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Jul 8, 2013

The Bible in Western Culture




The Bible in Western Culture


Bible is a primary document of Western culture, basic to  understanding of

the western philosophical, literary, cultural and scientific

tradition. Focus is placed on ideas developed in Hebrew Bible (Old

Testament) and their literary, philosophical and political impact.


Culture is formed by a combination of factors.  At one level,

culture is simply the ordered way in which a set of human beings

conduct their lives.  This order has many streams flowing into it.

 First, the customary ways of  one's forebearers become accepted

as the norm by default.  However, new ideas may arrive to reshape

that norm.  Sometimes, one rebels against his culture because of

new information; sometimes one does so because he processes old

information and decides that as a matter of conscience, change

must occur.  This is the process by which moral and spiritual

revivals occur.  Otherwise, one may continue to follow the

established patterns of behavior.  One may even push the

boundaries and get by with as much divergence as possible, either

in a move that improves society or in a way that would destroy

society.  The story of the Old Testament is one in which people

follow standard or alternative paths.


Our Western culture is heavily indebted to the Judeo- Christian tradition

which created these writings and was itself molded by them. Knowledge of

the Bible, then, is important not only for those with religious commitment

to Judaism or Christianity, but to anyone in our society who wishes to be

informed or educated.


Theology pertains to mankind's view of God.  The Old Testament is

filled with differing images of God.  Certainly the pagan world

had its concepts of God as one to be appeased.  Israel's God,

Yahweh, stood against the so-called gods of the pagan world in

many aspects.  Israel struggled between faith in Yahweh and

appeasement of the delusion of traditional power.


The text for this section refers to the book by Beasley, et al.

The work begins with questions about the biblical text and the

environment in which it should be studied.  The underlying

assumption is that the biblical text has a relationship to

ancient history: its people are connected with ancient

civilizations and its literary forms have affinity with ancient




a.  Culture and methods.  Modern Western culture is significantly

different from that of the ancient Near East.  The key to understanding

requires one to transcend his/her own cultue and seek to comprehend the

Bible within its own environment.  This does not means the Bible is

necessarily a product of ancient culture, but it does recognize that it is

a book that belongs first to the past.


The Bible and Western culture refers to Beasley, et al, pp. 15-28


Authority of the Bible refers to the power, respect and esteem that it

has and/or has been given. In addition, the Bible has authority, because

the Christian community canonized its books while rejecting other books as

noncanonical. Ultimately the Bible's authority derives from God, who

inspired its writers.


Interpretation refers to ways we understand the Bible. Ever since

scriptures were written down, a variety of approaches to their meaning

have existed. Our world views also affect the way we interpret the Bible

which, in turn, was written as a reflection the world views of ancient



Beginning study with Jesus we will journey through time to the present.

Since the Bible is authoritative for Christian faith and practice, we want

to comprehend its message. We gain a stronger sense of identity, strength,

and hope in learning more about our spiritual



Through examination of biblical texts and movies which draw upon those

texts the course explores how the Bible has been interpreted, and its

authority used, to promote particular religious, moral, social, and

political values in popular culture. In addition, by way of comparison,

some attention will given to other visual images, in painting and

sculpture, linked to biblical topics.


The nature and varieties of interpretation as a cultural activity ranging

beyond the province of biblical specialists will be a focal point of

discussion. Students will be encouraged to relate self-critically what

they learn about how texts and images function to how they themselves read

and visualize the Bible today.


Methods and tools for studying the Bible


Any journey of study begins with a method. The would-be student chooses a

topic, approach, or method and the adventure begins. Hope is high and

anticipation great. The trouble encountered in the journey is that the

method does not always work. Sincere methods do not guarantee results

unless they are sound methods. This understanding is vital to any approach

to Bible study. Sound methods yield sound results. This particular journey

will provide insight into formatting sound methods of Bible study that

give the learner an advantage in the understanding and application of the

message that God has for us in his word.


Of vital importance is an understanding of the intended outcome of any

course of study. The outcome of studying the Bible must be life change for

the better. For this reason, we will learn how to develop applications

based on reading, observation, and interpretation. Each application will

be Personal, Practical, Possible, and Provable.


Since the Bible has many themes and contexts, we will first learn the

history of the English Bible. The learning will have the opportunity to

learn how to choose a good translation of the Bible. We will also study

how to use properly the tools of Bible study including concordances,

dictionaries, language tools, and commentaries. After developing an

understanding of the tools, we will learn to develop working applications.

