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Bibles For Young Children


jeanied
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Hello,

I was wondering if anyone had advice about what type of bible to purchase for toddlers+. I am cautious about the type of bible to purchase as I don't want to buy something for my child that is too traditional, and that I won't feel comfortable with.

 

The only bible I've found thus far is The Family Story Bible by Ralph Milton. Is there another one you'd recommend, or is this the standard bible you'd recommend for young children?

 

Thanks.

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Hi Jeanied. Welcome to the forum!

 

My suggestion is going to be HIGHLY biased, so please keep that in mind. I've had four children, and if I had it to do over again, I would read to them the gospels in the Good News for Modern Man translation (which is currently called the Good News Bible). Why would I do this? Because I would want their oldest memories of the Bible to be about Jesus. what he did and what he taught. And there is plenty of material there for good conversations and object lessons.

 

I would not start off their Bible education with cutesy stories of Noah and the flood (99.9% of the world is destroyed) or Joshua and Jericho (where Israel's enemies are killed) or the 10 Commandments (as we Gentiles were never under that covenant) or King David who had too much blood on his hands to build the Temple. See, I told you I was biased.

 

I would want them grounded in who Jesus was and what he taught us. Reading the gospels in the Good News Bible is a good way to do this (about 5th or 6th grade reading level) or Christian moderates have recently publish the Common English Bible that is like an "English-as-a-second-language" version that makes the scriptures easier to understand for younger people. http://www.commonenglishbible.com/

 

You can, of course, find many "children's Bibles" in the NIV, etc. But if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't expose my kids to the more horrific stories in the Bible until they could handle them (and I still struggle with some of them at age 52).

 

Again, welcome to the forum. If you get the opportunity, we'd love to hear more about you and your journey in the Personal Stories section.

 

Regards,

Bill

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Hi Jeanie,

 

I taught children's Sunday school and was a part time christian Director for about 20 years. I have not been involved for about 10 years so am I am not current in knowing what is available. Some of my comments are based on selections I read at Amazon. I think you just need to consider what is appropriate for a particular age. Not all stories can be child friendly. I think your choice of The Family Story Bible by Ralph Milton is a good one.

 

The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories is for a younger reading level. Based on the Garden of Eden story I would recommend it.

http://www.amazon.com/Beginners-Bible-Timeless-Childrens-ebook/dp/B003I7415W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325114037&sr=8-1

 

The Common English Version is written for a third grade level. We gave this Bible to incoming fourth graders.

Your Young Christian's First Bible-CEV-Children's Illustrated

http://www.amazon.com/Young-Christians-First-Bible-CEV-Childrens-Illustrated/dp/1585160768/ref=pd_sim_b_4

 

I found this blog

Help! I’m A Children’s Pastor

http://www.helpimachildrenspastor.com/2011/10/which-bible-version-is-best-for-kids/

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

Dutch

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The bible is not for young children, period. There are simply too many things far beyond a child's mind to understand, as often mentioned, the cruelty, violence, sexual immorality, generall mature adult themes that even many adults struggle wiith. so as to what bible to give a toddler, I shrink i horror at the thought...none!!

 

I remember as a child I only wanted to read and hear 'the red words' as i called them, as the bibles commonly used had the words of Jesus printed in red. The black words, I because very aversive toward them, there seemed to so much anger and punishment and violence in them. In looking back, I've realized I was one of the "lucky" children, I did reject that, see the horror in OT massacres, or the mass destruction of human lives as in The Revelation, without any demonstration of compassion or sorrow for it, things like that....I remember some kids would, following services where the preacher had preached from some event in which the Israelites were victorious in slaughtering some other group of people, some city, every man, woman,, CHILD, INFANT, and even animal, would run and play outside, "cowboys and Indians" style, and of course arguing about who got to be the Israelites and who had to be the ones being slaughtered...even as a young child that horrified me. I remember that, and would never suggest exposing young children to that kind of thinking.

 

That said, approach the matter as you are the teacher, and in that role it is your task to bring from the bible things you child can understand, is ready to comprehend, as age and developmentally appropriate. As mentioned elswhere here, yes, I'd say focus on Jesus, so that is their earilest memories...and the foundation for anything later. Everything else in the bible must be interpreted and translated through Jesus and the principles He taught.

