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The Bible as Literature in Schools

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Batuni
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Postby Batuni » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:10 pm

Sarkhaan wrote:
Batuni wrote:Again, yes, a fair point on most of those.
Yet, if the bible is significant to the inspiration of modern literature, which is a point I will semi-concede, then why dismiss the significance of texts that inspired the bible?
Because, by and large, we lack those texts. Because, as pointed out, the Bible is one of the most complete ancient texts of the Middle East that we have. The text of the Bible was written anywhere from the 12th century BC to 100 AD (iirc, the oldest text is Genesis, written around 1270, but with origins dating back potentially hundreds of years before the text was written, and the newest being Revelation, completed around 100 AD). Sure one could maybe trace similar origins between the story of the flood in the Bible and Gilgamesh, but that doesn't mean Gilgamesh influenced the story of the flood. I'm not entirely sure what texts you would like teachers to cover, but I would be greatly thankful if you could link to them. So far as I know, the Bible arose from an oral tradition.

Well, it arose from oral tradition and written works. The exact composition of the bible really depends on who you ask.

But aren't these wonderful stories which draw inspiration, meaning, influence or reference to and/or from the bible, technically speaking, cultural noise?

They are, in a way. They are also the cultural noise which is part of the curriculum. I don't need to pull in the story of Easter to discuss the influence of The Binding of Issac upon Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Moreover, it would be irrelevant to the discussion. I might as well discuss astrophysics. It doesn't shed new light upon the text which is being studied.

The point of studying the Bible as literature is to shine new light upon other texts being studied. If we aren't studying something directly, and it doesn't have direct relevance upon the text we are studying, what, exactly, is the point of bringing it up?


Perhaps, just perhaps, to shine new light upon the texts of the bible?

I'd also question using a Danish work to address the bible's influence on English literature...
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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:24 pm

Batuni wrote:But qualified by whom? What made them worthy of such qualification, and what authorised those who qualified them as such?

Probably the matter for a different topic.
It goes back to the question "what is literature". The canon is anything but set in stone, yet certain authors and works appear consistently on several lists.

We've seen this question come up with literature, food, music, art, and to some extent fashion. In fashion, it's pretty clean cut...haute coture, ready to wear, and mass-produced. The others, it's...debatable, to say the least. We've even seen it in this thread, with some people (such as myself) holding that the Bible itself is literature, while others say it is not, but has relevance to literature. I will say, without getting too much into this discussion, that to me, literature is a text that goes beyond the text. It is an exploration of the human condition that has relevance and meaning beyond the words on the page. Moby-Dick is not just a story about chasing a whale...it is an allegory. Literature exposes readers to worlds they otherwise would not consider.
Sure, I personally find it painful to read his sentences, but a) he has influenced other writers of literature and b) because they display qualities of great literature. The style isn't for me, but there's more to the text than just style. There's depth of character, depth of story, the ability to show one another world they otherwise would never know. Yes, literary merit is inherently subjective, but rest assured, Twilight lacks it. Harry Potter, I've never even really glanced at...it might be appropriate for younger grades than what I deal with.

To be honest, I haven't read either of those series. I just used them as examples of things that are probably more widely read than Shakespeare and Dickens these days.

Who's to say what future generations will consider 'literary merit,' after all?
We have always had this division within the arts...the "popular", the "artistic", and the "popular artistic". Going back to Moby-Dick...it was a flop, so far as popularity goes. But it was artistic. Now, it is both popular and artistic.

To draw a reference to art, we have Warhol. His paintings of tin cans became very popular...what was truly artistic about them was what he was conveying...the desire to create "art" that was so bland...so generic, that it could be mass-produced. It sounds so stupid, but was revolutionary. A 5 year old would have painted those same cans because they were pretty...that wouldn't have been artistic. The difference was in the message being conveyed.

Perhaps future generations won't consider "literary merit" and "artistry". I weep for the day in which that occurs. It has long been the goal of some artists of various media to erase the division between "high" and "low" art...the arbitrary line that divides hip-hop dance from ballet, opera from pop-punk. Yet none of these artists sought to create something that wasn't artistic...they just desired to create true art without the pretension.
It draws in the question "What is literature?" and "What is good literature?", something which is a bit too off topic for this thread, so I won't go into here, but would be more than willing to comment upon in a different venue.


Point conceded, but we'll have to pick that thread up one of these days. :)

I will do so in the next few days if I have the chance...if not, when I get out to Cali in a few weeks, remind me. It's something I've always been interested in, and it is actually quite difficult to have this conversation without first having that one.

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:37 pm

Batuni wrote:
Sarkhaan wrote:Because, by and large, we lack those texts. Because, as pointed out, the Bible is one of the most complete ancient texts of the Middle East that we have. The text of the Bible was written anywhere from the 12th century BC to 100 AD (iirc, the oldest text is Genesis, written around 1270, but with origins dating back potentially hundreds of years before the text was written, and the newest being Revelation, completed around 100 AD). Sure one could maybe trace similar origins between the story of the flood in the Bible and Gilgamesh, but that doesn't mean Gilgamesh influenced the story of the flood. I'm not entirely sure what texts you would like teachers to cover, but I would be greatly thankful if you could link to them. So far as I know, the Bible arose from an oral tradition.

Well, it arose from oral tradition and written works. The exact composition of the bible really depends on who you ask.
The issue being that we lack the oral record, and much of the written record. The number of texts that have survived from the ancient world in that region is astoundingly few. Many of the works that we do have were the handful saved from the fire at the Great Library.
If we discovered new texts that clearly influenced the Bible, would they be worth studying? Yes. Perhaps not in a high school English classroom, as time is always very limited...but yes, worth studying, none the less.
My stance on pulling in the Bible is that it is a valuable source, and holds literary value of its own. Sometimes it is worth saying "This text was influenced by this text, which in turn, was influenced by this text". That is a judgment call, which, in the public school setting, is frequently determined by time available. If we could cover every text I thought was important for a good literary background, the kids would have already earned a bachelor's degree in English lit.

They are, in a way. They are also the cultural noise which is part of the curriculum. I don't need to pull in the story of Easter to discuss the influence of The Binding of Issac upon Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Moreover, it would be irrelevant to the discussion. I might as well discuss astrophysics. It doesn't shed new light upon the text which is being studied.

The point of studying the Bible as literature is to shine new light upon other texts being studied. If we aren't studying something directly, and it doesn't have direct relevance upon the text we are studying, what, exactly, is the point of bringing it up?


Perhaps, just perhaps, to shine new light upon the texts of the bible?
If they are relevant, yes. My point is that many of the things you have mentioned are not relevant. The story of Easter has very limited influence on literature (at least so far as I know), as compared to stories like Job and David and Goliath. You may read of a family celebrating Easter, but that is fairly cut and dry...a quick explanation of what Easter is will do. I see few allusions to the celebration of Easter. You will find allusions to the cave and Jesus rising after three days, but that is separate from the celebration of Easter...one is in the Biblical text, the other is that damned cultural back noise.

Why does the Biblical text have more influence than something like the story of Easter? Because of history. For a very long time, books were very expensive, and very few were published. Authors could expect that everyone knew those books cover to cover and would understand the references. If it wasn't printed, it wasn't universal enough for frequent reference. Oral traditions changed frequently. Look no further than the justification for Johnson's English dictionary for evidence that authors are concerned about the staying power of their texts.

I'd also question using a Danish work to address the bible's influence on English literature...

I'd have to know what text you were discussing.

The Danes didn't influence the original text of the Bible, nor the English translations, so far as I know. Pulling in that work might make for an interesting thesis at the undergraduate (probably still a bit deep there), graduate, or post-graduate level, but is beyond the depth one would enter in a high school class.


