Christian Religious Education

Chapter 1: Introduction to Christian Religious Education

  • 1.1. The Importance of Learning CRE

What is Christian Religious Education?

There are multiple definitions of CRE as a subject. First, it is important to understand what Christianity means, and what it means to study the Christian religion in school.

The Christian religion or Christianity refers to a type of religion that involves the belief in one God, His son Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Holy Spirit, and His revelation through the scripture. On the other hand, education refers to the process of passing knowledge to people. Therefore, Christian Religious Education is the process of developing knowledge about God’s revelation, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

In short, CRE is the study of God’s revelation to mankind through the scripture, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Why Should Students Learn CRE?

CRE is taught in school for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, understanding God, instilling moral values, and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Students should not be inclined to Christian Religious Education just for the sake of it, or because we want to pass in exam. The decision to take CRE as a subject should be motivated by the inner desire to know Christ more deeply and to understand God’s revelation to human beings in a more personal way. After the study of CRE, you should be able to understand God’s purpose in your life. CRE is also intended to change our perspective towards others, follow the example of Christ, and seek the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit in everything we do.

In summary, here is a list of the reasons why we should study CRE:

  1. To enable us develop a personal relationship with God in our lives
  2. To acquire relevant Christian values and principles of responsible living
  3. Helps students to cultivate a sense of respect for self and for others
  4. Enables students to grow and develop morally and spiritually
  5. The study of CRE also enhances positive values and attitudes, which are necessary for one to cope with the challenges they face in life.
  6. It enables learners to contribute positively to the transformation of their individual lives and that of the society in general.
  7. CRE also helps students to find answers to pertinent questions and situations of life such as death, origin of life, life after death. For instance, the study of creation helps students to understand the origin of man.
  8. The study of CRE enhances international consciousness. It helps students to be aware of international issues such interreligious dialogue, wars, and diplomacy.
  9. To enhance cultural integration – by learning about Christianity and living by the religion, students are able to interact with people from different cultures who profess the same religion.
  10. Christian religious education also unites people. When students learn CRE, they appreciate will appreciate the importance of uniting as a community of Christians and working together with others.
  11. To acquire better understanding of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
  12. CRE is a career subject – students can become lawyers, teachers, pastors, and priests by learning CRE as a subject.
  13. Enable learners appreciate their African heritage, culture, and religion.

1.2. The Bible

By definition, the bible is a sacred book of God, the word of God which contains His revelation to mankind and through which He communicates with His people. The bible can is seek as a library of books because it has a combination of many books in one.

 

1.2.1 The Bible as the Word of God

Why is the bible referred to as the word of God? Here are the reasons:

  • The written scriptures contain God’s word or message to man
  • God communicates his will to humans through the bible. God speaks to us when we read the bible.
  • The bible is composed of word written by inspired people such as the prophets who were ordained by God
  • God himself participated in the writing of the bible. This is noted through some bible verses written with the personal pronoun “I” as God speaks to us in his own voice (Jeremiah 33:3). God is also believed to the author of the Ten Commandments delivered to Moses in the Mountain.
  • It has a narrative of salvation through Christ (John 3:16). God sent his son to save man from sin; so we know the bible contains a message from God.
  • The written scriptures also reveal mysteries – contains a revelation of mysteries, e.g. in the book of revelation revealing the end days and life after death.
  • It contains a message of reconciliation and hope, e.g. Acts 3:19.
  • From the bible we see that God took control of its authorship as he regulated the message he intended for the writers to pass to humans.

1.2.2. The Bible as a Library

A library is often considered as a collection of many books. The bible is thus a library because it has several books inspired by God. The sacred book has 66 books in total, 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament (components of the Old and New Testaments will be addressed more deeply in the next section).

However, there are 7 additional books in the ancient Catholic Church, which are known as the Apocrypha or Deutero or the Canonical books.

Apocrypha means “hidden or secret.” The 7 books of the Apocrypha are: Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiaticus, Baarch and Maccabees.

