Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

     After studying John Bunyan in history, I decided to read The Pilgrim's Progress to my boys, ages 9 and 12. A quick Amazon search revealed more versions than I could count:   Today's English Version, Little Pilgrim's Progress, Pictorial Pilgrim's Progress, Modern English Version, The Pilgrim's Progress in Words of One Syllable....really?
     A good friend of mine suggested and let me borrow The Pilgrim's Progress All-in-One Curriculum by Answers in Genesis.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  This large hardcover illustrated book contains the original version with Scripture annotations in the margins and commentary and definitions to aid in understanding.  Although we did not use them, there are questions and activities for both younger and older children and adults at the end of each chapter.  There is a short history of the reformation and a biography of John Bunyan at the beginning of the book.
     Before reading, I explained the vocabulary words (listed at the end of the chapter) and then read the chapter.  We discussed what was going on as I read, and having the historical background was very helpful in our understanding.  Having grown up reading the King James Version of the Bible, I did not have a very difficult time understanding the original version and "translating" difficult parts for my boys.  However, there is an audiobook edition that is fully dramatized.  This would be great to use if you do not want to struggle through reading it in the original 1678 English or if you just want five hours of audio for a long car trip.
      Of note, this version does not contain the second part of the book that John Bunyan wrote and published in 1684.  The second part chronicles the pilgrimage of his wife, Christiana, and their sons. 
     It took us about two months to complete the entire book, reading 1-2 chapters a day, 3-4 days a week (25 days).  However, my friend and her family studied the book for an entire year doing many of the activities in the book.
     After we finished the book, we watched the DVD Pilgrim's Progress:  Journey to Heaven, a "modern retelling" of Bunyan's book released in 2008.  My boys and I enjoyed the movie, but the book is much richer.  There are parts in the movie that may be quite scary for young children -- Apollyon is a demon if not Satan himself, creepy minions of Satan drag someone off, the Valley of the Shadow of Death is filled with moaning and screaming, etc. Christian and Hopeful get beaten by the Giant Despair, Christian stabs Apollyon, another pilgrim attacks and stabs minions trying to keep him from the Celestial City, and Faithful is martyred for his faith by being burned at the stake.  However, there is very little blood in the movie. 
     I had never read The Pilgrim's Progress before.  What struck me most is that many of the attitudes and beliefs that John Bunyan was arguing against then, still come up today.  For example, Christian, concerned for Ignorance's soul, asks:  "But why, or by what, art thou persuaded that thou has left all for God and heaven?"  Ignorance responds, "My heart tells me so."  Christian retorts, "The wise man says, 'He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.'"  Ignorance replies, "That is spoken of an evil heart; but mine is a good one."  Later, Ignorance grows weary of arguing with Christian and Hopeful and states:  "That is your faith, but not mine, yet mine, I doubt not, is as good as yours..."
     Indeed, there really is nothing new under the sun.

Thank you Clarissa B. for directing us to this curriculum and for allowing us to borrow it.

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