Remember, we're talking 180 days.
Last edited by Sarkhaan on Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Keijzers
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Postby Keijzers » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:55 pm

I actually like this idea (and I'm agnostic). Until this day I had never seen the bible as literature, I saw it as some sort of brainwashing document (no offense intended, just my previous humble opinion of it). I do miss a lot of bible references in pop culture. I would have liked some sort of introduction into the bible on high school. Like someone said in the start of the thread, using a summary type of document would be ideal. Or highlight the main stories and present them. Maybe present stories in some sort of video format or something like that. The main goal is to make people aware of the popular stories so that they can understand references. It's probably tough to implement this idea in a time like this because it will probably be misunderstood by many but still nicely done.
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Batuni
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Postby Batuni » Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:53 pm

Sarkhaan wrote:
Batuni wrote:But qualified by whom? What made them worthy of such qualification, and what authorised those who qualified them as such?

Probably the matter for a different topic.
It goes back to the question "what is literature". The canon is anything but set in stone, yet certain authors and works appear consistently on several lists.


...Meaning that, again, it's down to popularity?
We've seen this question come up with literature, food, music, art, and to some extent fashion. In fashion, it's pretty clean cut...haute coture, ready to wear, and mass-produced. The others, it's...debatable, to say the least. We've even seen it in this thread, with some people (such as myself) holding that the Bible itself is literature, while others say it is not, but has relevance to literature. I will say, without getting too much into this discussion, that to me, literature is a text that goes beyond the text. It is an exploration of the human condition that has relevance and meaning beyond the words on the page. Moby-Dick is not just a story about chasing a whale...it is an allegory. Literature exposes readers to worlds they otherwise would not consider.
To be honest, I haven't read either of those series. I just used them as examples of things that are probably more widely read than Shakespeare and Dickens these days.

Who's to say what future generations will consider 'literary merit,' after all?
We have always had this division within the arts...the "popular", the "artistic", and the "popular artistic". Going back to Moby-Dick...it was a flop, so far as popularity goes. But it was artistic. Now, it is both popular and artistic.

To draw a reference to art, we have Warhol. His paintings of tin cans became very popular...what was truly artistic about them was what he was conveying...the desire to create "art" that was so bland...so generic, that it could be mass-produced. It sounds so stupid, but was revolutionary. A 5 year old would have painted those same cans because they were pretty...that wouldn't have been artistic. The difference was in the message being conveyed.

Perhaps future generations won't consider "literary merit" and "artistry". I weep for the day in which that occurs. It has long been the goal of some artists of various media to erase the division between "high" and "low" art...the arbitrary line that divides hip-hop dance from ballet, opera from pop-punk. Yet none of these artists sought to create something that wasn't artistic...they just desired to create true art without the pretension.

Point conceded, but we'll have to pick that thread up one of these days. :)

I will do so in the next few days if I have the chance...if not, when I get out to Cali in a few weeks, remind me. It's something I've always been interested in, and it is actually quite difficult to have this conversation without first having that one.


I'll admit, the bolded sections are what I find important to address.
But frankly, the argument you make about fashion applies equally to art, whether it be written, painted, or spoken.
(Does the Mona Lisa reproduction on Wikipedia invalidate the original work?)

And my major contention is with the manufactured conceptions that currently differentiate 'literary merit and artistry', and 'high and low' art.
Hell, 'High and low art?' Isn't it pretentious to simply claim that there's a difference?

Further, the assumption that all these artists eschewed pretention is... well, an assumption.

And... Um, I'm threadjacking, aren't I?
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Batuni
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Postby Batuni » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:09 am

Sarkhaan wrote:
Batuni wrote:Well, it arose from oral tradition and written works. The exact composition of the bible really depends on who you ask.
The issue being that we lack the oral record, and much of the written record. The number of texts that have survived from the ancient world in that region is astoundingly few. Many of the works that we do have were the handful saved from the fire at the Great Library.
If we discovered new texts that clearly influenced the Bible, would they be worth studying? Yes. Perhaps not in a high school English classroom, as time is always very limited...but yes, worth studying, none the less.
My stance on pulling in the Bible is that it is a valuable source, and holds literary value of its own. Sometimes it is worth saying "This text was influenced by this text, which in turn, was influenced by this text". That is a judgment call, which, in the public school setting, is frequently determined by time available. If we could cover every text I thought was important for a good literary background, the kids would have already earned a bachelor's degree in English lit.

So surely we should be focusing on more original works, celebrating the creativity and talents of people who weren't so focused on reinterpreting ancient texts?

Why is A's retelling of biblical myth more valuable than B's creatively unique work?

Perhaps, just perhaps, to shine new light upon the texts of the bible?
If they are relevant, yes. My point is that many of the things you have mentioned are not relevant. The story of Easter has very limited influence on literature (at least so far as I know), as compared to stories like Job and David and Goliath. You may read of a family celebrating Easter, but that is fairly cut and dry...a quick explanation of what Easter is will do. I see few allusions to the celebration of Easter. You will find allusions to the cave and Jesus rising after three days, but that is separate from the celebration of Easter...one is in the Biblical text, the other is that damned cultural back noise.


Whose explanation? The original, or the current pseudo-Christian one? Which one is cultural noise?
Why does the Biblical text have more influence than something like the story of Easter? Because of history. For a very long time, books were very expensive, and very few were published. Authors could expect that everyone knew those books cover to cover and would understand the references. If it wasn't printed, it wasn't universal enough for frequent reference. Oral traditions changed frequently. Look no further than the justification for Johnson's English dictionary for evidence that authors are concerned about the staying power of their texts.

I'd also question using a Danish work to address the bible's influence on English literature...

I'd have to know what text you were discussing.

The Danes didn't influence the original text of the Bible, nor the English translations, so far as I know. Pulling in that work might make for an interesting thesis at the undergraduate (probably still a bit deep there), graduate, or post-graduate level, but is beyond the depth one would enter in a high school class.


Remember, we're talking 180 days.


The Danish work I'm referring to is Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, which you brought up.
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Postby New Korongo » Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:05 am

The bible but not the Great Hymn to the Aten or the Akilathirattu Ammanai or the Arul Nool or the Kitáb-i-Aqdas or the Bon Kangyur or the Vinaya Pitaka or the Sutta Pitaka or the Abhidhamma Pitaka or the Tripiṭaka or the Shingon or the Donghak or the Gospel of Marcion or the Deuterocanonical books or the Five Classics or the Four Books or the Thirteen Classics or the Principia Discordia or the Rasa'il al-hikmah or the Pyramid Texts or the Coffin Texts or the Book of the Dead or the Book of Caverns or the Book of Gates or the Amduat or theBook of the Heavenly Cow or the Litany of Re or the Cippus Perusinus or the Liber Linteus or the Pyrgi Tablets or the Tabula Cortonensis or the Hermetica or the Śruti or the Smriti or the Tantras or the Stotras or the Ashtavakra Gita or the Gherand Samhita or the Gita Govinda or the Hatha Yoga or the Pradipika or the Yoga Vasistha or the Qur'an or the Svetambara or the Digambara or the Tattvartha Sutra or the Tanakh or the Talmud or the Satanic Bible or the Siddhanta Shikhamani or the Evangelion or the Orphic Poems or the Samaritan Torah or the Spirits Book and many many more.
Last edited by New Korongo on Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Unhealthy2 » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:24 am

Sarkhaan wrote:
Batuni wrote:But qualified by whom? What made them worthy of such qualification, and what authorised those who qualified them as such?

Probably the matter for a different topic.
It goes back to the question "what is literature". The canon is anything but set in stone, yet certain authors and works appear consistently on several lists.

