Resources: Truth and Consequences
March 18, 2008
Read Any Good Books Lately?The Number One Bestseller Is Still the Bible
Note: A federal judge ruled last January (2008) that a southeastern Missouri school district's long-standing practice of allowing the distribution of Bibles to grade school students is unconstitutional. This is the latest salvo by the courts to secularize our society. The misguided notion that the public square and especially the public school must be scrubbed clean of any references to Christianity continues to gain force. There are, however, many educators who would disagree with this conclusion, as the following article, written by a friend, Kim Kinney, demonstrates:
I love to read a good book, but sometimes a good book is hard to find. What a disappointment it is to venture into a new book with high expectations, only to be let down by the content, plot, shallowness, or some other non-redeeming quality. Do you know what the best-selling book of the year is? In fact it is the best-selling book of the year, every year! It's the Bible. The Bible, in fact, is the best-selling book of all time! It is virtually impossible to calculate how many Bibles have been sold in the U.S. One conservative estimate is that in 2005, Americans purchased about 25 million Bibles, twice as many as the most recent Harry Potter book. It is estimated that people spend more than half a billion dollars every year on Bibles.
Research has found that 91% of American households own at least one Bible — the average household owns four. This means Bible publishers manage to sell 25 million copies a year of a book that almost everybody already has.
In Jesus' day, the Scriptures weren't readily available. They were read in the synagogues by a designated leader. Contained within a chest in the back of the synagogue was a Torah scroll, wrapped in fine linen. The Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) had been laboriously hand-copied on lengths of parchment, then stitched together and wrapped around wooden staves (cylindrical rods). It took a substantial effort to study the Scriptures back then.
In contrast, Bibles are available almost everywhere today — and in many different versions to suit our individual reading styles. Yet many of us take this luxury for granted and have become complacent. The Christian pollster, George Barna, researched current biblical literacy. His research revealed that fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and 60% of Christians can't name five of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Eighty-two percent of respondents believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Obviously, not reading God's Word means that as Christians, we are missing out on the incredible blessing of hearing our living God speak to us. But is there a further disadvantage to being biblically illiterate? What about for non-Christians?
In 1986, English professors at U.S. colleges were asked what they wished incoming freshmen had read before entering college. Surprisingly, the most frequently named work was the Bible. In a 2005 study, 98% of American high school English teachers reported that Bible literacy was academically advantageous.
In an effort to explore further, researchers conducted a detailed and thorough study of the relationship between biblical literacy and education. The result is their national report, Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know. They surveyed 39 English professors at 34 top U.S. colleges and universities (chosen from national universities, public universities, liberal arts colleges, and comprehensive colleges). Released June 1, 2006 at an academic symposium, all English professors surveyed (including such schools as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford) agreed that "knowledge of the Bible is a deeply important part of a good education." All agreed that "regardless of a person's faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible." (See addendum on final page.) One professor stated, "it is the most influential text in all of Western culture." All but one of the professors agreed that Western literature is steeped in references to the Bible and that it is important for students who take their English courses to be familiar with the Bible. "Overwhelmingly, professors in this survey indicated that a lack of basic Bible literacy hampers students' ability to understand both classics and contemporary work," said Dr. Marie Wachlin, researcher and author of the Bible Literacy Report II.
In the Bible Literacy Report II, 39 English Professors at top universities around the country were asked: What do you think about the following statement? "Regardless of a person's faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible." As stated earlier, all 39 professors agreed. Below are some of their comments.
- "Absolutely. [Without the Bible] it's like using a dictionary with one-third of the words removed." Dr. George P. Landow, Brown University
- "True. You're simply ignorant of yourself if you don't know the Bible." Dr. Ina Lipkowitz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- "Definitely. Agree." Dr. Robert Kiely, Harvard University
- "Not to have that is almost crippling in students' ability to be sophisticated readers." Dr. Ulrich Knoefplmacher, Princeton University
- "Oh, absolutely. Absolutely." Dr. Thomas P. Roche, Princeton University
- "Incontestable statement." Dr. Ralph Williams, University of Michigan
- "Absolutely necessary. [Bible allusions are] more concentrated and more specific and profound and revisited over and over again; more necessary than classics." Dr. Stuart K. Culver, University of Utah
- "Yes. A no-brainer." Dr. Gordon M. Braden, University of Virginia
- "Every educated person deserves to know the Bible." Dr. Leland Ryken, Wheaton College, IL
Sadly, millions of people search the world for truth. They invest untold dollars, time, and energy in a relentless search for meaning in their lives when the answer to these questions is likely sitting at home on their bookshelf. It's called the Bible. Many never open the cover. Eternal wisdom is at their fingertips, but not realized. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105, NKJV). He expects us to know what it says. Not only is the Bible fascinating to read, it contains practical pieces of wisdom. You won't find another book like it!
