Making the Bible Modern: Children's Bibles and Jewish Education in Twentieth-Century America

By Sinclair, Alex | Shofar, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Making the Bible Modern: Children's Bibles and Jewish Education in Twentieth-Century America


Sinclair, Alex, Shofar


Making the Bible Modern: Children's Bibles and Jewish Education in Twentieth-Century America, by Penny Schine Gold. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004. 304 pp. $35.00.

It's déjà vu all over again; or, as Kohelet put it some years before Yogi Berra, ein kol chadash tachat hashemesh. That is the overwhelming feeling of frustration that emerges from reading this important book, and the frustration is not due to the book itself, but to the dilemmas and difficulties that it so thoroughly documents. Penny Schine Gold sets out to discover how children's Bible textbooks of the early twentieth century dealt with issues that Bible educators today also struggle with: how do you adapt a very complex adult book for an audience of children without removing its essence?

The first half of the book contains three chapters which set the scene for Gold's main analytical work. She begins with an introduction to the place of the Bible in Judaism and pre-modern Jewish life, looking at its role in the home, the heder, and the Talmud Torah. In chapter two, she paints in broad strokes the impact of the enlightenment on these communities and their leaders. Then, in chapter three. Gold's focus moves to America, where she surveys some of the key thinkers and ideals of American public education. In these opening chapters she shows how the Bible overtook the Talmud as the centerpiece of American Jewish educational life. The Talmud's particularistic bent no longer fitted in with the universalist and integrationist goals of the American Jewish community, and the Bible, which "had a special place in America generally, where it was considered the generating text of American freedom and democracy" (p. 93), became the "essence" of Judaism (p. 37) to modern American Jews.

The Bible thus became a means to an end; or, in fact, two ends: "building identification with Judaism and harmonizing Jews with their modern American context" (p. 97), and in chapters four and five, Gold gets to work on the real analytical meat of the book, in which she analyzes a wide range of children's Bible books and teaching aids to see how they sought to accomplish those two goals. It is in these sections where the déjà vu sets in: Gold's writers wondered whether and how to deal with "higher criticism" for young children; they grappled with texts which created a "moral dissonance" for the modern reader; they tried to decide what to do with Bible texts whose subjects seemed too adult. Gold shows that three broad approaches were used: what I would term a recapitulation-enlightenment approach, whereby young children were taught the stories at face value and then later exposed to more modern, critical perspectives; not reaching the Bible at all until they were old enough; and the most dominant approach, modifying and adapting biblical texts for young children. Often, as Gold demonstrates, this third approach led to the deletion of large chunks of Biblical material in children's Bibles.

As the Bible became a means to two ends, Biblical stories were subordinated to the moral lessons that could be deduced from them. For example, in her analysis of how different textbooks dealt with the story of Cain and Abel, Gold states that the Biblical text contains three major difficulties for the reader: "Why was Abel's offering acceptable to God and Cain's not? Why did Cain kill Abel? Why did God protect Cain as well as punish him?" (p. 144). Gold shows how various children's collections provide answers to these questions that in essence remove the questions entirely. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Making the Bible Modern: Children's Bibles and Jewish Education in Twentieth-Century America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.