Following this,  methods will be completed that aid the learning in

systematically reading the Bible equipped to understand its connectivity

and message.


Re. culture and methods modern Western culture is significantly

different from that of the ancient Near East.  The key to understanding

requires one to transcend his/her own cultue and seek to comprehend the

Bible within its own environment.  This does not means the Bible is

necessarily a product of ancient culture, but it does recognize that it is

a book that belongs first to the past.


Methods and tools for studying the Bible are considered by reading

Beasley, et al,pp. 29-49.


Many educators mistakenly believe that religion has no place in the

curriculum - that the public schools must be religion-free zones. This is

not true. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, religion can be taught, as

long as the teaching is presented "objectively as part of a secular

program of education." 1 According to "Religion in the public schools: A

joint statement of current laws," issued in 1995 by 35 agencies

representing 10 religions and ethical systems:


"Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach

religion...The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or

other scripture)-as-literature...are all permissible public school

subjects. It is both permissible and desirable to teach objectively about

the role of religion in the history of the United States and other

countries. One can teach that the Pilgrims came to this country with a

particular religious vision, that Catholics and others have been subject

to persecution or that many of those participating in the abolitionist,

women's suffrage and civil rights movements had religious motivations."


In summary:


 ]Teaching religion as truth: Presenting the beliefs of a particular

denomination or religion as actual truth is unconstitutional. So is the

teaching of the Bible as truth, or the teaching of religious topics from a

sectarian point of view.

 Teaching about religion: Teaching students about religions, or about the

influences that religions have had on society is constitutional. "Such

instruction can and does take place in any number of classes, such as

courses in comparative religion, the history of religion, world history

and American history."


The beliefs of a single faith group (e.g. conservative Christianity)

cannot be taught as truth. What can be taught is a form of comparative

religion. The latter includes teaching beliefs of various wings

(conservative, mainline, liberal) within Christianity and the beliefs of

other significant religions in a balanced manner. At the same time, the

school needs to be careful that it does not promote religion over



Six examples (two of the Bible itself, two from the Hebrew Scriptures and

two from the Christian Scriptures) might be useful to illustrate what is

allowable and what is prohibited. The author is not a constitutional

lawyer. However the guidance given by a number of court decisions seems to

give a very clear indication of what is permitted:


About the source of Biblical text:   Some religious groups believe that

the Bible is inerrant; other religious and secular groups believe that it

contains errors. Teaching the inerrancy or infallibility of the Bible or

the belief that God inspired its authors would violate the first

principle of the separation of church and state listed above. (Schools may

not promote the beliefs of one religion or faith group over any other). A

teacher who instruct her/his students that the Bible is not inerrant would

also be violating the Constitution, for the same reason.


To teach that some individuals and groups believe that it is inerrant,

infallible and God-inspired, while others believe the opposite would  be



Teaching the Bible as real history:  It is unconstitutional to teach that

some Biblical events really happened. (e.g. the creation story, the

worldwide flood, the tower of Babel, the exodus from Egypt, the virgin

birth and resurrection of Jesus, etc.) This is because there is no

consensus that these events really happened. However, other events (e.g.

Babylonian captivity, capture of Jerusalem by the Assyrians) have been

verified by archaeological evidence; most researchers agree that they

really happened. The events can be taught as fact.


To teach a balanced, inclusive view would be acceptable. This would

discuss how some individuals and groups believe that all of these earlier

events actually happened, while others believe that many of the events are

fictional, mythical or symbolic.


About the creation stories in the early chapters of Genesis:   To teach

as a literal truth that God created the world, its life forms and the rest

of the universe in six days is unconstitutional, because it would promote

the beliefs of a single group of religions traditions within Judaism,

Christianity and Islam. Other traditions within those same religions, and

non-Christian religions consider these chapters to be fictional, mythical

or symbolic.


A constitutional approach would be to teach Genesis as one of hundreds of

creation stories found in societies and religions all over the world. To

fully more educate the students, the teacher might describe the three main

views about the origin of the universe, along with their many variations:

creation science, theistic evolution and naturalistic



About the authorship of the Pentateuch:   The Bible says in many places

that the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures were written by Moses.

It would be unconstitutional to teach this as fact, because there is no

consensus that he was the author.