We've seen this question come up with literature, food, music, art, and to some extent fashion. In fashion, it's pretty clean cut...haute coture, ready to wear, and mass-produced. The others, it's...debatable, to say the least. We've even seen it in this thread, with some people (such as myself) holding that the Bible itself is literature, while others say it is not, but has relevance to literature. I will say, without getting too much into this discussion, that to me, literature is a text that goes beyond the text. It is an exploration of the human condition that has relevance and meaning beyond the words on the page. Moby-Dick is not just a story about chasing a whale...it is an allegory. Literature exposes readers to worlds they otherwise would not consider.
To be honest, I haven't read either of those series. I just used them as examples of things that are probably more widely read than Shakespeare and Dickens these days.

Who's to say what future generations will consider 'literary merit,' after all?
We have always had this division within the arts...the "popular", the "artistic", and the "popular artistic". Going back to Moby-Dick...it was a flop, so far as popularity goes. But it was artistic. Now, it is both popular and artistic.

To draw a reference to art, we have Warhol. His paintings of tin cans became very popular...what was truly artistic about them was what he was conveying...the desire to create "art" that was so bland...so generic, that it could be mass-produced. It sounds so stupid, but was revolutionary. A 5 year old would have painted those same cans because they were pretty...that wouldn't have been artistic. The difference was in the message being conveyed.

Perhaps future generations won't consider "literary merit" and "artistry". I weep for the day in which that occurs. It has long been the goal of some artists of various media to erase the division between "high" and "low" art...the arbitrary line that divides hip-hop dance from ballet, opera from pop-punk. Yet none of these artists sought to create something that wasn't artistic...they just desired to create true art without the pretension.

Point conceded, but we'll have to pick that thread up one of these days. :)

I will do so in the next few days if I have the chance...if not, when I get out to Cali in a few weeks, remind me. It's something I've always been interested in, and it is actually quite difficult to have this conversation without first having that one.


If you want to say something about the human condition, isn't it more efficient, and less error prone, to publish documents containing psychological research and containing conclusions based on said research? That seems a lot faster, and a lot less prone to misinterpretation than vague allusions to what you want to say dressed up in pretty language and set in the context of a story. If the story is not the point, then why present it? What's the merit in being deliberately cryptic? Just say what you want to say.

Furthermore, is it not entirely possible that many of these authors that are credited with speaking to the human condition are just trying to write stories? Is it not entirely possible that the "deeper" meanings of these tracts have been entirely invented by the people "interpreting" them? I mean, humans are pattern seeking creatures, and are very good at finding patterns even where none actually exist, especially in things like literature or art, where vague language or suggestive figures abound, and leave enormous room for people to find anything they want to find. Statistical events aren't the only place that people find significance where there is none.
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Postby The Voltania » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:25 am

As fiction, maybe. As nonfiction, oh hell no.

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Postby Malaysii » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:28 am

Fartsniffage wrote:I'd say that parts of the bible should be studied.

The whole text is far too long to studied in any meaningful way during the few years of high school.

This.

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The Cat-Tribe
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Postby The Cat-Tribe » Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:29 am

Note: As is often the case I have only skimmed the thread and read parts of it and am downloading a dump of dubiously relevant information and responding directly to the OP. I apologize if this is repetitive or fails to address points raised in the thread already.

Sarkhaan wrote:So recently, I saw a list of books centered around the question "What should college students be reading". I expressed shock that only the story of Job had made the list, and commented that the entire book should be read.

Someone jumped on me for suggesting that the Bible should be studied in schools, claiming it was blatant indoctrination, and that, if the Bible were to be taught in public schools, teachers should be required to explore the negatives created by the religions based around that document.

My response was along the lines of "I merely stated that college students should be reading the Bible. Up until now, I never suggested it should be taught in public schools. However, I will make such a claim now. The Bible should be required reading in high school".

This sparked a brief discussion that was, sadly, rapidly abandoned by the other party...but it has still been on my mind. So I bring it you NSG (yes, I know we have had occasional discussions about teaching religion, and even tangential conversations about the Bible in English classrooms, but I can't recall a topic expressly looking into the issue).

My stance is this:

The Bible in its various translations has historically, and is currently, one of, if not the most widely read books in the English language. As such, it is also one of the most frequently alluded to texts. Biblical names, themes, and stories are frequently hinted at, modified, or blatantly used in literature. An understanding of the text alluded to results in a deeper understanding of the text being read.

Take, for example, the opening line of Moby-Dick: "Call me Ishmael". Powerful line...it instantly calls into question the authority of the narrator...is his name really Ishmael, or is that just what he wants us to call him? But there is more meaning there. Ishmael was Abraham's oldest son. Abraham expelled Ishmael after God told him that Issac would be the start of the Jewish nation. God also promised to make Ishmael a nation (he is the father of the Arab nation by Biblical tradition).

What information do we gain from understanding the Biblical allusion? Now, we know that not only is the narrator potentially untrustworthy, but he has taken on the name of the rejected son, graced by God, but rejected by man. This plays into the rest of the novel.

This is only one example. We find Biblical names and stories throughout literature: Ahab in Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost retelling the story of Adam and Eve, East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath referencing Biblical themes in their titles, "God's Favorite" retelling the story of Job, The Chronicles of Narnia being a Biblical allegory, Simon in Lord of the Flies relating to Jesus, the title Absalom, Absalom! and "Salome", and countless references to "The Prodigal Son", "Adam and Eve", "Creation", "Revelation", and "Sermon on the Mount"...the list could go on. And those are only some of the literary references, not delving into art and film.

It is clear that The Bible forms one of the basic texts of the English canon.

What I propose is that it is taught as literature: looked at in the same way we would study Greco-Roman, Norse, and Eastern mythology. Not read to judge, not read for religious indoctrination, and not read to attack the religions that follow the text. Read from a critical literary standpoint as we would any other text facing us as a class. Strip away the cultural noise and look at what the text actually says. Understand the issues facing us, as English readers, in the fact that we are reading a translation (and sometimes a translation of a translation). We do not have to investigate the evils done by Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, same as we don't have to study the evils perpetrated by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Vikings, Chinese, Koreans, or anyone else's myths we read. It simply is not relevant.

There is no reason to study the religions that follow the text in an English classroom: It simply is not relevant. It is also not necessary to bring in other religious texts like the Koran, Talmud, or Satanic Bible, as these texts simply have not had the impact that the Bible has had upon English literature.


TL:DR, start here.
The Bible should be taught in the English classroom because it is an important text. It can provide new ways to explore literature. It should be handled in the same respectful way all texts are, and students should be free to interpret the text in their own way. This should go without saying, as that is how ALL literature should be taught. Simply put, the Bible is kinda important to the English canon, and we are not serving our students by pretending it is something that is somehow "off limits" within the classroom.


1. As I'll explain further below, I have no problem with a version of the Bible (or parts thereof) being taught as literature, especially at the college level.

2. I think it a bit silly to say it must be or should be taught in its entirety or in large portions. Some of it is arguably of significant literary interest or symbolic importance to other literature. Much of it is barely readable and/or largely irrelevant (as literature).

3. Those sugggesting the Bible should be taught as history have got to be kidding me. Teaching about the influence of the Bible on history isn't straightforward or non-controversial. For good or bad, many things (such as U.S. law) are attributed to "the Bible" without much foundation for that attribution. More critically, historical events that may have been influenced by the Bible include both "good" and "bad" things. The concern should not just be both that the Bible's influence on history is not sugar-coated AND not be overly villified.

Some other considerations (less relevant to teaching the Bible or portions thereof as literature in college than in other schools):

A. There is no single Bible. There is the Jewish Bible (the Hebrew scriptures or Tanakh), and various Christian Bibles –- such as Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox –- some with additional books, arranged in a different order. These differences are significant. For example, Judaism does not include the Christian New Testament in its Bible, and the Catholic Old Testament has 46 books while the Protestant has 39. There are also various English translations within each of these traditions. To adopt any particular Bible – or translation – is likely to suggest to students that it is normative, the best Bible.

