I will never forget the first time I learned something in Church before I learned it in school. It was such a fun feeling to already know the history and geography the teacher was explaining because I had learned it from the Bible years earlier. Many other Christians have shared a similar reaction in their school experiences. On some level, it adds a sense of awe and “coolness” to the Bible. (Not that it isn’t cool enough on its own – but that’s another topic for another day!)
Many times when teaching kids and teens the Bible, we focus only on the story. We get so caught up in helping the kids remember who did what to whom, we forget all of that information fits into the context of the world at large. Biblical history is not some special little isolated collection of mysterious almost invisible events. Rather it was as much a part of world history and geography as anything your child will learn in school.
For generations though, the church has not made great efforts to connect the dots for its children and teens. You may yourself have little knowledge about where biblical events happened or the historical times into which the Bible fits. You may even have only the foggiest understanding of the culture during Bible times and how it influences the way the Bible is written and the way things were said and done.
The great news is that there are a lot of fun ways to help your child connect the Bible back to other school subjects. Here are some of my favorites:
- Pull out Bible maps and modern maps. How have things changed? What things are the same? You will find for example that Persia – mentioned in the book of Esther – is modern day Iran. Yet, Jerusalem is basically in the same place and has gone by the same name for centuries. Your children will also learn geography often changes the way people handle things like growing food, transportation and war. How did geography effect the decisions the people in the Bible made or the things that happened to them? Have fun with it and do the same types of projects your children would do in a geography class except based around the places of the Bible.
- Have fun learning about the culture of Bible times. Good history teachers will tell you, it is difficult to truly understand history without understanding the culture surrounding it. To really understand the Bible, your children need to taste the foods, smell the smells, touch sheep, visit a vineyard, throw a sling (hint pingpong balls work well and are less dangerous than stones!) and more. Have fun with it. You can find lots of ideas on Parenting Like Hannah, on our sister site Teach One Reach One or by using Pinterest or Google.
- Experiment with the languages of the Bible. Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic are very different from English. Sometimes our understanding of the Bible is a little more difficult because the words don’t translate exactly. A great example is that the Greeks had multiple words for different types of love, whereas we only have one. Have fun with your kids and let them practice trying to write words in the various languages. The different type of script almost makes it feel like art to us. Find a pronunciation guide and learn some common Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words.
- Fit Bible history back into the framework of world history. Historians are a little fuzzy on the dates up until about the time of King David. After that, most historians tend to agree on the dates (at least within a few years). Other historians have estimated the dates earlier in the Bible with unknown accuracy. It is still fun to find a timeline in a Christian bookstore that places Bible history and world history side by side. Also, even in the most secular world history books there is often mention of people found in the Bible. (King Xerxes for example and the various Caesars.) History has even uncovered evidence of societies mentioned in the Bible, but lost to secular history until recently. We may not know exactly which Pharaohs are the ones mentioned in the Bible (although one in the later Old Testament we do), but it is still fun to match up the clues the Bible gives us with what they have discovered about the various Pharaohs so far (one matches up really well with a dead oldest son, destroyed military for no obvious reason, etc.) and make educated guesses as to their full names.
- Visit museums featuring artifacts connecting back to the Bible. Many museums have artifacts from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia and Assyria. Some even display items like Baal idols, ancient clay lamps and jars, biblical coins and carvings depicting people and scenes mentioned in the Bible. The next time you see a mummy in a museum, challenge your kids to find the names of the two people in the Bible who we know were mummified (Jacob and Joseph!). Seeing items they have read about in a museum can make the Bible come to life for your children in new and exciting ways.
Unless you homeschool, you may not have the time to do a lot of activities connecting the Bible back to school work. If you can find the time to do some of these activities during breaks and vacations though, you will greatly enhance your child’s understanding of the Bible. Plus, it’s a fun way to spend time together as a family learning about God!