A constitutional approach would be to teach the two main views of the

authorship of the Pentateuch: that many conservative Christians believe

that the books were written by Moses under the inspiration of God, while

most non-conservative Christian theologians hold to the Documentary

Hypothesis: that the writings that form the Pentateuch were edited by one

or more redactors. The redactor(s) worked with the writings of four

authors, who lived in various locations in Palestine, over a period of

many centuries. Each wrote with the goal of promoting his/her own

religious views.


About the nature, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus:  To teach that

the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus actually happened is not

constitutional because no consensus exists on these events. Instructing

students that Jesus is the son of God is similarly unconstitutional.

Teaching one faith group's beliefs as truth and another as false again

violates the first principle as listed above.


There are major deviations among faith groups about these matters. Jews

regard Jesus as a very human, 1st century rabbi/teacher from Palestine.

Most Christians view him as the Son of God - one component of the

Trinity. Muslims, who form about 20% of the world's population, view him

as a great prophet -- the most important next to Muhammad. They believe

that Jesus was never crucified and thus not resurrected. Some liberal

Christians believe that he was a Greek cynic philosopher whose life story

was enhanced with beliefs taken from the god-men of nearby Mediterranean



About life after death and salvation:  To teach that heaven and hell

exist as locations where individuals will be rewarded or punished after

death is unconstitutional. To teach that one must be saved by trusting

Jesus as Lord and Savior is also not permitted. To teach reincarnation or

that there is no after-life is similarly prohibited. Different faith

groups have varying beliefs in these areas. To teach one set as truth

violates the first principle of separation of church and state.


Some believe that heaven and hell are actual locations where people go

permanently after death. Others interpret heaven and hell symbolically.

Some believe in an intermediate state or location called Purgatory. Some

believe that everyone will be saved; others that only a small percentage

of the world's population will attain heaven. Some religions teach that

one is reincarnated and passes through many lifetimes before merging with



Many religious liberals, Humanists, Atheists, etc. believe that neither

heaven, hell, reincarnation or an afterlife exist. Instructing students in

the full range of beliefs would be constitutional.



Presumably, in order to retain a neutral stance towards religion, the

course might have to cover major religious texts, not just the Bible. And

it might have to cover documents like the Humanist Manifesto.


Teaching about religion is fraught with hazards for a school district:


It is unlikely that Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christian

parents would find a balanced, inclusive, objective religious course(s) to

be acceptable. As noted above, it would expose their children to beliefs

that they disagree with.


Liberal Christians, and non-Christians would probably approve of the

course, particularly if it is elective.


Agnostics, Atheists, free thinkers, Humanists and others might object,

feeling that objective courses could not be taught by teachers who follow

an Abrahamic faith (e.g. Judaism, Christianity & Islam).


It is unlikely that a school district could win a court challenge unless

their religion course(s) were balanced, inclusive, and objective.


There are many civil rights and First Amendment organizations in the U.S.

that have extensive expertise in suing school boards on constitutional



Any board of education that decides to add a religion course can expect to

generate intense conflict and anger within the community. They might

expose themselves to an expensive court battle that they had no hope of

winning. The result might well be a stalemate, with no Bible or religion

courses being taught.


The situation in Florida:


The Florida legislature passed a law in 1996 which permitted Bible history

classes to be taught in state public schools. In 1997, the school board of

Lee County, FL decided to create a "Bible History" unit. They appointed a

Bible Curriculum Committee and mandated them to develop curricula for two

new courses: "Bible History: Old Testament" and "Bible History: New

Testament." From the beginning, the committee was divided. Conservatives

wanted to teach the type of Christian Bible course that is commonly seen

in a Sunday school - to teach religion as truth. Religious liberals, and

others, wanted to teach an objective course - information about religion.

Against the recommendations of its lawyers, the school district adopted

the program recommended by the conservative majority on its committee.

This allegedly involved the adoption of two courses by the National

Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCP: an Old Testament

course with some adaptations, and the New Testament course exactly as

produced by the NCBCPS. 4


The law firm of Steel, Hector & Davis, the People For the American Way

Foundation (PFAWF) and the Florida American Civil Liberties Union sued the

school district in federal court on behalf of some parents and citizens

who objected to the curricula. The court issued an injunction which

prohibited the teaching of the New Testament course, and ordered the

strict monitoring of the Old Testament course. The school board decided to

drop the NCBCPS-based curricula. They substituted a "neutral, academic

curriculum that does not present the Bible as fact or from a sectarian

perspective." The course is now taught in two sections, both based on a

book, "An introduction to the Bible." 5


The People For the American Way then studied the "Bible History" courses

that 14 other Florida school districts taught from the 1996-7 to the

1998-9 school years. They concluded that all 14 districts were violating

the Constitution.


Most courses:


Used the term "Old Testament", a uniquely Christian term, rather than the

generic term "Hebrew Scriptures"  generally used by scholars.


Referred to the events in the Garden of Eden as "The Fall of Man" -- a

Christian concept not recognized by many other faith groups -- including

some which base their beliefs on the Hebrew Scriptures.


The serpent in Genesis is referred to as "Satan;" that is a conservative

Christian interpretation, not shared by other faith groups.


Interpreted much of the Hebrew Scriptures as prophecy concerning the

future arrival of Jesus Christ. This again is a uniquely Christian

concept. In one school district, the students were asked "What eight

aspects of Christ's life are prophesied in Isaiah?"


Teach only one arrangement of the Ten Commandments; the students are not

informed about the two other formats used by Christians and Jews.


Ignore seven the books in the versions of the Bible which are used by

Roman Catholics and some Anglicans. These books are not considered part of

the official canon by most Protestant denominations and are frequently

referred to as the Apocrypha or as Intertestament Writings.


Restrict the course to the King James Version. The New American Bible,

used by Roman Catholics, and the New World Translation, used by Jehovah's

Witnesses, were not included.


Used only the Bible and secondary resources like Fundamentalist Christian

handbooks as texts. No non-biblical sources of Middle-Eastern history were

used. No books reflecting a liberal interpretation of the Bible were



Perhaps the most serious concerns with the courses were:


That only a single, typically conservative Protestant, interpretation of

the Bible was taught. The students were not informed that there is a wide

range of beliefs by different faith groups, depending largely upon their

initial assumptions about the nature of the Bible itself.


That the Bible was taught as actual history: the creation story, the

flood, the existence of Jesus since the beginning of time, the miracles

attributed to Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, etc. were all presented as

real, historical events. There is a wide diversity of belief about these

events. They cannot be verified and must be accepted on faith. "Teaching

this biblical content as true in a public school improperly crosses the

line of neutrality and objectivity by endorsing religion and inculcating

students in religions beliefs."


Students are taught, in the Ten Commandments, that only God is to be

worshiped and that one must rest on the weekly Sabbath, Saturday. They are

taught that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus said that the devil is the

father of the Jews, that "eight aspects of Christ's life are prophesied in

Isaiah." The Bible is referred to as "our Bible"; God is described as "our



The courses may well be ideal as a conservative Protestant Sunday school

curriculum. However, they would fail miserably in a Jehovah's Witness,

Mormon, Roman Catholic, Unitarian Universalist or United Church of Christ

church school. Christianity is actually being taught as truth to the

students - a specific wing of Christianity at that. As one court stated:

" inculcate students...into the beliefs and moral code of

fundamentalist Christianity [is] an admirable goal perhaps for some

private citizens or for a private religious school, but a forbidden one

for the government."


The PFAWF Florida Director urged the Florida Department of Education to

remove the two courses "Bible History: Old Testament" and "Bible History:

New Testament" in their present form from the state-approved course list.


The PFAWF report 5 asks all of the Florida school districts involved to

stop their current courses, and thus avoid being sued in court. The PFAWF

also sent letters to the Superintendents of each of the 14 school

districts, accompanied with copies of the report.


The Good Book Taught Wrong: Bible History Classes in Florida Public





Based on the instructional materials provided by the schools districts,

all 14 of these school districts appear to be violating the Constitution

by the manner in which at least some of the "Bible History" courses are

taught.9 While some problems are unique to particular school districts,

the majority are common to most or all of them. In Part Two of this

report, we have included a description of each school district's classes

based on our review of the instructional materials that the school

districts themselves provided to us.10 The primary constitutional problems

common to most of the school districts include the following:



The courses are framed and taught from Christian perspectives.


