact religious literature has had on civilization, but let Bible study remain at home and in church.

  • The evidence in public schools seems to be that a high school setting creates too many temptations to sexually abuse children rather than proselytize them.

    If a stated decides to teach the KJV Bible as English literature, you get your chance if proselytizing actually occurs.

  • Kinda like the “usefulness” of global warming and gender indentification classes currently being forced upon many public school students? The same ones that can’t read nor write?

  • You meant like how facts about the world around them are taught in school .

    It’s a pity either issue has a partisan bent. But reality and conservative politics apparently don’t mix.

    I don’t see any constitutional amendnent forbidding government entanglement with those issues either. .

  • Except those classes teach facts about the world around them.

    Whereas the intention of Bible classes in public schools is strictly promotion of sectarian faith.

  • Taking the imperfect tense, the consecutive action, you get a first part of Genesis 1 like this: In the beginning, God began to create (from nothing) the heavens (the universe) and then the earth. And the earth was without form (a gaseous cloud) and then it was empty (devoid of life). And then the Spirit of God began to hover (the word “hover” connotes a mother bird hovering over its eggs) over the surface of the deep. And then God said, “Let there begin to be light,” and there began to be light. And God saw that the light was good, and he began to separate the light from the darkness. God began to call the light “day” and the darkness he began to call “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning, the first age had begun.

    Bible scholars have insisted on a 24-hour definition for “day” in Genesis 1 because when the word “yom” is used with an ordinal number, that is “always the case”. However, I would argue that a) the Bible is a unique book in history; b) nowhere else in the Bible is the word “day” used with an ordinal number; c) evening and morning do not make a 24-hour period, that describes night.

    In verse 1:2, you have the creation of single-cell life (as scientists define “life”). What comes next? Those organisms begin to create the atmosphere, separating into “waters above and waters below” – that is clouds over an ocean that covers the entire planet. Then dry ground appears in one place, meaning Pangaea. (In Job, God asks if Job was there when he “spread out the land”.) Then the land produces vegetation (not created, but “brought forth”). Then the upper atmosphere disperses enough that the sun, moon and stars become visible on the earth. Then sea animals and flying things, land animals and lastly, mankind.

    Note also the words used for how each new creation. God “created” from existing material something new that had never been seen before – sea creatures. But the land brings forth living creatures (from one place to another). As well, you have a basic description of both micro and macro-evolution. Each living thing (plants, flying things and land animals) is made “according to its kind” – that is, a dolphin can only ever be a dolphin. However, the word “formed” (sometimes interpreted as created) has the connotation of using existing materials.

    Each of those events is in the order and manner described by modern scientists. There is a lot more depth I could go into, but this isn’t the proper forum for that. So the question for you is, has science answered all your questions from “how did the universe come into being?” to “how did life form from inanimate matter?” to “how did an information system (DNA) form spontaneously?” There are some rather large holes in the “Natural” view of the universe.

    The amazing thing is that this description of the formation of the universe, the earth and life was written over 3000 years ago. So the kicker is, “how did Moses (or whoever wrote Genesis) know?”

  • Not really. Your take on such things is a bit skewed by the fact that even if they were proselytizing you would not have objected.

  • Syntax, semantics, grammar, understanding the formation and building blocks of multiple languages; these things the early colonists learned and understood; before they were fifteen years old. Today a young child could get a failing grade because he signed his name in cursive, before he is ten years old.

    There are bibles out there that removed the word unto and replaced the word unto, in every instance throughout the bible, with the word, to. The funny thing is that sometimes you cannot go to, you can only go up to the time of. Small word, big mistake.

  • Pushing biblical literacy in public schools is a bad idea for at least these reasons: 1. Adding that to the already crowded curriculum would mean cutting something else out, like Civics; 2. There are no suitable textbooks available; 3. There are no suitably trained and licensed teachers for the subject; 4. There is no public agreement on just what should be taught; 5. Conservative evangelicals are sure to seek to dominate any such program.

  • If people truly understood the Bible, the Republican party would have to fold its tent and disappear into the wilderness. While the Democrats would just undergo some reforms. The right wingers should be careful what they ask for when promoting Bible literacy.

  • Nope, that dodge won’t work.

