“Keep your religion out of schools!” we hear, “You’re violating the First Amendment!”
To suggest that the Bible ought to be taught in schools today is to beg for controversy and backlash. The Bible ought to be taught in schools though, not as a religious text, but as a seminal historical piece of literature that has had a massive impact on Western civilization.
To begin with, it is the best-selling book of all time. From its early days, it has played a role in shaping what is known to us as the West by influencing philosophy, language, politics, ethics, and law. Take it out of the historical equation and we are left with an unpatchable hole in our understanding of Western history.
I will use one of these fields to make my primary argument: language, more specifically the English language. Great importance is given to its instruction in our schools, particularly through the works of great authors like Shakespeare, Dickens, and Eliot, yet we take the English for granted and are never taught about how it was shaped into what it is today. If our schools decided to teach that information, it would shock many to realize that the Bible played a major role in that process.
A rather unknown fact is that William Tyndale, the first man to publish the New Testament in English, is often referred to as the ‘architect of the English language’ and ‘the father of English prose,’ solely because of the impact that his translation of Scripture had on the English language as a whole. While Tyndale’s goal was to present the Bible in a language of the masses, many of the words and phrases he coined for his translation have entered common parlance today.
It was Tyndale who coined the word ‘beautiful’ to replace ‘belle,’ as well as the words ‘fisherman,’ ‘seashore,’ ‘modesty,’ ‘peacemaker’,’ and ‘scapegoat.’ As a matter of fact, the Oxford English Dictionary contains a minimum of 1700 words invented by Tyndale, although the actual number could be significantly larger.
His translation is also responsible for many common phrases today, including ‘the powers that be,’ ‘my brother’s keeper,’ ‘salt of the earth,’ ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing,’ and ‘fight the good fight.’ 84% of the later King James Bible, a version that became the bedrock of the English language and education in the following years, is word-for-word Tyndale’s text.
Should we not mandate that such a foundational text, one that was involved in creating the modern English language, be necessary reading for a complete education? Secular thinkers think so. Richard Dawkins wrote a piece for The Guardian titled, ‘Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible’ in which he argued that, while he doesn’t consider the Bible a valuable source of morality, he suggested that he would gladly donate money to ensure that there was a copy of the Bible in every school library because of its literary relevance to Western civilization. Christopher Hitchens even wrote that Western language and culture would’ve been incomplete without the King James Bible, stating that its literary brilliance is unparalleled in all of English literature. Both authors specifically pointed out texts like the books of Job and Ecclesiastes as examples of literary masterpieces. Or as the great literary critic Northrop Frye put it, “The Bible should be taught so early and so thoroughly that it sinks straight to the bottom of the mind, where everything that comes along later can settle on it.”
So, why stop at the Bible and discriminate against other religions? Why not extend this sort of reasoning to the Quran or the Vedas or any other sacred text?
The point is not to present the Bible as the authoritative word of the Almighty in government-funded classrooms. Instead, it is to be presented solely as a valuable document with a rich history and an immense impact on Western society, particularly on a language that is the cornerstone of our civilization.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.