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."
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.
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.
Instructional Systems, Fort Sutter Station P.O. 163418, Sacramento, CA 95816
Last Updated 5/15/2005
Supported by OABITAR (Objectivity,
Accuracy, and Balance In Teaching About Religion)