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Should the Bible Be Taught in Public Schools?

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Bible in School

Recently, there has been a bit of discussion about the possibility of teaching “Introduction to the Bible” courses to a generation of students illiterate about the most foundational document in Western Civilization. Not surprisingly, discussion has tended to polarize into two groups: those who insist on the “wall of separation” between Church and State, and those who insist on getting “back to the Bible” if we hope to save what little remains of civilization in a schoolyard dominated by drugs, guns, and teen pregnancy.

I believe both positions are wrong-headed, but for very different reasons.

“Wall” advocates tend to regard any mention of the Bible in the schoolroom as an act of “establishment of religion” by the State. Therefore, courses on the Bible are synonymous with attempting to “convert” children. When confronted with well-meaning people who mumble something about the need to understand the Bible, Wall advocates often employ an “all or nothing” strategy to stop discussion. “Why just the Bible?” they say. “Why not study the Q'uran too? Why not also the various holy books of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Scientology, Deism, Pantheism, Wicca, and all the other pagan religions of European origin, as well as all of the hundreds of African, Australian and American tribal religions? Or, why not just keep all religious material out of the school system of a pluralistic society?”

On the surface, this “drinking from a fire hose” method of pluralistic intimidation seems cogent. But it only works by assuming that the real purpose of studying the Bible in the classroom is to proselytize. This is not so. The normal reason an “Introduction to the Bible” class is proposed is because, whether Wall advocates like it or not, it is the Bible, not Jainism or African animism, which undergirds both American and Western Civilization. If you do not understand the Bible, you cannot possibly understand most of what has been thought about and done (for good or ill) in Western culture for the past 2,000 years. And notably, the Pluralistic Intimidation card is not played anywhere but here. Nobody says, for instance, that we must either study every single political theory, writer, trend, and notion (as well as every obscure tribal arrangement, tin horn dictator, and obscure national government from every time and place in human history) or else concede that classes which concentrate on major Western political theories are hopelessly biased and have no place in a pluralistic society. Only the mention of the Bible provokes such absurd arguments.

Which, of course, must mean I advocate teaching the Bible in public schools, no?

No. Here's why.

I oppose studying the Bible in public schools since doing so is like taking an ember out of the fire and trying to see what makes it glow. Soon, you have only a dead coal. If I want to learn about the Bible, I think it is far more sensible to ask somebody who not only knows the technicalities of authorship, date, context, etc. but who actually believes its message, than to ask a paid educator with no fundamental sympathy for it. Likewise, if I wished to understand the Q'uran, I would ask a Muslim, not a technician. The wrong-headed attempt to reduce a religion to an academic subject rather than take it first as what it claims to be—a Way—is hopelessly inadequate to comprehending what the Bible or any sacred text is about.

This is not, in any way, to disparage biblical studies as, for instance, they are carried out in universities and seminaries. These are, in fact, invaluable. But I think, especially at the high school level, that it is important to receive a sacred text as an expression of a community and to develop some sympathy for that community before one begins the act of dissecting that text. The Bible is not a mere “document” to Christians and Jews. It is something more like a beating heart in the body of their community. To take the Bible out of the context of the community that produced it and place it in the hands of a secular culture which seeks only to dissect it is exactly like taking a living heart out of a living person in order to study the heart and the person better. What you instantly have is a dead heart and a dead person. For this reason, I think a secular “intro to the Bible” class would be more a way of inoculating students to the Bible than “introducing” them to it. If kids need an introduction to the Bible (and they do), let them get it at Church.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Exchange. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Are You a Christian?)

Mark Shea

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Mark Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. He has written more than ten books including his most recent works, The Heart of Catholic Prayer: Re-Discovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012) and The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ (Servant, 2012). Many of Mark's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Mark currently lives in Washington State with his wife, Janet, and their sons. Follow Mark through his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!

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  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    I would support teaching the Bible as literature for an Advanced Placement High School class. Anything at a lower level and the students would be less likely to have the maturity to handle the subject matter. The King James Bible is one of the finest works of literature in the English language, and ignoring it seems like ignoring Shakespeare.

    As for Mark Shea's argument that it is best to learn the Bible from a believer, I wonder, would it be better to learn about the Iliad from Hellenic polytheists?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "Would it be better to learn about the Iliad from Hellenic polytheists?"

      Not sure this is a good analogy since The Iliad isn't fundamentally about Hellenistic polytheism.

      But even if it were, do you know any qualified Hellenic polytheists teaching at the high school level?

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        I'm not sure the Bible is a textbook on Christian theology. The first line says In the Beginning God created, so God's very important.

        In the first paragraph of the Iliad, we have "sing goddess" and "all according to Zeus's will". I think that theology is important in both texts.

        As for American and most European schools? No, probably not. :)

        There are probably a literal handful qualified teachers in Greece who count themselves part of this Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionist movement, and would consider themselves believers. The estimated number of adherents is ~1000, according to Wikipedia. Do you think a study of the Iliad would be significantly better for their input?

        Maybe a better question, do you think that the study of the Koran as literature would be better taught by a Muslim scholar or a non-Muslim scholar?

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          "Do you think a study of the Iliad would be significantly better for their input?"

          Not necessarily, and that's my point. The Iliad is not fundamentally about Hellenistic polytheism therefore it's not crucial--or necessarily beneficial--to have polytheists teaching it.

          On the other hand, the Bible *does* fundamentally concern Christianity and therefore it makes since to read it through Christian lenses (ideally in the heart of the Church.)

          "[D]o you think that the study of the Koran as literature would be better taught by a Muslim scholar or a non-Muslim scholar?"

          By a Muslim scholar, without question, because the Koran is fundamentally about Islam.

          Perhaps I can propose an analogous question:

          Do you think the study of music would be better taught by a musician or a mechanic?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Do you think the study of music would be better taught by a musician or a mechanic?

            The musician, of course, but I don't think the question is analogous.

            There are accomplished Bible scholars who are Jewish, Muslim, Atheist. They study the Bible daily, and make a career out of their research. They are accomplished in their craft, much like a musician is accomplished in his craft.

            An unimaginative Christian high school teacher with little knowledge of the Bible would not teach it well, regardless of his beliefs. It seems to me that an imaginative non-Christian high school teacher with significant knowledge of the Bible would teach it far better, regardless of his beliefs.

            Maybe my own beliefs are biasing me in some way?

            A more analogous question (although still imperfect), might be:

            "Do you think the study of Ralph Vaughan Williams's coral work would be better conducted by someone who believed the words?"

            Even though Williams himself did not?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            I could be wrong, and tell me if I am, but I think we're fairly close on this point: the Bible should ideally be taught by people who take it seriously as a sacred text.

            Now, we'd probably disagree about whether an atheist Scripture scholar could teach the Bible just as well as a Christian--I think not, but perhaps you'd disagree--but I think we'd agree that the average high school teacher is nowhere near prepared to teach, must less understand, the Bible.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I could be wrong, and tell me if I am, but I think we're fairly close on this point: the Bible should ideally be taught by people who take it seriously as a sacred text.

            Yes, we agree there.

            but I think we'd agree that the average high school teacher is nowhere near prepared to teach, must less understand, the Bible.

            In most cases I would agree, although it will depend on the teacher.

            I would further say that the high school teacher should teach the Bible anyway. English teachers teach Shakespeare, and most are not well prepared. Not every highschooler will be able to learn the New Testament from NT Wright, but they should be made to read it anyway. The consequences of not learning the Bible are pretty serious. Without the Bible, you can't make sense of the western world.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "The consequences of not learning the Bible are pretty serious. Without the Bible, you can't make sense of the western world."

            And on that we completely agree.

            PS. I really enjoy dialoguing with you, Paul. I always appreciate your insights, but especially your charity. Looking forward to many more discussions!

          • Loreen Lee

            but I think we'd agree that the average high school teacher is nowhere near prepared to teach, must less understand, the Bible.

            When I handed my son, at the age of about eight, a copy of a children's bible, he inadvertently opened it up at a page which gave an account of the man who returned from war after making pact with God that he would sacrifice the first person he met, and this turned out to be his daughter. This was all the more dismaying to me, because of the look of astonishment and pain on my son's face.

            I found myself in an embarrassing situation that I could not explain the text in question. Indeed, I know that the interpretation of biblical tradition that I have today is not what I understood when I read it in the sixties. This is true with all literature, and the interpretation we make of life situations, generally.

            I feel that it is fundamentally important to give good example to the children, although even in this regard, I would have liked to have done better. There are elements, especially within the old testament, that I would not want to acquaint a 'young child' with and feel that interpretations given within the context of religious training, can be adapted to the needs of the very young, progressing in interpretative realism, as the child advances in age and maturity, and understanding of the complexities and 'evils' within the world.

            Even the precepts of Jesus, perhaps require simplification and emphasis on the 'happy outcome' of the examples in order to be appropriate to the growing comprehension of the child, and in order not to inadvertently instill incomparable fear, shame or guilt within a young child. The adolescent of course, is less subject to be influenced by the 'brutalities' of 'reality'.

            I will not commit to the necessity or purpose of exposing a young child to contexts of such pain, if it is 'beyond' there understanding. Even, within my domestic situation, there was pain, enough, resulting from personal limitations, and circumstance.

            It was years later, that despite being raised within the context of a home in which his father held the communist manifesto as the document that should be read by all, he came to me one day and said, "Mom. There has to be a God".

            Please note; that these remarks only represent my personal 'reaction' to the issue.

          • Vickie

            I agree that the Bible should be used where relevant even at the high school level. In literature, in cultural studies, concerning its impact regarding culture and history, it's impact on the world today, etc. In this general way most high school teachers would be able to handle it. I also feel in this general way we should not avoid its use due to a fear that we are breaching a wall between church and state.
            I feel though, that to just hand them a Bible on a secular level would be too broad and open to too many points of view.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Now, we'd probably disagree about whether an atheist Scripture scholar could teach the Bible just as well as a Christian . . .

            If it is to be argued that the Bible should be studied under the guidance of believers, then it seems to me the "Old Testament" (Tanakh) should be studied under the guidance of Jewish teachers, if not exclusively, at least first. Depending on one's point of view, Christians either "find" or "read into" Hebrew Scripture a great deal that Jews don't. An example is the so-called protoevangelium, Genesis 3:15. No Jew is going to find a prediction of a savior in Genesis.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "[T]hen it seems to me the "Old Testament" (Tanakh) should be studied under the guidance of Jewish teachers, if not exclusively, at least first."

            It was and is. The entire New Testament (with the exception of Luke and Acts) is written by Jewish teachers. Moreso, Jesus, all of his disciples, and the whole early Church were Jewish.

            "No Jew is going to find a prediction of a savior in Genesis."

            But the Old Testament was meant to be read in the light of the New--and especially through the lens of the Messiah. The fact that Jews missed (and still miss) this truth doesn't invalidate it.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            But the Old Testament was meant to be read in the light of the New--and especially through the lens of the Messiah.

            It is (perhaps) understandable that a Christian would say that, although it would seem rather arrogant (in my opinion) for a Christian to maintain that everything in the Old Testament is in some way or another about Christianity. There is, after all, a great deal that Christians have jettisoned.

            The fact that Jews missed (and still miss) this truth doesn't invalidate it.

            The fact that Christians believe something doesn't make it true. Obviously Jews will not agree that they are misreading their own scripture. Atheists will certainly not maintain that Hebrew Scripture can only be understood by reading it from a Christian point of view. I think even contemporary Christian exegetes are cautious about reading Christian interpretations into Hebrew Scripture. Jesus and the early Christians being Jews, it was quite natural for Jesus's followers to interpret him in the light of Hebrew Scripture. But it is another thing entirely to claim that Hebrew Scripture was about Jesus. I don't think contemporary exegetes believe that Jesus "fulfills" Old Testament passages as is claimed in a number of Gospel passages.

            The view I am familiar with is that Hebrew Scripture was for the Jews and remains valid for the Jews. They did not or do not fail to understand it. Rather, Christians find additional meanings in Hebrew Scripture. Christians and Jews should be able to agree on the literal meaning of Hebrew Scripture. It should not be the case that a Christian should tell a Jew he (the Jew) doesn't understand something in Hebrew Scripture.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Obviously Jews will not agree that they are misreading their own scripture.

            Right. But they will agree that other Jews are misreading the Hebrew scriptures.

            I think the Church agrees with you that not every passage in the Hebrew Scriptures has a Christological significance, but I disagree with you that "It should not be the case that a Christian should tell a Jew he (the Jew) doesn't understand something in Hebrew Scripture." Christians are perfectly within their rights to explain our understanding of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah, for example, and Jewish exegetes are within their rights to object.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Christians are perfectly within their rights to explain our understanding of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah, for example, and Jewish exegetes are within their rights to object.

            It seems to me that Christians are entitled to interpret Hebrew Scripture in any way they wish, and Jews are entitled to interpret Hebrew Scripture in any way they wish, but neither a Jew nor a Christian should say to the other, "You are wrong and I am right." Jews and Christians know they disagree with one another on the matter of who and what Jesus was. I dare say you wouldn't be pleased if a Jew wrote messages on Strange Notions saying, "It is a fact that Jesus was not divine, was not the Messiah, and that God is not 'triune.' Jesus may have been a good and wise man, but the fact of the matter is that he was not God incarnate, and he didn't rise from the dead. Christianity is a big mistake." Christian-Jewish dialogue is a fine thing, but it should not consist of Jews and Christians telling each other what the "facts" are and how the other has got them wrong.

