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That's what is in the first amendment: that the government will not establish a state-sponsored religion. Maybe you should stop the roll eyes and read.


EDIT: The only thing the Constitution says about religion is that:

1) No religion will ever be a prerequisite for public office

2) Congress will make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting free excercise thereof. (Paraphrased)


How does this course establish a religion moreso than simply teach the historical context of the Bible?



It doesn't matter how YOU interpret the First amendment. It matters how the courts interpret it. What's in the Constitution is what they SAY is in the constitution. They interpreted the establishment clause to mean what Jefferson meant--a wall of seperation between religion and the State.

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How does this course establish a religion moreso than simply teach the historical context of the Bible?


The first amendment says the Congress shall make no law "respecting an establishment of religion". A course that uses a religious text it's basis would be violate this.


Let's start with a few facts: The Bible is primarily a religious text, with some (albeit extremly sketchy) historical value. The public education system, through the first amendment and subsequent court rulings, has established our public education system as a secular institution. So, when you teach a class based on a religious document (honestly, how are you going to teach a strictly historical class using The Bible without running into religion) you are bringing religion into a secular institution, i.e respect the establishment of a religion.


Now as Joel mentioned, because electives for other religions aren't offered, it could still be considered an endorsement or at least an implicit support for Christianity. The fact that it only uses The Bible to teach from would seem to indicate that the course is more interested with the historical perpsective from a strictly Christian view.


Also, be real. If you want to learn about history during biblical time periods, there are much more reliable, better documents. And at what point does the course recognize fact from possible fiction. I mean, if it's a course studying history based on biblical teachings, do they teach genesis as fact? If not, where do you draw the brightline?


The fact that the class is optional has no bearing on whether or not it is consitutional. If the class were to take place without school funding, during non-school hours then it's different. At the point that the school recognizes it, pays for it, and allows it to substitute for another class whether or not it is an elective is a moot point.

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Summarily hijacked from:







The Bible - historical reliability


By Rabbi Glenn Harris




Most people approach history textbooks somewhat uncritically, accepting what they read as accurate and authoritative; And why not? - since history books place no moral demands on us (not even to learn from history). However, when a book, such as the Bible, purports to teach absolute moral and theological truth, people become uncomfortable. Rightly perceiving that an ethical commitment is being called for (and being, by nature, resistant to the idea of rules and authority), some people will feign intellectual objections, claiming alleged contradictions, and generally questioning the reliability of the book. Whether conscious or otherwise, the reasoning goes: if the Bible can be discredited, or else relegated to "myth", its requirements will be trivialized. Thus we have the modern battle over the reliability of the Bible. This paper is intended to inform and encourage the reader as to the integrity and reliability of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.


A word of warning to those who may not be intellectually honest, in the form of a question: If sufficient evidence, internally and externally, bibliographically and archaeologically exists to authenticate the Bible as a reliable document, will you then be willing to deal with its moral and spiritual imperatives? If not, then read no further; for yours is not an intellectual, but a volitional problem. If, however, you are interested in facts and in truth, by all mean, read on.


I. The Bible is a Unique Book


A. The Bible is unique in its continuity


Imagine questioning forty different people on their religious views: people from every socio-economic background ...

(ranging from extreme poverty to immense wealth)

in nearly every walk of life ...

(kings and paupers, statesmen and fishermen, poets and physicians)

on three separate continents ...

(Asia, Africa, and Europe)

in three different languages ...

(Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic)

taking several forms ...

(poetry, history, civil and criminal law, ethics, didactic, parable, biography, prophecy, personal correspondence ...)

And spanning a period of over a thousand years!

And if you asked them to put their observations, thoughts and feelings about God and about ultimate reality into writing what kind of book do you suppose you'd end up with? Would they all agree? Hardly. You'd probably wind up with a real mishmash. Well, the Biblical writers represent exactly this variety, and yet there is thematic harmony, commonality and consistency of data throughout the book! At the very least, it may be said that the Bible is a unique book.


B. The Bible is unique in its survival


The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any 10 pieces of classical literature


With regard to the New Testament books, John Warwick Montgomery stated:


"... to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."


Bernard Ramm speaks of the accuracy and number of Biblical manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures:


"Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. With their massora they kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity ... who ever counted the letters, syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?"


II. We Have an Authentic, Reliable Biblical Text


A. By means of bibliographical and internal criteria


The historical reliability of the Bible should be tested by the same criteria that all historical documents are tested. It breaks down to these three factors:



  • The number of existing manuscripts

  • The dating of the manuscripts

  • The proportion of variant readings

1. The number of existing manuscripts


There are more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, over 10,000 in Latin and over 9,300 other early versions totaling 24,000+ manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today, ranking it first in manuscript evidence.


