Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In the Beginning Was the Word

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In the Beginning Was the Word

Article excerpt

And the word was really useful for teaching creative writing

Once upon a time, God created the heavens and the earth. God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. And they all lived happily ever after.

The Bible can be used to teach children how narrative storytelling works, according to academics at the University of Exeter. By analysing the Old and New Testaments, students can learn creative writing from the greatest story ever told.

"You could think of it like a television drama series," they write in a new guide for teachers. "Each episode tells a small story of its own, but is also part of a broader narrative."

This view of Biblical storytelling was echoed by Mick Connell, co-director of the National Association for the Teaching of English. "Both Testaments fit anecdotal and allegorical stories within a larger narrative," he said. "It's a really interesting narrative model. And, of course, they are cracking good stories."

David and Goliath in particular was "a belting good story", he added. "Especially as England goes into the World Cup."

The tales also vary in scope and scale, said Esther Reed, professor of theology and religion at Exeter and one of the academics behind The Art of Bible Reading. "Some stories are about the beginning of the universe and some are very personal."

For example, the story of Adam and Eve is a very human depiction of temptation. "It's about the truths. The theological truth and the existential, personal truths that are there," she said.

Bible stories can also be used to explore issues of gender politics. "They're not without problem," Professor Reed acknowledged. "The Adam and Eve story has been told in the church in ways that subjugate women. These stories have influenced how Western culture has developed."

Mr Connell shares this perspective. "Look at the representation of gender," he said. "There are issues like authority, tolerance of the foreigner. These stories are really rich in terms of discussing moral and ethical situations."

The Bible also offers a wealth of interesting characterisation. "Peter is always blustering about, making an ass of himself," Mr Connell said of the New Testament apostle. "He reminds me of myself. All of these characters I find eminently empathetic. …

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