    The single biggest – by some margin – venue for sexual abuse is the public school systems.

    On the other hand, you seem rather fixated on making sure Catholics don’t get a dime.

  • Apparently, and it is certainly no surprise, you unaware that two of the most quoted texts in the English language are the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible in the King James Version.

  • You mean “facts about the world” as in: “A man who imagines he is a woman really is a woman, and must be called and treated as such”?

    LOL.

    “Facts about the world”….too funny!

  • Really?
    Cold as shit out and were brainwashing kids about global warming.
    Al Gore said NYC would be flooded by now and the red lipsticked one says the world is going to end in 12 years.
    What a joke.
    And don’t get me started on adults telling kids they can select their own gender or psychologists that confuse kids more with their politically motivated “science”.

  • Catholic kids in public schools should and do get their fair share of public funding. What is objectionable is for government to compel all taxpayers to support Catholic, evangelical, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Muslim, Jewish, Scientology, etc private schools where religion “permeates” the curriculum, as advocated by the National Catholic Educational Association.

    And Mark/Bob’s equating of clergy sexual abuse with more easily discovered and prosecuted crimes in public schools is absurd.

  • I have never claimed to have the training or loxense to teach about religion. Mt teaching fields were History, English and Spanish.

  • Then you’re really not in a position to critique someone’s qualifications who has not disclosed them.

  • If you find it “objectionable is for government to …. support Catholic, evangelical, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Muslim, Jewish, Scientology, etc private schools where religion ‘permeates’ the curriculum” – which of course is the very purpose of religious-affiliated schools – you’re free to advocate for state laws along those lines.

    The trend, however, is going the other way.

    If, however, you intend to use tax funds to provide textbooks, safety equipment, and transportation to some students, you have to provide them to all students thanks to the Equal Protection provision in the Constitution.

    If you don’t, you also favor irreligion over religion, which violates the First Amendment.

    And the fact that thanks to the teachers’ unions the media keeps looking the other way at the abuse in public schools doesn’t mean they’re not rife with predators.

  • Some small supplemental aids have managed to slip through, but in 30 state referenda from coast to coast from 1966 to 2018 (AZ) voters have rejected all plans to divert public funds to private schools by an average of 2 to 1. I take ny stand with Jefferson and with Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. And what evidence do you have that public schools are “rife” with sexual abuse? Sure, some happens and the guilty are prosecuted, but it cannot compare with the worldwide clergy abuse. You need to read the two books on the clergy mess by Spanish scholar Pepe Rodriguez.

  • “First: knowing about the Bible as literature is a crucial part of what it means to be a literate person.”

    Marvelous insight. Knowing about the Bible means knowing what it is. That is the key to knowing what it is not, in spite of the misleading claims about “Word of God”. The Bible is a collection of writings which could be found, written by men who wanted to write something in their times and places. It has parts which are valuable and parts which are most noted for inducing permanent dragging of feet,

  • The statement you quote does not address the question of whether or not the Bible is the Word of God.

    It refers to the Bible as “literature”, which those who believe it is the Word of God would readily admit. The two are not mutually exclusive, as you pretend.

  • Another solution : Lets begin at the “beginning” with just a few pages from the Book i.e. Genesis and the creation of “Creation” without any need to read the OT cover to cover. Whomever the Jewish scribes were, it has been shown that “they were mostly religious propagandists who didn’t let historical truth get in the way of a (morally or theologically) good story.” (Noah is another great “good” story). For example, even the Catholic Church teaches the mythical/fictional nature of Adam and Eve and the magical garden. It also shows that in 900 BC, Jewish scribes were quite good at writing fictional and/or embellished accounts. The descendants of the Scribes, in my opinion, continued the work of their predecessors. And their work seems to have taken another branch after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John descendants of these OT scribes? And Paul definitely had a “scribable influence” in his early years in Jerusalem. Seems plausible to me!!! Lets face it, the historical Jesus with his parables and experiences provided a great basis for a better, more rationale religion. It just needed some upgrading to keep pace with Greek and Roman mythology.

    o More details from National Geographic’s Genographic project: https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/human-journey/

    “Our species is an African one: Africa is where we first evolved, and where we have spent the majority of our time on Earth. The earliest fossils of recognizably modern Homo sapiens appear in the fossil record at Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, around 200,000 years ago. Although earlier fossils may be found over the coming years, this is our best understanding of when and approximately where we originated.

