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Another Kind of Bible Study
American Educator
Spring 2008

While college courses on the Bible's importance in history and literature are quite common, such classes typically aren't taught in high school. Yet, with all the references to the Old and New Testament in both classical and modern texts, they very well could be.

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The Bible Literacy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, dedicated to the academic study of the Bible in secondary schools, has published a textbook on the Bible for grades 9 through 12, along with a teacher handbook. Entitled, The Bible and Its Influence, the book was released in September 2005 and is the first textbook designed to meet constitutional standards for public school use. It has also been reviewed by a panel of independent scholars from the Judeo-Christian faith and various universities.

The nearly 400-page textbook covers the Bible's influence on literature, art, music, and rhetoric, and is designed to be an elective in English or social studies. The book is divided into two parts: the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. It also includes biblical scenes represented in works of art, such as Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, The Triumph of Judas Maccabeus by Peter Paul Rubens, and Caravaggio's David and Goliath. Along with the textbook, students study the actual Bible using a translation that each student chooses.

The Bible and Its Influence is a valuable resource for teachers who want their students to understand biblical references they may encounter inside and outside the classroom. According to the Bible Literacy Project, those references are numerous: more than 1,300 biblical references appear in Shakespeare's works, and more than 60 percent of allusions in one Advanced Placement literature prep course are biblical phrases.

To see if The Bible and Its Influence could supplement your English or history lessons, visit

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