I find it quite remarkable that although we in the English-speaking world have had the Bible in the common speech for over 400 years and have so many copies of it in circulation yet so many myths about it continue to persist. In my Kindergarten class at a Christian school I also find myself debunking misconceptions and correcting details that my students have picked up. Here are just a few examples so that you will understand where I am coming from:
- Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit is never specified to be an apple. This persistent myth comes John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost.”
- Almost every illustration of Noah’s ark in children’s books makes it look like a puny vessel with giraffe heads sticking out of the top. The figures given in Genesis (measured in cubits but with metric or imperial equivalents in the footnotes) indicate that this massive triple decked boat may not have looked much like our modern idea of a ship.
- The Magi or “wise men” were not kings. A Christmas song is to blame here. And although they appear in Nativity scenes, it is almost certain that they arrived weeks or even months after Jesus’ birthday.
Some readers may wonder why this is such a big deal to me. If we have the Bible, we ought to read and know what it says. There are many languages and cultures without access to this sacred text, so how can we justify being sloppy with it?
A related concern I have is about video versions of the Bible made for children. Since these youngsters do not have the biblical narrative internalized yet, they are easily deceived into thinking, “It happened this way because I saw it in the movie.” Film makers, who try to jazz up the stories by adding chocolate bunnies, sheep that tip over and nicknames for biblical characters, actually do a disservice to biblical literacy for the youngest viewers. While older children and adults can understand the divergence from the main story line, four and five-year-olds cannot.
Sharing Bible stories accurately is a responsibility I take seriously. I don’t want to add to mythology!