The Great American Bible Challenge? More Than A Game

For more than two decades now, American society has been fixated on our ignorance about things, often to the point of celebration.  In 1991, the very first For Dummies book (it was on DOS) rolled off the presses, and more than 1600 of the series have been published since then.  We’re not afraid to say when we don’t know stuff, and actually to do so is kind of therapeutic.

Sometimes, the dummy culture rises to the level of comedy, and one thing we find hilarious is our collective cluelessness about the Bible.  Years ago, Tonight Show host Jay Leno poked fun every so often at the pandemic ignorance of Holy Writ during his “Jaywalking” segment.

Biblical illiteracy is, however, no laughing matter.  Recent titles such as Timothy Beal’s The Rise and Fall of the Bible and Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian show that the problem for the Church is pandemic.  Both books demonstrate the appalling state of how little believers know about their own sacred text. How long can any organization survive if its members don’t know its mission, axioms, and core beliefs?  Well, that’s a rhetorical question.

But what if people actually did know their Bibles? Esquire writer A.J. Jacobs took up that challenge and tried to combine humor with astonishing levels of biblical literacy in his irreverent book, The Year of Living Biblically.  In it, Jacobs, an admitted agnostic, seeks to live an entire year by trying to obey the commands of the Bible as literally as he possibly could in modern day Manhattan. He found it rough going for multiple reasons, chief amongst them not being able to gossip at work, lie, or covet the possessions of others.   Rules such as stoning adulterers, slaughtering oxen, wearing clothing not made of mixed fibers, and not shaving one’s beard seemed even harder to apply to modern life.  In the end, Jacobs concludes we can’t read the Bible literally, and that in reality people just pick and choose the commands they like, and ignore the ones that they don’t.

On a more positive note, comedian Jeff Foxworthy (of “You Might Be a Redneck” and “Are You Smarter Than Your Fifth Grader?” fame) hosts a new game show called “The American Bible Challenge,” a Family Feud style format in which groups are called upon to pit their Bible knowledge against each other in purportedly knee slapping fashion.  The show bills itself this way: “Questions will be designed to acknowledge and celebrate the Bible’s continuing importance in contemporary life and culture. The contestants will share their compelling back-stories and each team will be playing for a worthy charity.”

What do all of these books, shows, and analyses have in common?  They reveal that we live in a culture that can’t live with the Bible, but also can’t seem to live without it.

At the bottom line, however, here’s the truth: the Bible is a confusing and even bizarre book.  But it is only that way if it is not read through the lenses of what the 16th century Reformer John Calvin called the “spectacles of faith” – where everything points to the message and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Try to turn the Bible into a disconnected series of facts, and you might have a quiz show.  Try to squeeze the law of Moses into modern society and you get a Kafka-esque nightmare or a funny Jacobs’ book.  Read the Bible without the grace and love of Jesus to explain all that has gone before?  How many ways can you spell disaster?

About Greg Thornbury

Gregory Alan Thornbury serves as the president of The King's College in New York City. Before going to The King's College, he served as Dean of the School of Christian Studies at Union University, where he taught philosophy and theology. He is also currently a fellow at the Wilberforce Forum (Washington, D.C.) and co-editor of Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundation of Christian Higher Education. Developing a Christian Worldview.
  • Gilbert

    Greatest show on TV ….. Should have aired a long time ago. Need more like it! Good job JEFF

  • Gilbert

    Everyone needs this show! GOD BLESS JEFF

  • Kevin Dockens

    Who decided what “version” of the bible they use on the show? I used quotation marks because to me there is only one Bible, the KJV.

  • SUE

    LOVE THIS GAME SHOW, GOD BLESS EVERYONE THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH GREAT AMERICAN BIBLE SHOW

  • wren60

    THANK YOU JEFF!!

    I suggest that anyone that hasn’t read the bible all the way
    through start with The Living Bribie Translation. I have read the biography of
    the person who originally translated The Living Word circa 1970’s. He spent day
    and night and was never satisfied because it was the first paraphrase bible. He
    wanted everyone to be able to understand what the writers meant. The KJV is
    loved for some of the most beautiful language for memorization but is not
    always correct in its interpretation. Open your mind here for a minute. I sold
    bibles at a Christian bookstore for years and it was one of the joys of my
    life. Each translation and form: like study, chronological, historical etc.has
    it’s place. The old KJV now has an updated version NKJV. Did anyone reading
    this know that there was a his and hers version of KJV created? I HAVE SEEN
    THEM. The bible we have today has come down to us from the ages. Protected in
    ways many of us can’t even imagine. There was a mummy that was wrapped in part
    of the book of Samuel. They used trash to wrap those mummies in Egypt.
    Technology today is helping us to verify the validly of “The Bible”
    in ways only our Great and Almighty God could and still can. I’ve had many
    years of teaching from a seminary so I feel I am a valid source of information
    on this subject. I have about10 translations but do have my favorites. For
    anyone wanted to do more reading and researching online about the bible try the
    http://www.blueletterbible.org . I have no affiliation
    to this website but have found it to be a great site! Look up the Robert C.
    Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity and the Green Collection.
    It’s all very fascinating to those interested in the research, preservation and
    accuracy of Scripture.

    Peace be with you.

    PS Please never refer to the KJV to the St. James Version. King
    James was no saint and he authorized the publication of it, hence, King James
    Version.

    Any errors on this Facebook entry are due to old age and an
    illness that causes brain fog.

