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PALSave Textbook Creation Grant program releases first open textbook, "The Bible and Music"

ebook cover for the Bible and Music depicting an artistic image of a Biblical figure playing the harpWhat do works like Handel’s “Messiah” and Bach’s “Passions” have in common with contemporary songs like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” or Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much a Dollar Cost?”

Like much of the world’s favorite music, these songs draw inspiration from biblical stories, and a new, free and open textbook published by the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) offers a unique learning approach to the subject.

In “The Bible and Music,” the first open textbook published with a grant from the PALSave: PALNI Affordable Learning program, author James McGrath, Ph.D., Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, explores the intersection of faith and music while inviting readers to experience the material firsthand through interactive video and audio clips.

“The chance first to teach a course on the Bible and music, then write a cutting-edge textbook on the topic, has been a dream come true,” says McGrath. “My career has been in the academic study of the Bible and religion. Alongside that has always been a love of listening to and playing music I never did anything with professionally, but that has been profoundly important to me nonetheless. Teaching the course provided the opportunity to figure out how best to explore this intersection for an audience that may not have a background with either the Bible or music. Writing the book has given me the opportunity to share what I have learned and what I teach, and to make it available not just for my future students, but anyone interested.”

“The Bible and Music” offers what no previous textbook on the subject has before. It provides readers with an overview of the highly influential—yet sometimes surprising—connection between song and faith, with material dating back from ancient Israelite music and the musical notation in ancient Hebrew manuscripts, to the reception of the Bible in classical, rock, hip hop, country, and other genres of today. 

Offered digitally, it is the first textbook of its kind to engage readers in actively listening to the subject matter as they follow the readings. Best of all, it does this as an open educational resource (OER), meaning it costs readers—primarily college students and their instructors—nothing. 

James McGrath holding acoustic guitarMcGrath was one of the first open textbook authors to apply for and receive a PALSave Textbook Creation Grant from PALNI in 2021. Offered to faculty from PALNI-supported institutions, the grant allows educators to develop open textbooks that are freely available online, making them part of a nationwide effort to reduce the cost of course materials for college students. Financed with support from Lilly Endowment Inc., each grant provides a maximum of $6,500 per project or $5,000 per author.

As an inaugural grant recipient, McGrath agreed to have his book serve as the pilot project for the entire Textbook Creation Grant program. Since the release of McGrath’s book, there are now eight grant-funded titles in production with seven additional titles to be selected for creation in March 2023. 

“It is extremely rewarding to see faculty authors like Dr. McGrath, who is so committed to creating high quality, low-cost course material, receive funding for a project and then see it come to fruition,” says Amanda Hurford, PALNI Scholarly Communications Director. “It is because of these educators that textbook affordability is becoming a reality. PALNI is grateful to them, and to our funding organization, Lilly Endowment, for enabling us to support them in the process.” 

PALNI’s OER Publishing Task Force, including Project Manager and Butler University Librarian Jennifer Coronado and PALNI Publishing Project Coordinator Heather Myers, supported the creation of the book.

“The Bible and Music” by James McGrath is available for free through the PALNI Press. 

Visit PALSave: PALNI Affordable Learning online to learn more about Textbook Creation Grants and other OER opportunities offered through PALNI.


About the PALSave Textbook Creation Grant Program

With support from Lilly Endowment Inc., PALNI's PALSave Textbook Creation Grant Program awards funding to faculty members from PALNI-supported institutions to create open textbooks.

Faculty are periodically invited to submit creation grant proposals for the courses they teach. Textbooks may cover any discipline at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. PALNI seeks proposals for textbooks geared toward specific fields of study that meet the inclusion criteria for the Open Textbook Library. 

The PALNI Open Educational Resource (OER) Publishing Task Force selects projects for funding based on proposal quality, clearly defined goals, need within the current open access body of work, and adoption potential within PALNI schools and beyond.

PALNI coordinates peer review, copyediting, layout, and hosting services to assist grant recipients in their textbook creation. Each textbook is also supported by a local project manager to monitor progress and answer questions throughout development. The open textbooks are published on the PALNI Press-supported Pressbooks platform alongside other faculty-contributed works and are ultimately submitted to the Open Textbook Library and OER repositories.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. More information can be found at

About the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana

The Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) is a non-profit organization that supports collaboration for library and information services for 24 colleges, universities and seminaries throughout the state. From its inception in 1992, the PALNI collaboration has been a key avenue for its supported institutions to contain costs while providing more effective library services. More recently, PALNI has adopted a model of deep collaboration that pools resources and people as a tool to expand services while keeping costs down. PALNI’s board of directors, composed of all 24 library deans and directors from the supported organizations, convened a Future Framing Task Force in 2019 to address ongoing demographic challenges in higher education. The board has escalated this work in the wake of COVID-19, as the consortium seeks to manage the increased need for online support while reducing costs. Simultaneously, PALNI is expanding collaboration within its institutions and with external library partners to address challenges and build cost-effective services. Visit the PALNI website for more information.

PALNI Supported Institutions

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary | Anderson University | Bethel University | Butler University | Concordia Theological Seminary | Christian Theological Seminary | DePauw University | Earlham College | Franklin College | Goshen College | Grace College | Hanover College | Huntington University | Manchester University | Marian University | Oakland City University | University of Saint Francis | Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College | Saint Mary’s College | Saint Meinrad’s Seminary and School of Theology | Taylor University | Trine University | University of Indianapolis | Wabash College