            Saying you believe something, no matter how firmly, no matter whether you believe it with all your heart and soul and would gladly die for it is different (or so it seems to me) than saying it is a fact and people who don't believe what you believe are wrong. To "know a religious truth with the certainty of faith" is different than to know a fact.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's fine as long as we keep in mind that both Jews and Christians hope their beliefs are facts!

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "It seems to me that Christians are entitled to interpret Hebrew Scripture in any way they wish, and Jews are entitled to interpret Hebrew Scripture in any way they wish, but neither a Jew nor a Christian should say to the other, "You are wrong and I am right.""

            This of course assumes an unproven assumption: that there is no correct interpretation (and therefore no wrong or incomplete interpretation) of particular biblical passages. I don't agree and would challenge you to defend this assumption.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            This of course assumes an unproven assumption: that there is no correct interpretation (and therefore no wrong or incomplete interpretation) of particular biblical passages.

            I wouldn't say that, or not exactly that, in any case. Here's a passage from Joseph A. Fitzmyer's The One Who Is to Come that I had in mind while I was writing:

            A Christian interpreter of the Old Testament should be able to agree with a contemporary Jewish interpreter of the Hebrew Scriptures on the literal meaning of a given passage, even one mentioning māšîăḥ, or one related to such a concept, before the Christian invokes his or her canonical meaning. After all, the extent of the writings that the Jewish interpreter regard as the written word of God is identical with the Old Testament that the Christian interpreter seeks to expound. For the Christian canonical sense of the Old Testament is a "plus," a sense added to the literal meaning of the Old Testament. That meaning may be a "closed" meaning for the Jewish interpreter, but it remains "open" for the Christian interpreter, who has to recon with the literal meaning in its historical formulation and take into account all the aspects that it may have that allow it to be "open" to subsequent Christian interpretation.

            Take Genesis 3:15, for example. Certainly Jews and Christians can agree on the primary meaning of the verse and can further agree (I would think) that neither the author of Genesis 3:15 nor anyone who read it as Hebrew Scripture prior to the beginning of Christianity read it as a prophecy of a savior. The clear meaning is that there will be enmity between human beings and serpents.

            I would say that even from the viewpoint of believing Christians, it makes sense to believe that Hebrew Scripture when it was written had meaning for the Jews that they understood before Christianity existed, and that they still understand without the need of consulting Christianity today.

            Whether there are correct and incorrect interpretations of biblical passages (Old or New Testament) beyond their "surface" meanings seems to be a matter of perspective. The may be a single passage that has a clear "surface" meaning but is interpreted differently by Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and atheists. If you are a Catholic, you will insist that the Catholic interpretation is true and the others are false. If you are a Protestant, Jew, or atheist, you will insist that the Protestant, Jew, or atheist interpretations (respectively) are correct. What would constitute proof under the circumstances? As we have discussed recently, this is what the Catechism says about faith:

            Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"

            I have an open mind as to whether or not there are religious truths, but when the Church steps in to declare by authority a certain interpretation of a disputed passage in scripture, accepting that as the definitive interpretation is a matter of faith. Such things are not open to proof.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Take Genesis 3:15, for example. Certainly Jews and Christians can agree on the primary meaning of the verse and can further agree (I would think) that neither the author of Genesis 3:15 nor anyone who read it as Hebrew Scripture prior to the beginning of Christianity read it as a prophecy of a savior. The clear meaning is that there will be enmity between human beings and serpents.

            Since the "Seventy" who translated the Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek translated the "they" of Gn 3:15 as "he," that is an indication that Jews in the two centuries prior to Christ might have given it a messianic interpretation.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            . . . that is an indication that Jews in the two centuries prior to Christ might have given it a messianic interpretation.

            The problem with that conjecture is that there is nothing in the Old Testament and nothing known from Old Testament times to connect the serpent of Genesis 3 with "the satan," and there is nothing to connect "the satan" of the Old Testament with the Christian concept of Satan or the Devil. Those are Christian (or at minimum, post-OT) concepts. So it seems to me the maximum one can claim for Genesis 3:15 is that a reference to a savior was planted in the Old Testament which its author and its audience would have been unaware of and which only could be recognized once the savior had come.

          • Vickie

            I think that is what I was saying about the lens. It was there all the time, but only recognized once the savior had come.
            Luke 24:44-45 says "He(Jesus) said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures'." While he was with them he explained the scripture and opened their minds to understand it. This understanding of the scriptures, this lens, was given to them by Jesus, and with it the ability to understand what had always been there but until then not recognizable. In Rev 12:9 "The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it". The connection between Satan and the serpent of Genesis existed from the time of the Apostles. So of course these concepts are from the New Testament because that is when the Apostles were given the instruction and ability to understand them. We are Christians, we follow the teachings of Christ so it would only make sense that we would follow the interpretations that came from him.
            One more thing about scripture, both Old Testament and New. God said in Isaiah "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." God protects his own word regardless of what we do to it.

          • Vickie

            I am wondering if it would be more correct to say that certain meanings become more apparent when viewed through the Christian lens rather than to say they are additional.
            Since we were talking about lenses I thought about the difference between the lens of Galileo and the lens of Hubble. Through the lenses we have now things in the universe are more apparent or more visable. We didn't add them, they were always there, but they become more apparent through different lenses.
            In the same way, looking at the Old Testament, the lens of Christianity doesn't add something that wasn't there before but enhances something that was already there.
            I don't think that I would tell anyone that they did not understand something related to their own beliefs. I might however ask them if they wanted to use my lens.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I am wondering if it would be more correct to say that certain meanings become more apparent when viewed through the Christian lens rather than to say they are additional.

            I would not agree. To take the very first example, Genesis 3:15, the so-called protoevangelium, we have the following:

            I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."

            The footnote to in the New American Bible is as follows:

            He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer's words would be, "They will strike . . . at their heels." However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (Wisdom 2:24; John 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because "the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman's offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.

            Here, it seems to me, is an open admission that the Christian interpretation is influencing the translation rather than the translation being the basis of the interpretation.

            E. A. Speiser in the Anchor Bible volume Genesis translates the passage as follows:

            I will plant enmity between you and the woman;

            And between your offspring and hers;
            They shall strike at your head,
            And you shall strike at their heel.

            His footnote is as follows:

            offspring. Heb. literally "seed," used normally in the collective sense of progeny. The passage does not justify eschatological connotations. As Dr. [S. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis] put it, "We must not read into the words more than they contain."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is another cursed NAB footnote!

            If I remember correctly, although I can't find the reference, the translation the early Church used, the Septuagint, rendered Gen 3:15 along the lines of "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (RSV).

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            NAB footnotes are disturbingly goofy, on average....

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Kevin: There is another cursed NAB footnote!
            Jim: NAB footnotes are disturbingly goofy, on average....

            You and Kevin are going to have to explain to me why the New American Bible, in its second edition now, is published under the auspices of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, appears on their web site as well as the Vatican web site, and bears both a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur.