    According to the genetic and paleontological record, we only started to leave Africa between 60,000 and 70,000 years ago. What set this in motion is uncertain, but we think it has something to do with major climatic shifts that were happening around that time—a sudden cooling in the Earth’s climate driven by the onset of one of the worst parts of the last Ice Age. This cold snap would have made life difficult for our African ancestors, and the genetic evidence points to a sharp reduction in population size around this time. In fact, the human population likely dropped to fewer than 10,000. We were holding on by a thread.

    Once the climate started to improve, after 70,000 years ago, we came back from this near-extinction event. The population expanded, and some intrepid explorers ventured beyond Africa. The earliest people to colonize the Eurasian landmass likely did so across the Bab-al-Mandab Strait separating present-day Yemen from Djibouti. These early beachcombers expanded rapidly along the coast to India, and reached Southeast Asia and Australia by 50,000 years ago. The first great foray of our species beyond Africa had led us all the way across the globe.”

    For an update on Adam and Eve https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_Eve

    For Adam and Eve in evolution, see https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/morocco-early-human-fossils-anthropology-science/ and https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/genetic-adam-and-eve-all-humans-are-descendants-one-man-and-woman-who-021536

  • If you actually do know “about” the Bible and the 66 pieces that are there, it is impossible to assume that it is the work product of God or is what God would give as a guidebook for mankind. First of all, it took too long to write and assemble. Secondly, it describes things that absolutely did not happen plus quite a number which probably did not happen. Thirdly, it is an incomplete narrative about the lives of principle characters such as David and Jesus, with large parts of their lives left out. Fourthly, it is inconsistent in emphasis about what are supposed to be the prioritized optimal behaviors for mankind, depending on which section one reads and about what time of history. Fifthly, it includes predictions which absolutely no one understands—-making them meaningless. Sixthly, it was delivered in languages most people on earth do not speak,

    I’m not saying we should not appreciate the Bible for WHAT IT IS. I am saying we should not make claims about it which are not true.

  • You are fairly veracity impaired. You have made that clear on numerous occasions. Its a shame that you are unable to tell the difference between teaching facts about the world around one and religious indoctrination.

    The Arctic ocean is a navigable waterway for the first time in human history and you are playing silly denial games. Whatever.

    Its a shame that science denial is not a deeply embedded part of conservative politics. It undermines the idea that one is dealing with reasonable or intelligent people.

    Your manufactured hostility to trans people is not something worth reading either.

  • I can’t help it if you are wedded to narratives involving denial of plain and obvious things, but that is what you leave us with.

    Your denial of the existence of trans people is rather recent strictly manufactured outrage meant to go after a small and legally vulnerable group for discrimination. A chance to act like a dbag in public against others with official sanction by your church and government function.

    They have been recognized in all professional fields for over 60 years. Bible thumping bigots went from indifference to being triggered by signs of their existence in no time flat. You guys didn’t say a word about it until fairly recently.

  • Your criticisms fail, because they fault the Bible for not being what it was not intended to be.

    For example, you fault the Bible for being an “incomplete narrative about the lives of principle characters”, as if you expect that it would like a modern 7 volume biography of, say, Thomas Jefferson. But the Bible’s concerns are not those of a modern biography, and it is foolish to try to evaluate it along such lines. Its concerns are quite different, namely the story of God’s Old and New Covenants with man; as a witness to that, it is unsurpassed.

    Your other criticisms are equally beside the point, some even quite frivolous.

    You are like one who criticizes your automobile manual because it doesn’t scan as good poetry.

  • I can’t help it if you are wedded to obviously false “progressive” narratives like the trans scam.

    Sorry, but, I can only point out: “The emperor has no clothes!”.

  • How do you know the waterway is open for the first time in human history?
    You have relatives that go back that far?
    Cite your sources.

