Book reviews: Children’s Bibles
In 2011 I became a father. And from the very earliest days of my daughter’s life we began to read Bible stories to her. When she was very little my wife and I would read quite lengthy passages but now she’s 18 months old it’s become a bit more of an interactive experience. She’ll now request “Jesus”, “God” or “Bible” stories, and can recognise the pictures of John the Baptist, and name the first four disciples called by Jesus. (She’s also pretty good at singing Zacchaeus was a very little man.)
But this isn’t a parental bragging session. It’s a chance to give you my thoughts on what’s out there to read to your own children/grandchildren/Sunday Schoolers/toddler group.
At Hannah’s baptism the church gave us the God Loves Me Bible. My initial reaction to things that say God Loves You is to reject it out of hand and then enter into a theological treatise on whether we’re talking about God’s common grace or his electing love that is only for his adopted in Christ. But I was pleasantly surprised by this one. There are 66 Bible characters that God showed his love for and each retelling of the story is short enough for wriggly toddlers without being too shallow. I appreciated the story of Gideon which begins: “Gideon was weak.” The accent is on God’s grace not on these “Heroes” works. 3/5
When Hannah was a small baby we could read to her all night if we wanted to. She would lie in our arms and would have no choice but to listen. As she’s grown we’ve found her to get more wriggly so we needed to find a book with short stories that would keep her attention. Time for Bed Bible Stories fitted this bill perfectly. The stories are 5 or 6 lines over 3 pages with bright illustrations. This is the book where Hannah can name the disciples. However, there are a couple of issues with this one. The Lost Sheep tells how a shepherd seeks the lost sheep but the moral of the story is “God is happy too when anyone comes to him.” My wife and I adapt this line to reflect the parable – that it’s God who seeks and finds the lost. Also, as one who takes the second commandment as being still in force today, the crucifixion picture may be the most blasphemous thing I’ve ever seen. (But that may be because I’ve not seen the kids’ Bible with the cloth characters yet.) 3/5
The best children’s Bible is the Jesus Storybook Bible. This has become the standard go-to children’s Bible for conservative evangelical parents because it puts the whole Bible into the framework of God’s redemption in Christ. It teaches us how everything in the Old Testament points to Christ and how the New Testament is the fulfilment of God’s promises. The only bad thing is that there is a lot of text so toddlers will find it difficult to sit through the reading of the stories without tearing the pages they want to turn. But for babies and then four-years and up this is amazing. You’ll learn a lot as well and praise God for his great love for his people. 5/5
Of course all of these are deficient in that they’re not the Bible. But as an introduction they’re a good stepping stone. Now, excuse me I have to go and catechise my daughter: “Hannah, what’s the chief end of man?”