Good Heavens!

Thursday the Georgia Board of Education unanimously provided its preliminary approval for two more literature classes for use in public schools beginning next year. Pending a 30-day comment period, the board is expected to give the final, official approval.

The catch? These classes, entitled “Literature and History of the Old Testament Era” and “Literature and History of the New Testament Era,” involve reading of the Bible (*gasp!*) as literature.

Says The Sentinel [Here’s the same quote, at a different link]:

Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, the Republican who sponsored the plan, said the Bible plays a major role in history and is important in understanding many classic literary works.

“It’s not just ‘The Good Book,'” Williams said. “It’s a good book.”

I know that there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this (after all, even the sight of a Bible in a public school or building can lead some to claim government establishment of religion), but I really have no problem with it. The Bible can serve as a history and a literature text as much as a religious one, and I honestly don’t see an issue with offering courses on the Old and New Testament eras, any more than I do on the Mycenaean Era (which is the subject of the Iliad and the Odyssey), or the foundation of Rome (the subject of the Aeneid) — and if you don’t think that there’s as much religion (and direct involvement of the dieties) in those as there is in the Bible, well, perhaps it’s time to make another quick trip down to the ol’ public library.

Likewise, the events of the Old and New Testament eras are an integral part of the history of Western civilization (and that of the Near East) — and, by extension, of our own culture. Outlawing the study of chunks of history — and of beliefs, movements, and cultures — is akin to pulling blocks out of the jenga™ stack, and hoping that the whole stands on its own. Doing so in an irrationally selective manner, out of fear of violation of the mythical “separation of church and state,” is even less responsible.

If the study of the Bible as literature and history is to be prevented in our public schools, then we may as well yank from the schools any other books and sections of curricula which might possibly invoke a religion, or a religious movement, in any way — beginning with such works as the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and their ilk, as well as the study of any cultures (after all, they have all been founded on or around religion of some form), and any history (involving said cultures, they’ll all involve religion), and moving on from there.

Or, we could be sensible, and recognize that the Bible has as much place in the contextual study of cultural and literary history as does just about any other primary source which is currently used.

21 comments

  1. Liberal Democrats are probably screaming Theorocracy. I like the idea of reading the bible as part of a history is not a bad idea. one thing i do not get about the Ted Kennedy left, they scream when a bible is being read in history class or for a history assignment, but when college history classes have students read Mein Kamp or The Communist Manifesto part of the history assignment. I do not hear them screaming then. Christianity is a viat aspect of history like Islam, Buhda, hindu, and judism. Christianity is a key aspect of America.

  2. Alex Ezell says:

    The issue for me, as I pointed out on my blog is that the state is almost certainly not going to put much effort into ensuring the teachers teaching this class know how to do it in a sensitive way. They will not be trained to teach what they know of study of the Bible from a literary perspective and will therefore rely on what they will presumably will have learned from their own religious experience with the book.

  3. Josh, you’re dead on. There was a very long debate over at Blog for Democracy when Sen. Williams first introduced the bill. Almost every liberal opposed the bill & questioned the Democratic credentials of those Democrats who either co-sponsored or voted for the bill.

  4. LymanHall says:

    I’m glad to see Sen. Kasim Reed (D)’s bill (even though the majority leader took it over) implemented.

  5. RuralDem says:

    Just a few things:

    Jeff,

    The link you posted is broken. Thanks for the info though.

    Josh,

    High school and college are two different things.

    Andre,

    It’s the BfD crowd, what do you expect? Anyone who does not follow a hardcore social and fiscal liberal point of view is horrid in their minds.

    My View: I’m happy this passed. I’m also proud of the Democrats who either co-sponsored the same (or similar bills) as well as the Democrats who supported these bills. While the party has been taken over by out of touch social liberals, there are still those in the party that have some values and realize what the mainstream wants.

  6. Know Nothing says:

    This doesn’t bother me too much considering in my high school world literature class, we spent some time reading the Story of Noah and comparing the aspects of that story with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    The bible, in my opinion, is better taught as literature than history.

  7. GTdem says:

    I see no problem with the ‘study’ of the bible in public schools. The problem comes in when ‘study’ starts to turn to ‘preach.’

  8. StevePerkins says:

    If you’ve ever studied comparative religion before, or approached the Bible from a secular literary perspective, you already know that the real howls of outrage won’t be coming from the far left. If the classes are taught as this mandate provides for, the real outrage will come from the evangelicals.

  9. StevePerkins says:

    VictoratGaImproper, if the Sodam and Gomorrah story is the most shocking piece of scripture with which you are familiar, you are SO Biblically-illiterate that perhaps you as well might benefit from one of these classes.

    Take a quick stroll through Levitical law, and see what you find. What’s really fascinating is that large chunks of that law exists in the Official Code of Georgia, even if today’s courts no longer uphold it all (e.g. women are not allowed to file certain lawsuits unless their husbands file on their behalf, etc).

  10. Jeff Emanuel says:

    What’s the problem? It’s OK to study the Twelve Tables, the Code of Hammurabi, and the eunomeia of Lycurgus’ Sparta, but not the Laws of the Hebrews?

  11. rugby_fan says:

    Of course not Jeff! We all know that secularists feel that if we look at the Bible from a non religious aspect (the same way they probably read the Bible), everyone will quickly become radical Christians!

  12. Bill Simon says:

    The “Laws of the Hebrews”…interesting use of words, Jeff.

    Because, the “LAW” of the “Hebrews” ends at the end of The Holy Scriptures….which is oft-referred to by Christians as “The Old Testament.”

  13. Jeff Emanuel says:

    True, Bill – what’s the problem? There’s an Old Testament Lit and Culture Course, and one on the New Testament — which is a great look at the Near Eastern part of the Roman Empire in the wake of the principate.

  14. Jeff Emanuel says:

    Oh, and why is “Hebrews” in “quotes”? Is there a need to “quote” “Romans,” “Greeks,” “Babylonians,” or even “Americans”?

  15. Bill Simon says:

    Because it appears to be just a colloquialism, Jeff. I’ve never heard of my book of religious history and laws referred to as “The Laws of the Hebrews.”

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