 

In choosing even from among Jesus's parables and sayings, keep in mind your child's age and development. Stories about adultresses aren't going to be understandable and meaningful to a young child. I'm presupposing you really don't want to get into what "adultery" or "fornication" means with your toddler! But there are plenty of those you can present in a context relevant to your child, that relate virtues of kindness, loyalty, humility, patience, fairness, honesty, and the like, in ways easily made meaningful to your child's perspective and real life experience.

 

I also do not like those "bible stories" that try to present a "prettified" story about trully tragic and horrific events, such as Noah and the flood...there's no way around a lot of people still died horrifically, even if it was "because they were bad." To a little child, often told he/she is "being bad" that can bring on some trauma if they think they are ever in danger of being killed by God for what to them is "being bad." Even such stories as Cain killing Able, a young child simply cannot comprehend the kinds of human emotions and reality involved in such a thing. I think these practices tend to both frighten, perhaps even worse, harden children emotionally, teach some very perverted values.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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I could not add to any of the great suggestions here as far as bibles are concerned. But I might also suggest that one could look beyond the bible for examples of religious stories and teachings (e.g. tales of the lives of the saints), both within the Christian tradition and without. I think it would be worthwhile for any child to get a glimpse of the broader wisdom of the Christian tradition, and the even broader wisdom of world traditions.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Oh my! Please don't judge me - I never in a million years even thought about the stories from the perspective you've just given me. To tell you the truth, I feel a little bit stunned.

 

It's so hard. I want to relay the Christian tradition to my child, and never in a million years did I consider what you've shared with me. I want to raise my child to know about God and Jesus, yet in an inclusive manner rather than exclusive.

 

I was most concerned about teaching from a book that would illustrate an "us versus them" attitude (Christians versus "non-Christians").

 

I don't have more to write mostly because I need to think about what all of you have written, and how I plan to address this. I wonder if it's best for me to relay stories about Jesus, as you've recommended, and apply them to our own lives.

 

Hmmm. Thank you so much. So much to think about, and I suddenly feel so incapable.

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Jeanied, there's no reason for you to feel that way at all. And we're sure not judging you...I, and i think others here, respect that you are seeking suggestions in how to proceed. Many even long term Christians don't think about this when they expose their children to such mature adult material as in the bible. As I noted, I remember it being done to me and other children, it bothered me enough to avoid that with my own children, but others don't see it the same way, feel its ok. Some would be offended that WE see it this way. I think now that its been pointed out to you, you see the problem, and yes, I think your idea of presenting stories about Jesus that you can translate into application in your children's lives, that they are ready to understand, would be the ideal approach.

 

Jenell

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I wonder if it's best for me to relay stories about Jesus, as you've recommended, and apply them to our own lives.

You seem overwhelmed. I have deconstructed the Bible as much as others I think But deconstruction doesn't mean that some of the stories can't be told again in child friendly way. After all some of us let our children believe in Santa Claus until they didn't want to. The power of a story is that it can be told with different meanings .The Garden of Eden story can be told without original sin and substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. You can read the account in the Family Bible or the Beginners Bible and add your own commentary. Without too much of a stretch those accounts lend themselves to talking about growing up and moving out on your own. I assure you that this is a valid reading that has been around for 1000 years or more. Reading them with an emphasis on being good stewards of the planet also works well.

 

Even if you focus only on the stories of Jesus for children you will be avoiding the in-your-face confrontational stories in which he seems mean to others. As troubling as the story of Noah is, there are two readings that are child friendly. One we used in pre-school focused on caring for the animals. Another is that God acted out of anger and said he was sorry.

 

Children aren't interested in an adult reading of the story. I think they hear at an age appropriate level different meanings. If it is told in a non-rigid way - that one reading of the story is the only true way to understand it - then at each age they can read it again. Then one day they will be able to read the story as an adult without losing their faith.

 

Jonah and the Whale, Ruth, Esther, David and Goliath Some will object to this last one but kids who hear stories with simple violence are not harmed IF the parent is there to help them process and find a positive understanding. Little kids can accomplish big things. Also Abraham, Joseph, Moses. The ten commandments are too succinct but here is a paraphrase that you will find useable and without "adultery". There are others like this but I am biased :D

 

http://tcpc.ipbhost....8933#entry28933

 

If you are ever able to influence the choice of Sunday School curriculum I recommend the new Progressive Christianity stuff.

