September 29, 2005
"The Bible and
Its Influence" Part I
(First of Two Parts)
A remarkable textbook, "The Bible and
Its Influence," just published, will re-introduce the teaching of the
Bible in public schools across America.
How is that possible, given Supreme
Court rulings which effectively banned the Bible from public schools?
What the Court struck down in 1963 was a daily devotional reading of
Scripture because it involved state-sponsored religious exercises.
However, in that very decision, Justice Thomas Clark wrote:
"Nothing we have said here indicates
that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively
as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected
consistently with the First Amendment."
Until this volume was published
however, there has not been a way for the Bible to be taught in public
The book opens with a Preface to
students, "The Bible has been and still is one of the most influential
books ever published. Its influence is seen in literature, art, music,
culture, public policy and public debate. The first English translations
of the Bible helped to fashion the English language itself - so much so
that, had the Bible not been translated into English when it was,
Shakespeare’s plays might never have been written."
On the eve of his assassination, Dr.
Martin Luther King asserted, "...I’ve been to the mountaintop...And I’ve
looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with
you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to
the Promised Land."
The textbook notes that to grasp the
full impact of this historic moment, one has to know King’s biblical
references. "One needs to know what the `mountaintop’ is all about. What
does `I may not get there with you’ mean? What is this reference to the
A 17- page section of the lavishly
illustrated book tells the story of Moses, leading the people of Israel
out of Egypt, through 40 years of wandering to a mountain in Jordan
overlooking the Promised Land. "Of the generation that left Egypt, only
Joshua and Caleb, who were completely faithful to God, would cross over
the Jordan," the book notes. "Moses himself would not cross over into
the Promised Land; he had disobeyed God by striking the rock to obtain
water (Read Numbers 20:7-12.)"
In Deuteronomy Moses preaches his final
sermons, one of which is cited by the textbook:
"See I set before you this day life and
prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you today to love the
Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments...that
you may thrive and increase, and that the Lord your God may bless you in
the land that you are about to enter and possess. But if your heart
turns away, and you give no heed, and are lured into the worship and
service of other gods, I declare to you this day that you shall
certainly perish; you shall not long endure on the soil that you are
crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to
witness against you this day; I have put before you life and death,
blessing and curse. Choose life."
The book advises students they are
studying the Bible "academically, not devotionally," learning about its
role in life, language and culture. "You will be given an awareness of
the religious content of the Bible, but you will not be pressed into
"The Bible and Its Influence," does not
draw moral lessons. It is not an extended sermon, but an honest and
genuine analysis of the Bible’s contents and its impact on such worlds
as literature and culture.
For example, it notes that a book to
help students prepare for the Advanced Placement Literature and
Composition Exam lists "a profusion of allusions" that students should
know, 60 percent of which are biblical such as: Abraham and Isaac,
Absalom, Armageddon, blind leading the blind, burning bush, by bread
A picture of a sculpture, "The Hand of
God," by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) appears next to a section on the
Genesis account of creation. It is a huge hand thrust from rock, molding
Adam and Eve out of clay. The book’s description is lyrical: "The
sculpture alludes to the process of creation as an infinite circle. A
man, the sculptor, creates an image of God, the Creator, sculpting from
clay a man in his own image."
Here at long last is a book that can
help America become biblically literate.