The "Bible History" courses in virtually all of the school districts are

called "Bible History: Old Testament" and "Bible History: New Testament"

or a variation on those words.11 These are Christian terms for the Bible,

and framing the courses solely in these terms - without using the term

"Hebrew Scriptures" or "Hebrew Bible" - presents them at the very outset

from a purely Christian perspective. As Bible scholar and teacher T.W.

Lewis, III testified in the Lee County case, "Old Testament" is a

Christian term, while "Hebrew Scriptures" is the term "commonly accepted

by scholars."12


Despite the Supreme Court's admonition that the Bible must be taught about

"objectively," it appears that most, if not all, of the Florida school

districts teaching the "Bible History" courses are doing so not

objectively, but from a Christian perspective. This perspective extends

beyond the titles to the course content, which typically presents the

Bible according to particular Christian (usually Protestant)



For example, it is common in the instructional materials to find the story

of Adam and Eve referred to as "the Fall of Man," and the serpent in that

story referred to as "Satan" - Christian interpretations of Genesis 3 that

are not shared by other faiths. The Bible classes at issue in the Herdahl

case also described Genesis 3 as "the Fall of Man." As Professor Lewis

testified in that case, "That phrase, however, does not appear anywhere in

the Bible; it is a purely theological, Christian interpretation of the

story - further evidence of the religious nature of the instruction.

Moreover, Jews, who also regard the Book of Genesis as religious

scripture, do not interpret the story of Adam and Eve in the same way."13

And, as Professor Lewis testified in Lee County, "the Serpent" of Genesis

3 is "interpreted in Christian faith, but not Jewish faith, as Satan."14


Likewise, a number of the Florida school districts present the "Old"

Testament as predictive of, or in light of, the "New" Testament. For

example, an exam used in the Indian River County school district asks,

"Where is a prophecy in the Old [T]estament about the birth of Jesus?"

This is a purely Christian reading of the Bible, since Judaism does not

recognize a "New" Testament, nor interpret the Hebrew Scriptures as

predictive of it. And in some school districts (e.g., Escambia County),

the course materials even use the oxymoronic phrase "Hebrew Old



Apart from the impermissible sectarian perspective of such courses, they

present obstacles for those students who do not share that particular

religious view. A Jewish student, for example, who is asked where the "Old

Testament" contains a prophecy about the birth of Jesus would have obvious

difficulty in answering such a question. As discussed below, many of the

school districts appear to assume that all of the students taking these

courses are Christian.


In many of the school districts, the students are required to study, if

not memorize, the Ten Commandments. However, although the arrangement of

the Ten Commandments is different among Christians and Jews (and among

Christians as well), it does not appear that the students are made aware

of this. In most instances, the course materials refer generally to "the

Ten Commandments"; however, when the course materials do make clear which

version of the Ten Commandments is taught (e.g., in Levy County), it is a

Christian version.


The Christian perspective of these courses is typically a Protestant one.

For example, these courses generally do not include certain books of the

Bible that Catholics consider to be canon but Protestants do not. If these

books are mentioned at all, they are described as the "Apocryphal Books"

and not as scripture. For example, a curriculum that has been used in

Santa Rosa County and in Escambia County calls these books "The Apocrypha"

and describes them as "Intertestament Writings." In the Levy County school

district, while students reportedly are permitted to use "biblical

translations of their choice," that choice must be from "an original King

James Translation" - a Protestant version of the Bible. This would appear

to exclude Bibles recognized by religious traditions other than

Protestantism, e.g., the New American Bible accepted by Catholics, which

has 73 books, while the King James Version has 66.15


The problems inherent in this sectarian approach are compounded by the

fact that the teachers generally do not appear to inform the students that

they are learning only one particular religious interpretation of the

biblical text (e.g., that "the Fall of Man" is a Christian reading of the

Bible). Such non-objective instruction deprives the students of a truly

meaningful, academic education in which they would be exposed to, among

other things, the rich and diverse interpretations of the Bible.


The Bible is used as a history textbook.


As the courts have recognized, " 'the Bible is a religious book, or, more

accurately stated, a collection of religious books and writings which have

been selected and assembled for the religious teachings and messages

therein conveyed ... Thus, to simply read the Bible without selectivity is

to read a religious book and to teach the Bible literally without

interpretation is to convey a religious message or teach a religious

lesson.' " Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District, 933 F. Supp. 582,

596 (N.D. Miss. 1996) (quoting Wiley v. Franklin, 468 F. Supp. 133, 149

(E.D. Tenn. 1979)). In addition, the courts have also recognized that

"much of the Bible is not capable of historic verification (such as divine

creation, the 'pre-existence' of Jesus, Jesus' miracles and the

resurrection), and can only be accepted as a matter of faith and religious

belief." Herdahl, 933 F. Supp. at 596.


