The Bible and Jeopardy

Last week on Jeopardy (one of my favorite shows), one of the categories was Bible MVPs. I love when they have Bible categories on Jeopardy, mostly because I get to feel smart. But I am usually impressed with how well the contestants do—in this case, they got three of the five questions right. Sometimes it doesn’t go quite that well, but some basic names and quotes from the Bible are typically considered to be important common knowledge.

This is much less the case than it used to be. I took a course in college called “The Bible as Literature.” I was a religious studies major, but this course was offered by the English department. For me, it was an easy A, and knocked off a general education requirement. I had honestly been hoping for more in-depth analysis of biblical literature than I got, but for the English department this was an important introductory course so their majors would be able to see allusions and references in classical and modern literature to biblical themes.

We mostly just read the Bible, straight-through, skipping things like Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and the professor pointed out things like the Tower of Babel, David and Goliath, the sacrifice of Isaac. Things that I thought were basic knowledge—hence my easy A. We did a little literary analysis of the psalms and the wisdom literature, but for the most part the course was designed to help an English major recognize The Grapes of Wrath as a story of exodus.

The department started the course when they realized students weren’t picking up on these references the way they once had. They could no longer count on freshmen having at least a cursory knowledge of biblical themes and characters—something important to understanding and interpreting a lot of literature. I know that I was certainly a minority in the class.

We might assume that this is attributable to the fact that fewer college students have been involved in church and therefore don’t know the Bible. While this is true, I also think that fewer people involved in church know the Bible the way they used to. I don’t know everything—I get the Jeopardy questions wrong from time to time—and I even spent four semesters on it in grad school!

In fact, the Lutheran church came out several years ago and declared that one of the largest challenges facing the church is biblical illiteracy. There’s been a push, called “Opening the Book of Faith,” to get folks reading their Bibles and relearning the first language of the faith.

Some of this is because we don’t tend to read a ton of the Bible on Sunday mornings. Just four passages (Old Testament, psalm, New Testament, Gospel), and often out of their narrative context. To really know it, we have to read more. On our own time, in Bible studies, or Sunday School. It helps, not just for Jeopardy, but for having a great repository of the faith.

So, would you pass the Bible as Literature? Or the Jeopardy questions? If you’re looking for a good entry point, I recommend starting with Mark—it’s the shortest gospel, and an engaging story when read straight through.

Here are the questions from Jeopardy if you’re curious (scroll down for the answers):

  1. This man earned his MVP status leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt
  2. This fisherman was picked specifically by Jesus to be the “rock” of his new church
  3. This wife of Abraham & mother of Isaac was favored by God as the “mother of nations”
  4. Jesus loved him enough to raise him from the dead in John 11
  5. It was this MVP (most valuable prophet) who asked whether the leopard can change his spots

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  1. Who is Moses?
  2. Who is Peter?
  3. Who is Sarah?
  4. Who is Lazarus?
  5. Who is Jeremiah?

3 thoughts on “The Bible and Jeopardy

  1. I especially loved this blog, Laura, because I love Jeopardy and because (forgive me for bragging; I know it’s a sin) the Bible is my best category. That said, I must admit that I missed the prophet question–I said Isaiah. I think I’ve learned a lot about the Bible from reading daily devotions, from Bible study–especially as so excellently led by you (not kissing up–just stating the truth), and from the sermons we hear in church. I agree that there’s a lack of biblical knowledge among some Christians, and I hope your encouraging words will spur more people on to read and become familiar with the Bible.

    Like

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