  • I don’t criticize the Bible for being what it is. I criticize the people who make claims about it which are an incredible stretch—–that 66 widely-separated pieces are a continuum, that its horrors and excesses in some parts are equally valid guidance for today as the later parts which are designed to correct those prior religious errors. There is also the striking modern-day correlation between “Word of God” people and those who prefer lies being told to them on nearly all secular subjects.

  • Oh, I thought you claimed to have a background in theology; here, as well as on some other posts and websites.

  • RC, I tried to give an explanation, but it got deleted off the site. Not sure why. All I can say is, try reading Genesis with those three ideas. I think you will find a better explanation than you will get from the “natural” scientist, who, by comparison, have to make up theories (completely untestable) about branes, string theory, bubble universes etc to account for the apparent contradiction to Newton’s laws of physics in the Big Bang, have yet to figure out how life begins out of inorganic matter, how an information system (DNA) creates itself spontaneously, how rational thought evolved randomly – there are many holes in the “natural” universe explanation.

  • “You have relatives that go back that far?”

    We all do. 🙂

    They were looking for one there for centuries.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage

    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37286750
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/03/science/earth/arctic-shipping.html
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/arctic-ice-environment/

    We can also add how Russia worrying about how melting permafrost that has been there for tens of thousands of years is affecting its oil industry
    https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/permafrost-thaw-threatens-russia-oil-and-gas-complex-study-1825137.html

  • Not credible by…..habitual liars. The veracity impaired.
    National Geographic and BBC are left wing? LMAO!

    Facts make your head hurt. OK.

  • Several counties here in Kentucky never attempted objectivity, leaped right into full off Sunday School.

  • If the classes would adhere strictly to the contents of “The Bible and its Influence, Second Edition” there would be little justification for opposition.
    Letcher County, KY took their class material from The Teen Sunday School Place. Now that’s being cheap….oh, wait. Never mind. Gov. Bevin can’t be bothered with districts having too small a tax base to adequately fund our schools.

  • “I don’t criticize the Bible for what it is.”

    Said right after your post in which you criticized the Bible for being: something different than a modern biography, written over a long period of time, containing various things you don’t understand, written in two specific languages – in other words, criticized for being what it is.

    “I criticize the people who make claims about it which are an incredible stretch” -in your own opinion, to be clear, one which others may not find particularly valid.

    So, to be honest, you criticize BOTH the Bible AND the people who adhere to it.

    And I count a lot more than your “66 books” in the Bibles used in the majority of the Christian world.

  • “The emperor has no clothes!”

    Eventually your loony narrative will come crashing down – but only after it has harmed countless people.

  • That’s amusing.

    First you tell me that I am not qualified.

    Then you inform me you don’t know what the qualifications are.

  • The Bible is fine—–understood as what it is. What it is not is the inerrant all-sufficient Word of God, as claimed by some. The fact that some versions include 73 books is irrelevant.

  • What you’re saying is that you’re against the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment as they were written, not as you read them.

    Is the “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” a binding constitutional document?

    No?

    Then what you have is an opinion.

    For those unfamiliar with him, Pepe Rodriguez is an avowed and dedicated anti-Catholic like yourself and the author of “The Fundamental Lies of the Catholic Church”.

    Among his claims are the human foundation of the Catholic Church which is deceiving the “faithful believer”, organized a structure contrary to the biblical texts-in agreement with satanism, changed the Commandments of God, and added uninspired apocryphal books to the Bible.

    His works appeal to folks such as:

    https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vatican/vatican_mafia.htm#Contents

    and the late Jack Chick, whose anti-Catholic texts relied heavily on Rodriguez.

    https://www.chick.com/

  • You have no reasonable or sane response. The only harm being caused are by people like yourself. Attacking people for its own sake because they are easy targets.

  • “understood as what it is”

    This is precisely where the problem comes in.

    You would object to it being taught as being the Word of God. I can understand and appreciate that viewpoint

    What I would object to is someone teaching what you have said: That it is NOT the Word of God.

    Both partisan viewpoints should be excluded from such classes.

    It should be taught in class simply as literature, that students may become cognizant of the stories, poetry, etc., that are found in the text.

    And 73 books is a low ball figure for the canon.

  • Would concur. Factual based. Comprehensive. True look not just at Christianity but also Islam. But teaching appreciation of the Bible should be the role of the church not the state.

