In the Washington Times (3 Feb 2019), the CEO of the Museum of the Bible has disclosed that his organization teaches the Bible’s David and Goliath story as a true story, in material provided to unsuspecting children in the organization’s homeschooling curricula:
Ken McKenzie, CEO of the Museum of the Bible in the District of Columbia, said it is possible to teach from the Bible in a nonsectarian way. His organization provides curricula to home-schoolers, private Christian schools across the U.S. and schools in Israel, where Bible study is part of high school education.
He offered as an example the Old Testament story of David and Goliath.
“We’ll read the story, and then we’ll study the material around it. Archaeological excavations have found the stone that was used of 1.5 to 2 pounds, and we’ll review some ancient texts about life at that time and watch a video that shows how a sling could be accurate,” Mr. McKenzie said. “This is not [an assignment that says], ‘This is what we believe.’”
McKenzie is at pains to emphasize that the Bible homeschooling is not straightforwardly confessional, that it does not directly aim to inculcate belief in schoolchildren. But the example he gives, concerning the David and Goliath story, quickly reveals his organization’s fundamentally apologetic approach. According to the CEO’s account, homeschooling materials on the David and Goliath story in 1 Samuel 17 attempt to present it as historical.
Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the Museum of the Bible’s approach lies in McKenzie’s claim that archaeology has “found a stone that was used of 1.5 to 2 pounds”. What could this possibly mean? Stones are rather common in archaeological sites. There are thousands of them! There are thousands of them even at a single site, such as Gath. Does the CEO of Museum of the Bible imagine that archaeologists have been able to identify the very stone used to kill Goliath? It is unclear, but that seems to be the inference. It all sounds a bit like the spurious 1993 report in the Weekly World News that Goliath’s skull had been found with David’s stone still embedded in its forehead.
More importantly, does the Museum of the Bible teach students actual biblical scholarship on David and Goliath? Do they show how the David and Goliath story joins together two different versions, that one version presents a David who is a young shepherd-boy living at home with his father and the other version inconsistently presents a David who is a full-grown warrior in the service of Saul? Do they discuss the fact that the Bible also claims that it was Elhanan, not David, who killed Goliath? Do they repudiate the false view that the name “Goliath” was found on an inscription at Gath?
I have my doubts.
In any case, the Museum of the Bible CEO’s comments undermine claims that the Bible is being taught as an academic subject. It clearly is not. The materials appear to draw on historical and archaeological sources only to the extent that they buttress conservative belief in the Bible. This is apologetics, not education. In selecting data which supports belief, and not providing students with information which challenge those beliefs, the Museum of the Bible distorts the biblical text and perverts the education of children.