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Despite its status as one of the best-selling books of all time, the Bible is a largely unknown text even among many who regard themselves as Christian.
New Testament scholar Craig A. Evans of Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada, finds that a regrettable fact. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College, he received his doctorate in biblical studies from Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.
Evans is author and editor of more than 60 books and hundreds of articles and reviews, and has given lectures at Cambridge, Oxford, Durham and Yale, among many other universities and colleges. His documentary appearances have aired on the BBC, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, History Television and others. He also has served as a consultant for the National Geographic Society and for The Bible miniseries.
He spoke with Vision publisher David Hulme about the challenge posed by declining public knowledge of the Bible.
DH How would you characterize the general public’s view of the Bible’s reliability today?
CE I think the Bible, in the public view, is an unknown book. A generation ago, you could assume that the general public had a basic understanding of the biblical narrative, the basic story of the Bible. You cannot assume that now. Not only in the general public but in most church congregations the biblical illiteracy is simply amazing. People who regard themselves as Christians hardly know what is in Scripture. That is the big change, in my view, from the last generation to where we are today.
DH How has it come to be that way?
CE I believe the situation has developed for a lot of reasons. One thing is just a change of emphasis in what churches do in terms of preaching and education; the emphasis falls a little more on problem-solving, such as in marriages and family. And to get people to come to church when they could go to a sporting event or stay home and watch television, there’s a little more emphasis on music and entertainment and what critics sometimes call pop psychology: have a better marriage, get along better with your kids. This is at the expense of theology, Bible content, understanding what Scripture teaches. So it’s taken a generation, but we now have people sitting in the pews who honestly don’t know what is actually in the Bible.
DH What about the role of the skeptic today? We have them in all walks of life. What’s their impact on this situation?
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