    THANK YOU JEFF!!

    I suggest that anyone that hasn’t read the bible all the way
    through start with The Living Bribie Translation. I have read the biography of
    the person who originally translated The Living Word circa 1970’s. He spent day
    and night and was never satisfied because it was the first paraphrase bible. He
    wanted everyone to be able to understand what the writers meant. The KJV is
    loved for some of the most beautiful language for memorization but is not
    always correct in its interpretation. Open your mind here for a minute. I sold
    bibles at a Christian bookstore for years and it was one of the joys of my
    life. Each translation and form: like study, chronological, historical etc.has
    it’s place. The old KJV now has an updated version NKJV. Did anyone reading
    this know that there was a his and hers version of KJV created? I HAVE SEEN
    THEM. The bible we have today has come down to us from the ages. Protected in
    ways many of us can’t even imagine. There was a mummy that was wrapped in part
    of the book of Samuel. They used trash to wrap those mummies in Egypt.
    Technology today is helping us to verify the validly of “The Bible”
    in ways only our Great and Almighty God could and still can. I’ve had many
    years of teaching from a seminary so I feel I am a valid source of information
    on this subject. I have about10 translations but do have my favorites. For
    anyone wanted to do more reading and researching online about the bible try the
    http://www.blueletterbible.org . I have no affiliation
    to this website but have found it to be a great site! Look up the Robert C.
    Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity and the Green Collection.
    It’s all very fascinating to those interested in the research, preservation and
    accuracy of Scripture. Any errors on this Facebook entry are due to old age and an illness that causes “brain fog”.Peace be with you.

    PS Please never refer to the KJV to the St. James Version. King
    James was no saint and he authorized the publication of it, hence, King James
    Version.

    THANK YOU JEFF!!

    I suggest that anyone that hasn’t read the bible all the way
    through start with The Living Bribie Translation. I have read the biography of
    the person who originally translated The Living Word circa 1970’s. He spent day
    and night and was never satisfied because it was the first paraphrase bible. He
    wanted everyone to be able to understand what the writers meant. The KJV is
    loved for some of the most beautiful language for memorization but is not
    always correct in its interpretation. Open your mind here for a minute. I sold
    bibles at a Christian bookstore for years and it was one of the joys of my
    life. Each translation and form: like study, chronological, historical etc.has
    it’s place. The old KJV now has an updated version NKJV. Did anyone reading
    this know that there was a his and hers version of KJV created? I HAVE SEEN
    THEM. The bible we have today has come down to us from the ages. Protected in
    ways many of us can’t even imagine. There was a mummy that was wrapped in part
    of the book of Samuel. They used trash to wrap those mummies in Egypt.
    Technology today is helping us to verify the validly of “The Bible”
    in ways only our Great and Almighty God could and still can. I’ve had many
    years of teaching from a seminary so I feel I am a valid source of information
    on this subject. I have about10 translations but do have my favorites. For
    anyone wanted to do more reading and researching online about the bible try the
    http://www.blueletterbible.org . I have no affiliation
    to this website but have found it to be a great site! Look up the Robert C.
    Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity and the Green Collection.
    It’s all very fascinating to those interested in the research, preservation and
    accuracy of Scripture.

    Peace be with you.

    PS Please never refer to the KJV to the St. James Version. King
    James was no saint and he authorized the publication of it, hence, King James
    Version.

    Any errors on this Facebook entry are due to old age and an
    illness that causes brain fog.

    THANK YOU JEFF!!

    I suggest that anyone that hasn’t read the bible all the way
    through start with The Living Bribie Translation. I have read the biography of
    the person who originally translated The Living Word circa 1970’s. He spent day
    and night and was never satisfied because it was the first paraphrase bible. He
    wanted everyone to be able to understand what the writers meant. The KJV is
    loved for some of the most beautiful language for memorization but is not
    always correct in its interpretation. Open your mind here for a minute. I sold
    bibles at a Christian bookstore for years and it was one of the joys of my
    life. Each translation and form: like study, chronological, historical etc.has
    it’s place. The old KJV now has an updated version NKJV. Did anyone reading
    this know that there was a his and hers version of KJV created? I HAVE SEEN
    THEM. The bible we have today has come down to us from the ages. Protected in
    ways many of us can’t even imagine. There was a mummy that was wrapped in part
    of the book of Samuel. They used trash to wrap those mummies in Egypt.
    Technology today is helping us to verify the validly of “The Bible”
    in ways only our Great and Almighty God could and still can. I’ve had many
    years of teaching from a seminary so I feel I am a valid source of information
    on this subject. I have about10 translations but do have my favorites. For
    anyone wanted to do more reading and researching online about the bible try the
    http://www.blueletterbible.org . I have no affiliation
    to this website but have found it to be a great site! Look up the Robert C.
    Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity and the Green Collection.
    It’s all very fascinating to those interested in the research, preservation and
    accuracy of Scripture. Any errors on this Facebook entry are due to old age and an illness that causes “brain fog”.
    Peace be with you.

    PS Please never refer to the KJV to the St. James Version. King
    James was no saint and he authorized the publication of it, hence, King James
    Version.

  • wren60

    Forgive an old lady posting for the first time. I had no idea that all of my versions had posted. I tried to be just perfect. I guess God showed me it wasn’t possible. Lesson learned. If anyone knows how I can delete all these, please help me. The first one is my corrected version, I think =>)

  • priscilla

    im obbsessed with the theme song of this show the choir is awesome!