What do the following literary quotes have in common?
- The American businessmen, as a class, have demonstrated the greatest productive genius and the most spectacular achievements ever recorded in the economic history of mankind. What reward did they receive from our culture and its intellectuals? The position of a hated, persecuted minority. The position of a scapegoat for the evils of the bureaucrats. -Ayn Rand
- Every parent is at some time the father of the unreturned prodigal, with nothing to do but keep his house open to hope. – John Ciardi
- I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance, and affection to be art. – Kahlil Gibran
Could you guess that each of the quotation above make some reference or allusion originating from the Bible?
Frequently, one of the categories on the game show Jeopardy will test Bible knowledge. This should not be a surprise to anyone since, as even the creators of Jeopardy know, Bible knowledge is still considered general knowledge. And this category should be a cash cow for all the intelligent contestants the show prides itself on cultivating; should you rather be entertained by a judicious selection of idiots and airheads, you may wish to tune into MTV. Unfortunately, I find that even the cream of North American intellect featured on Jeopardy is woefully illiterate when it comes to the Bible; one of the contestants may dominate the category while the other two stand there blinking like parakeets in a cage.
To say that the Bible is “just a book” is simply ignorant. The Bible is not “just a book” even if you don’t believe a word of it or hate it altogether. Consider the following quote:
- Not to know the Bible is, in some ways, to be illiterate, to neglect the very roots of philosophy, art, literature, poetry and music.
This comes from American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges who, as you know, is not at all sympathetic to my worldview. Having read all his books I’m still not sure if Hedges even believes in God at all despite (or maybe because of) his Harvard Divinity degree. Nevertheless, he knows enough, as do all educated people, that the Bible is not “just a book”.
In fact the Bible is not even a book—it’s a collection of books with contributors from all facets of life: chronicler, fisherman, tax-collector, physician, farmer, intellect, king, lawyer, shepherd, philosopher, renegade, Jew, and Gentile. The collection consists of multiple literary genres: poetry, history, prophecy, genealogy, biography, tutorial, lyrical, legal, letters and accounting. The work also spans several millennia describing a chronology of events that include wars, empires, heroes, heroines, people and places that still exist or have been wiped off the face of the Earth altogether. And yet, with all this variety and scale, the book relates an astonishingly cohesive theme.
I will not propose that the entirety of the Bible is true since such a conclusion requires, at some point, an act of faith. No one can prove that everything in the Bible actually happened or is factual. Likewise, no one can prove that everything in the Bible is concocted and fictional. In any case, the Bible is not “just a book”.
Given the centrality of the Bible in Western thought and, yes, the religions that lay claim to it—what is astounding is our blanket censorship and virtual book burning of this work at all levels of public and non-sectarian education. At least when I was in high school a mere three decades ago, my polymath English teacher, Mr. Wesley Walker (who I believe was an atheist of Jewish and West Virginian descent) recommended, among other literary works, portions of the Bible including Job, Ecclesiastes and at least one Gospel. Today, with that same recommendation, Mr. Walker and the Montgomery County Public School system would be sued by the ACLU.
 If you could not guess that each of these quotes use a term, phrase or allusion from the Bible you may be suffering from a condition known as illiteracy. Other symptoms may include dizziness from phrases such as “a pearl of great price”, “good Samaritan”, “walk on water”, “golden rule”, “doubting Thomas” and thousands of other references from the works of William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, William Blake, Johann Sebastian Bach, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Aquinas, Michelangelo, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and others. Education may relieve the symptoms of illiteracy; as your doctor if an education is right for you.
 I do recommend Hedges War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and Empire of Illusion.