When it comes to Biblical knowledge, is it reasonable today to expect some level of general exposure and basic literacy? Even among the well-educated? ◊
I was watching a new television series recently where the main character, a medical director of a large and thriving metropolitan hospital, was asked by a Jewish rabbi patient if he knew the story of Abraham. The doctor said no, he had never heard the story.
I winced a bit at this answer.
Are we so secularized as a society that we can allow otherwise intelligent, albeit fictional, characters to be completely ignorant of key characters in Biblical history? It might have been more believable if the doctor had simply said that he vaguely recalls hearing the story of Abraham long ago and then indulges the rabbi to refresh his memory.
It got worse as I heard the rabbi tell the Old Testament story to the doctor. His explanation of Abraham and the potential sacrifice of his son Isaac was reduced to a morality tale of one getting rewarded for taking big risks.
While all things worked out well, somewhat, for the characters by the end of television episode, it leaves one to question the state of Judeo-Christian knowledge, certainly the understanding of sacred Biblical texts.
But then, what should one expect?
The Goal: Exposure and Basic Literacy
Unfortunately, today it may be too much to expect a majority of educated people to be well-schooled in Biblical history or even conversational about major Biblical characters and dates. But it should be like expecting basic knowledge in American and European history. Like knowing the American Civil War was fought between the North and the South. And not South America. And knowing the correct century of that tragic American war, if not exact years (1861-1865), should not be too much to ask. Even generally knowing the years of World War I (1914-1919) and World War II (1939-1945).
Or knowing basic history of art and literature. Like who, when and where were the art works created like the Statute of David (Michelangelo, 1504, Italy), the painting of Mona Lisa (da Vinci, Italy, 1506)? Or when and where did Plato live (Greece, died 347 B.C.), or Chaucer (England, 1343-1400), or Shakespeare (England, 1564-1616)?
When it comes to Biblical knowledge today, it should be reasonable to expect some level of general exposure and basic literacy. Like we used to get when many children occasionally went to Sunday School or through catechism training.
No, we don’t need seminary scholars, but we should have a society that has basic Biblical literacy.
But Why Study If You Don’t Believe?
Good question. A better question, perhaps harsh, is Why Settle for a Life of Biblical Ignorance? If one chooses to reject Christian faith for whatever reason, at least do so only after a serious personal research project of all things Jesus.
Yes, Jesus. Not religion. Jesus alone. Why? Because all things of spiritual, Biblical and human relevance rise and fall with Jesus, the Christ (no, that wasn’t His last name). And it’s actually tied to Abraham, whose story the TV rabbi only partially told in his answer to the ignorant TV doctor.
Early in the Old Testament, Abraham was deemed right with God due to his mere belief in God and His promises (see Genesis 15:5-6). This was 25 years before the birth of his son, Isaac. After the Isaac near-sacrifice incident, God reiterated his original promise (see Genesis 12:1-3) that Abraham’s multiplied descendants, the Hebrew/Jewish nation, would be the promised line of people through which the entire world, all the nations, would be blessed as saved from God’s punishment. (Genesis 22:18). And the saving vehicle laid out in the New Testament was the death of the perfect “lamb of God” sacrifice, God’s Son, Jesus.
Now if one is an educated person in real life, why wouldn’t this ancient story carefully documented in numerous substantiated texts and studied and cherished for centuries by scribes, historians, scholars, and believers worldwide, lead that one to real fascination and intrigue to personally pursue its validity and truth?
To move through our existence blithely ignoring this quest and issue seems like a focus on the wrong things and an illogical big miss in life.
How much do you really know about all things Jesus?
He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. – Genesis 15:5-6