The assortment of Hebrew and Greek documents that make up the ancient library popularly known as “the Bible” is one of the most significant artifacts of Western civilization.
All of European literature is steeped in allusions to the stories of the Bible. Some of the best and worst aspects of our culture have their origins in its pages. An acquaintance with the Bible is almost as fundamental to education as another artifact from that same distant past, the alphabet.
Yet two types of semi-educated people are doing their best to expunge the Bible from the curriculum:
1) narrow-minded people who regard the Bible as the inerrant word of God, and think that everyone else should too,
2) narrow-minded people who don’t recognize the historical importance of the Bible or the literary value of the King James translation and try to make the teaching of the Bible into a question of civil liberties.
It doesn’t matter that, as the ACLU pointed out in its suit against the Ector County Texas School Board,
the King James Version…is not the Bible of choice for a wide range of Christian denominations, nor for members of the Jewish faith.
The King James Version is a monument of English literature. It’s the no-brainer choice for the teaching of the Bible as literature to English-speaking students.
A more up-to-date translation based on the findings of modern textual criticism would, of course, be a more appropriate version to be used in a history course.
The argument that “Religion … should be left to individuals and families,” is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the Bible should be in the public school curriculum.
The Bible is a world document. Several religions use it, or some version of it, but “the Bible” belongs to everyone, secularists as well as religionists.
It is not the place of the public school to inculcate religious belief or promote one Bible translation over another as a source of religious instruction, but only very ignorant people fail to realize that the language of the King James translation is as important to the development of modern English as the plays of Shakespeare.