 

http://www.tcpc.org/...cfm?page_id=114

 

Remember that we all put our own meaning into a story. Be centered, relax and trust that you will find the reading of each Bible story that fits your child.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
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Jeanied, I add, I think adults often don't realize, or forget, how observant even very young children can be....as example, my mention of aversion to those prettified picture books of bible stories...I am 63 years old, and even still can bring up mental images of the illuustrations of the flood in one of those kind of books that I was shown when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old....and in brining up those mental images, the feelings of horror still rise up as i remember them...the streaks of rain, and the swirling waters, in shades of grays and blues and greens, as they rose up around the ark, and all those people! So many people! More than I could count, thick crowds of them in the waters, as far back into the scene as one could see, with arms upstretched, clearly begging, pleading....they were all just drawn in like dark shadowy forms, of course, so you could see no faces, to see their terror, but still, clearly people, and even so young, I knew they were all drowning, dying. I'll never get those images out of my mind. They still haunt me. I'd not want to risk doing that to another child.

 

Jenell

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Dutch wrote: Another is that God acted out of anger and said he was sorry.

 

Dutch, sorry to insert a bit of cynical dark humor here, but in my 1st marriage, very young, I think that must have been the one they taught my frequently very abusive, very violent husband when he'd gone to Sunday School! Lol! That in the aftermath of an incident, saying that he had acted out of anger, and was sorry, was supposed to make it all ok.

 

Jenell

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Jeanied, please, I apologize as I realize all my examples have been warnings to take care in introducing your child to anything from the bible. I hope to correct that imbalance somewhat....certainly if the awful experiences I related from my childhood were all I had, i'd never have stayed near the faith as I have.

 

I have memories of some things that had profound impact upon me as a very young child, were important in positive ways. For me, early lessions about Jesus' love for me, for each of us, that was oth beyond earthly love and an enduring love that was not dependent upon my 'earning' it....that was important to me for many reasons, but oddly enough, is also what helped me reject the other "God images" and negative messages I mentioned above, that seemed to justify cruelty, rejection, and slaughter of people for "being bad." For as ANY child, we KNOW, is going to be human and make mistakes, we ARE going to "be bad" sometimes...having a sense that whomever else rejected me in the bad times, I still had a friend, one that was going to be there for me, sorrow for me, stand by me, even carry me at times...NOT throw me away or condemn me to hell. Thankfully, that was MY Jesus, that stood against that "different Jesus" some in the church tried to throw at me later, that demanded perfection, conformance to a reigious/social standard, or, lets be honest, demanded I meet approval of others that set themselves as judges. It was that jesus that "saved" me from the terror of being put out to drown in the waters around the ark, that even if I made mistakes, wasn't going to condemn me to something like that as punishment.

 

I also was influenced by teachings of compassion, honesty, idealism in standing up for what I believe is right. As Dutch observed, there are often many different valuable teachings to be drawn from even single stories...such as 'the good Samarition'...many stop with 'who are your real friends?", but there is also 'how to be a friend, even to a stranger, without need for a reciprocal relationship, as well as how easily we can fall into being callous, selfish, too caught up in doing our own thing, conforming to social standards, etc, as did those that passed the injured man by without helping.

 

I hope you find among all here some that will help you teach your child. And I beleive there is no one better or more trustworthy to do this than YOU, you are not incometent, you are being conciencious...the last thing I'd suggest you do is decide you can't do this, and just turn your child's introduction to faith over to people teaching SS classes, for you know niether their qualiifications or their concern for your child's best interest. You are not incapable, you ARE the most capable one for this task.

 

Jenell

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Thank you Jenell and Dutch for your encouragement. I spent the last while thinking, praying, and thinking all over again.

 

I'm 35 - and this reminds me of a story from when I was in grade 7. I'd been invited to a local church to see a movie, which was about the end times. I came home afterwards and was absolutely terrified. I remember saying to my mom, "Oh my gosh! There's going to be demons lurking on corners trying to hurt Christians. I didn't know the world was going to end!"

 

And my mom's response was that she never wanted me to know about that story, not at least until I was older, that there were people who interpreted the Bible to mean that's what was going to happen.

 

That was over 20 years ago, and I think it was my mom's way of trying to shelter me from how some people interpret the bible, or from some of the stories in there. It did stop me from asking her, however, "when will the second bible be written? And what do I have to do to get mentioned in the 2nd bible?" ha ha ha.

