Bible Literacy Project News
Cape Cod Times:
September 28, 2005
It's the genesis of how we view the world, how we describe
things, how we decorate the stories we tell.
It's why snakes have a bad reputation; it's how generations of
little Davids learned to stand up to big, scary bullies; it's
why no wedding would be complete without the lesson on love from
It's the Bible. Fully 60 percent of the allusions in a recent
Advanced-Placement English exam were from its pages. Too bad so
much of its contents would come as a revelation to today's young
Public schools tend to keep scripture at arm's length except for
brief mentions in world religion classes. The problem: How to
teach an appreciation of the Bible as an historic religious
document and as literary wellspring without seeming to endorse
the Christian religion.
Last week a textbook was introduced that may solve that problem.
''The Bible and Its Influence'' was produced over five years by
the nonprofit Bible Literacy Project of Fairfax, Va. It will
retail for about $50. A Teacher's Edition is in the works.
The working group of advisors included Biblical scholars from
different Christian denominations, Jewish groups and the First
Amendment Center, an offshoot of the Gannett media empire that
studies and promotes constitutional freedoms. In 1999 it forged
an agreement, ''The Bible and Public Schools,'' that balanced
the views and concerns of educators and Christian, Jewish and
Muslim groups. The editors of the new text drew on that
Some of us remember a ''Bible as Literature'' course in public
school. It at least gave passing familiarity to those allusions
and great poetry like the Psalms and Song of Solomon. At the
news conference introducing the new text, the First Amendment
Center's Charles Haynes said that literary approach was the
problem with the one previous text of which he was aware: it did
not deal with the scripture's religious significance throughout
history. That's a cop-out, half a loaf.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible has not been banned in
public schools. Back in 1963 the Supreme Court ruled against
readings and recitations from the Bible in public schools, but
said ''the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and
historic qualities'' if the overall program were secular.
Let's hope the new textbook encourages more public schools to
take a chance on this touchstone document of modern
(Published: September 28, 2005)
Copyright © 2005 Cape Cod Times