Teaching this biblical content as true in a public school improperly

crosses the line of neutrality and objectivity by endorsing religion and

inculcating students in religious beliefs.


For these reasons, the courts have held that the Bible cannot be taught in

a public school "as if [it] were actual literal history." Herdahl, 933 F.

Supp. at 600. See also Lee County, 1 F. Supp. 2d at 1434 ("[t]his Court

... finds it difficult to conceive how the account of the resurrection or

of miracles could be taught as secular history"). Accordingly, the court

in Herdahl ordered that students, in a "Bible" course purportedly about

ancient Near East history, "must be assigned reading from non-biblical

sources of ancient Middle East history." Herdahl, 933 F. Supp. at 600.16


Nonetheless, most of the Florida school districts teaching the "Bible

History" courses appear to be using the Bible as though it were a history

textbook and presenting the Bible as an historical record. The course

title itself, "Bible History," suggests from the outset to students that

they will be learning what happened in the past - that is, learning

history - by reading the Bible. This is further underscored by the Florida

Department of Education's placement of these courses in the "Social

Studies" group entitled "World and Eastern Hemispheric Histories," which

also includes such high school courses as "World History," "African

History," "British History," and "European History."17


In a number of the school districts, the only "textbook" used in these

courses is the Bible, sometimes in combination with secondary Bible

resources (such as a Bible handbook). Often, these secondary resources are

not standard academic texts published for public school use but rather

products of religious publishing houses. For example, at Keystone Heights

High School in Clay County, the course "text" is the Bible, with Halley's

Bible Handbook listed as a "resource." Halley's is published by Zondervan

Publishing House, which, according to its web site, is a "member of the

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association" and "an international

Christian communications company ... dedicated to meeting the needs of

people with resources that glorify Jesus Christ and promote biblical

principles."18 Generally, there is no indication that the students are

assigned reading from any non-biblical sources of history.


The presentation of the Bible as an historical record is routinely

confirmed by the written instructional materials. For example, the "Santa

Rosa County Curriculum" that is also used in Escambia County describes

Genesis 1-11 as the "Early history of man," and refers to "Creation" and

"Flood" as "historical event[s]." Course materials from Plant City High

School in Hillsborough County call the Bible "the most reliable source for

history we have." In the Walton County school district, the Gospels are

described as giving "a complete picture of Jesus' life and teaching."


Some schools appear to teach the Bible content by prefacing it with

"according to the Bible," or "the Bible says." Such qualifications,

however, do not render a history course based on the Bible constitutional.

Indeed, a claim that they do was specifically rejected by the court in

Herdahl. As the court explained, "the daily teaching of the content of a

book of religious proclamation does not become secular instruction merely

by informing students that the content is only what the Bible says;

indeed, for many students, that may well heighten the religious effect of

the course." Herdahl, 933 F. Supp. at 596-97.


Students are assumed to be Christian and the Bible is taught accordingly.


A number of school districts appear to assume that only Christian students

would take the "Bible History" courses. A review of the instructional

materials suggests an assumption by these school districts that the

teachers and students are of the same (Christian) faith, with the Bible

approached accordingly, rather than in an objective and secular manner.


One of the most striking examples is from the Columbia County school

district, where students at Columbia High School are asked the following

exam question:


"If you had a Jewish friend who wanted to know if Jesus might be the

expectant [sic] Messiah, which book [of the Gospels] would you give him?"


Similar examples exist in other school districts:


"Compose an explanation of who Jesus is for someone who has never heard of


(Final exam question at Madison County High School, Madison County)


"Why is it hard for a non-Christian to understand things about God?"

(Exam question concerning I Corinthians used at both Vanguard High School

in Marion County and Williston High School in Levy County)


"What is Jesus Christ's relationship to God, to creation, and to you?"

(Question asked of students at Niceville High School in Okaloosa County;

emphasis added.)


"Who, according to Jesus, is the father of the Jews? The devil."