 

But what I really don't want is for someone else to teach my child about the Christian tradition. I go to a united church (in Canada), which is very liberal (for those of you outside of Canada), but there is always an element that is still traditional and I don't really know what's taught at SS.

 

For a brief moment, I wanted to just let someone else teach my daughter, but that's not the road I'm going down.

 

I feel more positive, and hopeful. And I thank you for coming back to this conversation and giving me encouragement to forge ahead and *think* about how I can do this.

 

It's not easy, but I really appreciate your kindness and encouragement.

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jeanied, I'm so glad we have come together in this so as to both perhaps cause you to think about some things you may not have before, yet also not be a negative experience for you.

I feel very strongly, as now a 63 yr old mother and grandmother with a lot of experiences good and bad behind me, that there is NO ONE better to introduce and teach your child the important and often sensitive things they need to know for life. Whether matters of faith and religion, sex, ethics and moral behaviors...no one CARES about the impact it may have on your child than YOU. I have seen and heard of some of the most unbeleivably thoughtless, careless, outright cruel things some people can subject others to, even little children, for whatever dysfunction they have going on inside themselves....our children really only have us to use discretion in trying to protect them from that.

 

I think many times it IS out of thoughtlessness, carelessness, just not thinking things through, often in trying to put their own point, their own opinion, across to another in perhaps an inappropriate way. but the damage is still done. It can happen to not only children, but of course, children are more tender, and have fewer resources of maturity and expereince to gelp them sort things like that out. And sadly, there are still those within religion that belief the way to 'convince' and 'convert' others is to scare them into heaven with horrors about the 'alternative'. I differ, I think we must be drawn toward God by His love, not have hell scared out of us by fear of His terrible wrath.

 

Jenell

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I differ, I think we must be drawn toward God by His love, not have hell scared out of us by fear of His terrible wrath.

 

I'm with you on this, Jenell. I wouldn't let young children read the Bible alone. I would read it to them. But, first, I would pull a "Thomas Jefferson" on the Bible so that they would only be exposed to the "loving parts." They could then explore the other "stuff" later.

 

My initial problems with the Bible came when I first started reading it unaccompanied at age 12 and saw that God destroyed the world in the flood. Hard for a kid to comprehend that - *everyone* was evil? *every* thought was wicked? *everyone* except for 7 people needed to die? God, through Noah, saved scorpions, spiders, snakes, grizzlies, and maybe sharks and piranhas...but he killed babies? And then, what did God do to ensure the next batch of humans wouldn't go bad? Nothing. Hard stuff for kids' minds and hearts.

 

So I wouldn't even mention some of Jesus' more "fiery" messages to kids. I would want to keep their little hearts as tender as possible until they are ready to really tackle the hard stuff.

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  • 10 years later...
On 12/31/2011 at 7:03 AM, JenellYB said:

my mention of aversion to those prettified picture books of bible stories.

I'm guilty of publishing lots of them, in a 40 year career which has involved publishing many religious and Christian books.

If I had the chance to do it again, I'd do it differently. On Noah's Ark, for instance - "OK, obviously this is a monstrous story, where God drowns and kills off virtually all life on earth. It's something we're all a bit scared off, at bottom - the Flood could be anything -nuclear war, asteroid, climate change, pandemic. The legend is about saving life, not destroying it. We need to look after the wildlife that is going extinct. Protect the planet, not destroy it. That's how this myth should be interpreted for our times..." etc.. 

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jeanied's story above (to which Jennell replied (ten years ago)) is what is not just "wrong" with Christianity, but as a whole an undesirable in society.  The objective of these books seem to be more to inculcate a belief rather than induce a desired behaviour.

What's the saying, "Give me the child until he is seven ... "?  Apparently Aristotle.  Of course this is only partly true, but there we are.

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On 1/14/2022 at 5:21 AM, romansh said:

jeanied's story above (to which Jennell replied (ten years ago)) is what is not just "wrong" with Christianity, but as a whole an undesirable in society.  The objective of these books seem to be more to inculcate a belief rather than induce a desired behaviour.

What's the saying, "Give me the child until he is seven ... "?  Apparently Aristotle.  Of course this is only partly true, but there we are.

Precisely.  It's often portrayed as teaching the child 'right' behaviour but you're dead right, it's more about making sure the child believes what you want them to believe.

