Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

An Illustration or Two . . .

Written By: Anachan - Apr• 15•17

Recently, I pointed out several instances in which knowing references to Shakespeare could help someone understand certain cultural allusions. In the last couple of weeks, my class has run into a couple of situations where knowing Biblical references was useful.

Recently, for example, when my sophomore students finished their reading of Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story “By the Waters of Babylon.” I asked them why the author had named this story by this title.

“What was Babylon?” After some discussion, I reminded them that the Babylonian empire had taken the Old Testament inhabitants in Jerusalem into captivity. I then pulled up Psalm 137:1 on my projector and read it aloud: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”

“So, given what you know about this quote, what do the people in the story have in common with the Biblical people? Why did the author make this the title of this story?”

After that, it was obvious. The people in the Bible mourned what they had lost when they had been taken captive, and the people in the Benet’s story mourned the technology and knowledge which had been lost when the previous civilization had been destroyed. The students were able to understand that the seemingly enigmatic title had a deeper meaning, if one knew the Biblical reference.

The other example was actually due to a question one of my freshman students asked me: “Miss, is there some kind of measure of love?”

I thought about it and quoted to him, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

His face burst into a big grin. “That’s good, Miss!”

“Bonus points if you know where it comes from,” I said, with a mischievous smile.

He called on several of the surrounding students in his effort, but though they named several sources, I still smiled and shook my head. As one student was starting to surreptitiously search out the quote on her iPad, another student suddenly called out, “Shakespeare!”

“Nope!” I replied.

The original student’s face lit up. “The Bible!”

“There you go!” I said. “It’s from the New Testament.”

He grinned. “You told us,” he explained, “that many of the things people quote come from Shakespeare or the Bible. I figured since it wasn’t from Shakespeare, it might be from the Bible.”

“Right you are!”

He smiled and nodded significantly. “Good quote.”

This Easter season, many of my students will celebrate in their churches the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible. And, perhaps, the quote I mentioned will come up in the sermons or worship services they attend. I am thankful for the account in the Bible of the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I am thankful for this time to especially remember what we should be remembering all year long.

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