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.
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
an urban legend about the sun standing still in accordance with 2
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
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
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."