The Iliad, by Homer, is second ... with 643 surviving manuscripts.


2. The dating of the manuscripts


The New Testament autographs date to between 40 100 A.D. Until 1995, the earliest extant manuscripts dated to the fourth century (a 250 300 year difference). Norman Geisler states that the average gap between an original composition and the earliest available copy is over 1,000 years for other works of antiquity.


(handout reprints -- Dr. Carsten Thiede/1st century papyrus fragments of Matthew)


The late Sir Frederick Kenyon, orientalist, director and principal librarian of the British Museum wrote:


"This may sound a considerable interval, but it is nothing to that which parts most of the great classical authors from their earliest manuscripts. We believe that we have in all essentials an accurate text of the seven extant plays of Sophocles; yet the earliest substantial manuscript upon which it is based was written more than 1,400 years after the poet's death." 3


Kenyon, in The Bible and Archaeology continues:


"The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established." 4


Among ancient Greek/Latin literature, the Iliad ranks next to the New Testament in possessing the greatest amount of manuscript testimony.


So let's compare them:







Homer (Iliad)

900 B.C.

400 B.C.

500 years


New Testament

40-100 A.D.

125 A.D.*

25 years


3. Variant readings


Through the proper application of textual criticism, comparing all the available manuscripts with one another, we are able to confidently reconstruct the original reading. Let's briefly compare numbers on variant readings. The New Testament contains approximately 20,000 lines, of which 40 lines are in question. This equals .5% (one half of one percent).


The Iliad contains approximately 15,600 lines, of which 764 lines are in question. This equals five percent. That's ten times more variants than the New Testament in a document which is only three-quarters its length. The sheer number of extant NT manuscripts we possess narrows tremendously the margin of doubt on the correct reading of the original documents (known as autographs).


Of the 0.5% of the New Testament variant readings, only one eighth of those amount to anything more than a stylistic difference or misspelling.


An example of a fairly typical variant reading:


MSS. 1 Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl. MSS. 2 Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world. MSS. 3 Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whold world. MSS. 4 Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world. MSS. 5 Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld. Many of these variants involve nothing more than a missing letter in a word, a misspelling, or a reversal of the order of two words (as seen above in #2). Some may involve the absence of a word; but of all the variants in the NT, it should be noted that only about 50 have any real significance, and that not one essential point of Christian doctrine rests upon a disputed reading. For more than 99% of them, we have been able to reconstruct the biblical text with tremendous certainty.


B. The archaeological/external evidence


1. Evidence from archaeology


The Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered in 1947, included an ancient copy of the scroll of Isaiah. This scroll, dating to approximately 100 B.C. was found to be identical to the Modern Hebrew Bible in over ninety five percent of the text. The remaining five percent consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen or variations in spelling.


Prior to that discovery, the earliest manuscript of Isaiah was the Masoretic Text, dating to 900 A.D. Realize, then, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls moved the dating back more than a thousand years! And that without any appreciable change in the text.


Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote:


"It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference."


William F. Albright, one of the world's most renowned archaeologists, stated:


"There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition."


And again ...


"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phrases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history."


The late Millar Burrows, renowned Professor of Archaeology at Yale University, exposed the cause of persistent unbelief:


"The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural."


2. Evidence from early Christian writers


J. Harold Greenlee, Professor of New Testament Greek at Oral Roberts University, wrote that the quotations of the Scripture in the works of the early Christian writers,


"... are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts."


This was later confirmed by Sir David Dalyrimple.
All but eleven verses of the New Testament are found in the works of second and third century writers
. In addition to the many thousands of NT manuscripts, there are over 86,000 quotations of the NT in the early church fathers, and quotations in thousands of early lectionaries (worship books).


3. Evidence from extra-Biblical authors


  1. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, III. 39) referring to Mark

  2. Papias (c. 130 AD) refers to Matthew's gospel

  3. Irenaeus (c. 180 AD) refers to the four gospels and Matthew

  4. Josephus

II. We Have an Authentic, Reliable Biblical Text


Let us state again that, in spite of having come under attack a century and a half ago as an unreliable historical record, over the past fifty to seventy five years, the biblical narrative has been consistently corroborated by archaeological discoveries (remember, too, that a century and a half ago the field of archaeology had scarcely emerged).


