How much do you remember of your third-grade reader? Could you quote it authoritatively? Could you use the stories' moral lessons to guide your life? I can't even remember the title of my third-grade reader, much less the storylines. I wouldn't dare quote it or make assertions about what it said.

We are surrounded by people whose awareness of the Bible is similarly vague. They heard Bible stories as young children, perhaps had a picture Bible when a little older, and can dimly recall declaiming the Second Shepherd's lines in the Christmas play. As they got older they found Sunday school boring. By high-school graduation, if not before, they had stopped attending church. Their biblical education ground to a halt when they lost interest at about age 8 or 10.

But that has no effect on their confidence. In an essay for the glossy highbrow, Harper's, a writer asserted that the Bible ranks hope along with faith and love (good so far) in Psalm 23 (uh oh). It's a dumb mistake, but it wasn't hers alone; editors, proofreaders, even fact-checkers comb every word in a magazine of this stature. No doubt everyone had a dim memory of something like this being in the Bible, and so it was rubber-stamped into print.

My clipping file includes an urging from the Washington Post to make Christmas special by "reading Mark or Luke's narrative at home." (Mark has a birth narrative? Gee, I can't find one.) Newsweek describes Jesse Jackson holding hands with the Clintons and reciting "the fifty-first Psalm, David's prayer for mercy after he had been seduced by Bathsheba." (Oh, so that's how it happened!)My favorite is a line from that 1980s anthem, "We Are the World": "As our God has shown us by turning stones to bread." I picture the songwriters Lionel ...

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Frederica Mathewes-Green
Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of several books and has been a commentator for National Public Radio, National Review, and other media outlets. Her books include The Jesus Prayer and Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. Mathewes-Green's podcast "Frederica Here and Now" is carried on Ancient Faith Radio. Her column, "Your World," ran from 1998 to 2000.
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