Terrible Texts: The Attitude of the Bible Toward Women -- Part IV

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 21 January 2004 0 Comments
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My grandchildren have started attending a conservative private school because of the large sizes of the classes in the public schools. Their parents have recently become concerned because of the introduction of the Devil in the curriculum of that school at the first and third grade levels where our grandchildren are students. Their questions are: "When did the concept of the Devil get introduced into the pre-Christian world? How is the Devil to be interpreted in several Bible stories? Why did the culture at that time accept the image of the Devil? Why do conservatives today not get beyond the personal Devil image? How can evil be explained without using the idea of a real Devil?


Any school that uses the Devil in a serious way with primary age children is one out of which I would pull my children immediately!! They are either ignorant or malevolent. In either case I would not want them teaching my children.

The Devil is an externalized symbol for the reality of evil. The Devil has been used throughout the distant past to justify the most incredible cruelty including the execution of the women of Salem, Mass. as witches. It is an idea that entered Judaism during the Babylonian Exile in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.E. It lives today only among the very ignorant and superstitious. The question the parents of your grandchildren need to ask is what is the agenda of the people running this school when they talk to children and create fear in them of this magnitude?

The book to which I would refer you for answers to your questions is ADAM, EVE AND THE SERPENT by Professor Elaine Pagels of the department of Religion and Philosophy at Princeton University.

Large classes might prove to be a blessing when compared with what your children are now receiving.

-- John Shelby Spong




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