Kalona boys compete in Bible Bee
Two boys from Kalona are competing in a nationwide Bible memorization contest this weekend. Joshua and Taylor Bontrager, sons of Marlin and Becky Bontrager, are putting their knowledge of “The Good Book” to the test in the National Bible Bee in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Members of the family are in Tennessee today for the first day of the competition. Joshua, 15, is competing in the senior division for 15-to-18-year-olds. Taylor, 10, is competing in the primary division. The winner in the senior division takes home $100,000, and Joshua believes he has a good shot at winning it.
Joshua finished fourth place at the national bee last year when he and four other contestants had all perfectly recited their Bible passages through seven rounds. To break the five-way tie, the judges used the contestants’ scores on the written exams from earlier in the competition. The winner of the junior division received $75,000 that year.
It was a tough way to end a competition Joshua had worked so hard at for months. He is determined to return to the finals this go-round, and has certainly put in the hours to do it.
Joshua and his nine siblings are home-schooled, which allows them some flexibility in the completion of their schoolwork. Instead of relaxing over the summer as many 15-year-olds do, Joshua spent his summer doing homework. Since he is ahead of schedule in his studies, it has allowed him to devote most of his free time to memorizing the Bible.
For the past 2 ½ months, Joshua has spent seven hours a day reading and re-reading the Bible. He studies the Bible in complete solitude. When he wants to test his knowledge, he enlists a parent or a sibling to look at his passages as he recites them from memory.
To prepare for the National Bible Bee, Joshua had to learn 750 verses. He will not be asked to recite all of them, but he must be prepared to recite any of them. Competitors are usually asked to recite 75 to 100 of them during the competition.
The National Bible Bee consists of an oral recitation exam and a written multiple choice exam. Joshua took his written exam Thursday morning. The focus of the written test this year was two New Testament books, 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy.
One of the questions on his exam this morning was “Which city did Joshua tell the children of Israel not to rebuild?” Luckily for Joshua Bontrager, he knew the answer was Jericho.
The National Bible Bee allows contestants to choose one of five versions of the Bible to recite. The five are the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New International Version, the New American Bible and the English Standard Version.
The Bontrager family prefers the King James Version. Joshua said he believes it to be the best translation of the Bible in its original languages.
Marlin said it would be wonderful to win that prize money but that is not the reason his children study the Bible.
“So many kids waste time on video games,” he said. “We really just want our kids to learn the Bible. The encouraging thing is that I haven’t forced this on them. They’re reading the Bible on their own, and some of their siblings are excited about competing next year.”
Hudson, 7, is the youngest boy in the family of 10 children. Marlin said Hudson is chomping at the bit to compete on the national stage next year.