The Bible in History & Literature
   Produced by the National Council on Biblical Curriculum in Public Schools











 An Analysis of the Textbook: by Bruce Gourley (Part 4 of 4)

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Part 4: Defending the Bible or Denigrating the Bible?
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"The curriculum for the program shows a concern to convey the content of the Bible as compared to literature and history. The program is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students. The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education." (From the NCBCPS website, describing the textbook curriculum.)

The above claim clearly states that the purpose of the The Bible in History and Literature is to teach the Bible as "literature and history," not that of "indoctrination." 

How does the textbook meet these self-appointed standards?  Does it treat the Bible more accurately than it treats America's religious history?

Turning to archeology as a way of proving the Bible's historicity, the textbook hinges on the work of "respected scholar" Dr. J. O. Kinnaman who claims that "of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts found by the archaeologists, not one has ever been discovered that contradicts or denies one word, phrase, clause or sentence of the Bible, but always confirms and verifies the facts of the Biblical record."

First of all, words, phrases, clauses and sentences of the Bible vary from translation to translation, and no English translation accurately represents all the nuances of the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages of the Bible.  Thus, Kinnaman's claims concerning 100% archeological evidence of 100% proof of the exact words, phrases, clauses and sentences of the Biblical text is simply false.  The only way Kinnaman's claim could possibly be true would be if the original biblical texts existed (they do not), or in the absence of the original texts, if one specific original language document or modern translation (of the hundreds now in existence) could accurately be considered "the Bible" (hence meaning that all other original language documents or modern translations -- in light of their exact words, phrases, clauses and sentences differing from the one true text -- were all false Bibles).

Thus, a  followup question:  if textual biblical precision is a necessity, does The Bible in History and Literature teach that one particular translation is the true Bible, and all others are false Bibles?  Not exactly.  The textbook website states, “This curriculum has been prepared using the King James Bible, because of its historic use as the legal and educational foundation of America; but school districts are free to use whichever translation they choose, or they may allow each student to use the translation of his or her choice. Sometimes the students can benefit from comparing translations in and out of class.”  It appears evident that the authors believe the King James Bible (1611 version?) is the best Bible, but do not consider other translations, which frequently differ in actual words, clauses, phrases and sentences, as false Bibles.

Considering Kinnaman's claim about the correlation between archaeology findings and precise textual accuracy, could his broader argument (i.e., that archeology in general has never disputed the historical truthfulness of the Bible) be true?  The answer is that no truly "respected" archaeologist would make such a claim, especially considering that some Old Testament passages offer differing numerical accounts of the same event.  If one wants to read what "respected" Biblical archaeologists have to say, one could start with, for example, the Biblical Archeology Review.

So where does that leave Kinnaman?  For that matter, who is Kinnaman, this man upon which the textbook leans heavily to prove the historical truthfulness of the Bible?  He actually is a little known archaeologist who is the author of Diggers for Facts: The Bible in Light of Archaeology.  In his book, Kinnaman makes the following claims, as summarized in the August 23, 2005 edition of Christian Century: "Jesus and Paul visited Great Britain, that Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ uncle and dominated the tin industry of Wales, and suggested that he himself had personally seen Jesus’ school records in India. According to an article by Stephen Mehler, director of research at the Kinnaman Foundation, Kinnaman reported finding a secret entrance into the Great Pyramid of Giza, in which he discovered records from the lost continent of Atlantis. He also claimed that the pyramid was 35,000 years old and was used in antiquity to transmit radio messages to the Grand Canyon." ("The Bible in the Classroom: Lesson Plans," by Mark A. Chancey, pages 18-20).

Is Kinnaman the best historical defense of the Bible that the publishers of The Bible in History and Literature could muster? 

But there is more ... much more, of which only a little will suffice for our purposes.  The textbook erroneously claims, for example, that the Dead Sea Scrolls make reference to the New Testament and Jesus.  It also claims that the Old Testament writers had a 21st century understanding of weather patterns and global water systems.  In addition, the textbook presents as truth an urban legend about the sun standing still in accordance with 2 Kings 20:8-11. 

Is the textbook defending the Bible, as the authors claim, or refashioning the Bible in order to make it conform to the factually erroneous, personal beliefs of the textbook authors?

In conclusion, the textbook The Bible in History and Literature might well have some redeeming value, but in totality it is so riddled with myths and inaccuracies that it makes a mockery of both Christianity and truth.  The publisher, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, does not list how many public school districts are using their text, but does claim that the curriculum is in use in over 1000 schools in over 300 districts in 36 states.  American parents, Christian or otherwise, would do well to make certain that the myths and lies of The Bible in History and Literature are not being taught in their own public school system.

For a more in-depth analysis of the curriculum (including an extensive listing of factual errors, plagiarized passages, and shoddy research), read Dr. Mark Chancey's (Southern Methodist University) critique. Also, the Society of Biblical Literature offers a good, detailed analysis of how the curriculum mishandles the biblical text.

Notes:  On September 22, The National Council on Biblical Curriculum in Public Schools released a revised version of the curriculum that corrected many of the specific errors that Dr. Chancey pointed out in his essay linked above.  Spokespersons for the Council refused to admit that the corrected errors had been errors, or that Chancey's criticisms had any validity.  Instead, they called Chancey and the Texas Freedom Network (the organization which published Chancey's piece) "anti-religious extremists," and simply noted that "The best Bible curriculum in the country has just gotten better."

Also see the University of Texas El Paso's "Texas Bible Literacy Course."

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