B. Just as separation of Church and State protects both believers and nonbelievers, teaching about or by using the Bible in public school should concern both those who believe it is Holy Scripture and those that don't. For example, for those that believe the Bible is authored or inspired by God and/or is holy scripture, teaching the Bible as literature may be offensive. (I, in fact, had an English class at a putatively Christian college where several students objected to the professor's attempt to teach the Book of Job as literature.)

C. There is nothing inherently wrong with teaching about the Bible in public schools in the proper context, but the subject must be approached carefully. The ACLU explains in
Statement on The Bible in Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide , ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief,
April 2007:
Some schools, boards of education, and state legislatures have considered introducing courses on the Bible in public schools. In order to provide guidance on how this might be done consistently with constitutional values and requirements, a joint statement entitled The Bible in Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide [20p pdf] was prepared in 1999. The document was endorsed by a range of religion-based groups, including:
•National Association of Evangelicals
•Christian Legal Society
•Christian Educators Association International
•Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs
•Council on Islamic Education
•National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
•American Jewish Committee
•American Jewish Congress

Other endorsers, which do not promote a particular religious point of view, represent both educational and civil liberties perspectives, including:
•People for the American Way Foundation
•National Education Association
•National School Boards Association
•American Federation of Teachers
•National Association of Secondary School Principals
.
Although the ACLU does not endorse all of the recommendations included in the document (in part because some pertain to issues on which the organization takes no position, such as which courses ought to be included in a public school curriculum), the document provides a great deal of sound guidance that, if implemented openly and conscientiously, is constitutional and will help protect schools against liability.

Those seeking to introduce Bible courses in public schools should particularly take into account the following three key principles that emerge from The Bible in Public Schools:

First, while it is constitutional for public schools to teach children about religion, it is unconstitutional to use public schools to advance particular religious beliefs. Among the important statements made in the guidelines are:
"The school's approach to religion is academic, not devotional."

"The school may strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any religion."

"The school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion."

"The school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion." (all p. 8 )

Unfortunately, some people promote "Bible education" as a disguised way of advancing their particular religious beliefs in public schools. One way for public schools to avoid being used to promote particular religious beliefs is to offer courses that teach about a broad range of the world's religions rather than courses that focus on a single religious text. While this approach is not constitutionally required, it certainly can help alleviate legitimate concerns about there being a hidden agenda to promote a particular religious tradition.

Second, the structure of the specific course curriculum, including the choice of textbooks, supporting materials, and teacher outlines, should be developed with a conscientious effort to avoid advancing particular religious beliefs.

"The Bible may be used as a primary text, although it probably should not be the only text for a course. Schools should avoid the use of instructional materials and lessons that are of a devotional nature, such as those used in Sunday school." (p. 7)

If public schools decide to teach about the Bible, the curriculum should be scrupulous in not showing favoritism for one version or religious interpretation of the Bible over another, whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or other.

Third, if public schools decide to offer religion or Bible courses, teachers should possess the relevant academic training and should teach the course as a proper academic subject. The teacher's educational background should not be limited to that of a particular religious tradition, but should include serious academic study of the Bible.
"When selecting teachers to teach Bible electives, school districts should look for teachers who have some background in the academic study of religion. Unless they have already received academic preparation, teachers selected to teach a course about the Bible should receive substantive in-service training from qualified scholars before being permitted to teach such courses." (p. 9)

While teachers are completely free to have deeply felt religious beliefs, it is not appropriate for them to use the classroom to advocate their religious beliefs to public school children.

* * * *

Some who promote religion and Bible courses in public schools wish to help students better understand the world in which they live and of the role that religion plays in peoples' lives. This can be done in accordance with sound constitutional values. Others promote such courses with the obvious intention of enlisting public schools to advance their particular religious beliefs. Ultimately, it should be remembered that the promotion of religious faith is the fundamental responsibility of parents, families, and religious communities — not legislatures, government offices, or public schools

D. More specificly, from the joint statemtment, The Bible in Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide [20p pdf]:
The Bible and literature
Academic study of the Bible in a public secondary school may appropriately take place in literature courses. Students might study the Bible as literature. They would examine the Bible as they would other literature in terms of aesthetic categories, as an anthology of narratives and poetry, exploring its language, symbolism, and motifs. Students might also study the Bible in literature, the ways in which later writers have used Bible literature, language, and symbols. Much drama, poetry, and fiction contains material from the Bible.

Bible electives in literature

A literature elective in the Bible would focus on the Bible as a literary text. This might include the Bible as literature and the Bible in literature. A primary goal of the course would be basic biblical literacy – a grasp of the language, major narratives, symbols, and characters of the Bible. The course might also explore the influence of the Bible in classic and contemporary poems, plays, and novels. Of course, the Bible is not simply literature–-for a number of religious traditions it is scripture. A “Bible Literature” course, therefore, could also include some discussion of how various religious traditions understand the text. This would require that literature teachers be adequately prepared to address in an academic and objective manner the relevant, major religious readings of the text.

E. Of some helpfulness is Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law, April 12, 1995:
The Constitution permits much private religious activity in and about the public schools. Unfortunately, this aspect of constitutional law is not as well known as it should be. *snip*

Teaching About Religion

5. Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion. As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said, "it might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion, or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization." It would be difficult to teach art, music, literature and most social studies without considering religious influences.

The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature (either as a separate course or within some other existing course), 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. *snip*

Appendix: Organizational Signers of "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law"
American Civil Liberties Union
American Ethical Union
American Humanist Association
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
American Muslim Council
Americans for Religious Liberty
Americans United for Seperation of Church and State
Anti-Defamation League
Baptist Joint Committee
B'nai B'rith
Christian Legal Society
Christian Science Church
Church of Scientology International
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot
Friends Committee on National Legislation
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Guru Gobind Singh Foundation
Interfaith Alliance
Interfaith Impact for Justice and Peace
National Association of Evangelicals
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC)
National Ministries, American Baptist Churches, USA
National Sikh Center
North American Council for Muslim Women
People for the American Way
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Office for Church in Society
I quit (again).
The Altani Confederacy wrote:
The Cat-Tribe wrote:With that, I am done with these shenanigans. Do as thou wilt.

Can't miss you until you're gone, Ambassador. Seriously, your delegation is like one of those stores that has a "Going Out Of Business" sale for twenty years. Stay or go, already.*snip*
"Don't give me no shit because . . . I've been Tired . . ." ~ Pixies
With that, "he put his boots on, he took a face from the Ancient Gallery, and he walked on down the Hall . . ."

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The Cat-Tribe
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Postby The Cat-Tribe » Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:45 am

Unhealthy2 wrote:
Sarkhaan wrote:It goes back to the question "what is literature". The canon is anything but set in stone, yet certain authors and works appear consistently on several lists.

We've seen this question come up with literature, food, music, art, and to some extent fashion. In fashion, it's pretty clean cut...haute coture, ready to wear, and mass-produced. The others, it's...debatable, to say the least. We've even seen it in this thread, with some people (such as myself) holding that the Bible itself is literature, while others say it is not, but has relevance to literature. I will say, without getting too much into this discussion, that to me, literature is a text that goes beyond the text. It is an exploration of the human condition that has relevance and meaning beyond the words on the page. Moby-Dick is not just a story about chasing a whale...it is an allegory. Literature exposes readers to worlds they otherwise would not consider.
We have always had this division within the arts...the "popular", the "artistic", and the "popular artistic". Going back to Moby-Dick...it was a flop, so far as popularity goes. But it was artistic. Now, it is both popular and artistic.