            If you would like to cite something critical of the NAB, or cite something from another official Catholic source that contradicts information I provide from the NAB, that's fine. But unless you have an advanced degree in theology or sacred literature, it seems to me your comments against the NAB are unfounded and gratuitous swipes at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for providing American Catholics with an untrustworthy Bible.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            David--no Catholic is obligated to either like or affirm the footnotes of any particular translation of the Bible. Even a translation featured on official Catholic websites--even the NAB translation which is used liturgically in the US.
            And no Catholic needs advanced degrees to form critical opinions regarding the content of footnotes or introductions to the NAB translation.
            Much of this content belongs entirely to the field of free opinion--one can accept or deny, for example, that Mark wrote first. One can accept or deny that the four Gospels were written after 70 AD.
            And one can say publicly that one thinks that, on average, the footnotes are disturbingly goofy.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            And one can say publicly that one thinks that, on average, the footnotes are disturbingly goofy.

            If one is going to say such things, one should be prepared to support them. I am careful to back up what I say, citing credible authorities. If you want to characterize something as "goofy," it is of course your right to do so. But if you want to be taken seriously, you will have to make a case for what you say.

            If I were to say I thought the Ignatius Study Bible was "goofy," no one would let me get away with it here. Exactly why you and others feel free to trash the New American Bible without making a case against it is unclear to me. You didn't even bother to answer any of the points I made. You just dismissed the source I quoted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not swiping at the NAB as a translation, even though I've read many places that the RSV Catholic version is a much better translation overall.

            The Septuagent translated Genesis 3:15 from the Hebrew into Greek this way. The early Church read it this way. The early Church Fathers interpreted this passage as the Protoevangelium, the earliest on record is St. Irenaeus.

            Here is an example of the bad kind of footnote the NAB provides (from Jimmy Akin):

            [T]here are three reasons I don’t like the NAB. First, there are the footnotes. In some editions these are likely worse than others, but even the better ones still have some bad notes (not all are bad, but some are). The notes, apparently, have been cleaned up somewhat since the 1970s, but there are still clunkers that will misinform, disturb, or even challenge the faith of readers. For example, consider this note on Matthew 16:21-23:

            [21-23] This first prediction of the passion follows Mark 8:31-33 in the main and serves as a corrective to an understanding of Jesus’ messiahship as solely one of glory and triumph. By his addition of from that time on (Matthew 16:21) Matthew has emphasized that Jesus’ revelation of his coming suffering and death marks a new phase of the
            gospel. Neither this nor the two later passion predictions (Matthew 17:22-23; 20:17-19) can be taken as sayings that, as they stand, go back to Jesus himself. However, it is probable that he foresaw that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death, but was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated
            by God (see Matthew 26:29).

            HUH???

            Jesus couldn’t actually predict the future? He wasn’t a true prophet? He didn’t know about his death and resurrection? He could only foresee that "his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death?"

            Sorry, but this is flatly inconsistent with the Christian faith.

            http://jimmyakin.com/2005/01/the_new_america.html

            I have no idea why the USCCB and the Vatican post these footnotes.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Jesus couldn’t actually predict the future? He wasn’t a true prophet?

            "It is a common misconception of OT prophecy that it means prediction . . . ." John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This does not negate the point. If Jesus didn't know what was up, he was not who we think he was.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If Jesus didn't know what was up, he was not who we think he was.

            Are you arguing that Jesus was omniscient?

            N. T. Wright, in Jesus’ Self-Understanding, said, "My case has been, and remains, that Jesus believed himself called to do and be things which, in the traditions to which he fell heir, only Israel’s God, YHWH, was to do and be. I think he held this belief both with passionate and firm conviction and with the knowledge that he could be making a terrible, lunatic mistake."

            I don't believe I have ever read anything about the consciousness of Jesus, or the self-understanding of Jesus, that made the case that Jesus knew everything, or that he knew with perfect clarity what would happen in the future. I would be fascinated if you could point to something that is arguably solid Catholic thought that claims Jesus had to have known the exact details of when and how he would die. (I know N. T. Wright is not a Catholic, but he seems to be highly respected among Catholics.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Of course I'm arguing that Christ was omniscient! The orthodox Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity with two natures, one human and one divine.

            As far as being omniscient, the following is an argument any child could formulate: If Jesus was God, how could he not not it?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Of course I'm arguing that Christ was omniscient!

            Can you please cite a reliable Catholic source that makes this claim (and I don't mean Jimmy Akin)? Did Mary and Joseph teach Jesus how to speak Aramaic, or was he born (or conceived) knowing all past, present, and future languages? Did Jesus have any formal schooling, and if so, what would it be like to receive instructions when you not only know more than the teacher, but you know everything? Assuming Jesus worked as a carpenter, did he know every carpentry technique ever used in the past and all of the developments in carpentry that would take place over the next 2000 years? Did he have to "dumb down" his carpentry work so as to limit it to what others knew about carpentry in 1st century Palestine?

            Can you imagine what it would have been like for Jesus to have conversations with Mary or the Apostles if he knew ahead of time everything they were going to say? If Jesus was omniscient, he must have known every single thing that he was going to do or say, and every single thing that anyone else was going to do or say, in advance. It would have been as if he were in a play where he already knew all the dialogue and had to act it out.

            Once again, I challenge you to find anything in Catholic biblical scholarship or Catholic doctrine that claims Jesus was omniscient.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is something from the Catechism of the Catholic Church quoting from the Council of Chalcedon.

            467 The Monophysites affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist as such in Christ when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it. Faced with this heresy, the fourth ecumenical council, at Chalcedon in 451, confessed:

            Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same
            truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; “like us in all things but sin.” He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

            We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only–begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation. The
            distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.

            Jesus Christ was "perfect in his divinity" and "consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity." This means that if God the Father is omniscient, so is God the Son.

            According to the Athanasian Creed, "What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is."

            Also, note the following in terms of Christ's human knowledge (also from the CCC):

            474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal."

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            You say:

            This means that if God the Father is omniscient, so is God the Son.

            You quote the Catechism as saying:

            What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.

            First of all, what you say is your own conclusion, not the conclusion of the Catechism. In any case, how do you reconcile the two. How can someone who is omniscient admit to not knowing something? In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says:

            But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

            Would you claim that Jesus was omniscient, but that there was one and only one thing that the Father knew but Jesus didn't?

            You still have not made the case that the Church claims Jesus was omniscient. Also, I would point out that if it could be demonstrated that Jesus predicted the exact time, place, and manner of his death, that would scarcely be proof that he was omniscient.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you putting me on?

            This is the first time you've ever come up against objections to the 1970s "Jesus didn't know who he was" heresy?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Are you putting me on?

            I am sorry you feel you have to ask that. Of course not.