The next time you are looking for a good book, pick up the Bible. You'll never find a greater book or one more deserving of your time.
The Bible's Uniqueness
The Bible is unique in countless ways. It has been read by more people in more languages than any other book in human history. In his article, "The Greatest Book Ever Written," Dr. James MacDonald writes that the Bible has been translated, in its entirety, into 400 different languages (and portions into nearly 2500 languages). "The British Foreign Bible Society once reported that it had to publish 32,876 copies of the Bible every day in order to meet the demand. That's more than one copy every three seconds, day and night." Every year, Gideon's International distributes, on average, just more than one million copies of the Bible each week.
The Bible is actually a library of 66 different books, written by 40+ authors over a period of about 1500 years. The Bible contains books of history, poetry, prophecy, personal letters, and more. The authors represent many walks of life (i.e. kings, peasants, shepherds, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, a doctor, a tax collector, etc.) The Bible was written from many different places (i.e. wilderness, quiet hillsides, desert, dungeon, jail, palaces, etc.) at different times (i.e. war, peace) on three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) and in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). The 39 books of the Old Testament were composed between 1400 and 400 B.C. The 27 books of the New Testament were composed between 50 and 100 A.D., a much more narrow time frame.
The books of the Bible were written as manuscripts or letters, without chapters. The Bible was first divided into chapters about 1205 A.D. The Old Testament was divided into verses in 1448 A.D. and the New Testament in 1551 A.D. The entire Bible, divided into chapters and verses, first appeared in published form in the Geneva Bible of 1560.
The Bible is far and away the preeminent book ever published in the history of the world, religious or otherwise. It is unrivaled on all levels. Nothing can compare. Nothing even remotely comes close. The Bible has also had a powerful impact on other writings. Calculating the Bible's influence on other books is a virtually impossible undertaking. More books have been written about the Bible than any other subject and more authors quote the Bible than any other source. It's no wonder that university English professors state, with undeniable certainty, that knowledge of the Bible is necessary for a solid, comprehensive, well-rounded education.
Way beyond all these concrete facts and details about the Bible exists something far greater and more mysterious. Within the pages of the Bible lies something of incomprehensible value and eternal significance: the transforming power of the Holy Spirit of the almighty, living God. Read the Bible. Feel its power. The more you delve into its pages, the more precious it will become to you. Its value is beyond measure.
- As reported by FoxNews, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,321549,00.html, accessed 03/10/2008.
- The fallacy of this is obvious to anyone who understands the significance of worldview thinking. As we have written before, worldview analysis demonstrates the impossibility of separating religious ideas from political and educational concerns. The result of banning Christian principles from education results in not eliminating religious ideas, but replacing biblical assumptions with secular (atheistic) religious assumptions. For more on the actual meaning of the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause, see the following archived Truth and Consequences: December 2005; June & July 2006; and August 2007.
- In fact, one Bible publisher, International Bible Society, has recognized this disconnect, concluding that Bible ownership does not equal Bible engagement. To help readers engage more fully in the Bible, they have published a very unique product called http://www.thebooksofthebible.info">The Books of The Bible (Colorado Springs, CO: International Bible Society, 2007).
- To read this 66-page report, go to: http://www.bibleliteracy.org/bibcdocs/BibleLiteracyReport2006.pdf, accessed 03/10/2008.
- http://www.bibleliteracy.org/site/PressRoom/Press060601/Press060601PressRelease.htm, accessed 03/10/2008.
- In fact, The Books of The Bible project, referenced in footnote no. 3 contains no chapter or verse references in order to allow the beauty of the Scripture to be as prevalent as possible. For more information, go to http://www.thebooksofthebible.info.
The author, Kim Kinney, writes a weekly email newsletter for college students and young professionals. You can visit her website at www.walkontheedge.com.