Archaeologist Joseph Free has said, "Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which had been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contrary to known facts." 10


One hundred fifty years to two hundred years ago it became academically fashionable to say that Moses could not have authored the five books of the Torah, as claimed, because it was thought that legal codes of that order simply didn't exist. These arguments persisted by some even into the mid-20th century. On that logic they posited that several different individuals, living many centuries later, wrote the Torah and ascribed it to Moses. Archaeology proved this "Documentary Hypothesis" wrong through the more recent discoveries of numerous legal codes in some cases predating even the Patriarchal period, such as the Hammurabi Code (c. 1700 BC), the Lipit-Ishtar Code (c. 1860 BC) and the Laws of Eshunna (c. 1950 BC).


Prior to 1906 critics of biblical historicity argued that the Bible's descriptions of the Hittite Empire were later insertions, since they were certain the Hittite Empire didn't exist, owing to lack of physical evidence for it. But in 1906 archaeologists unearthed the Hittite capital and in the years following excavated what is now known to have been a massive and very prominent Hittite civilization.


More recently, liberal scholars, intent on maintaining their criticism of the Bible, argued that the Gospel of John could not have been written by John, but must have come much later, owing to factors such as:


  1. The use of imagery they presupposed to be of later Gnostic influence (i.e., terms such as "sons of light" and "sons of darkness").
  2. Allegedly inaccurate historical details (such as a 5th portico at the pool of Bethesda [cf. John 5:2] whereas every Judean pool excavated had just four porticoes).

Discoveries, however, of texts paralleling and even pre-dating the NT manuscripts (chiefly at Qumran) evidenced the very same apocalyptic terminology in contemporary Jewish writings. And approximately eight years ago archaeologists discovered underneath what they had previously thought was the earliest level at the site of Bethesda an older mikveh (pool) which had a fifth portico transecting it! One would hope that at some point the critics would concede the historical reliability of the biblical narrative.




This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list of sources. In fact, it's just "the tip of the iceberg". But as you can see, there really is a remarkable body of evidence supporting the reliability of the Bible as we have it in English today. I hope this will give the reader a sense of confidence that the Bible, as it has come down to us, is an altogether historically reliable record. This is critical, because if it were unreliable in that matter, we certainly could take the next step and consider its theological reliability. However, as we warned at the outset, the Bible does contains moral imperatives. Thus it seems the real question now is not whether the Bible is trustworthy, but whether you are willing to read it, consider its contents and claims, and wrestle with its moral implications. You could choose to look the other way and hope later to plead ignorance. Instead, I recommend you take the courageous approach of reading the Scriptures in the pursuit of truth.


I am indebted to Josh McDowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict and to gospeloutreach.net and Rolaant McKenzie for much of the material in this study.


Quotations Taken From:


Evidence that Demands a Verdict: historical evidences for the Christian faith

Compiled by Josh McDowell, 1972, 1979 Here's Life Publishers, Inc.

P.O. Box 1576, San Bernadino, CA 92402, fifteenth printing


Why the Bible is the Word of God: historical evidence for the Bible

By Matt Perman (gospeloutreach.net/bible3.html)


End Notes


  1. Montgomery, John W. History and Christianity.
    Intervarsity Press Downers Grove, IL, 1971, p. 29.
  2. Ramm, Bernard. Can I Trust My Old Testament?
    The Kings Business, Feb., 1949 pp. 230, 231.
    Kenyon, Frederick G. Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.
    MacMillan and Co., London, ,1901, p. 4.
  3. Kenyon, Frederick G. The Bible and Archaeology.
    Harper & Row, New York, ,1940, p. 288.
  4. Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev.
    Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1969, p. 176.
  5. Albright, William Foxwell. Archaeology and the Religions of Israel.
    Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1956, p. 176.
  6. Albright, William Foxwell. The Archaeology of Palestine.
    Pelican Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1960, p. 127, 128.
  7. Burrows, Millar. What Mean These Stones?
    Meridian Books, New York, NY, ,1956, p. 176.
  8. Greenlee, J. Harold. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism.
    Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1964, p. 54.
  9. Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History.
    Scripture Press, Wheaton, IL, 1969, pg. 1

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I only read half of Rayl's post, but that article didn't make any sense. It didn't prove historical reliability and made quite a few logical leaps.


For example: If there is historical accuracy, should I accept every part of the Bible? One part being true doesn't necessitate others being true as well.


And the Bible is not unique in its survival. Many ancient texts exist in their pure form today. I don't understand what whycristianity.com is trying to prove.

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Yeah, it's a pretty sketchy article and has little to do with the topic at hand.

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justink 876: Why did you hijack the thread about the constitutionality of a bible class?