            This is the first time you've ever come up against objections to the 1970s "Jesus didn't know who he was" heresy?

            First, I never heard of a heresy named that! Second, it would be one thing to affirm Jesus knew who he was and what his mission was. It would be quite another to say Jesus was omniscient. Would it really make sense to you to say that the 2-year-old Jesus was omniscient, omnipotent, and knew himself to be God incarnate?

            In his divine nature Christ was omnipotent. In his his human nature he was not.

            That scarcely settles anything, since he was simultaneously human and divine. To make some sense of it, there would have to be some kind of disconnect between his human and divine natures. Therein may lie a solution, but if so, I have not come across it. But certainly omniscience would overwhelm a human intelligence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Classic Christology is that Jesus Christ is one divine person with two natures, one human and one divine. He has a divine intellect and a divine will. He also has a human intellect, a human will, and a human body. In his divine intellect he is omniscient and in his human intellect he is not.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The point in the Catechism is that when Christ said he didn't know something he mean he was not at liberty (not sent) to reveal it.

            In his divine nature Christ was omnipotent. In his his human nature he was not.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

          • Vickie

            As I was reading your post I thought "well, how do the Jews translate that text?" I googled it.
            The first site I came to was a side by side of the Hebrew and the english translation and it was translated as "he will strike at your head, and you will strike at his heel"
            The next site translated it "they (literally he) will strike at your head, and you will strike at their (literally his) head"
            The third site used used they and their.
            I continued to check through translations and saw that some did use they/their and some used he/his.
            Since they seem to have this varience in translation I see proper evidence to believe that the difference is in interpretaion rather than that we have influenced the translation.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Since they seem to have this varience in translation I see proper evidence to believe that the difference is in interpretaion rather than that we have influenced the translation.

            My point is that the notes in the NAB itself say, "a more exact rendering of the sacred writer's words would be . . . ." The less exact reading is given as the translation, and the more exact reading is mentioned in the notes.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            The Book of Wisdom is Jewish though, and predates Christianity by well over a century. If that book interprets the serpent in Gen. 3:15 to be the devil, then it would seem to undermine your argument that this understanding is alien to Jewish interpretation. Also, the way in which the "righteous man" is discussed in the early chapters of Wisdom is very Messianic in tone. It's not like Christian interpretations arose in a vacuum—we started out as a sect of Jews.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The Book of Wisdom is Jewish though, and predates Christianity by well over a century. If that book interprets the serpent in Gen. 3:15 to be the devil, then it would seem to undermine your argument that this understanding is alien to Jewish interpretation.

            I said there is nothing in the Old Testament (or Tanakh) and nothing from Old Testament times equating the serpent in Genesis with "the satan," and nothing equating "the satan" with the Christian conception of Satan, a fallen angel. The Old Testament was compiled in the 5th century B.C. and written before that. There is quite a gap between Old Testament times and the composition of the Book of Wisdom (which the NAB dates to half a century before the birth of Jesus).

            Certainly there are many things in very early Christianity (such as the idea of Satan being a fallen angel and the devil) that were pre-Christian but that did not become a part of Judaism as it has survived. Satan as a fallen angel may be found in Jewish apocryphal writing, but Jewish apocryphal writings are to Judaism what the various non-canonical gospels are to Christianity.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The fact that Jews missed (and still miss) this truth doesn't invalidate it.

            It is not a "fact" that the Hebrew Scripture was "meant" to be read in the light of the Christian Scripture. It is a Christian belief, or a matter of Christian faith.

          • Loreen Lee

            I have only understood this conception of scripture within the recent past. I was never taught as a child that the New Testament was a fulfillment of the Old. Not even within my 'strict' Catholic education during the l940's.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            From John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume IV: Law and Love:

            A prime example of such a naive tendency is the way many exegetes of the past—and some still today—think that the Gordian knot of Jesus and the Law is easily cut by parroting the famous declaration of Matt 5:17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." Alas, this apparently clear statement of principle is probably, at least in its present form, a creation of Matthew or his church. Matthew's redactional hand is clearly visible in both the wording and the placement of 5:17 . . . .

            . . . Thus the artistic and literary whole of 5:17-48 tells us much more about the theology of a Christian evangelist in the second half of the 1st century than it does about the teaching of a Jew named Jesus in the first half of the 1st century. The reader must pardon me if I keep harping on this point, but it never ceases to amaze me that scholars who should know better keep citing Matt 5:17-48 as the magic mantra that solves the enigma of Jesus and the Law. It doesn't. For anyone questing for the historical Jesus, Matt 5:17-48 does not offer a solution; it poses a problem. . . .

            As long as I am insisting on distinctions to be made in any treatment of Jesus and the Law, I should also mention another type of dichotomy or antithesis that is best avoided. All too often in the past, Christian questers for the historical Jesus have created an opposition between the "ritual," "cultic," or "legal" elements of the Law on the one hand and the "moral" or "ethical" elements on the other. Once can see the problem immediately. This sort of distinction usually carries with it implicit value judgments that owe more to the European Enlightenment of the 18th century and American individualism of the 21st century than to Jewish views of the Law in 1st-century Palestine. . . . .

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If "the artistic and whole of 5:17-48 tells us much more about the theology of a Christian evangelist in the second half of the 1st century than it does about the teaching of a Jew named Jesus in the first half of the 1st century" then the jig is up and Christianity is a fraud.

            If the Gospels don't reveal the actual Jesus Christ, I say the hell with them. Who cares?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Matthew had a church? I thought Matthew's church belonged to Jesus.
            Did Meier ever know (or has he only forgotten?) that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church makes clear that the historicity of the Gospels is such that they actually *do* record accurately what Jesus said and did?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Did Meier ever know (or has he only forgotten?) that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church . . .

            John P. Meier is a priest and is William K. Warren Chair Professor of Theology (New Testament) in the Theology Department of the University of Notre Dame. He has a Doctor of Sacred Scripture Degree (S.S.D) from the Biblical Institute in Rome. He has been editor or associate editor of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, New Testament Studies, and Dead Sea Discoveries.

            Meier has been praised in two of the three volumes of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth:

            A new book by Pope Benedict XVI highlights Notre Dame biblical scholar John P. Meier’s extensive research on the history of Jesus.

            “From the immense quantity of literature on the dating of the Last Supper and of Jesus’ death, I would like to single out the treatment of the subject, outstanding both in its thoroughness and its accuracy, found in the first volume of John P. Meier’s book, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus,” the pope writes in Jesus of Nazareth, volume two, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.

            This is the second time Meier has been so honored. The pope also mentioned Meier’s work in the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth.

