Teens Need To Understand The Bible Formed Our Culture – Hope 103.2

Teens Need To Understand The Bible Formed Our Culture

By Anne RinaudoWednesday 9 May 2018Open House with Stephen O'Doherty

Listen: Greg Clark in conversation with Dwayne Jeffries

Bible Society Australia fears Australian children are in danger of becoming as Bible-illiterate as those in the UK, where 25% of children aged 8 to 15 think the Golden Goose is part of the Easter story! Bible Society Australia CEO, Greg Clarke says, “If you don’t grow up with an education that includes the Bible, you are missing out on the very thing that has shaped so much of the culture you enjoy.”

The Bible has become an ‘Invisible Book”

The Bible for many young people has,unfortunately, become what Bible Society in Australia CEO, Greg Clarke, describes as an ‘Invisible Book’. Thankfully, The Bible Society has plans to engage with students and remind Aussie school kids that the Bible is far from a dead book – and in fact has influenced many of the books read today in schools.

Bible Society Australia has launched The Invisible Book – a user-generated video content series to help bring the Bible back to Australia’s youth. The Invisible Book is designed to show Australia’s youth there’s a book behind the books they’re studying at school – a book they may not be familiar with, called the Bible.

The Bible inspires many writers

Many writers “borrow” from the Bible, and there are countless books that simply can’t be understood without it. From the early days of storytelling in the West, from Beowulf to The Canterbury Tales, authors have drawn inspiration from the Bible. Even today, brilliant Australian authors like Tim Winton and poets like Les Murray all tap into it. The Bible is a bestseller and probably the most famous book ever written. In particular, the Bible has shaped the works of the world’s most famous playwright. Behind William Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays, there sits the Bible.

Shakespeare and the Bible

The Invisible Book initiative shows the undeniable influence that the Bible has had on the great books of Western culture – starting with six of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. A dedicated website for the Invisible Book project invites high school students to consider the links between six of Shakespeare’s plays and the Bible.

Each of the six plays, Macbeth, Othello, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Richard the Third and Hamlet have a fact sheet explaining the play and characters. It gives information on the historical context of the plays and how the themes, quotes and other elements link to to Bible. For instance, Hamlet finds himself trapped in the cycle of death and revenge, mirroring the concept of ‘original sin’ and the biblical story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16).

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Biblical links in Macbeth and Othello

The biblical story of Christ’s death and resurrection is found in many of Shakespeare’s plays, and in Macbeth, Duncan plays the role of Jesus – the rightful and fair King. When Duncan is first killed, Lady Macbeth echoes the words of Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:24) when she says,“A little water clears us of this deed: How easy is it then!”

Iago from ‘Othello’ is a fascinating and complex character who gains immense pleasure from messing with the lives of those around him. His famous line  ‘I am not what I am’ is an inversion of an even more famous line in the Bible where God says, ‘I am what I am’ (Exodus 3:14), implying his fullness and majesty. So, when Iago flips this around he is revealing his immoral and empty character. 

Once Othello kills Desdemona, he is compared to Judas (Luke 22) ‘ like the base Judean, threw away a pearl richer than all his tribe’. During the events leading to Jesus Christ’s murder, Judas kisses him to identify him to his killers (Luke 22: 47-48). Othello likewise says, ‘I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee’.

Prospero’s Epilogue and the Sermon on the Mount

In ‘The Tempest’, Prospero’s epilogue echoes the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Within the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus prayed, ‘Forgive us as we forgive others’ and commanded his followers not to judge one another. Similarly, Prospero’s epilogue reads, ‘Mercy itself frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardon’d be. Let your indulgence set me free.’

Prospero is determined to be God of the island, controlling everything! Some critics believe Shakespeare was warning against the destructive nature of this behaviour. “The Lord will send a tempest of hail, a destroying storm” (Isaiah 28:2). Prospero seems to represent Adam. Adam is given great power over the earth to tame beasts and educate humanity. However, he misuses this authority and wreaks devastation. Through this, Shakespeare’s biblical worldview can be clearly seen to influence the roles his characters play.

Caesar and Jesus both betrayed

Despite the distinctly pagan world which the play is set in, there are many biblical allusions in Julius Caesar. Talk of Devils, ‘Doomsday’, and Angels would have been comfortable to Shakespeare’s audience. One of Caesar’s closest friends kills him ‘Et Tu Brute?’. Jesus too, was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas, (Luke 22). Caesar is depicted as manipulative. His followers are blinded by the false promises he makes. This mirrors the devil’s role in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:1-15).

Create a short video to win big

Students are then encouraged to tap into their own creativity and produce a short video showing how the Bible shaped Shakespeare’s most famous works. The aim is to inspire a new generation of communicators to share the timeless message of the Bible in the 21st century. To keep it fun, Bible Society Australia is offering, thanks to a partnership with Christian Fellowship Tours, a $32,000 overseas trip for the winning Invisible Book video.

Videos are in the top ten before the competition closes on 30 June 2018, will receive a $100 Visa Gift Card! Fun aside, Bible Society Australia sees this as a crucial task. Not just for the sake of Bible literacy itself, but because it also helps us understand our culture. For information and to sign up, visit www.theinvisiblebook.com.au

The Bible and Western Civilization

If you want to learn more about the Bible and how it has shaped our world today there are many articles and books available. The Bible Society Australia is a good place to start with some thoughts on how the world’s most popular book has shaped some of Australia’s basic social systems like law and education. The UK Bible Society has a great link too. It looks at the Bible in culture and law, in creative arts and the environment. The link has some very helpful information for students studying the great works of English literature.

If you find you need to defend the important role of the Bible in Western history this article from Clear Lens might help. It will help you ‘get your duck’s in a row” as Christian thinker Nick Spencer explained recently on Open House. You might even become a ‘wee flea for Christ” like Open House guest David Robertson.

Human dignity is a Biblical concept

Having a clear understanding of the importance of the Bible will mature your faith and will also will help you have positive discussions about Bible teachings. ‘The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization’ by Indian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi examines the Bible’s influence on almost every aspect of Western civilization. Here is an interview with the author on Bible Gateway.

For instance, the biblical notion of human dignity informs the West’s social structure. The bible also helped the West to foster compassion, human rights, prosperity, and strong families. It even covers the creation of the modern literary notion of a hero and the way that has been shaped by the Bible’s archetypal protagonist.

The Bible is integral to society

Theologian and author, Rev. John Dickson, from the Centre for Public Christianity in this article explains that the Bible helped us get to the science we have today and that Christianity and scientific inquiry are not opposed to each other. The Washington Times is a secular publication that acknowledges in this article that the Bible is an integral part of Western society and culture.  The article notes the inscription on the Liberty Bell is from the Bible, that US Presidents are sworn in using a Bible.

‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the Bible

The newspaper article says “When Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he said, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Those words come directly from the Bible (Amos 5:24). ” The Washington Times continues “Why does the Bible appear in these places? Because it is the central and foundational book of Western culture, including American culture. Everywhere we turn in the cultural past, we find the Bible. We cannot avoid it if we tried, and we will not understand our past without a knowledge of the Bible.”

To listen to our Open House podcast of this story click the red play button at the top of the page, or you can subscribe to Open House podcasts in iTunes and they will appear in your feed.   

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