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Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green’s Bible curriculum is a hit in Israeli schools

Students gather around a tablet screen overlaid onto the hardcopy curriculum textbook. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible
Students gather around a tablet screen overlaid onto the hardcopy curriculum textbook. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible

Students gather around a tablet screen overlaid onto the hardcopy curriculum textbook. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible

JERUSALEM (RNS) Students at 16 Israeli high schools are completing a yearlong pilot program developed by the Washington-based Museum of the Bible, funded by the billionaire Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain.

The Israeli pilot program, known as TAMAR, represents the museum’s first successful educational program. Seven additional schools have requested the program next year.

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green founded the Museum of the Bible to showcase his family’s vast collection of rare Bibles and biblical artifacts. The 430,000-square-foot building three blocks from the U.S. Capitol is expected to open to the public in 2017. The Greens, who are prominent evangelicals, are also known for winning a 2014 Supreme Court case that exempted their chain store from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

Museum of the Bible Board Chairman Steve Green, with one of the more than 44,000 rare biblical texts and artifacts his family began collecting in 2009. Green has assembled a team of academics, designers, technology professionals and other experts to create a museum dedicated to a scholarly and engaging presentation of the impact, history and narrative of the Bible. The museum is scheduled to open in Washington D.C., in Fall 2017. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible

Museum of the Bible Board Chairman Steve Green, with one of the more than 44,000 rare biblical texts and artifacts his family began collecting in 2009. Green has assembled a team of academics, designers, technology professionals and other experts to create a museum dedicated to a scholarly and engaging presentation of the impact, history and narrative of the Bible. The museum is scheduled to open in Washington D.C., in fall 2017. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible

But the first launch of the museum’s ambitious Bible curriculum didn’t go so well.

Last year, an Oklahoma school district shelved a similar curriculum after the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a freedom-of-information request to determine the school board’s role in developing and approving the curriculum.

The district’s superintendent said the body had dropped the course because it had not received access to the entire final curriculum and feared the civil liberties groups would file suit against it.

The Israeli curriculum, which was already in the works by the time the Oklahoma curriculum was nixed, was tailor-made for Israel’s publicly funded secular Jewish school system, and contains no Christian content, according to the museum and Israeli educators.

The Israeli government requires all Jewish schools to teach the Hebrew Bible to their students. High school matriculation exams include biblical literacy and comprehension.

Created in partnership with Israel-based technology company Compedia and vetted by Israel’s Ministry of Education, the two-volume course is taught with iPads that the museum supplied to all the students. The museum, and by extension, the Green family, spent millions of dollars developing the program.

Its cutting-edge computer graphics and 3-D animation are intended to make biblical stories come alive for Israeli teens, who study the Bible in the original Hebrew.

Nadavi Noked, who taught TAMAR (a Hebrew acronym for Bible and augmented reality) at the Bliech High School in Ramat Gan, said the program has the potential to encourage students to explore what in non-Orthodox Israeli circles “can be a slightly unpopular subject given the emphasis on math, science and computers.”

Traditional Bible study, Noked said, “is a very text-based, very black-and-white subject. TAMAR approaches the text through layers and layers of information that the students discover, making the Tanakh (the Hebrew term for the Bible) more relevant to their lives.”

When studying the Israelites’ journey through the desert after fleeing Egypt, for example, the students utilized modern technology, such as GPS and mapping, to explore where and why the Israelites may have chosen one route over another.

When the students studied the chapters containing Noah’s Ark, Noked said, the program introduced flood narratives from ancient cultures that contain similar motifs.

A student tinkers with augmented reality technology on her tablet, pointing the camera over the printed textbook and watching the pages come to life. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible

A student tinkers with augmented reality technology on her tablet, pointing the camera over the printed textbook and watching the pages come to life. Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible

But the curriculum also emphasizes the Bible’s influence on law and government. In a promotional video for the pilot, a teacher demonstrates to the Israeli students the Bible’s reach by having them identify a biblical quote from the prophet Micah that is engraved in stone at the Library of Congress.

“You see where the Bible connects to the legislature of the United States,” the teacher says, noting that the U.S. government, which had numerous quotes to choose from, chose this biblical verse to model how the country’s legislatures should behave.

The emphasis on the Bible’s influence is part of a broader push in some evangelical  circles to promote the notion that America’s earliest leaders were deeply shaped by the Bible, and that governance and the Bible should not be mutually exclusive.

Noked called the curriculum “a very positive experience. It’s made Bible study more interesting, more relevant. The combination of ancient texts with modern technology has created a new learning experience that our students relate to.”

Jerry Pattengale, the Museum of the Bible’s executive director of education, said that during the museum’s assessment visits to schools using the Israeli program, “teachers and students showed enthusiastic appreciation for the curriculum and its innovative engagement in learning.”

The Israel program, he said, “will help the museum improve its educational offerings for students and teachers from around the world who are interested in high-quality, engaging courses about the Bible.”

Based on the pilot, said Pattengale, who also sits on the board governing Religion News Service, Israel’s Ministry of Education has approved the curriculum’s use for other Jewish schools in the country.

YS/AMB END CHABIN

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Michele Chabin

22 Comments

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  • I’m with Joe Cheban on this one!

    As historian Werner Keller has proven, the Bible is indeed an entirely accurate and error-free history textbook, suitable for teaching school children about world history. But it is so much more! It is a complete guide to everything from biology and all other aspects of science to day-to-day living.

    The Bible: There is no need for any other book, ever! Kudos to Israel! Assuming they are also teaching the New Testament as fact, that is.

  • “cutting-edge computer graphics and 3-D animation….make biblical stories come alive..”

    There is no other way to do it.
    The Bible stories are fictional. If special effects bring Superman to life, they can certainly work for Yahweh.