To draw a reference to art, we have Warhol. His paintings of tin cans became very popular...what was truly artistic about them was what he was conveying...the desire to create "art" that was so bland...so generic, that it could be mass-produced. It sounds so stupid, but was revolutionary. A 5 year old would have painted those same cans because they were pretty...that wouldn't have been artistic. The difference was in the message being conveyed.

Perhaps future generations won't consider "literary merit" and "artistry". I weep for the day in which that occurs. It has long been the goal of some artists of various media to erase the division between "high" and "low" art...the arbitrary line that divides hip-hop dance from ballet, opera from pop-punk. Yet none of these artists sought to create something that wasn't artistic...they just desired to create true art without the pretension.

I will do so in the next few days if I have the chance...if not, when I get out to Cali in a few weeks, remind me. It's something I've always been interested in, and it is actually quite difficult to have this conversation without first having that one.


If you want to say something about the human condition, isn't it more efficient, and less error prone, to publish documents containing psychological research and containing conclusions based on said research? That seems a lot faster, and a lot less prone to misinterpretation than vague allusions to what you want to say dressed up in pretty language and set in the context of a story. If the story is not the point, then why present it? What's the merit in being deliberately cryptic? Just say what you want to say.

Furthermore, is it not entirely possible that many of these authors that are credited with speaking to the human condition are just trying to write stories? Is it not entirely possible that the "deeper" meanings of these tracts have been entirely invented by the people "interpreting" them? I mean, humans are pattern seeking creatures, and are very good at finding patterns even where none actually exist, especially in things like literature or art, where vague language or suggestive figures abound, and leave enormous room for people to find anything they want to find. Statistical events aren't the only place that people find significance where there is none.


Meh. We get it. You worship at the altar of "science" as the only relevant source of "information" or "knowledge."

That you are now touting "science" you have (IIRC) disparaged elsewhere is irrelevant.

That it is nigh impossible to define what is and is not "science" in absolute terms is irrelevant. (This is not to say there are not things that clearly are far more scientific than others and/or clearly NOT scientific, but only to say "science" is an abstract and arguable concept ultimately.)

That it is nigh impossible to justify categorical rejection of "non-science" as useful, helpful, enlightening, and contributing to "information" or "knowledge" is irrelevant.

Etc, etc, etc.

I have the highest respect for science and generally categorically prefer scientific evidence to any other form of "knowledge" or "information," but I reject the view that all else is irrelevant to human existence, happiness, advancement, etc.
I quit (again).
The Altani Confederacy wrote:
The Cat-Tribe wrote:With that, I am done with these shenanigans. Do as thou wilt.

Can't miss you until you're gone, Ambassador. Seriously, your delegation is like one of those stores that has a "Going Out Of Business" sale for twenty years. Stay or go, already.*snip*
"Don't give me no shit because . . . I've been Tired . . ." ~ Pixies
With that, "he put his boots on, he took a face from the Ancient Gallery, and he walked on down the Hall . . ."

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The Cat-Tribe
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Postby The Cat-Tribe » Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:54 am

New Korongo wrote:The bible but not the Great Hymn to the Aten or the Akilathirattu Ammanai or the Arul Nool or the Kitáb-i-Aqdas or the Bon Kangyur or the Vinaya Pitaka or the Sutta Pitaka or the Abhidhamma Pitaka or the Tripiṭaka or the Shingon or the Donghak or the Gospel of Marcion or the Deuterocanonical books or the Five Classics or the Four Books or the Thirteen Classics or the Principia Discordia or the Rasa'il al-hikmah or the Pyramid Texts or the Coffin Texts or the Book of the Dead or the Book of Caverns or the Book of Gates or the Amduat or theBook of the Heavenly Cow or the Litany of Re or the Cippus Perusinus or the Liber Linteus or the Pyrgi Tablets or the Tabula Cortonensis or the Hermetica or the Śruti or the Smriti or the Tantras or the Stotras or the Ashtavakra Gita or the Gherand Samhita or the Gita Govinda or the Hatha Yoga or the Pradipika or the Yoga Vasistha or the Qur'an or the Svetambara or the Digambara or the Tattvartha Sutra or the Tanakh or the Talmud or the Satanic Bible or the Siddhanta Shikhamani or the Evangelion or the Orphic Poems or the Samaritan Torah or the Spirits Book and many many more.


I'll admit to not being familiar or only very passingly familiar with many of the names you drop. (Although I could drop names you didn't: such as the Popul Vu -- which I have read).

But the "point" you make is largely silly. Perhaps one or more of the works you list is "better" literature than the Bible (an always dubious and largely subjective question), but in the United States (or Western World) the Bible's influence on other literature is pretty undeniably greater.
I quit (again).
The Altani Confederacy wrote:
The Cat-Tribe wrote:With that, I am done with these shenanigans. Do as thou wilt.

Can't miss you until you're gone, Ambassador. Seriously, your delegation is like one of those stores that has a "Going Out Of Business" sale for twenty years. Stay or go, already.*snip*
"Don't give me no shit because . . . I've been Tired . . ." ~ Pixies
With that, "he put his boots on, he took a face from the Ancient Gallery, and he walked on down the Hall . . ."

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:14 am

Batuni wrote:
Sarkhaan wrote:It goes back to the question "what is literature". The canon is anything but set in stone, yet certain authors and works appear consistently on several lists.


...Meaning that, again, it's down to popularity?
In some ways, yes. In others, no. Unpopular works have found their way into the canon, which has then made them popular (my oft-cited Moby-Dick being an excellent example). It is not so much about a general popularity, but a popularity amongst certain people. Of course, that popularity isn't really the important aspect. They are popular amongst this crowd because they meet many people's requirements for "good literature".
We've seen this question come up with literature, food, music, art, and to some extent fashion. In fashion, it's pretty clean cut...haute coture, ready to wear, and mass-produced. The others, it's...debatable, to say the least. We've even seen it in this thread, with some people (such as myself) holding that the Bible itself is literature, while others say it is not, but has relevance to literature. I will say, without getting too much into this discussion, that to me, literature is a text that goes beyond the text. It is an exploration of the human condition that has relevance and meaning beyond the words on the page. Moby-Dick is not just a story about chasing a whale...it is an allegory. Literature exposes readers to worlds they otherwise would not consider.
We have always had this division within the arts...the "popular", the "artistic", and the "popular artistic". Going back to Moby-Dick...it was a flop, so far as popularity goes. But it was artistic. Now, it is both popular and artistic.

To draw a reference to art, we have Warhol. His paintings of tin cans became very popular...what was truly artistic about them was what he was conveying...the desire to create "art" that was so bland...so generic, that it could be mass-produced. It sounds so stupid, but was revolutionary. A 5 year old would have painted those same cans because they were pretty...that wouldn't have been artistic. The difference was in the message being conveyed.

Perhaps future generations won't consider "literary merit" and "artistry". I weep for the day in which that occurs. It has long been the goal of some artists of various media to erase the division between "high" and "low" art...the arbitrary line that divides hip-hop dance from ballet, opera from pop-punk. Yet none of these artists sought to create something that wasn't artistic...they just desired to create true art without the pretension.

I will do so in the next few days if I have the chance...if not, when I get out to Cali in a few weeks, remind me. It's something I've always been interested in, and it is actually quite difficult to have this conversation without first having that one.


I'll admit, the bolded sections are what I find important to address.
But frankly, the argument you make about fashion applies equally to art, whether it be written, painted, or spoken.
Sort of but not really. Haute coture is when a single version of the outfit is hand-made and uses the finest quality materials. Ready to wear is when a handful are made, but still of high quality materials. Mass-produced is when thousands are made and specific attention to detail is not paid. There's much more overlap in the other arts.
(Does the Mona Lisa reproduction on Wikipedia invalidate the original work?)
No...but here's the difference. When a designer makes ready to wear outfits, the fabrics are specifically chosen...both the print to be used, and the specific part of the fabric. Materials are hand chosen. Mass-produced is cut by machine.
The Mona Lisa is art, in part, because specific choices and decisions were made in its creation. The copies have no such attention paid. But this is drifting off topic, so despite my interest in the topic...yeah.
And my major contention is with the manufactured conceptions that currently differentiate 'literary merit and artistry', and 'high and low' art.
Hell, 'High and low art?' Isn't it pretentious to simply claim that there's a difference?
Certainly, and it is something many contemporary artists have fought against.

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The blessed Chris
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Postby The blessed Chris » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:17 am

The Voltania wrote:As fiction, maybe. As nonfiction, oh hell no.


In what sense? Study of the Jerome bible, and the crudity of its Latin in comparison to prevailing standards of aristocratic, erudite Latin is highly instructive in determining the demographic for which the bible was invented.

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:19 am

Batuni wrote:
Sarkhaan wrote: The issue being that we lack the oral record, and much of the written record. The number of texts that have survived from the ancient world in that region is astoundingly few. Many of the works that we do have were the handful saved from the fire at the Great Library.
If we discovered new texts that clearly influenced the Bible, would they be worth studying? Yes. Perhaps not in a high school English classroom, as time is always very limited...but yes, worth studying, none the less.
My stance on pulling in the Bible is that it is a valuable source, and holds literary value of its own. Sometimes it is worth saying "This text was influenced by this text, which in turn, was influenced by this text". That is a judgment call, which, in the public school setting, is frequently determined by time available. If we could cover every text I thought was important for a good literary background, the kids would have already earned a bachelor's degree in English lit.

So surely we should be focusing on more original works, celebrating the creativity and talents of people who weren't so focused on reinterpreting ancient texts?

Why is A's retelling of biblical myth more valuable than B's creatively unique work?
Who said it is of more value? I'd say they are both valuable. And not all use of the Bible in writing is just a retelling. Allusions, names, etc....it's about packing in more meaning for a depth to the text.

As for re-tellings, nearly every play Shakespeare wrote was a re-telling. That doesn't eliminate, or even reduce, their value.
If they are relevant, yes. My point is that many of the things you have mentioned are not relevant. The story of Easter has very limited influence on literature (at least so far as I know), as compared to stories like Job and David and Goliath. You may read of a family celebrating Easter, but that is fairly cut and dry...a quick explanation of what Easter is will do. I see few allusions to the celebration of Easter. You will find allusions to the cave and Jesus rising after three days, but that is separate from the celebration of Easter...one is in the Biblical text, the other is that damned cultural back noise.


Whose explanation? The original, or the current pseudo-Christian one? Which one is cultural noise?
Which one is being referenced?
Why does the Biblical text have more influence than something like the story of Easter? Because of history. For a very long time, books were very expensive, and very few were published. Authors could expect that everyone knew those books cover to cover and would understand the references. If it wasn't printed, it wasn't universal enough for frequent reference. Oral traditions changed frequently. Look no further than the justification for Johnson's English dictionary for evidence that authors are concerned about the staying power of their texts.


I'd have to know what text you were discussing.

The Danes didn't influence the original text of the Bible, nor the English translations, so far as I know. Pulling in that work might make for an interesting thesis at the undergraduate (probably still a bit deep there), graduate, or post-graduate level, but is beyond the depth one would enter in a high school class.


Remember, we're talking 180 days.


The Danish work I'm referring to is Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, which you brought up.

Mu point is more that reading the Bible is useful in understanding literature, and in pulling in Kierkegaard, to demonstrate that understanding the Bible goes beyond just the classroom in which it is read. I wouldn't likely teach Kierkegaard in an English lit classroom unless we were doing a world philosophy unit...but in a philosophy or humanities class? Yep. And it would be fantastic if my students already understood the allusions.

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:28 am

Unhealthy2 wrote:
Sarkhaan wrote:It goes back to the question "what is literature". The canon is anything but set in stone, yet certain authors and works appear consistently on several lists.

We've seen this question come up with literature, food, music, art, and to some extent fashion. In fashion, it's pretty clean cut...haute coture, ready to wear, and mass-produced. The others, it's...debatable, to say the least. We've even seen it in this thread, with some people (such as myself) holding that the Bible itself is literature, while others say it is not, but has relevance to literature. I will say, without getting too much into this discussion, that to me, literature is a text that goes beyond the text. It is an exploration of the human condition that has relevance and meaning beyond the words on the page. Moby-Dick is not just a story about chasing a whale...it is an allegory. Literature exposes readers to worlds they otherwise would not consider.
We have always had this division within the arts...the "popular", the "artistic", and the "popular artistic". Going back to Moby-Dick...it was a flop, so far as popularity goes. But it was artistic. Now, it is both popular and artistic.

To draw a reference to art, we have Warhol. His paintings of tin cans became very popular...what was truly artistic about them was what he was conveying...the desire to create "art" that was so bland...so generic, that it could be mass-produced. It sounds so stupid, but was revolutionary. A 5 year old would have painted those same cans because they were pretty...that wouldn't have been artistic. The difference was in the message being conveyed.

Perhaps future generations won't consider "literary merit" and "artistry". I weep for the day in which that occurs. It has long been the goal of some artists of various media to erase the division between "high" and "low" art...the arbitrary line that divides hip-hop dance from ballet, opera from pop-punk. Yet none of these artists sought to create something that wasn't artistic...they just desired to create true art without the pretension.

I will do so in the next few days if I have the chance...if not, when I get out to Cali in a few weeks, remind me. It's something I've always been interested in, and it is actually quite difficult to have this conversation without first having that one.


If you want to say something about the human condition, isn't it more efficient, and less error prone, to publish documents containing psychological research and containing conclusions based on said research? That seems a lot faster, and a lot less prone to misinterpretation than vague allusions to what you want to say dressed up in pretty language and set in the context of a story. If the story is not the point, then why present it? What's the merit in being deliberately cryptic? Just say what you want to say.

This coming from the guy who spoke against psychology not two weeks ago? Interesting.

Also, it isn't always about efficiency. It isn't always about revealing one singular truth that cannot be questioned. The story is part of the point, but it isn't all there is to it.

Furthermore, is it not entirely possible that many of these authors that are credited with speaking to the human condition are just trying to write stories? Is it not entirely possible that the "deeper" meanings of these tracts have been entirely invented by the people "interpreting" them? I mean, humans are pattern seeking creatures, and are very good at finding patterns even where none actually exist, especially in things like literature or art, where vague language or suggestive figures abound, and leave enormous room for people to find anything they want to find. Statistical events aren't the only place that people find significance where there is none.
To be honest, it doesn't really matter what the author's intent was. Texts are almost always smarter than their authors. An author might not consciously use the same motif several times...that doesn't mean it isn't there, and doesn't mean it doesn't shed new light upon the text.

And the line "[People] are very good at finding patterns even where none actually exist, especially in things like literature or art, where vague language or suggestive figures abound, and leave enormous room for people to find anything they want to find." is sort of the point. Everyone on NSG reads the same book, and we will each take something different from the text. It isn't always about finding the empirical truth, no matter how much you wish that was the only way the world worked.