(Lesson used in Levy County on John 8)


Clearly, these lessons and exam questions not only reinforce some

Christian faiths, they would be problematic for students who are not



In the Levy County school district, students are directed to bring a Bible

"from home," and further told that they "may use biblical translations of

their choice as long [as] it is from an original King James Translation."

(Emphasis added.) Not only does this appear to exclude Bibles not

recognized by Protestants, it also assumes that all students have a Bible

at home and, particularly, that they have the Protestant Bible in their



In some school districts, the use of the first person plural in referring

to "our" Bible or how "we" interpret the Bible also underscores the

assumption of religious homogeneity and the lack of an objective approach

to the courses. For example, the lessons plans at Port St. Joe High School

in Gulf County call for the teacher to discuss "[h]ow we got our Bible."


Similarly, an exam question in Orange Park High School in Clay County

asks, "Five great sermons of our Lord are recorded in: (a) Matthew (b)

Mark (c) Luke (d) John." At Mulberry High School in Polk County, one exam

question asks students, "How do we believe Peter died?" At Columbia High

School in Columbia County, students are asked, "What was the location of

Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac and why do we believe he went to

that location?" And at Williston High School in Levy County, the New

Testament exams ask such questions as, "What reason does Jesus give for

why we should not judge others?"


The absence of an objective and secular approach to the courses also

manifests itself in exam questions and answers that impermissibly depend

upon and make assumptions about the students' own (presumably Christian)

religious beliefs. For example, at Niceville High School in Okaloosa

County, students are asked, "Do you think Satan took Jesus literally and

physically to the temple and the mountain? Why or why not?"


At Bartow High School in Polk County, students are required to "[p]ut

yourself in the shoes of Cain and tell me if you would do the same as him

[sic] or different than him [sic] and why." Similarly, at Middleburg High

School in Clay County, students are asked, "Is it important to have faith

in a religion?"


At Port St. Joe High School in Gulf County, students are asked whether the

following is "true or false:" "The Old Testament prophecies were not

fulfilled in the New Testament." The answer to this question, of course,

is a matter of religious faith, not fact. Similarly, at Walton High School

in Walton County, students are asked, "What eight aspects of Christ's life

are prophesied in Isaiah?" - which is a book of the Hebrew Scriptures.

This question likewise assumes the Christian belief that the Hebrew

Scriptures foretell parts of the New Testament. In fact, there really are

no "correct" answers to such questions; rather, the answers depend

entirely on the particular sectarian perspective and interpretation that

one brings to the Bible.



The Bible is used to promote Christian faith formation and religious

values and lessons.


While public school students may be taught about the different beliefs of

different religious groups, a public school cannot proselytize to its

students or train them in a particular religion. Likewise, while students

may learn about civic values and be taught that religious groups believe

in certain values as a matter of their religious faith, they may not be

encouraged to adopt such values as a matter of faith or because they are

found in the Bible. Nonetheless, some of the school districts teaching the

"Bible History" courses appear to be using the Bible as a basis for

Christian faith formation and life lessons, which is religious teaching,

not secular instruction.


For example, in the Indian River County school district, students taking

the "Bible History" course have been required to engage in "challenging

group and individual work to figure out what the parables [of Jesus] are

telling us today," and to explain, "Why do you think God says to love your

enemies?" At Madison County High School, the "New Testament" final exam

asks students to write an essay, "[u]sing Scripture reference to support

[their] thoughts," about each of the following topics: "God's Plan For The

Family; Living A Victorious Life In The World Which Is So Dark; and God's

Directions For Righteous Living." And course materials used in the Levy

County school district state in the "study guide" for Joshua: "God is not

content with our doing what is right some of the time. He wants us to do

what is right all the time. We are under his orders to eliminate any

thoughts, practices, or possessions that hinder our devotion to him."


At Middleburg High School in Clay County, students are given "one section

of the Sermon on the Mount" every other week during the "New Testament"

semester (e.g., "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God")

and required to write an essay in which they answer the questions: "How is

it relative [sic] to their life? [and] How is it relative [sic] to the

world we live in?" During the "Old Testament" semester, students are given

"one Commandment" every other week (e.g., "You shall have no other gods

before me") and required to write an essay discussing "How is the

Commandment relative [sic] to you and your life? [and] How is the

Commandment relative [sic] to the world we live in?" And at Columbia High

School in Columbia County, students are asked this exam question: "We can

see in the Temptation Story of the 3rd Chapter of Genesis that we of the

20th Century haven't changed much from the days of Adam and Eve. What

stages in the Temptation and Fall of Man do we still find ourselves [in]



Such instruction is constitutionally problematic in public schools. As the

court held in Herdahl, "to inculcate students ... into the beliefs and

moral code of fundamentalist Christianity [is] an admirable goal perhaps

for some private citizens or for a private religious school, but a

forbidden one for the government."


