The Bible and a Liberal Education:
Its Benefits, as Seen by an Unbeliever
Joseph Pulitzer, the story goes, once wrote a beautiful editorial on Christmas. A rival editor published this reply: “Shut up, Hungry Joe. Christmas is not for the likes of you.”
How can an unbelieving English teacher, venturing to say his say on the Bible, hope to escape, from both Christians and Jews, a like denial of their book to the likes of him? But it is my book as well as theirs. Indeed, in not insignificant ways, it is my book more than theirs. To justify this statement, I should first like to examine what the Bible is and what it is not. By the Bible, I mean here the book in the version best known to most of us, the English Bible in the King James translation.
The English Bible, is, of course, not the book of the Jews. The Old Testament is the book of the Jews—not a book, but the book. It is their Thucydides and Shakespeare and Michelangelo, their Plato and Goya and Mozart, clumsily and uneasily added together but not combined—the comprehensive heritage of this most narrowly but most deeply gifted people. But the New Testament, produced by the collision of the life and teachings of an inspired and eccentric Jewish prophet with Hellenistic philosophy and religion—the fusion of parochial and universal—the New Testament is not the book of the Jews.
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