Kentucky’s new law requiring the state school board to establish a Bible literacy elective course has given the state the spotlight. As a retired public school teacher, I feel compelled to offer advice on the curriculum.
The immediate concern is which Bible to use. I may be going out on a limb here, but I bet that the pulpit-pounders in Booger Branch are a little rusty on their Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic so an English translation will be necessary. There are nearly 1,000 translations, so a prospectus seems in order.
First up, the good old King James version of 1611. I have friends who refuse to accept anything that is not in the King James. An educator in Texas campaigning against bilingualism in public schools famously proclaimed, “if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.”
From a literary perspective, the KJV does indeed have wonderful passages of lofty and soul-inspiring prose. Consider this from Song of Solomon: “This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples.”
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If that does not improve student attendance, I don’t know what will.
On the downside, King James was a raving homosexual. Sir Walter Raleigh joked about it, saying “King Elizabeth” had been succeeded by “Queen James.”
His favorite lover was the Duke of Buckingham. Anyone who doubts this needs to read “King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire” by David Bergeron. James’ tomb lies beside that of Buckingham in Westminster Abbey.
Do we really want a literary work commissioned by a homosexual indoctrinating our kids in their formative years?
Next up, the New King James, or KJV lite. I guess they saved money by not printing all the weird suffixes: “eth”, “est,” etc. The lofty language is lost so probably not a crowd favorite.
The Revised Standard Version was published in the mid-20th century and was supplanted by the New Revised Standard Version. The revulsion of the Baptists and many other groups was based on the translation of Isaiah 7:14 that replaced “virgin” with “young woman.”
Some churches bought copies of the RSV to have a book burning because it was the work of the devil. Somehow, I doubt this one will get by censors on the school boards.
Some people have lobbied to make the Bible more accessible by producing “ecumenical” Bibles to bridge the differences between denominations to focus on the central messages of the Bible. Unsurprisingly, the proponents of the KJV will have nothing to do with these Bibles.
Even before 1611, people who provided a new English translation of the Bible were persecuted. William Tyndale, who wrote the first English translation from the Greek and Hebrew texts in the 1530’s, was strangled for heresy.
John Wycliffe produced an English Bible in the 14th century that was so hated that his remains were disinterred and removed from sacred ground and his works destroyed.
The Geneva Bible that appeared 51 years before KJV was the Bible used by William Shakespeare. There is a conspiracy theory that Shakespeare worked on the KJV as evidenced by the following oddity: In the KJV, turn to Psalm 46, count in 46 words to the word “shake,” and then count 46 words from the end to the word “spear.”
So there are the candidates, but do not be fooled into thinking the goal of the legislature and Gov. Matt Bevin, who signed the bill, was to study the Bible as literature. Their intent is to blur the separation between church and state.
I have a less duplicitous way to make kids pray in school. Show them a word problem in algebra.
Roger Guffey of Lexington is a math professor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.