  • Someone who says that men who imagine they are women really are women – and must be called and treated as such – is in no position to pontificate about what is “reasonable” or “sane”.

    Did I mention that “the emperor has no clothes”?

  • I couldn’t care less what you think about trans people. They exist regardless of your views here. It is a medically recognized condition. Just because you want excuses to attack them doesn’t mean you need to be taken seriously here. Your bigotry and senseless denial is duly noted and ignored. Its not up for debate.

    Even the serious scientists at the RAND corporation think you are being whiny.
    https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html

    By all means make me laugh with accusations that the military’s own think tank is a leftist progressive propaganda wing.

    Of course back to the topic, there is still no compelling reason for Bible study in public schools. It is of course meant as a way to break the law and proselytize. The existence of classes which make you plotz doesn’t change that fact.

  • Madison’s 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance was a critical step in the adoption of Jefferson’s religious liberty addition to the Virginia constitution and of the First Amendment, as important historically as the Declaration of Independence. And you conveniently neglect to comment on the referenda, the critical voice of We the People.

    I have actually read Rodriguez’s Fundamental Lies book. Have you? And you neglect to mention his two books on the clergy sexual abuse matter, totaling over 800 pages, which I have also read.

    Jack Chick was a true bigot and jerk. Where did you get the idea that he ever read a book by Rodriguez?

  • Now for some 21st century reality:

    For Adam and Eve in evolution, see https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/morocco-early-human-fossils-anthropology-science/ and

    https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/genetic-adam-and-eve-all-humans-are-descendants-one-man-and-woman-who-021536

    Lets begin at the “beginning” with just a few pages from the Book i.e. Genesis and the creation of “Creation” without any need to read the OT cover to cover. Whoever the Jewish scribes were, it has been shown that “they were mostly religious propagandists who didn’t let historical truth get in the way of a (morally or theologically) good story.” (Noah is another great “good” story). For example, even the Catholic Church teaches the mythical/fictional nature of Adam and Eve and the magical garden. It also shows that in 900 BC, Jewish scribes were quite good at writing fictional and/or embellished accounts. The descendants of the Scribes, in my opinion, continued the work of their predecessors. And their work seems to have taken another branch after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John descendants of these OT scribles? And St. Paul definitely had a “scribable influence” in his early years in Jerusalem. Seems plausible to me!!! Lets face it, the historical Jesus with his parables and experiences provided a great basis for a better, more rationale religion. It just needed some upgrading to keep pace with Greek and Roman mythology.

  • Re: “The right wingers should be careful what they ask for when promoting Bible literacy.” 

    Yes, they should be careful. After all, their own Jesus reportedly warned: 

    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Mt 7:21-23

  • It SHOULD be taught in classes simply as literature, either as an elective or as a section that does not displace or dominate other literature. It should not be taught as the Word of God. There will be no need for anyone to call it “Not The Word Of God” as a matter of the curriculum. That will be completely apparent when it is reviewed objectively as literature. We finally agree?

    Everyone should be prepared, I imagine, for calls to teach the literature of other religions as well. We could start with Islam, and it too would suddenly become apparent as not the word of God.

  • We’re discussing the United States Constitution.

    We are not discussing the Virginia Constitution.

    We are not discussing Jefferson’s or Madison’s considerations before or after the Constitution was ratified.

    We the People can only override the Constitution by amendment, and if you and various friends at the assorted “separation of church state” pressure groups wish to do that, so that the First Amendment reads the way you wish it did, check out Article V and getting cracking.

    Rodriguez, whose expertise was in data processing, wrote 15 books. Having plowed through an English translation of one of them, I wasn’t planning on reading 14 more.

    Much of the content of the one I discussed is duplicated in the Jack Chick material.

    If they did not inform each other, they were informed by the same sources, the same sources you rely on.

  • I didn’t say I didn’t know what the qualifications are. So, what are your qualifications, if any?

  • The passage of Jeffersson’s Virginia law and Madison’s Memorial are key to understanding what the First Amendment is all,about. Is that too hard for you to understand? Interpretations of the First Amendment went fairly well until the Repubs got a majority on th Court.

    Which Rodriguez book did you read, and where did you get it in English?

  • The key to understanding what the First Amendment is all about begins with the very plain English text, which DOES NOT INCLUDE “separation of church and state”.

    In addition we can read the comments of the legislatures during the ratification debates, and the thoughts of the entire 27 delegates to the Convention – one of which WAS NOT Thomas Jefferson.

    Then we have the interpretations of both the Supreme Court AND the state supreme courts which considered it binding.

    I am not giving Rodriguez free publicity.

  • I think that, when taught objectively, the power of the Spirit will bring many to accept the Bible as the Word of God.

    Otherwise, we pretty much agree.

  • Nor am I much interested in what you think about trans. When the current mania dies down, such “science” will be revealed to be the modern equivalent of Soviet era Lysenkoism.

    As for our military, it, like our State Department, has been promoting leftist progressive LGBT propaganda for some years now.

  • I am not the one trying to pretend an entire group of people do not exist by making infantile arguments. They exist, people far smarter and more honest than yourself already establish that they do. Your views here aren’t worth squat. Its just empty infantile denialism

    That being said, it is still an irrelevance here. Bible study belongs in Sunday School. Do it on your church’s dime, not taxpayers’.

  • I’m glad we are agreeing. If objective Bible learning in a secular setting causes people to think so, that would be fine. I would be more pleased if (without adult prompting), it caused some students to go home, kneel alone at bedtime, ask Jesus to forgive his or her sins, come into his or her like and help him or her to do right, do better, and treat others with love and grace.

    I do believe in the Spirit too. Heart stuff from parts of the Bible is a great thing. I wouldn’t mind if a teacher went so far as to tell students about “ask, seek, knock” and that there is no reason why a person can’t or shouldn’t individually give it a try. What the Spirit might do, the Spirit might do.

  • Re 1st Amendment, yu need to read scholars like Leo Pfeffer.

    And I bet you’ve never actually read a book by Rodriguez.

  • again as the article emphasizes, the courses suggested are on the literary values of the bible . that is a good and appropriate subject for public schools .

    the religious meaning of the bible would always be the providence of the churches or spiritually inclined people .

  • much of english literature from the 1600s until the late 1900s was based directly or indirectly on the language and cadence and literary references to the king james translation of the bible . to not study that is to miss much of the significance of english and american literature .

    while the study of islam and the qur’an would be excellent for knowing more about the history of the world and about current affairs and current problems, it would not be a great help in the study of western literature .

  • You are the one trying to pretend that a man who thinks he is a woman actually is a woman.

    He’s not, he’s just a man who thinks he is a woman.

    Stating simple truths really enrages you, doesn’t it?

  • Again, your opinion of trans people doesn’t mean they do not exist. If anything your hostility here just proved they do. Hence your immature long winded vehemence.

    You are a bigot who wants to pretend an entire class of people not only don’t exist but should never be referenced to.

    Good luck with that. Nobody has to take such ranting seriously.

    In the meantime, Bible study classes in public schools are still a stupid and illegal idea because they will be used for proselytizing.

  • As I read the Bible, Genesis 2 is not a retelling of Genesis 1 (but with contradictions) but saying that first God created mankind (in Gen 1) and then He came and created a specific man (and woman) to have a personal relationship with. Reading it that way takes out all the contradictions and answers the question of “who was Cain afraid would take revenge on him?” (Or who did he marry?) The Bible refers to Nephilim, which is often translated as “giants” but also as “ancient ones”. Think about that from the perspective of someone writing 3000 years ago and that is ancient indeed.

  • Ironically, the right wingers who can’t stop yammering about evil teachers and their socialist indoctrination, how they don’t want them teaching their kids sex ed or science, now want the same teachers to teach their holy book.

  • I agree. I think all High School students should have a class in World Religions and Mythology. There is great ignorance even among Christians about the Bible and Biblical History as well as ignorance of other World Religions. AND even many Atheists are quite ignorant about World Religions and their sacred texts. You can’t really understand world history IF you don’t have an elementary understanding of religion–all the worlds religions.

  • One can be assured the calvinists/evangelicals and other cults would use this to their advantage to convert the children to their heretical beliefs. Keep all religion out of the public schools and leave it where it belongs, in religious organizations and the home.

  • Of course they exist.

