shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#72 - Teaching Bible history in a homeschool setting
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
I was recently told about your web site by a friend and appreciate your efforts and insights. I would love for you to help me with few questions. I am a student of Christian Science and a homeschool parent of two boys, ages 15 and 12.
We are using a literature-based approach to history and hope to read through the Bible as we study World History. We have lots of reference/history books and quite a few translations of the Bible including Today's English Version (if that's the Good News Bible). Is it? We don't have the NRSV.
One of our homeschool catalogs suggested using The Narrated Bible, as it's arranged chronologically, so it can be read as a continuous historical story. It's a NIV translation. What do you think of that translation?
We do have another book, What the Bible is All about - Resources, with maps, charts, timelines, etc., and they give the books of the Bible in their correct place on the timeline. After checking your thoughts on translations, I decided it might be better just to use the TEV, following the timelines rather than use The Narrated Bible.
Any thoughts on this? Any suggestions?
We'd appreciate any input you may have for our study.
Your questions are good. They reflect integrity and attention to detail.
You wrote: "We are using a literature based approach to history and hope to read through the Bible as we study World History. We have lots of reference/history books and quite a few translations of the Bible including Today's English Version (if that's the Good News Bible). Is it? We don't have the NRSV.
RNC Response: Yes, the Today's English Version is simply another name for the Good News Bible. One advantage of using the TEV along with the NRSV is that they both are based upon the same definitive Hebrew and Greek texts that are edited by the United Bible Societies (UBS). The UBS texts represent the broadest based, most thorough, and most objective biblical scholarship, and the texts are the most reliable that are published anywhere.
As mentioned in the introduction to the weekly "Bible Lesson Study Aid" at http://www.bibletexts.com/bt-tw-ps.htm, "Wherever there are substantial differences between the wording of the KJV and the NRSV, the NRSV should be considered as more accurately representing the wording of the original texts. Of the three English language Bible versions used [by the "Bible Lesson Study Aid"]..., the NRSV gives the best word-for-word representation of the wording of original texts, and the TEV gives the best phrase-by-phrase representation of the originally intended meaning of original texts."
Even though the translators of the TEV and NRSV used the same ancient texts, the translators of each sometimes override the UBS editor's conclusions as to what ancient manuscript variants actually represented the original texts. (Tov's and Metzger's textual commentaries of the Old and New Testaments, respectively, are excellent resources for understanding the differences in conclusions regarding what were the original texts.) By using both the TEV and NRSV translations, you get the best of both worlds.
To read for understanding, you can't beat the TEV. Though easy to read, the scholarship behind it is impeccable, and I believe that it presents the originally intended message more clearly to modern readers than any other translation. For a word for word analysis, the NRSV is better, but when translating any document into another language, word for word translations often fail to convey the intended meaning. (I actually prefer the New American Bible over the NRSV, due to its excellent translation while maintaining much of the preferred wording of the KJV that is used in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.)
To study biblical history while using the Bible as the literary foundation requires the kind of attention to detail that you are showing.
You wrote: "One of our homeschool catalogs suggested using The Narrated Bible, as it's arranged chronologically, so it can be read as a continuous historical story."
RNC response: Chronologies of Bible history and of the Bible's texts differ greatly. They most noticeably vary according to the theological and scholarly basis of the editorial opinions represented by each particular chronology. Chronologies done by fundamentalist tend to be quite different from those whose methods are less theologically tainted. Purely fundamentalist publishers of biblical resources are quite consistent in allowing in their books only a fundamentalist view of events, their chronology, and their meaning. The books of many other publishers represent an on-going dialog among scholars who articulate their own honest conclusions. Honest scholars differ in their conclusions, but I find that the honesty itself is often inspiring and insightful, even when I differ with various scholars' conclusions.
I would recommend that you examine and compare several different chronologies. Two of the many chronologies that are worth considering are found in the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, pages 180-183, and in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, pages 116-121. As Bo Reicke in the Oxford book comments:
Since the New Testament books do not indicate when they were composed, their literary origin can be dated only approximately by such historical events as those mentioned above. Without this support all scholarly theories on the age of New Testament writings are speculative, and one should not accept any general tendency or common opinion as established truth. (page 121)
This begs the question not only of the date of the particular book of the Bible but also the author itself. For instance, many honest and reverent scholars today have concluded that many of the books traditionally believed to have been written by Paul actually were written by later writers in Paul's name. The only books that are virtually uncontested as Paul's authentic writings are the following: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. These were actually the earliest writings contained in the New Testament. As virtually primary sources of informatino, their chronologies and construction of events should be given more weight than even the Book of Acts, which was written anywhere between 14 and 40 years after Paul's authentic writings.
You asked, referring to the NIV, "What do you think of that translation?"
RNC response: I believe you have read my evaluation of the NIV at http://www.bibletexts.com/reviews/index.htm, which concludes:
The NIV is quite compatible with wording in the KJV and generally has a much more accurate Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek textual foundation than the KJV; however, it does have a decidedly fundamentalist slant in some of its translation and sometimes in its selection of the Greek readings. For this reason, the NIV does not hold very high standing with the several world-renown, leading biblical authorities with whom I have spoken, but the NIV does remain the most-sold English language Bible version in print today.
You wrote: "We do have another book, What the Bible is All about - Resources, with maps, charts, timelines, etc. and they give the books of the Bible in their correct place on the timeline. After checking your thoughts on translations, I decided it might be better just to use the TEV, following the timelines rather than use The Narrated Bible."
RNC response: You referred to Christian Science, the founder of which was Mary Baker Eddy. As illustrated by some reaction to Robert Peel's biographies of Mrs.Eddy, the articulation of honest findings is not always very comfortable to those who prefer simply to accept traditional views that justify or at least reassure their already-held opinions. Those who seek to be led by the most honest representation of the facts and who are not beholden to popular opinions find such intellectual honesty to be exhilarating and their conclusions to be more genuine and inspiring. (For an example of where traditional views that have been enslaving, and of where a more honest and thorough examination of the texts has been liberating, you are welcome to explore the webpage articles on the roles of women in the early church, as found at http://www.bibletexts.com/women.htm.)
Mrs. Eddy herself wrote (S&H 24:4):
Acquaintance with the original texts, and willingness to give up human beliefs (established by hierarchies, and instigated sometimes by the worst passions of men), open the way for Christian Science to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out.
Mr. Peel wrote in his Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (page xi):
I have tried at every step to convey the true proportions and suggest the inner dimensions of a life story which, in both its public and its private aspects, has been misrepresented so often by sanctified legend and scandalous fable.
There also are 'sanctified legends' about the Bible that are perpetuated by some Christians of all denominations, and there are 'scandalous fables' about the Bible that are perpetuated by some opponents of Christianity. Giving up those 'sanctified legends and scandalous fables' "open the way for Christian Science to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out."
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer