During the month of July, the Schuman Centre republishes the drafts of Jeff Fountain’s coffee-table book aiming to promote the centrality of the Bible’s influence to our Western way of life and thinking.
Trying to understand western culture without knowing the Bible is like watching a 3D movie without any special glasses.
Biblical illiteracy is eroding our western cultural heritage. A generation ignorant of the themes and stories of the Bible has lost the code to understanding many of the literary, musical, visual and dramatic works of, for example, Shakespeare, Bach, Rembrandt and Dante.
Or of Dan Brown, U2, Hollywood and Jesus Christ Superstar, for that matter. For much of the poetry, literature and films of the 20th century assumed a now-lost biblical literacy.
This book demonstrates how the Bible has shaped our art and music, our language and literature, our politics and democracy, our morality and ethics, our law and justice, our marriages and families, our business and economics, our perceptions of human dignity and equality, our understanding of time and history – even our science and technology – far more than any other influence.
Yet the Bible is strangely absent from our educational curricula and public institutions.
We don’t need ‘faith’ to recognise the uniqueness of this book. No book has been so widely published and translated into so many languages. It is the most loved and hated book of all time, the most quoted and criticised book ever, the most smuggled and most destroyed book in human history.
The Bible’s very existence is unique. It is a portable library (biblia) of sixty-six books compiled without a general editor, the work of over forty writers spread over at least fifty generations on three continents and in three languages. Their combined work offers remarkably harmonious answers to the deepest questions of life: Who is God? who are we? where have we come from? where are we going to? how should we live our lives?
The Bible has been a source of inspiration and comfort for countless millions globally for more over many centuries. Sadly, it has also been misused to unleash wars, persecutions and injustices. Power and wealth, xenophobia and racism have too often drowned out its core message of love and acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation, equality and dignity, brotherhood and hospitality, mercy and compassion, peace and freedom.
Then as now. For again we see religious nationalism being used to exclude the ‘other’. At the same time, the loss of this heritage means we no longer know our own culture, and we become insecure towards other cultures.
We hope these pages will help you, the reader, rediscover this remarkable Biblical cultural heritage.
Director Schuman Centre
For more weekly words from Jeff, visit weeklyword.eu.