    But you pretend that when a man imagines he is a woman, he is correct.

    Only brainwashed ideologues take such madness seriously.

  • “Of course they exist.”

    Despite your best efforts you have capitulated your main point. They exist. Didn’t have to read the rest.

    You are upset of acknowledging they exist in a public fashion. That is just bigotry and spite talking. Manufactured hate to serve the purpose of attacking a small legally vulnerable group. Making you a bad person in general. You have wasted time going off topic to express your malice. After that admission and concession we are done here.

    Bye bye

  • Hmm. You’ve seen those recent Snickers Candy Bar commercials, right?

    Well, I can mail you a Snickers if you need one. It might be kinda melted when it gets to you, but presumably it will turn you into a much more mellow Rapper or Rock Star or Atheist or Whatnot.

  • Silly Spuddie, the issue was never whether or not they exist, but whether or not they are suffering from a mental delusion in imagining they are “really” of the opposite sex.

    Men who imagine they are women exist, just as there are some people who imagine they are Napoleon or the Queen of England.

    You are willing to accept their ludicrous claims. I am not.

    But if you want to slink away pretending that I have “conceded”, go right ahead.

    I have conceded that there are unbalanced, delusional people in the world.

  • You already conceded the main point that they exist and are just triggered over it. Oh well. That was a waste of time.

  • The existence of delusional people was never the main point, at least not to me.

    The main point was that you consider such delusional people to be quite sane.

  • Interesting comment.
    1 Without self interest we can’t survive. (I think is your point) your statement makes sense to me.

    2 To only be self serving or self gratifying is not sustainable.

    If 2 is true also then it seems we would be responsible for for at least a portion of that.

  • I think you are exactly right. The human condition – as it currently exists and as it might become/improve in the future – is a shared responsibility. I think Jesus represents that shared responsibility.

  • “. . . the issue was never whether or not they [transsexuals] exist, but whether or not they are suffering from a mental delusion in imagining they are “really” of the opposite sex.”

    That doesn’t begin to compare with the multitudes of people “suffering from a mental delusion in imagining” that their god actually exists.

    “I have conceded that there are unbalanced, delusional people in the world.”

    Yes, that’s true, there are multitudes of them, and you are obviously one of them. And, all of you that share the
    Grand Old Delusion (GOD) are constantly feeding off each other to reinforce it.

  • First, there were no biblical Adam and Eve. Second, therefore there was no Cain.

    And from the white board notes of a Catholic universities graduate theology class:

    “The story of Adam and Eve is only symbolic. Yes, this story was composed in the 900s BCE and functions as an etiology (explanatory myth) . In the 900s Israel was self ruling, under King David
    and Solomon. The people were no longer at war and the question” Why are we not happy?” may have been asked. The short answer is sin. (Look at 1 Kings 11 for some clues into why the story depicts Eve sinning first and then tempting Adam [Solomon])is therefore only symbolic of man’s tendencies to sin.”

  • The Bible is a compendium of fire side tales and fables,

    recounted orally for generations by goat herders and primitive tribes from the stone age, until writing was invented,

    and then again many different sources, transliterations, and versions were copied and written down.

    There were no grand central universities to organise the many various versions of these origin/creation stories, stories common to most primitive cultures.
    They were for entertainment (as in all migratory camp tribes),
    and to answer the questions of the many fears and mysteries of our universe, like ‘thunder’ and earthquakes, since there was no science yet.

    This is the old Testament.

    The ‘new’ Testes is also hearsay since these letters, ‘gospels’ and stories were written by the loyal faithful, the camp followers,
    not by objective historians at that particular time,
    or by any contemporary writers,
    and these tales were written many years after the supposed events of this mythical Jesus.

    Thus, there is no verifiable evidence of a Jesus in real documented history.

    Then, many of these stories, but not all, as many were not chosen,
    [ There are more than just four Gospels but only these four were agreed on ],
    were compiled for one self-absorbed converted Roman Emperor in his Nicean Council,
    for his expressed purpose of conquest and
    control of the people of Europe for his Holy Roman Empire.
    He recognised that this was the perfect religion/mythology for the future domination of the populaces.

    Half of the stories were ignored by the Nicean Bishops and none have been proven to be based on fact.

