Friday, November 8, 2013
Should children be reading the Bible?
A quick history.
Martin Luther was very keen to give the Bible to the people, he thought that anyone could read it and understand it and that the Bible didn't require interpretation. The Catholic church on the other hand has always stressed that truth lies in both scripture and tradition. Tradition being those truths (such as the Nicene Creed) passed on by the Church, via the apostles and the bishops through the centuries.
Bible scholarship wasn't encouraged amongst Catholics until 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. It was after Vatican II (and its constitution on divine revelation Dei Verbum) that Catholic school children started to be given copies of the Bible. Before the council most Catholic schools used books like Schuster's Bible History. These books gave you the story of the Bible without the exact words. They also cut short some of the boring bits (like Leviticus) and left out the x-rated scenes.
It seems to me that although school children now have copies of the Bible they tend to use them like a dictionary or encyclopedia i e. they look up passages but don't follow the stories in any particular order. Children might study Noah's ark, or the Good Samaritan, but if you asked them whether Moses comes after Noah or before, or during what part of Jesus' ministry does he tell the story of the Good Samaritan, they wouldn't know. Part of the problem is that the Bible isn't an easy read, another issue is the structure of the curriculum itself.
When I look at the text books used in Catholic schools in Sydney I want to tear out the chapters and rearrange them in a sensible order. The books are based around the liturgical calendar. Because the school year begins in February we start the year with Jesus' death and end with him being born. Everything else is slotted in between the chapters on Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas. This means that the story of Moses as a baby is studied in Kindergarten and Moses and the exodus in Year Two.
The effect of all this jumping around is that the great heroes and stories of the Bible are lost and children are left confused. I would have preferred for my children to have worked through something like the Lion's Children Bible from start to finish (maybe over 3 or 4 school years) or perhaps have studied a single Gospel during a school year using the actual text.