4 Things Wrong with my Kid’s Bible

There is nothing like having a kid to make you evaluate what’s most important. So when I discovered that my two-year-old daughter’s Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers didn’t have the death and resurrection of Jesus, I had to ask, What are the essential elements of the Bible?

Writing a children’s Bible must be a monumental task. How do you take a book thousands of pages long, with hundreds of characters and scores of plotlines, and boil it down to make it understandable, instructive, and entertaining to kids?

This guy counted all the stories from children’s Bibles going back 200 years, and points out that the focus seems to change over time; children’s Bibles in the 1800s had more emphasis on moral development, whereas newer editions might have more of a theological underscoring.

My ideal Children’s Bible would:

1. Be faithful to the original message.
I want my daughter to learn from the stories the lessons they were meant to teach.
I’m not talking about using a “literal” translation, or some such nonsense. Every Bible passage requires interpretation; that’s unavoidable. But I had to unlearn a lot of what I “knew” about the Bible as an adult, because I was so used to asking the phrase, “What does this passage mean to you?”

But you can’t answer this question, without first knowing, “What did this story mean to them?” The Bible was written in a different time and culture, when people thought differently; understanding this is the first step to good exegesis. No tot is going to learn the word “exegesis,” but teaching the right lesson to start with can go a long way to right understanding when she is older.

In the Bible, even the lions are happy.

In the Bible, even the lions are happy.

2. Have historically accurate illustrations.
Even if my daughter’s Bible leaves out a detail or a moral that I think is important, I can (and will) talk with her about it; but the pictures it has will be probably be linked in her mind for the rest of her life.

It’s pretty much impossible to find a historically accurate nativity set; believe me, I’ve tried. It should not be so hard to find a kid’s Bible that shows, hey, these were real people (and they didn’t look like me).

3. Teach grace.
The overarching plot of the Bible is “Weakness, Grace, Restoration.” Most children’s Bibles emphasize God’s loving nature, but this is only half the picture; I’m not talking about graphic descriptions of Old Testament judgment and eternal damnation, but I do want my daughter to read her Bible and understand, “People are broken, and God fixes them. I need Jesus.”

Stories should be selected to highlight that theme — both as points in the meta-story, and which demonstrate those trait independently.

The Pharisees Question Jesus by artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper.

4. Emphasize the Greatest Commandments.
Finally, if we are to boil down the Bible to essentials, we have to start where Jesus did:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’… And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Mt 22:37,39

God gives us our worth, and for that, he is worthy to be loved and worshipped. And each of us is created in the image of God — meaning that we all have inherent value, and we are meant to reflect God’s image to each other. That’s something we would all do well to remember.

6 thoughts on “4 Things Wrong with my Kid’s Bible

    • Thanks, Vanessa! I’ll add that to the growing list others have recommended, including The Jesus Storybook Bible, which several friends have said is excellent. I’ll be sure to check it out!

  1. Well luckily, there are a lot of options out there. A couple years back I reviewed a kids Bible for Bible Study Magazine that was “written” by Desmond Tutu. It’s called The Children of God Bible, and I was impressed with how the illustrations reflected an international representation of many many people groups. In the back of the book it lists the artists who contributed to the Bible and there were probably over 20 of them from all over the world. So if you want an artistically brilliant Bible, that’s a good one. Have to admit, though, it’s not the girl’s favorite. Our girls favorite is the happy lions one, shown above. It’s kinda meh in my opinion.

    The one I enjoy reading the most is called My Favorite Bible which is story-driven and always points back to Jesus and God’s constant love for us. Also, everyone isn’t Caucasian in it. It doesn’t have too much text for little kids, either. I really like the Jesus Storybook, but it’s too much text per illustration for little ones to stay engaged for very long. Probably better for the 5+ age range.

    Anyway, good topic big bro. Thanks for writing!

  2. Totally vibe with the need to overarching storyline. As an addendum, I would add creation to the front of your three part salvific history. The story of the Scriptures start with God and goodness and while man and weakness are a huge part of it, I wonder how our faith would be different if the Genesis 3 wasn’t the opening chapter of our pragmatic Bibles.

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