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:29 am

New Korongo wrote:The bible but not the Great Hymn to the Aten or the Akilathirattu Ammanai or the Arul Nool or the Kitáb-i-Aqdas or the Bon Kangyur or the Vinaya Pitaka or the Sutta Pitaka or the Abhidhamma Pitaka or the Tripiṭaka or the Shingon or the Donghak or the Gospel of Marcion or the Deuterocanonical books or the Five Classics or the Four Books or the Thirteen Classics or the Principia Discordia or the Rasa'il al-hikmah or the Pyramid Texts or the Coffin Texts or the Book of the Dead or the Book of Caverns or the Book of Gates or the Amduat or theBook of the Heavenly Cow or the Litany of Re or the Cippus Perusinus or the Liber Linteus or the Pyrgi Tablets or the Tabula Cortonensis or the Hermetica or the Śruti or the Smriti or the Tantras or the Stotras or the Ashtavakra Gita or the Gherand Samhita or the Gita Govinda or the Hatha Yoga or the Pradipika or the Yoga Vasistha or the Qur'an or the Svetambara or the Digambara or the Tattvartha Sutra or the Tanakh or the Talmud or the Satanic Bible or the Siddhanta Shikhamani or the Evangelion or the Orphic Poems or the Samaritan Torah or the Spirits Book and many many more.

Is that an agreement, or did you mis-punctuate?

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Postby Farnhamia » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:34 am

The Cat-Tribe wrote:
New Korongo wrote:The bible but not the Great Hymn to the Aten or the Akilathirattu Ammanai or the Arul Nool or the Kitáb-i-Aqdas or the Bon Kangyur or the Vinaya Pitaka or the Sutta Pitaka or the Abhidhamma Pitaka or the Tripiṭaka or the Shingon or the Donghak or the Gospel of Marcion or the Deuterocanonical books or the Five Classics or the Four Books or the Thirteen Classics or the Principia Discordia or the Rasa'il al-hikmah or the Pyramid Texts or the Coffin Texts or the Book of the Dead or the Book of Caverns or the Book of Gates or the Amduat or theBook of the Heavenly Cow or the Litany of Re or the Cippus Perusinus or the Liber Linteus or the Pyrgi Tablets or the Tabula Cortonensis or the Hermetica or the Śruti or the Smriti or the Tantras or the Stotras or the Ashtavakra Gita or the Gherand Samhita or the Gita Govinda or the Hatha Yoga or the Pradipika or the Yoga Vasistha or the Qur'an or the Svetambara or the Digambara or the Tattvartha Sutra or the Tanakh or the Talmud or the Satanic Bible or the Siddhanta Shikhamani or the Evangelion or the Orphic Poems or the Samaritan Torah or the Spirits Book and many many more.


I'll admit to not being familiar or only very passingly familiar with many of the names you drop. (Although I could drop names you didn't: such as the Popul Vu -- which I have read).

But the "point" you make is largely silly. Perhaps one or more of the works you list is "better" literature than the Bible (an always dubious and largely subjective question), but in the United States (or Western World) the Bible's influence on other literature is pretty undeniably greater.

:blink: "The cippus is assumed to be a text dedicating a legal contract between the Etruscan families of Velthina (from Perugia) and Afuna (from Chiusi), regarding the sharing or use of a property upon which there was a tomb belonging to the noble Velthinas." C-T, your legal self may disagree but I don't see the point of teaching a real estate contract as literature. The Tabula Cortonensis appears to be the notarized record of the division by inheritance or sale of some Tuscan real estate, including a vineyard near Lake Trasimeno, around 200 BC. If only our knowledge of Etruscan were better.

You would do better, Korongo, if you actually checked on what the ancient texts are, whose names you just strung together. For all we know, the Book of the Heavenly Cow is a text on dairy farming.
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EvilDarkMagicians
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Postby EvilDarkMagicians » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:44 am

We hardly mentioned the bible in our high school religious education lessons, let alone english lessons.

I think my education was fine without it.

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:47 am

The Cat-Tribe wrote:Note: As is often the case I have only skimmed the thread and read parts of it and am downloading a dump of dubiously relevant information and responding directly to the OP. I apologize if this is repetitive or fails to address points raised in the thread already.

Sarkhaan wrote:So recently, I saw a list of books centered around the question "What should college students be reading". I expressed shock that only the story of Job had made the list, and commented that the entire book should be read.

Someone jumped on me for suggesting that the Bible should be studied in schools, claiming it was blatant indoctrination, and that, if the Bible were to be taught in public schools, teachers should be required to explore the negatives created by the religions based around that document.

My response was along the lines of "I merely stated that college students should be reading the Bible. Up until now, I never suggested it should be taught in public schools. However, I will make such a claim now. The Bible should be required reading in high school".

This sparked a brief discussion that was, sadly, rapidly abandoned by the other party...but it has still been on my mind. So I bring it you NSG (yes, I know we have had occasional discussions about teaching religion, and even tangential conversations about the Bible in English classrooms, but I can't recall a topic expressly looking into the issue).

My stance is this:

The Bible in its various translations has historically, and is currently, one of, if not the most widely read books in the English language. As such, it is also one of the most frequently alluded to texts. Biblical names, themes, and stories are frequently hinted at, modified, or blatantly used in literature. An understanding of the text alluded to results in a deeper understanding of the text being read.

Take, for example, the opening line of Moby-Dick: "Call me Ishmael". Powerful line...it instantly calls into question the authority of the narrator...is his name really Ishmael, or is that just what he wants us to call him? But there is more meaning there. Ishmael was Abraham's oldest son. Abraham expelled Ishmael after God told him that Issac would be the start of the Jewish nation. God also promised to make Ishmael a nation (he is the father of the Arab nation by Biblical tradition).

What information do we gain from understanding the Biblical allusion? Now, we know that not only is the narrator potentially untrustworthy, but he has taken on the name of the rejected son, graced by God, but rejected by man. This plays into the rest of the novel.

This is only one example. We find Biblical names and stories throughout literature: Ahab in Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost retelling the story of Adam and Eve, East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath referencing Biblical themes in their titles, "God's Favorite" retelling the story of Job, The Chronicles of Narnia being a Biblical allegory, Simon in Lord of the Flies relating to Jesus, the title Absalom, Absalom! and "Salome", and countless references to "The Prodigal Son", "Adam and Eve", "Creation", "Revelation", and "Sermon on the Mount"...the list could go on. And those are only some of the literary references, not delving into art and film.

It is clear that The Bible forms one of the basic texts of the English canon.

What I propose is that it is taught as literature: looked at in the same way we would study Greco-Roman, Norse, and Eastern mythology. Not read to judge, not read for religious indoctrination, and not read to attack the religions that follow the text. Read from a critical literary standpoint as we would any other text facing us as a class. Strip away the cultural noise and look at what the text actually says. Understand the issues facing us, as English readers, in the fact that we are reading a translation (and sometimes a translation of a translation). We do not have to investigate the evils done by Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, same as we don't have to study the evils perpetrated by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Vikings, Chinese, Koreans, or anyone else's myths we read. It simply is not relevant.

There is no reason to study the religions that follow the text in an English classroom: It simply is not relevant. It is also not necessary to bring in other religious texts like the Koran, Talmud, or Satanic Bible, as these texts simply have not had the impact that the Bible has had upon English literature.


TL:DR, start here.
The Bible should be taught in the English classroom because it is an important text. It can provide new ways to explore literature. It should be handled in the same respectful way all texts are, and students should be free to interpret the text in their own way. This should go without saying, as that is how ALL literature should be taught. Simply put, the Bible is kinda important to the English canon, and we are not serving our students by pretending it is something that is somehow "off limits" within the classroom.


1. As I'll explain further below, I have no problem with a version of the Bible (or parts thereof) being taught as literature, especially at the college level.

2. I think it a bit silly to say it must be or should be taught in its entirety or in large portions. Some of it is arguably of significant literary interest or symbolic importance to other literature. Much of it is barely readable and/or largely irrelevant (as literature).
I'd agree here.