    This ‘Bable’ book is backed up by absolutely no facts and no evidence.
    It is not proof for any god(s) ….(or of any jesus…)

    It is a historical novel…Only!

  • Science has acknowledged gaps and acknowledged inaccuracies – that’s because it is rigorously tested and accept we don’t yet know everything there is to know.
    ‘Faith’ acknowledges no gaps and just claims to know everything.
    The god claim has one enormous flaw – who created god? & if the only answer you have is ‘he just was’ than that is blatantly more laughable than not quite knowing exactly how organic matter came about

  • Religious people cant even agree on gods name never mind which bits of the Bible are relevant
    It would seem far more valid to have it taught by an atheist who can see past indoctrination to explain what the Bible is trying to guide people to do.

  • Your last sentence is very pertinent.
    They are commonly know as as ‘Bible Thumpers’
    Being incapable of understanding complexity in life and have such low self esteem they need an excuse to hate on others they display ignorance that can only be explained by the regular thumping of a heavy bible to their forehead.

  • Someone with a decent grounding in the early religions of Zoroastrianism and Mythraic cults would be best.
    Otherwise the pupils would miss the point that much of the beliefs,stories and ideas in the Bible date from well before the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim religions

  • Is it partisan to point out facts?
    You really need to read up on older religions and understand where so many of the stories and ideas in the bible really come from.
    Just as you should find out when the Sabbath day you should be praying on really is. Certainly not Sun-god-day , the day of light, the first day, day of pagan worship that’s for sure

  • So you also believe that a man who imagines he is a woman really IS a woman, and must be addressed and treated as such?

    Wow. When it comes to displaying ignorance and being incapable of understanding, you definitely are the poster child.

    I would suggest thumping your head with a 2 X 4 to try to knock some sense into it.

    Then perhaps you might realize that a man remains a man, even if he imagines he is a woman or a goldfish.

    And the Bible has nothing to do with it. Try Biology.

    But it is revealing of your prejudices that you would bring it up.

  • I am well aware of “older religions”, having majored in Classics -the study of ancient civilizations, mostly Greek and Roman in case you don’t know – in college, thank you very much.

    Your own ignorance of Christianity is shown in your assumption that Christians “should be praying” on and observing the Sabbath day.

  • Yes but then you have the god is eternal crowd, he always was and always be as noted et. al.

  • the religious meaning of the bible is not an appropriate subject for the public schools . the article (and i if that makes any difference) only propose literary study of the bible .

    as far as “religious people can’t even agree…,” there are 2 billion christians on the earth . can 2 billion people ever agree on anything ? why should their faith be different ?

  • Yes indeed but then there is the crowd who claim “god everlasting, I am who am, god is timeless in the outside time altogether; he does not experience temporal succession et. al. “

  • Well, perhaps you could go back further.

    I’ve heard this cr-p before.

    G. K. Chesterton was listening to a professor go on and on about how you could see that the steeples on Christian churches were exact images of the pyramids in Egypt, which of course meant the Christians were emulating the ancient Egyptians.

    Chesterton pointed out that it was certainly obvious.

    If the Christians weren’t emulating the Egyptians, the steeples would be point down.

  • Notice, of course, that they don’t give you the questions and what they believe the correct answers are.

    Those Pew folks really have doing snowjobs down to a fine art.

  • So, he sent a great flood and killed millions of innocent children and puppies and kittens because he wishes none should perish. I think he needs a shrink.

  • No. Those people wouldn’t have been getting close to pleasing, and He got fed up, tattoo- today we have a choice.

  • “Tha
    If indulgent self-importance is a problem, take it up with God. It is part of the human nature He created.”
    That is a fine example of Bible ignorance!

  • Hah! The idea of introducing the study of the Bible in schools now is like the population in Noah’s time asking him to teach them about his God in the weeks before the Great Flood.

  • Actually, it is a fine example of Bible literacy and recognizing the Bible for what it is – the inerrant word of a God-created talking snake.

  • That could be a part of it. k
    We have a mall in my old town. As you are walking into the door, on the door is a sign that tells people to take a selfie and send it to them. The fact that people are obsessed with selfies says a lot in itself