You would never hear a Social Studies teacher speak about George Washington or Benjamin Franklin as characters from the American Revolution. No teacher would ever say Abraham Lincoln or Fredrick Douglas were inspirational characters from the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was certaintly not a character in the struggle for social justice in 1960’s.
So why then do teachers of the Bible, especially when teaching children, speak of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, even Jesus, as characters in the Old or New Testaments. Friends, they were not characters, they were real people.
Hansel and Gretel are characters. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are characters. Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s horses and men are characters.
John the Baptist is not a character. Jonah the prophet is not a character. The Apostle Paul was quite a character in the metaphorical sense, but not in the literal sense. Each of these men walked, breathed, and acted in a real world. They are historial, not fictional.
I believe Christian parents and teachers must change our language when teaching the Bible, especially to children. Our children are attempting to form their own understanding of what is truthful and what is fiction. Because of child-like faith, and what I believe is God’s unique design in kids, they see the Bible as something different than storybooks in their bedroom. Therefore, we as teachers and parents must respond with appropriate language to solidfy the truthfulness of the Bible and the reality of the people in the Bible.
We must remember that the men, women, teenagers and children found on the pages of Scripture are not storybook characters living in a land far, far away. Each one lived in a real time, in a real place, and the details of their lives reported in Scripture are real, not make-believe.
We have to remember these are not the tales of the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. This is the truth-filled, reliable account of God’s redemptive history in His created world. Nothing make-believe about that.