Sunday-school and other religious training exercises are used to

indoctrinate students in Bible content.


Many of the school districts require their students to engage in the type

of rote memorization of the Bible that one would find in a Sunday school,

or to engage in other Sunday-school type activities clearly intended to

inculcate students in Bible content. For instance, some school districts

require students to memorize the names of the 27 books of the "New

Testament," in order. At Walton High School in Walton County, one of the

exams requires students to identify, "from memory - all Old Testament

books with the appropriate divisions." Some school districts require

students to be able to identify the source (Bible book, chapter and verse)

of specified Bible quotes. At Vanguard High School in Marion County, some

exams require students to find specified Bible verses and then "copy them

in full" from their Bibles.


And in some school districts, the teacher uses games or puzzles to further

students' memorization of Bible content. For example, at Port St. Joe High

School in Gulf County, the students "Play Bingo w/Gospels," and the

teacher also uses seemingly juvenile puzzles requiring regurgitation of

Bible content. These exercises also do not seem age-appropriate for high

school students, another indication that their purpose is not objective or

secular, but to inculcate students in the content of the Christian Bible.


Similar exercises were required of students in the Lee County case. That

school district's New Testament curriculum, for example, called for the

students "to memorize 'the order of the books of the New Testament' (27

total) as well as to memorize 'the Beatitudes and/or Similitudes (e.g.,

the pronouncement of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount that 'Blessed are

the merciful...')." Declaration of Professor T.W. Lewis, III, at 9.

According to Professor Lewis, "[i]n my opinion, there is no legitimate

pedagogic purpose to such rote memorization in a secular history class.

These tasks are typical of what children do in Sunday school, and are a

means of further inculcating children in the Christian Bible."


The Origins and Development of the Bible


The text deals with the formation of the Hebrew Bible (oral stage, writing

stage, and canonization), the formation of the Christian Bible (oral

stage, writing stage, and canonization), and the process of translation.

Some of the ideas presented are based on assumptions.  Keep asking for the

evidence upon which these assumptions are based.  You are not obligated to

accept assumptions that have little evidence to back them up.  Consider

the discussion as a possibility, but keep your options open for other

conclusions. Read Beasley, et al, pp. 51-67.


Biblical historians have many different opinions on

who is responsible for the authorship of the New

Testament writings. Concentrating on 1 and 2 Peter,

their different conclusions can be analyzed. Scholars

approach the study of authorship by carefully going

over the writings themselves. They discover the how,

when, why, who, and where of the writings. Each New

Testament scholar has come to their own conclusion of

the authorship of 1 and 2 Peter through this. Their

different views of the authorship of 1 and 2 Peter

will be discussed and compared in this paper. 1 Peter

is a New Testament writing. It has only five chapters

that seems to portray the purpose of bringing hope to

Christians. Christians should lead their lives by

serving God and knowing that the judgement of God

will be coming. Their faith will be tested, but

Christians are told stay true to God. The point is to

tell Christians that they should keep to their faith

no matter what is going on in the world. The people

being addressed where those of the church whom were

estranged from their old life. This letter has the

same pattern of a Pauline letter, opening with a

greeting and thanksgiving. Then it gives the purpose

and reflects on the identity of Christians. It ends

with an exhortation and closing. It is done neatly

and kept in order. 1 Paul seems to have been written

in Rome. It is written for the churches in the area

of northern Asia Minor. The time period could range

from 60-72 C. E. during the time of Paul whom is

considered to have traditional authorship. 2 Peter

appears to be the "last testament" of the apostle who

had authorship of it. Correct teaching is emphasized,

showing that is a major concern of the author. The

letter gives a warning that judgement will condemn

those without good ethical conduct. This includes all

heretics. In 2 Peter's three chapters, the author

expresses his believe of the time when judgement will

come. The author uses the Hebrew

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Posted: Monday July 8, 2013, 5:16 am
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Hercolena Oliver
female, age 45, single, 3 children
Durban, NU, South Africa
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