    Hopefully all this Bible blather will continue to destroy these myths and break them down into what they really are; tribal legends from profoundly primitive people who had no idea where the sun went at night.

  • ronald the bible gets so much of science flat out wrong that it’s not even comical.

    So what shape is your planet, and how old is it? Different parts of the bible have different answers for that, and they are all wrong.

    Hey maybe your god could do a corrected version on the internet soon. But your god doesn’t exist, so, ain’t gonna happen.

  • I would point out that in modern times the biblical scholar Charles K. Johnson has contended that the earth is flat, So the popular theory of a round earth is not entirely without learned dissenters.

    However, when pressed on this question I would simply quote the eloquent words of Sherri Shepherd: “Is the world flat? I never thought about it. I tell you what I’ve thought about. How I’m going to feed my child. How I’m going to take care of my family. The world, is the world flat has never entered into, like that has not been an important thing to me.”

    Preach it, Sister Sherri!

    The shape of the earth is something that the privileged athiest elites may sit around pondering in your Ivory Towers. But for us salt of the earth Christian folk, it is simply not something we think about. When each soul appears before the Creator for the Final Judgment, it is not their theory about the earth’s shape that will determine if their name is written in the Book of Life.

  • The Bible doesn’t have multiple answers for the shape of the earth, it has only one;

    “He (God) sits enthroned above the circle of the earth”.Isaiah 40:22

    Please show me another quote to support your claim, Ed.

    Dave

  • And Jesus began to weep.(John 11:35) So must all thinking Christians when hearing such inane comments..

  • @David Roland,

    “…circle of the earth”

    So somehow it impresses you that the Bible claims
    the earth is shaped like a sugar cookie?

    And guess what – if you climb a mountain and look down
    You will see the earth is a big flat cookie.

    This passed for insight 3000 years ago when they didn’t know where the sun went at night. How can you still believe the earth is shaped like a cookie? Have you not yet seen photos of the earth? It is a somewhat pear-shaped sphere.

    Not a cookie.

  • Bull.

    Jesus hasn’t wept for thousands of years and hasn’t gotten off his lazy backside to do anything else either. Christianity is just a giant scam. Time to put it away.

  • I guess you guys fell into the trap of taking ronald seriously. The guy is a Poe’s law troll.

  • Ronald…when you make claims for the bible that it does not claim for itself, you subject it to criticism and rejection. The bible has a lot of information on the history of Israel, such as the Israelites did eventually settle in Canaan. (They probably moved in by conquest, BTW.) But the bible nowhere claims of itself to be a book of biology, or anything else we call “science” today. This is a concept that did not exist in the time of the biblical writers. There is myth, poetry, story, parable, as well as texts that may say they are historical. But, why don’t you check the great Greek historians of that period. Often history was “what we thought the ruler would have said”. There is nothing like a modern newspaper or history book.

    What the Bible IS, is the Word of God. That is, for Jews, the Tanak refers to the anticipated Messiah. For Christians, Jesus IS that Messiah the Word of God. In this matter the bible is true.

    Don’t misuse the bible.

  • THE BIBLE IS NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION….well unless you want to learn how to murder the multitude (innocent children included) in cold blood – in that case, it’s bloody brilliant *guffaw*

    I confess…when people make reference to it, or quote from it – it makes my blood boil – because I’m worried that the people who are drawing their information from the book are legally allowed to breed.

    It was barely OK 2000 years ago to be so very ignorant as to put any stock in the bible. Today it is a less forgivable offense.

  • Don’t misuse the bible. Use only one to three pages at a time. Try to leave some pages for the next person in the stall. Wash well afterward.

  • Few of them seemed to be ‘weeping for those of us (archaeologists) here in Israel when we fought for decades against those individuals suffering from the Dan Brown ‘syndrome’. There has been abuse after abuse of science and biblical archaeology, numerous tombs of Jesus, $igns and wonders’ by not only self proclaimed ‘archaeologists’, yet when we asked those ‘weeping’ for help, those who loved ‘biblical archaeology (when it was in their favor), they fell silent. The only ones truly weeping are those of us academics here in Israel. who for decades fought this abuse. When we needed ‘them’ they disappeared. see joezias.org

  • On TILL WE BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND God purpose for the world we will continue to have problems with understanding the Bible. God original intent was to build a Nation not a Religion , The bible is God covenant of God is the law book , the bible is about a King a kingdom and his royal family we keep promoting it as a Religious book we can’t live any part of it out to please other religions .I personally deliver two books from Myles Monroe that explain very well this subject to Mr Green to help him understand and also to Clearfield the misunderstanding that most religious people have. I belive this material was very helpful to his project and I also belive that It was God true the Holy Spirit that move me to fly down to his home town to personally deliver the book . Jesus Christ is to be present in every school in the World and we most preach the Kingdom of God to the hole World then the end most come remember this message of the Kingdom of God.

  • “The bible is God covenant of God is the law book , the bible is about a King a kingdom and his royal family we keep promoting it as a Religious book we can’t live any part of it out to please other religions”

    Funny, Al Queda says the exact same thing. There is no such thing as a theocratic government which produces a great nation. Theocracy is like every other form of unfree, autocratic rule. It runs nations into the ground and increases general misery for the greatest numbers of people.

    Gilberto, I find your views to be repugnant to any notions of freedom, morality and basic decency.

    “I personally deliver two books from Myles Monroe”

    You are also just a shill trying to push paper.

  • WOW!!! Amazing how one book draws so much hate from those who do not believe it. Well if it is not true you have nothing to lose. If it is true all Bible rejectors will spend an eternity in hell fire… roll the dice 🙂
    Revelation 20:14-15 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

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