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« Narcissism Posing as Humility | Main | Where are the witches? »

March 26, 2007

Time Out

Catherine, I read the Time cover story on public school Bible literacy classes, too. I wonder how many readers caught the author's own ....illiteracy? Misinterpretation?

Describing the favorite biblical ignorance case of Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero, David Van Biema writes:

In 1995 a federal appeals court upheld the overturn of a death sentence in a Colorado kidnap-rape-murder case because jurors had inappropriately brought in extraneous material--Bibles--for an unsanctioned discussion of the Exodus verse "an eye for eye, tooth for tooth...whoever...kills a man shall be put to death." The Christian group Focus on the Family complained, "It is a sad day when the Bible is banned from the jury room."

"Who's most at fault here?" Van Biema/Prothero ask. "The jurors, who perhaps hadn't noticed that in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus rejects the eye-for-an-eye rule, word for word, in favor of turning the other cheek? The Focus spokesman, who may well have known of Jesus's repudiation of the old law but chose to ignore it? Or any liberal who didn't know enough to bring it up?"

Or, possibly, none of the above?

Certainly, the jury ought not to have brought a Bible into the jury room and consulted it for determining appropriate punishment instead of going strictly by Colorado law. But Prothero is presumptuous in suggesting that jury members were ignorant of biblical teachings. As a professor of religion, Prothero surely knows another teaching of Jesus in Matthew: "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them....anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus's admonition to "turn the other cheek" is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for rapists and murderers, as Prothero seems to be suggesting (or, at least, suggesting that Christians ought to believe). 

One excellent reason for bringing Bible literacy classes to public schools is that so young people will recognize misinterpretations and flat-out ignorance when they see them in news magazines.

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