My direct experience is Christian parents who truly believed their religion and who wanted their children to believe it to.  I imagine, like many Christian parents, they were in part driven by well-intentioned fear - the fear that the unsaved would be condemned to eternal pain and suffering, and who would want that for their kids? (well actually they don't want it, but they worship the God who they think does it).  So convinced are they of this belief that they think it is imperative to make sure their child believes it too.

My main concern about children bibles is that the bible is an adult book and kids shouldn't be reading it.  What is a child to make of genocide, stonings, stories about adultery, etc.  Of course childrens' bibles don't really illustrate or focus on 'that' stuff, just the warm and cuddly bits usually.  Enter the next generation of Christians who don't understand what the bible really is, how it was put together, that it was written by numerous individuals over a thousand years from different generations, cultures and perceptions of the individual's times.

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I think I have mentioned this before.

I have an internet friend who describes religions (in a positive way) as training wheels for adults. Religions are the Santa Claus for adults. For those of us who can't work out how to live life (Joseph might add in an accepting way). 

So for me the question is, can adults  live life in a way as role models so that our kids pick up on how to live life also. Be the change you want to see, sort of thing. We need to remember though as our kids get older, their friends will have a greater influence than the parents.

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16 hours ago, romansh said:

So for me the question is, can adults  live life in a way as role models so that our kids pick up on how to live life also. Be the change you want to see, sort of thing. We need to remember though as our kids get older, their friends will have a greater influence than the parents.

It seems I'm often role modelling 'what not to do' to my kids! :) I guess that's still a way for them to learn. :)

To me it seems we (homosapiens) have an almost 'unnatural' affiliation to how we think we need to provide so much to our children.  I mean we are the only species (as far as I'm aware) that spends so much time and effort on their progeny.  Does any other species have such a direct relationship with their offspring past a couple of years?  I guess that's a product of self-consciousness perhaps.  You see it somewhat in troupes of apes and monkeys - a family/community unit of sorts, so I guess we can see the prototype?

My boys are 15 & 17yrs now and I am very conscious of them 'leaving the nest' within the next few years and standing on their own two feet.  As parents I think the best we can do is try to teach our children how to think - how not to just swallow what they're told by even respectable people (including parents) who might be wrong.  Importantly for me, from a ex-religious perspective, I think kids need to understand that we're not playing for sheep stations here.  There isn't a place of eternal suffering or an eternal playground waiting for us when we die .  "Life itself is the journey, not something to be 'survived' in order to reach a destination" so to speak.

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20 hours ago, PaulS said:

It seems I'm often role modelling 'what not to do' to my kids!

Been there, done that.

20 hours ago, PaulS said:

from a ex-religious perspective, I think kids need to understand that we're not playing for sheep stations here.  There isn't a place of eternal suffering or an eternal playground waiting for us when we die .

WA, The place on the whole ... did not seem that religious when I was there. How do your kids get on with the religious bits of the family?

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5 hours ago, romansh said:

WA, The place on the whole ... did not seem that religious when I was there. How do your kids get on with the religious bits of the family?

No, it's very secular here and religion is not pushed much at all.  There's minimal influence in politics and the community as a whole just lives and let lives largely, I think.  Religious zealotry around things like abortion and homosexuality are pretty non-existent here.  We've recently introduced euthanasia laws without even a blip from religious folk.  That's not to say fundamentalists don't exist - they do and there's still a significant amount of them, it's just that they don't really have much of a voice here.

My family isn't particularly functional I would say.  My sister has lived in Mexico for the past 25 or so years since she and her husband believed God told them to move there and evangelize.  Covid-aside, I see her/her husband/their 2 x kids, every 2 or 3 years, but apart from birthday/Xmas presents and the odd email, we have little contact.  My parents too, I have little in common with.  They live about an hour north of me but I haven't seen them in the past year.  We've always been meaning to catch up - but just never got there.  So my kids don't see them very much.  I set the standard very early on with my parents concerning what they could say to my children about religion.  Essentially I told them that if they ever preach eternal damnation, being unsaved, humans being worthless from birth as sinners etc to my kids, then they would never see them again.  I won't tolerate that garbage being taught as fact to my children.  My parents have respected that, but when you don't have faith in common with family, it seems to leave very little of substance to relate on.

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