This morning, a friend emailed to ask me about the value of studying ancient history. She is, like our family and several others I know, getting ready to dive into Tapestry of Grace, Year 1. This isn't her favorite period of history, and so she was needing some confirmation that it really is important enough to spend a whole year on.
Well, after spending a year in the history of the 20th century, I'm MORE than ready to go back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. I can hardly wait! Like my friend, I love history, but unlike her, I really get my kicks from the old stuff--the older the better!
But apart from the fact that I enjoy it, is it really worth giving it a whole year every four years? And my answer is a resounding "Yes!"
The roots of most things good about American government and society are found in ancient Greece and Rome. Just as important, the seeds of everything destructive are found there, too. We are living in an age when what is good is being threatened by elements that will probably, ultimately, bring down the American democracy. But we're in the middle of it...we can't see the forest for the trees. Someday, if Jesus doesn't come first, people in a faraway time will study just what happened to us and why. We can't do that now because it is still happening and seems to be happening so slowly.
But when we step back and with a wide-angle lens look at several hundred years of ancient Greece and Rome and understand how and why they came to such tragic ends, it's easier to understand how we might be heading in the same direction. We can identify the elements that are the same even though they may be cloaked with technology and our own brands of hedonism: there is truly nothing new under the sun. And we can use that knowledge to salt and light our world with the truth of God's word.
Another value in studying the ancient world is that just as God chose the Jews to be His people, He also chose the ancient world as the perfect space-time for Jesus to be born and enter our world. Why? There are no easy answers to this question, but studying the ancient world is the only way to gain an understanding of why He considered the first century "the fulness of time." The world was ripe for his plan...what were the factors that made it so?
Also, the ancient world was contemporary with all of what we read in the Bible. Studying that world brings new insights into the Old Testament stories as well as the New Testament formation of the Church and the spreading of the gospel. When I was little, I believed that the Bible was TRUE, but I never thought of it as connected with real history. Isn't that a shame? Now I marvel at studying ancient Egypt and seeing how it dovetails with the captive Israelites and with Moses' dealings with Pharoah. I can imagine what the powerful Joseph experienced when I know more about the Pharoahs' courts, the unusual patterns of weather, and the idolatrous religion practiced in the Nile region. Only then do I understand the significance and implications of the plagues. Only when I know something about Egyptian burial rituals do I understand why Joseph was so adamant about having his bones carried OUT of Egypt even if hundreds of years after his death. Only when I study Greek and other ancient mythologies can I recognize the unending tendency of fallen man to take seeds of truth and pervert them in order not to have to be accountable to the holy God who sent His son into the Greco-Roman world.
And only when I can study and understand ancient history in the light of Biblical truth can I impart that understanding to my children, praying that they will absorb it in a totally different way than I did as a child. Otherwise, they too will grow up learning one history in church and family devotions and another from their history books, as though the two somehow occurred on different planets. May God infuse our next study with the fragrance of His presence throughout the ages and with a concrete sense that it is, and always has been, HIStory.
And to my friend who was courageous enough to ask the question, I have left you anonymity, but if you'd like to come out of lurkdom in the comments and add your own, feel free :-) Only when we ask the questions can we gather the viewpoints that help us shape our own!
Labels: Homeschooling, Learning