            Do you really think Pope Benedict would have gone out of his way to praise a "heretical" Catholic biblical scholar? With all due respect, I dare say Meier understands a great deal more than you do about what the Magisterium teaches regarding the historical accuracy of the Gospels.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Why are you calling Meier "heretical" if he was so praised by the Holy Father?
            The good thing about being Catholic (and being the Holy Father) is that you *do* get to praise folks even when you disagree with their opinions on certain aspects of their work.
            On the point of whether or not Jesus actually *said* what Matthew says He said, I'm pretty confident Benedict would say yes, He did. Giving Meier praise for his work does not mean his work is somehow infallibly proposed as free from error...

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I forgot to mention it in my first response. I'll concede that the Koran and Bible are more about God than the Iliad is about Zeus. I probably should have used Hesiod's Theogony or some other more appropriate example.

        • Vickie

          Actually, it would depend. If I wanted knowledge of the Quran or what the Quran says, I would ask someone who had read it extensively. If I wanted to understand it or at least understand their understanding of it, I would ask a Muslim.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            If the class was "Quran as literature" or "history of the Quran", etc. I'd simply want the best scholar, regardless of their personal beliefs.

            If the class was "Islam and the Quran" or a comparative religions class, I'd want a Muslim cleric.

          • Loreen Lee

            What is needed is a 'personal' understanding of any religious text; an understanding related to the particular circumstance, needs and ability of any individual to comprehend it's meaning within a particular 'life context'. This I believe has held to be applicable at least in my own 'examination' of the wisdom of the Koran, the Bahamanian, or any other spiritual document I have engaged in. I have only been able to comprehend them according to my 'ability' to do so at the time of reading. This I hold would hold true, even in listening to another person's interpretation of the text, no matter how erudite their theological or philosophical analysis might be.

  • AshleyWB

    Students should be taught the history and ideas from which our civilization has evolved and descended. The Christian bible is one piece of that, though nowhere near the whole. A fuller picture would include the history and philosophies of antiquity, the enlightenment, and modernity. I don't see much value in teaching students the underpinnings of our society solely through the lens of the Bible, as that would be an incomplete and misleading picture. I could see including segments of the KJV in a literature or poetry course, as Paul mentioned.

  • Gordon Kilburn

    I do not support the teaching of Scripture in public schools. When my daughter brought home a permission slip to attend such a class, I wrote a nice note to the school to explain that I felt confident in my ability to do it at home. It is in the home and in the Church that such education should take place. However well-meaning, there are denomination whose understanding of the Bible is radically different from that of the Catholic Church.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Excellent point Gordon.

  • Cathy R.

    I don't think that the Bible should be taught in school because of parental rights. When Catholics first came to the U.S. we had to deal with the fact that the public school system was oriented towards making the children who attended "good Protestants"; The establishment of the Yeshivas and Catholic schools was the Jewish and Catholic response to that practice! Now we are even more diverse, we have parents who are raising their children to be Hindu, Islamic, Catholic, Buddhist, Atheist etc.....I think it is entirely reasonable for me to object to my child (especially at a young age) to be taught Islam while I am teaching her to be Catholic as it is wrong for us to teach a Muslim child all about Christianity. Therefore, in the interest of parental rights, religious instruction, at a young age, should be avoided.
    I know that, around 10th grade, most children are taught about many different religions as part of the "Global Studies" curriculum, where the religions are presented alongside the countries they are studying. ( I like that approach).
    After age 18 (legal age of majority), the gloves are off and the young adults enter the marketplace of ideas. In the universities, the Bible can & should be taught as an elective or, required if they are attending a religious university (since the student made the choice to attend that university).
    When I was in college I decided for myself to read the Bible (for philosophy & the fact Western Civilization was based on this book.) I was hooked, the Word lives! I didn't need instruction - God's word implanted itself in my soul.

    • Cathy R.

      I realize I made an error on my post befor. when I said "religious instruction at a young age should be avoided" I mean that public education should avoid this. Religious instruction belongs to the family and their community. I have no opposition to parents or private schools instructing the "young" in religion.

  • Loreen Lee

    Session three: quotations prepared by Mike Sherlock, who has a blog called 'Basic Philosophy'.

    What Can We Agree On? Searching for Common Ground between Naturalists and Theists.

    No useful discussion is possible unless both parties to the discussion start from the same premise.

    Another consideration that might provide common ground.

    3. Inductive inferences are not only non-deductive, but they are 'indefensible' in logic. Nevertheless they qualify as rational inferences - provided they are governed by the dictates of the mysterious thing called "common sense". It is common sense that tells us that inductive inferences are rational when a) they give us a feeling of a high degree of certainty; and/or b) we can't do without them.

    Some statements that seem to support the consideration above.

    3. It was Hume who first pointed out and with all his customary lucidity, that from no finite number of observations, however large, could any unrestrictedly general conclusion be drawn that would be defensible in logic. If every time I let go of something it falls, I might well conclude eventually that all unsupported objects fall. But the conclusion has been reached from the premises not by a logical process but by a psychological one. Bryan Magee.

    We really don't have any choice but to assume continued regularity. This is what science does, and so far so good. Fred Britton.

  • Linda

    I would think as an underpinning to literature that specific stories from the Bible should be taught. They have influenced so many writers and artists that students will be studying. The teachers should be respectful of the work, regardless of whether they believe it, again because of the influence it has wielded. Just as we study other classic literature for the same reason.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Here in Texas there are legal provisions for "Bible as Literature" classes. And if the classes followed the laws, they'd be fine. But what often actually happens is that teachers lack the resources to implement a secular Bible course, and they end up just having the kids read it and they tell the kids their own interpretation of it. That becomes quite problematic, since the teachers are often evangelicals unaware of other interpretive traditions.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Public schooling is a fairly new phenomenon in America. It was really only getting on its feet a hundred years ago.

    Shea's question of the place of the Bible in the public schools should be situated within some broader questions:

    Who should control the public schools and who actually controls them? Control has gone from the local community, to the state, and seems to be
    going federal. The Catholic response, for what it is worth, is that parents should have a great deal of control over the school their child attends.

    What is the purpose of public schools? The answer is probably to prepare students to become good citizens. What it means to be a "good citizen" is the key undefined term.

    The answer to the question, “Why should the Bible be included in public school curriculum?” should answer the question of how it should be taught.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      Who should control the public schools and who actually controls them? Control has gone from the local community, to the state, and seems to be going federal. The Catholic response, for what it is worth, is that parents should have a great deal of control over the school their child attends.

      So long as it doesn't include the curriculum. Otherwise...

      In some places, kids will be taught young-earth creationism and that AIDS is God's punishment of gays. In other places, they'll be taught that Jesus never existed and that Christianity is responsible for the holocaust.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        It *sounds* reasonable that parents should not control the curriculum of a public school, but that leaves the question open of who is going to control it so that only *truth* is taught?

        Is it reasonable to entrust this to some government authority, as if elected officials and bureaucrats are infallible?

        When you rule out the curriculum, what else is left?

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          but that leaves the question open of who is going to control it so that only *truth* is taught?

