Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Children's Bible

Recently, my wife and I started reading to our two girls from their Children's Bibles every night. Our kindergartner is in Logos now, so we thought that reading the same Bible that she's studying there would be good reinforcement. The girls both seem to be taking very well to a Bible story or two every night.

I've found it pretty interesting how Bibles for young children ("young" as in board books) tell some of the key stories from the Bible and what language they use. A couple of interesting observations from the first few books / pages:

  • In general, the naming of God uses gender neutral language. Many more "God"s than "He"s.
  • Adam and Eve both just happened to eat the apple from the tree. There's nothing to suggest that the snake told Eve and Eve told Adam. Just, the snake said "you should try it" and Eve did and Adam did.
  • There are no qualms talking about death. God clearly asks Abraham to sacrifice his son. Joseph's brother clearly leave him for dead.
I can imagine that there could be a lot of controversy over anything that an author does in retelling Bible stories at a young child's reading level. It's also a very important job! If other studies on learning are any indicator, we develop some fundamental beliefs very early in life. How we talk to our children about the Bible is likely to have a huge impact on their development of faith and beliefs.


B-W said...

In general, the naming of God uses gender neutral language. Many more "God"s than "He"s.

Reminds me of something I was reading where an anti-inclusive-language scholar was reported as saying "I’ve found many of the Children’s Bibles among the most corrupt and feminist
influenced." Because inclusion is such a horrible thing that must, of course, be opposed at all costs! To call God "God" instead of "he" is "corruption"!

OK, so I probably overstate the point. It was a bit irritating, though.

All that said, I think that there is most definitely room for debate as to how appropriate it is to retell stories in such a way children can understand them, and how much such retellings distort the intended message.

Sarahlynn said...

I too have wondered about age-level-appropriate Bible stories. I like the idea of my children gradually increasing their comfort and familiarity with various Bible stories.

But do simplified retellings convey the same messages?

Our five-year-old is reading "The Little Child's First Bible" with her daddy and the stories have a little bit of meat on them.

And our two-year-old LOVED "The Baby Bible Storybook" that she and I just finished reading together.

I've always found it interesting that the Noah story is so popular with young children (including as a theme for nurseries). It's a very dark story! But our Baby Bible version says:

God told Noah to build a big boat called an ark. Noah used a hammer. All the animals marched inside - monkeys and bunnies and cows. God shut the door. It rained and rained. But Noah and all the animals were safe and dry. God took care of Noah. God takes care of you, too.

Does that adequately and accurately present the message of the story?

Joseph's brothers don't offer an opinion about his new coat, soldiers don't really fight. David just made Goliath "fall down." Nothing too heavy for toddlers.

But I really wondered how they'd handle the resurrection.

One day the people had a parade to show how much they loved Jesus. Some people did not like Jesus. They took Him away. His friends thought they would never see Him again. Then Mary saw Jesus. Jesus had come back to life again! We are glad Jesus is alive and with us now.

I think Jesus just rose without ever dying. That rather misses the point.

But I'm not ready to talk about murder (execution or any other kind) with my two-year-old.

Later, I think these books can be important springboards for discussion with our children. How do the storybooks differ from the Bible itself? Which version do you like better? What do you think about this story?