Religion Related





A Scholarly Approach

In a public school, a teacher must try to be as objective as possible.  We have materials to support teachers who wish to keep their strongly held beliefs from resulting in biased teaching.  We also have materials that help to compensate for deficiencies in existing history texts, which often jumble religious belief with academic history.


A Teaching Unit

History of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament): Current Academic Understandings

Public schools traditionally have been expected to provide secular interpretations of whatever materials are used in class. This teaching unit is based on historic and scientific scholarship. It focuses on how these authorities believe that the Bible--as a human artifact--developed into the forms that exist today. To avoid a "sectarian point of view" as described in The Bible & Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, we focus on the factual data generated by academic research.

bulletStudent Text, 90 pages
  1. The Geographic World of the Bible
  2. Dating Bible Stories and Oral Tradition
  3. The Oral Stage--Before 1000 BCE
  4. Before Israel & Judah--1000 to 900 BCE
  5. Israel & Judah--900 to 600 BCE
  6. Hebrews, Babylonians, Persians--600-500 BCE
  7. Jews & Persians--500 to 300 BCE
  8. Jews, Greeks & Hasmonaeans--300 to 50 BCE
  9. Jews, Romans & the World--From 50 BCE On
  10. The Old Testament and Christianity
  11. The Jewish and Christian Canons
  12. The Old Testament and the Koran
bulletTeacher's Manual, 42 pages


A Teaching Unit

Thinking about Religion
(from a Global Perspective)

    From Brant Abrahamson, 1998:  I try to get students to view world religions from a perspective not previously considered, one that tends to propel them mentally beyond the details of their religious beliefs that may divide them from their classmates, and one that lets me communicate my knowledge in a positive and intellectually honest way. With these printed materials, I can disarm community people who may be potentially hostile.  I can show them and say, "This is what I teach. To what do you object?" Teachers need not lapse into silence on religion, a topic I believe to be extremely important. This series of lessons on religious understandings has worked well in the classroom with adolescents.

    Student Text, 52 pages

  1. The Religious View of Life
  2. New Religions
  3. Guidelines
  4. Religion and Morality
  5. Religion and Science
  6. Religion and Human Life
  7. A Historical Review
  8. Getting Together
    bulletAnalysis Materials and
    bulletTeacher's Manual, 89 pages


A Lesson

The Decalogue: Bible Scholarship for Use Today

The Bible is one of the formative elements of Western culture, but should highly edited lists of the Ten Commandments be endorsed by local, state or national governments, including postings in public schools?  This 26-page booklet facilitates a brief historical study of a Bible theme and sets the stage for more reasoned and informed discussions of this "hot topic."

bullet"The Decalogue: Its History and Use"
Student Text, 8 pages
  1. Introduction
  2. The History
  3. The Four Biblical Decalogues
  4. New Testament Decalogue References
  5. Modern Abridged Decalogues
  6. Should the Decalogue be a Government Guide for Morality?
bulletTeacher's Edition and Teacher References: Source Analysis, 18 pages

Lesson Synopsis

First we present two understandings of the Decalogue. A "Biblical View" is followed by "A Scholarly View." According to Biblical researchers such as Richard Friedman, the first five books of the Bible--the Torah or Pentateuch--have four principal authors. Scholars have long referred to them by the letters "E," "J," "P" and "D." Each of these Biblical authors has a version of the Decalogue commandments in his writing.

Next, students read through these Decalogue versions that are found in Exodus chapter 20, Exodus chapter 34, Leviticus chapter 19 and Deuteronomy chapter 5. Then, they trace these commandment ideas as they are found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. This study sets the stage for discussions about whether highly edited lists of the Ten Commandments should be endorsed by local, state or national governments, including postings in public schools.

They look at reasons why people in various groups might want governmental recognition of the Decalogue as well as the multiple legal and other problems that such attempts call to mind. In sum, we hope the lesson encourages students to expand their understanding of the Bible--one of the formative elements of Western culture--at the same time they are thinking through an important current issue.

Decalogue: Bible Scholarship for Use Today consists of a "Student Text" (8 pages) that can be easily removed for duplication. Since instructors want to know much more than is in their students' text, we've included a footnoted "Teachers Edition" of the text (10 pages), a 5-page "Source Analysis" section, an "Activities for Teachers and Students" sheet, an Appendix on "The Religion of Zoroaster" and a Bibliography.

In regard to evaluation, we believe that essays best enable students to display their "considered thought." When writing on issues such as the Ten Commandments, we suggest their efforts be evaluated by how successfully they can present their viewpoints--whatever they are--without using common fallacies. Thinking Logically: A Study of Common Fallacies (The Teachers' Press) is an introductory unit that helps students achieve this goal.


Essay/Book Review

Teaching about Religion in History Classes: Sacred and Secular History

When teaching about religion, an instructor runs head-long into conflicting and emotional-laden understandings of the nature of our world. This two-part pamphlet by Brant Abrahamson and Fred Smith is designed to help educators deal with attempts to influence public school history and the social studies curricula as it relates to world religions.

bulletPart 1 (Essay): "Holy Books and History Teaching", 13 pages
  1. Miracles and Natural Cause and Effect
  2. The Sacred and the Secular in U.S. Public Schools
  3. The Origins of World Religions: Sacred and Secular Understanding
  4. Sacred and Secular History in World History Texts
  5. Characteristics of Oral Traditions
  6. Using Holy Books in History Classes
  7. Addenda and Bibliography
bulletPart 2 (Book Review): Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum by Warren Nord and Charles Haynes, 8 pages



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Instructional Systems, Fort Sutter Station P.O. 163418, Sacramento, CA 95816


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Last Updated 5/15/2005

Supported by OABITAR (Objectivity, Accuracy, and Balance In Teaching About Religion)
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