Why is the bible referred to as a library? Here’s why:

  • It contains many books (66 in total) arranged in series just like any other library.
  • The bible is used as a reference book for Christians – each book was used for a specific purpose, so it can be used by Christians as a reference for various reasons.
  • The books contained in the bible were written in different historical times
  • The bible also consists of literary works, e.g. poetics, proverbs, etc.
  • Various books of the bible address different topics.
  • The bible has various books written by different authors in different times
  • The bible was also written in different situations and circumstances.

1.2.3 The Major Divisions of the Bible

Learning Objective: By the end of this lesson you should be able to describe the major divisions of the bible

Divisions are categories or components. The bible has two major divisions: The Old Testament and the New Testaments. The Old Testament has 39 books while the New Testament has 27 books. Testament refers to an agreement or covenant between God and human beings.

The Old Testament

There are four subdivisions of the Old Testament:

  1. Law books or the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch
  2. Historical Books
  3. Poetic Books
  4. Prophetic Books

The Law Books, Torah or Pentateuch (5)

The law books or the Pentateuch were written by Moses and contain the law of God, which was addressed to the people of Israel and delivered to them through Moses – e.g. Commandments. These books also narrate the history of Israel since creation until the time they reached the Promised Land. The five law books are:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

Historical Books (12)

These are the 12 books succeeding the Pentateuch. They contain the history of the Israelites as well as the life stories and achievements of prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. The 12 historical books are:

(a) Joshua        (b) Judges        (c) Ruth           (d) 1st and & 2nd Samuel         (e) 1st and 2nd Kings      (f) 1st and 2nd Chronicles         (g) Ezra           (h) Nehemiah              (i) Esther

Poetic Books (5)

These are books with the characteristics of a poem, carrying poetic forms. They contain prayers, songs and wise sayings. They include:

(a) Psalms written by David               (b) Proverbs                 (c) Eclesiastes             

(d) Song of Solomon                          (e) Job

Prophetic Books (17)

The prophetic books are narrations of prophets. They are divided into two: major and minor prophets. The Major Prophets covered a longer period of time while the Minor Prophets covered a shorter period.

  • The Major Prophets (5) include: (a) Isaiah, (b) Jeremiah, (c) Lamentations, (d) Ezekiel, and (e) Daniel. The books were named after the prophets who wrote them, except Lamentations which was written by Jeremiah.
  • The Minor Prophets (12) include: (1) Hosea (2 Joel (3) Amos (4) Obadiah (5) Jonah (6) Micah (7) Nahum (8) Habakkuk (9) Zephaniah (10) Haggai (11) Zechariah and (12) Malachi.

The New Testament

The New Testament is divided into four categories:

  1. Biographical book or Gospels.
  2. Historical book (Acts of the apostles).
  3. The Epistles.
  4. Apocalyptic or Prophetic book

The Biographical books or Gospels

The Gospel books were written by the disciples to give an account of the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel means the Good News because the books talk about the good news of salvation through Jesus.

The gospel books are the first four in the New Testament:

  1. Mathew – Written by Mathew
  2. Mark – Written by Mark
  3. Luke – Written by Luke
  4. John – Written by John, Jesus’s discipline

Historical Books

They talk about the history of the Early Church. Acts of the Apostle is the only historical book in the New Testament – written by St. Luke, the author of the Gospel book of Luke.

The Epistles

These are letters written by the apostles to the Early Churches. They are divided into two: Pauline and General Epistles. Pauline Epistles are the letters written by Paul to various churches, while the General Epistles were written by other different authors.

  • Pauline Epistles are 13 and they include: (1) Romans (2, 3) 1, 2 Corinthians (4) Galatians (5) Ephesians (6) Philippines (7) Colossians (8, 9) 1, 2 Thessalonians (10, 11) 1, 2 Timothy (12) Titus and (13) Philemon.
  • The General Epistles include: Hebrews (2) James (3, 4) 1, 2 Peter (5, 6, 7) 1, 2, 3, John and (8) Jude.