          I'm not after ultimate truth in our schools, because I don't think anyone knows that. I'm after giving kids both the best knowledge we have right now, and more importantly, the tools that were used to figure that knowledge out.

          Setting that aside, I think that, for the class in question, the curriculum should be entrusted to a representative group of experts in the related field.

          American historians for history. Biologists for biology. English professors for English. Etc.

          When you rule out the curriculum, what else is left?

          Choosing administrators and holding them accountable, what electives will and won't be taught (music, art, etc.), what standardized tests the school will choose to participate in. Standards for teachers. Community/school programs.

          I think school boards should also have choice about curriculum, within the broad rules supplied from above.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In reality in the US, these matters are controlled by the state (unless controlled by the federal government). The "experts" are those deemed qualified by the state credentialing agencies.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            It would be better if they were chosen by their peers.

  • Jay

    Legally, yes, we do have the right to teach students about the Bible within school systems. I'm not against teaching the Bible, but there are so many obstacles to it.

    -School districts are terrified of getting sued... Having previously worked for an intermediate unit, I was sometimes totally shocked at what some superintendents would do to stay out of "due process" cases. Seriously ridiculous. Giving parents what they want is WAY cheaper than going to court to defend a school district's right to do something. Bible courses just scream "hit me" to some advocacy groups such as Freedom From Religion and many places would just rather avoid a potential legal battle that could cost mega bucks than even attempting to implement such a course.

    -As noted by Noah Luck earlier, what's going on in the state of Texas with teaching the Bible as literature isn't going the best :P

    http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_religious_freedom_bible_courses

    With budget cuts being made to many school districts within the country, what type of education would a teacher need to adequately teach this subject and what would school districts be willing to pay? Not too sure, but I doubt it would be adequate.

    There are good things about teaching the Bible in schools, but I believe that the mere threat of significant legal battles for school districts and the ability to find teachers who could appropriately teach the subject and be able to address students concerns in as neutral a matter as possible (neither being overtly for or against a religion's teaching), makes the whole things seem a little bit too daunting for our current educational system.

  • Loreen Lee

    Actually, I have just realized the irony of it all. In recent posts I have complained that I was not encouraged to read scripture as a child, and here I am today, speaking about the very same fear with respect to the 'horrors!' within the old testament being made accessible to the very young, as was possibly the motivation of those decisions not to make this available within my youth. Enough said here. But yes, on reconsideration, the 'scholastic' context of scripture need be part of any thorough education. It actually 'highlights' personal interpretations. As I child I believe I was taught more church doctrine, and Thomas Aquinas, the ten commandments, and that I needed to go to confession, for instance, than scripture and the meaning of the life of Jesus, however. This I understand then, might have been the source of my guilt and confusion.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "As I child I believe I was taught more church doctrine, and Thomas Aquinas, the ten commandments, and that I needed to go to confession, for instance, than scripture and the meaning of the life of Jesus, however. This I understand then, might have been the source of my guilt and confusion."

      I can't speak to your personal experience growing up, but this of course is a false dichotomy. You seem to insinuate that Church doctrine, St. Thomas, the Ten Commandments, and the sacraments are contradictory to Scripture and "the meaning of the life of Jesus."

      The opposite is true. Each of those former things are drenched in Scripture and illuminate the meaning of the life of Jesus.

      • Loreen Lee

        You seem to insinuate that Church doctrine, St. Thomas, the Ten
        Commandments, and the sacraments are contradictory to Scripture and "the
        meaning of the life of Jesus."

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          "I don't like the word 'insinuate'. Are you angry at me possibly for still attempting to make reconciliation between theist and a-theist?.....My apologies if this offends you."

          I'm not angry and you didn't offend me. The word "insinuate" is emotionally neutral. I simply meant that by *suggesting* (i.e., insinuating) that those former things are unbiblical, you created a false dichotomy.

          • Loreen Lee

            There are explicit references, but I don't believe there are 'neutral' connotations. Anyway, here's the dictionary 'meaning'.
            Verb
            Suggest or hint (something negative) in an indirect and unpleasant way.
            Maneuver oneself into (a position of favor or office) by subtle manipulation: "she insinuated herself into management".

  • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

    Dang!

    I came late to the discussion.

    Life just keeps getting in the way :-)

    As I read today's comments I see a lot of good points. I'm also pleased to see that in some topics some consensus can be found among both camps.

    For what is worth...

    I don't think the Bible should be included in public school curricula. I do believe that some parts should be presented for their literary value. But I rather leave theology to those who know and can navigate its pitfalls, and not a teacher which might be forced to teach something they do not believe (or understand).

    Which part I would include?

    Parts of Exodus, some of Psalms, parts of the wisdom literature, some of Jesus parables.

    I also think Euclid's Elements should be taught in school as a way to teach children how to think logically, but that is just me.

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

    DHS

    • Jay

      Out of curiosity, why those specific areas? Especially Psalms. There are so many different books that could be looked at. What makes you think that if anything from the Bible were to be taught, those would be the best?

      • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

        J.

        To be more specific:

        Parts of Exodus - For its depictions of good people struggling and reacting to evil.

        Some Psalms - For their poetic and lyric value.

        Some Wisdom - For its common sense advice.

        Some of Jesus Parables - For their use of paradox and their depiction of human nature.

        I hope this helps.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        DHS

        • Jay

          Thanks! Appreciate it :)

  • stanz2reason

    It's really easy to suggest we teach "courses to a generation of students illiterate about the most foundational document in Western Civilization", yet what exactly within the Bible warrants extended discussion beyond an introduction to the myths in an historical sense? Sometime I feel I'm the only one who has read the thing cover to cover. It's really not that great a work when you actually read it through. Significant of course historically, but really not all that interesting.

    Do I think Christianity deserves to be studied for it's role (good, bad or worse) in the history of western culture? Of course. A separation of church & state does not equate with willful ignorance. But you're overstating your position by suggesting it's worthy of additional studies for the general public. There are plenty of works (see ancient Greeks) that are foundational to Western society. The Bible is no more significant than those. And frankly it's insulting suggesting the interest in promoting this is purely academic.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      I cannot speak for others. My interest would be purely academic. The King James Bible is excellent literature.

      Kurt Vonnegut thought that the "translator", Lancelot Andrewes, was the greatest writer in the English language. His argument: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want..." Isaac Asimov thought that the King James Bible was one of the greatest works in the English language, according to his Guide to the Bible.

      I cannot speak to everyone's aesthetic opinions, but I think selections of the King James are worth reading in school as much as Shakespeare.

      • Loreen Lee

        14 See how fair is the maid I love! Soft eyes thou hast, like a dove’s eyes.

        15 And see how fair is the man I love, how stately! Green grows that bower, thine and mine, 16 with its roof of cedars, with a covert of cypress for its walls.

    • Jay

      Which works would you say off the top of your head would be as foundational or even more so to Western civilization than the Bible? Are you thinking of things like Plato's The Republic? Just curious what your thoughts are.