ChrisRayl4076: is that what happened... give me a sec

justink 876: it just seemed pretty off subject

ChrisRayl4076: I wanted to play devils advocate and try to frame the debate around "if the bible is historically accurate, what makes it so bad of an idea?"

justink 876: well nothing if it is in the context of a history class

justink 876: but it's not, it's the basis for a class

ChrisRayl4076: But I've taken classes about greek mythology, how is that different?

justink 876: easy, MYTHology

justink 876: they don't teach greek myths as historical facts

ChrisRayl4076: What is the difference between mythology and religion?

justink 876: in terms of what?

ChrisRayl4076: in general, what seperates mythology from religion, both invoke the supernatural?

justink 876: but they don't teach greek mythology as fact

ChrisRayl4076: but do they teach the bible as fact?

justink 876: according to the propsal..yes

ChrisRayl4076: do they say "as you can see Genisis 1:1 says God created everything." or will it be "This is the relationship between the exodus of the jewish people and egypt..."?

justink 876: they haven't developed a curicullum yet, http://www.bibleinschools.net/

ChrisRayl4076: I think as long as they do not cross the line between informing and analyzing and prosletizing, there is no foul.

justink 876: http://www.bibleinschools.net/pdf/CurrTOB904.pdf

justink 876: according to this, they teach genesis as history

ChrisRayl4076: standby

justink 876: the fact that this group discourages world relgion courses is also bothersome

ChrisRayl4076: ... yes very much so

justink 876: they say that world relgiion courses dilute the legitmacy of the bible

justink 876: it sure sounds like they are teaching the bible as fact

ChrisRayl4076: that concerns me

ChrisRayl4076: I have always been a believer that the bible does not need me to defend it from other belief systems.

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A point which hasn't been made yet: what kind of student would take a class like that? Honestly; how many students are going to sign up for bible study in school?

Moreover, I would viciously ridicule anyone I knew who took that class. And yes, that is discrimination. But it serves them right for demonstrating their religion in front of me.

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A point which hasn't been made yet: what kind of student would take a class like that? Honestly; how many students are going to sign up for bible study in school?

Moreover, I would viciously ridicule anyone I knew who took that class. And yes, that is discrimination. But it serves them right for demonstrating their religion in front of me.

How dare people express their beliefs!

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How dare people express their beliefs!
That's the catch-22; if you wanna express your beliefs, you've gotta be willing to take some criticism. And I will most certainly criticize brainwashed religious dopes who haven't a clue how to function in the real world.

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That's the catch-22; if you wanna express your beliefs, you've gotta be willing to take some criticism. And I will most certainly criticize brainwashed religious dopes who haven't a clue how to function in the real world.

Wow. Sir, you are a bigot.

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That's the catch-22; if you wanna express your beliefs, you've gotta be willing to take some criticism. And I will most certainly criticize brainwashed religious dopes who haven't a clue how to function in the real world.


I would hope one does that without insult. Insults alienate those you try to convince, Argumentation 101. I may not always follow that rule, but I try. Don't call "them" brainwashed freaks, provide reasons they shouldn't be Christian. Did you know that neural_link is a Christian? I'm sure you did. Is he a brainwashed freak? I certainly think not. I'm a Muslim and would (and DO) take a class on the History of Islam and Muhammud, which is taught AS FACT. I suppose now I'm an idiot.

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Far from it. I didn't say those people are idiots. In fact, many people practice religion in an educated, questioning manner. But I've yet to meet a high school student who does. Too many times, I meet intelligent, gifted kids who have closed themselves off from the world and refuse to even listen to alternative viewpoints because they've had their opinions dictated to them entirely by religion. In fact, one of the smartest people I know is so absolutely dead-set in her spiritual convictions that she will often deny logical reasoning as to why she's wrong by stating something along the lines of "that's what my religion says."

I don't like to come across as some dickheaded atheist, because that would not only be a hypocritical stance, but it would also find me locked into one of the close-minded views of the world that I so vehemently despise. Things are not black and white, they are most definitely grey, and I strive to discover which shade it is on a day-to-day basis.

I'm religious, but the religion I worship is that of the mind; knowledge and creativity are my deities. My agnosticism is my foremost tool in the pursuit of the truth. And I most certainly do not discriminate against anybody for their religious views (perhaps a few extreme ones--I'm sure you'd all agree some are just plain hateful).

So perhaps I should clarify, since some are characterizing me in a way that I do not particularly cherish. My beef is not with Christians; it is with self-righteous Christian kids who think they can tell me how the world works with shoddy biblical references and little understanding of reality. And that is exactly the type of attitude that this class engenders. Though an understanding of religious history and biblical scripture is crucial for informational purposes, something tells me that a this class in Texas will not be an impartial presentation of the Bible as literature, but rather an excuse to preach within a public building.


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