Apocalyptic or Prophetic Books

In this category we have the book of Revelation only, the final book of the New Testament. This is a different book from the rest of the bible because it prophesies about the future – about the things yet to come. It was written by John, Jesus’s favored discipline, and the author of the Gospel of John.

  • Translations of the Bible

The bible and its books are a canon of the Christian church. Canon refers to standard rules and guidance, so the bible guides the life of a Christian. Translation can be defined as the process of putting the wordings, pictures, poetic forms, and songs of the bible in a different language – expressing the bible from one language to another.

History of the Translation of the Bible

Originally, the Christian language was written in the Hebrew language, and it was translated severally into different languages in various stages.

Between 250-100 BC, the bible was translated to the Greek language – this Greek translation was known as Septuagint, which means 70 translators. The Jews who were in diaspora (those living outside Palestine) used this translation.

Between 386 and 420 AD, the bible was translated from Greek to Latin by Gerome, a Great Christian Scholar. Latin was used as the official language in Rome during the Roman Empire. The Latin version was maintained until the 16th century.

In the 16th century, the bible was translated into other native languages to allow worship in native dialects. This is when the bible was translated into Native European languages such as English and German.

As Christianity spread out of the Middle East and Europe into other parts of the world, there was need to translate the bible into many other languages. Britain formed the Foreign Bible Society in 1904 to facilitate the translation of the bible into several other languages.

In East Africa, the bible was first translated into Kiswahili by Ludwig Krapf Gerome Bishop Edward Steere in Zanzibar in the late 1800s. The entire bible was translated and published in Kiswahili in 1891.

The bible was then translated into native languages of Kenya in different times during the 20th century. In 1951, the bible was translated in Kikuyu. It was then translated in Kimeru, Kalenjin and Luhya in 1964, 1968 and 1974 respectively. By 2010, the bible had been translated into 42 languages.

Translation and Bible Versions in Kenya

The bible has been translated in various versions such as:

(i) King James Version (ii) Jerusalem Bible (iii) New International (iv) English Bible (v) The Authorized Version (vi) Good News (vii) Revised Standard Version (viii) New King James Version (ix) Amplified Bible (x) The living Bible (xi) The African Bible (xii) Common Bible (xiii) Today’s English Bible (xiv) American version among others.

Do you know any other version used in Kenya? Name it.

Literary Forms in Writing of the Bible

Literary forms are the different styles and figures of speech used when writing the bible. They include:

  1. Poetry – this is found in the poetic books such as Psalms, Job, and proverbs. They include rhymes, repetition, and other patterns in poetry.
  2. Prose – used in the book of Leviticus
  3. Wise sayings – used in proverbs
  4. Prayers – in Nehemiah
  5. Songs – Songs of Solomon
  6. Letters – Used in Pauline letters and other letters
  7. Gospels – the Gospel according to Matthew, Luke, and John.
  8. Religious events such as in Exodus
  9. Narratives – as seen in Genesis
  10. Philosophical essays – in the book of Job.

The effects of Bible translations on African languages

Bible translations:

  • Increased and deepened African faith in God.
  • Led to increased literacy. After Africans acquired literacy skills, they read the Bible and improved their literacy skills. Christian missionaries established schools in order to teach literacy that helped African to read the Bible.
  • Made it easy for missionaries to spread the gospel to the African communities.
  • Increased the demand for the Bible. This led to writing of Books and setting up of printing presses in African countries.
  • Made it easy for the expansion of the church i.e. more people became Christians.
  • Led to the emergence of independent churches and schools.
  • The missionaries and colonialists learnt the African languages.
  • The African converts realized that the missionaries were unfair to them. There was for example a different treatment of African by White missionaries. This was inequality of races, which was and is even now against Christian teachings.
  • Helped Africans to re-discover their cultural identity. For example the use of African instruments, dressings, and practice of polygamy, which David and other kings in the Old Testament did.
  • Led to the writings and spread of African languages. The missionaries learnt local languages.
  • Improved communications between missionaries and the local people because they could understand each other.
  • Increased printing of reading materials

Chapter 2: Creation and the fall of Man (Gen 1-3, 6-9, 11)

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