      • stanz2reason

        Really depends on the class. For social studies / history / politics classes I'd think Locke's Two Treaties of Government, the Magna Carta, U.S. founding documents, Smith's The Wealth of Nations and the aforementioned Plato's Republic all contain content more relevant to the foundations of western civilization.

        For literature classes ancient works like Gilgamesh & the Illiad provide, in my view, more colorful examples of myth than the Bible and at the same time offer similar insights into how the originators of those tales viewed the world. The works of Shakespeare provide more insight into the human condition, all the while in stories with a far superior narrative structure to anything in the Bible.

        In terms of philosophy & ethics courses, there are more ideas in the Bible that are either un-original, benign or flat out bad than there are unique & good ideas. Parts of the old testament are particularly appalling and are worthy of study only as ways one should not act. I'm not saying it wouldn't be worth pulling out the good parts and discussing them, but there are plenty of philosophers from the past half millennia that provide just as much if not more insight than the Bible.

        In a weird way I think the class that Christianity has the best fit in terms of it's works being worthy of extended study are architecture classes.

        • Jay

          Thanks! Interesting thoughts :) To be totally honest, I had never heard of Two Treaties of Government :P

          I recall finding El Popol Vuh (the Mayan Bible) to be very fascinating when we went over it in one of my Spanish literature classes. If that could be studied in a Spanish lit class, I don't think it should be that far fetched to study the Bible in an English lit class, granted I don't know of any communities that still believe El Popol Vuh, so it is significantly less controversial to cover within academia. Also, as I noted below, there are just so MANY caveats to successfully implementing a Bible course that it just seems too daunting a task to even consider to cover within the American public school system.

          As for the Illiad... Torturing american public school students for generations to come. I once had a student where I had to construct my speech therapy sessions around The Illiad because that's what they were studying in her class. There was more than one session where I was sweating by the end :P

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "Sometime I feel I'm the only one who has read the thing cover to cover. It's really not that great a work when you actually read it through. Significant of course historically, but really not all that interesting."

      You might be surprised to find that millions of Christians--including many Catholics, even this one--have read the Bible cover to cover. And hundreds of millions more find it interesting.

      The Bible has been widely praised as a paragon of literature, even among atheist critics who don't think it contains historical truth. For example, even if you don't believe Jesus really rose from the dead, I struggle to see how *anyone* could find the person of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels to be anything less than fascinating.

      • stanz2reason

        Why would I be surprised to find that Christians might have read through the Bible? And what a shock that a Christian can't understand how the Jesus character of the Bible isn't fascinating to everyone...

        The Bible has undoubtedly been influential. There are certainly a handful of ideas (both good and awful) worthy of study and rhetorical flourishes worthy of note. Personally I found it all in all a dull read, like a boring TV series with 1 or 2 watchable episodes. There is nothing in there worthy of extended study for the general public beyond that which would be covered in an 'intro to religions of the world' week in a history class. Abrahamic religions can get a full 2 x 45 minute classes to teach the general public. Beyond that you're delusional to think the details of your beliefs are any more worthy of study than Hindu or Muslim beliefs for the general public.

        The author is overstating the Bibles position as "...the most foundational document in Western Civilization". The overloading of self-importance is laughable. Lets dial down a notch there fella. In the modern world you could argue that the Koran has surpassed the Bible as the currently more influential document to world affairs. The Arab Spring didn't happen because these people found Jesus.

  • Andres Rodriguez

    Meh..my problem is who would teach it? Your teachers would run the gamut. From Jesus seminar types, to KJV only types and everything in between. I cannot trust the public school system to NOT undermine the Catholic faith in some way.

  • GreatSilence

    Christianity has far too many interpretations and denominations for me to ever be comfortable with a blanket assent to the Bible being taught in my son's classroom. Well-meaning Christians attach interpretations to that very same Bible that I would be absolutely appalled if my son should sit through. I accept that many Christians would be equally uncomfortable with their children being taught a Catholic approach to the Bible. It would cause great confusion in his mind when he has to contrast that with what he learns at Church and at home. Let's remember the different Bibles that we have which in some circles already cause so much dissent amongs adults.

    The best that I could agree with is if specific Bible classes are taught within a clearly defined environment, say a specialist Catholic school, or an Evangelical school and the parents then approach the question of their permission on that basis.

    A blanket "teach the Bible at school" will cause more harm than benefit.

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    I'd dispute that the Bible is "the most foundational document in Western Civilization." I think there are many more important works. Notably our own Constitution and the Federalist papers, or even Darwin's work, and students are equally lacking in knowledge of those. However I was taught "Comparative Religion" as a required subject in a British Naval Academy by a Church of England priest (Episcopalian). It was very good and he didn't deliver any bias. I'd go for that over a sneaky attempt to slide Christianity into our schools. As far as I'm concerned, indoctrination into one religion is of lesser value than teaching our citizens to appreciate and understand the diversity of cultures other than our own. Maybe we wouldn't be so fast to jump on the "kill a rag-head for 'Murica" band wagon if we knew them a bit better.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Urbane, thanks for the comment. I wonder whether your view of "Western Civilization" isn't too restricted, perhaps too Americentric. While I agree that the Federalist papers and Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" are extremely important, I don't think they trump the Bible in terms of impact on Western culture. It's not even close, in my opinion.

      • Urbane_Gorilla

        I spent my early life living in Europe and have family scattered over there. I tend to be more world oriented than most Americans. I don't watch US News..All of my input is from foreign sources, BBC, China (CCTV), France (France24), Russia (RT.com) and Al Jazeera.

        If anything, the 2 sources I noted might have been 'too recent'. So to suggest a more worldly and IMO a more important 'document' (it's actually a stone), than the Bible, encompassing codified laws, mores and even familial relations. concepts which spread throughout the early middle east, were absorbed into the Bible, and eventually even down to our times, I'd point to the Code of Hammurabi.

  • 42Oolon

    The bible is, and should be the subject of education in secondary and post secondary public education. It is a historical document of enormous import. The same can be said of any major religious text, but none more so than the Christian bible, in my neck of the woods.
    It should not of course be taught as theologically or spiritually informative or true by public institutions. As an atheist and a skeptic I say this because I think such claims are not supportable by logical or critical means. but more importantly, because to do so for one religion would be tantamount to the government saying this one religion is true. This is not possible in a democracy which must not impose one religious point view over another. The value of such a position, is obvious: if a theological approach is taught, it might not be the one you want. Do you want students to be writing essays on whether God wants women to be priests? Who is to say in majority Muslim districts that Islam should not be taught as true. This was the concern by the founders of America, who were worried that once the new country were founded they would be prevented from teaching their brand of Christianity. They made sure to establish a Constitution which prevented the government from telling their citizens what God wants.

  • Linda

    Our publicly funded symphony and chorus is playing Schubert's Mass in E flat Major