3. Those sugggesting the Bible should be taught as history have got to be kidding me. Teaching about the influence of the Bible on history isn't straightforward or non-controversial. For good or bad, many things (such as U.S. law) are attributed to "the Bible" without much foundation for that attribution. More critically, historical events that may have been influenced by the Bible include both "good" and "bad" things. The concern should not just be both that the Bible's influence on history is not sugar-coated AND not be overly villified.
I'd agree here again...but with one addition: unless the Bible's influence over historical events is actually relevant to the text, it shouldn't be covered. If it needs to be presented, then yes...don't sugar-coat, and don't vilify.

Some other considerations (less relevant to teaching the Bible or portions thereof as literature in college than in other schools):

A. There is no single Bible. There is the Jewish Bible (the Hebrew scriptures or Tanakh), and various Christian Bibles –- such as Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox –- some with additional books, arranged in a different order. These differences are significant. For example, Judaism does not include the Christian New Testament in its Bible, and the Catholic Old Testament has 46 books while the Protestant has 39. There are also various English translations within each of these traditions. To adopt any particular Bible – or translation – is likely to suggest to students that it is normative, the best Bible.
This is true...interestingly, when I was in a humanities class and we were reading the Bible as literature, I remember my Jewish dad being almost upset that we were reading "The Bible" (explicitly the King James version), while ignoring the Tanakh.

My stance would be this: The Protestant Bible tends to be more universal within English literature, as it was the one initially translated and has had more impact. Now, as for specific translation, I prefer that multiple versions are used, so as to allow for examination of the translation itself.

Failing that, I would make the argument that the King James version is one of the more accurate and artistically beautiful versions written, and that would be my choice for a single-version classroom. One could, of course, argue against this choice, but in the end, it is my classroom. I would preface the section with something along the lines of what you posted: There are many versions of the Bible used by various religions.I don't contend that this version is the correct one, nor do I contend that it is incorrect. It is, however, the one that we are using for myriad reasons. I'm not making judgment calls.

B. Just as separation of Church and State protects both believers and nonbelievers, teaching about or by using the Bible in public school should concern both those who believe it is Holy Scripture and those that don't. For example, for those that believe the Bible is authored or inspired by God and/or is holy scripture, teaching the Bible as literature may be offensive. (I, in fact, had an English class at a putatively Christian college where several students objected to the professor's attempt to teach the Book of Job as literature.)
I've never understood why investigating the Bible as literature should be offensive. Literature can be non-fiction. I think it comes from a misunderstanding of what the word "literature" means. Of course, as I said, teaching it in public schools must be done carefully.
C. There is nothing inherently wrong with teaching about the Bible in public schools in the proper context, but the subject must be approached carefully. The ACLU explains in
Statement on The Bible in Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide , ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief,
April 2007:
[spoiler]Some schools, boards of education, and state legislatures have considered introducing courses on the Bible in public schools. In order to provide guidance on how this might be done consistently with constitutional values and requirements, a joint statement entitled The Bible in Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide [20p pdf] was prepared in 1999. The document was endorsed by a range of religion-based groups, including:
•National Association of Evangelicals
•Christian Legal Society
•Christian Educators Association International
•Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs
•Council on Islamic Education
•National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
•American Jewish Committee
•American Jewish Congress

Other endorsers, which do not promote a particular religious point of view, represent both educational and civil liberties perspectives, including:
•People for the American Way Foundation
•National Education Association
•National School Boards Association
•American Federation of Teachers
•National Association of Secondary School Principals
.
Although the ACLU does not endorse all of the recommendations included in the document (in part because some pertain to issues on which the organization takes no position, such as which courses ought to be included in a public school curriculum), the document provides a great deal of sound guidance that, if implemented openly and conscientiously, is constitutional and will help protect schools against liability.

Those seeking to introduce Bible courses in public schools should particularly take into account the following three key principles that emerge from The Bible in Public Schools:

First, while it is constitutional for public schools to teach children about religion, it is unconstitutional to use public schools to advance particular religious beliefs. Among the important statements made in the guidelines are:
"The school's approach to religion is academic, not devotional."

"The school may strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any religion."

"The school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion."

"The school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion." (all p. 8 )

Unfortunately, some people promote "Bible education" as a disguised way of advancing their particular religious beliefs in public schools. One way for public schools to avoid being used to promote particular religious beliefs is to offer courses that teach about a broad range of the world's religions rather than courses that focus on a single religious text. While this approach is not constitutionally required, it certainly can help alleviate legitimate concerns about there being a hidden agenda to promote a particular religious tradition.
Thank you for that link. It's one of the reasons I got very happy when I saw that you had posted.
Second, the structure of the specific course curriculum, including the choice of textbooks, supporting materials, and teacher outlines, should be developed with a conscientious effort to avoid advancing particular religious beliefs.

"The Bible may be used as a primary text, although it probably should not be the only text for a course. Schools should avoid the use of instructional materials and lessons that are of a devotional nature, such as those used in Sunday school." (p. 7)

If public schools decide to teach about the Bible, the curriculum should be scrupulous in not showing favoritism for one version or religious interpretation of the Bible over another, whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or other.

Third, if public schools decide to offer religion or Bible courses, teachers should possess the relevant academic training and should teach the course as a proper academic subject. The teacher's educational background should not be limited to that of a particular religious tradition, but should include serious academic study of the Bible.
"When selecting teachers to teach Bible electives, school districts should look for teachers who have some background in the academic study of religion. Unless they have already received academic preparation, teachers selected to teach a course about the Bible should receive substantive in-service training from qualified scholars before being permitted to teach such courses." (p. 9)

While teachers are completely free to have deeply felt religious beliefs, it is not appropriate for them to use the classroom to advocate their religious beliefs to public school children.
Agreed.
*snip because of format issues that I don't feel like fixing*

I'll pick through all of this.
Last edited by Sarkhaan on Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:50 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Sarkhaan
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Postby Sarkhaan » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:55 am

EvilDarkMagicians wrote:We hardly mentioned the bible in our high school religious education lessons, let alone english lessons.

I think my education was fine without it.

It might have been fine without it. I'm not saying we can't educate students in literature without it.

What I am saying is that we can better educate students in literature with it. The Bible can provide depth to the text, and a new way in which a student might relate to it.

For example, many of my papers focused on Biblical themes and the implications of the work. Without knowledge of the Bible, I'd have lacked this understanding.

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Angleter
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Postby Angleter » Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:57 am

Absolutely. The Old Testament is basically the traditional history of the Jews and offers an insight into the ancient Middle East, the New Testament explains the beginnings of Christianity, and as a whole it can be used for theological, philosophical and critical discussion.

EvilDarkMagicians wrote:We hardly mentioned the bible in our high school religious education lessons, let alone english lessons.

I think my education was fine without it.


I take it you did RS to Year 9 only? Because half of the GCSE is on one of the Gospels, and the OT and another Gospel feature at A-level.
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New Korongo
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Postby New Korongo » Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:34 pm

Science is a series of proven theories and theoretical theories, the most rational one is the most accepted, if we count the some writings in the bible as theories they are NOT the most rational and therefore widely accepted as wrong by scientists.

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The Norwegian Blue
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Postby The Norwegian Blue » Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:51 pm

New Korongo wrote:Science is a series of proven theories and theoretical theories, the most rational one is the most accepted, if we count the some writings in the bible as theories they are NOT the most rational and therefore widely accepted as wrong by scientists.



...you know, I always thought it was pretty bad when people posted in threads where they clearly hadn't read the OP, but it's a whole new kind of bad when people post in threads without so much as reading the title.

Here, let me repeat it for you:

"The Bible as Literature in Schools."

Now, would you like to try that again?
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