Your Child’s Bible

God has blessed the Church with the gift of His Word. So that we would know God and His will, it “pleased the Lord…to reveal himself, and to declare his will unto his church; and afterwards…to commit [it] unto writing; which makes the holy scriptures to be most necessary” (WCF 1.1). As Presbyterians we believe that this gift is not only for adults, but it is for the children as well. They are every bit as much members of Christ’s Church, so they are entitled to the blessings and gifts of God. It is normal that parents will pass on the truths of God’s Word to their children because these promises and privileges belong to them. One very practical way for parents to faithfully raise their children is to make sure that their kids have a Bible.

Recently I called a Christian publishing house and asked for sample copies of their children’s Bibles. It was a frustrating process. It wasn’t frustrating because the company was unaccommodating. They were very generous. Rather, it was frustrating because I found all the options for children’s Bible to be unsatisfactory. Perhaps you’ve searched for a children’s Bible and encountered a similar experience. Or perhaps you’ve avoided the process altogether because the sheer number of choices and options is overwhelming. I have yet to find the perfect children’s Bible, but here are some of the features to consider when selecting a children’s Bible.

Bible or Story Books – There are two different types of children’s Bible. Some books described as Bibles are not, in fact, Bibles. They are just story books. They take the stories of the Bible, re-write them in simple language and illustrate them with pictures. This is not a Bible. Don’t call it a Bible. It’s a story book. Story books are fine. There are some excellent ones that will instruct the parents as they read them to their kids. There are also some garbage ones that will literally make you dumber for opening them. Don’t settle for garbage. You should look for a story book that shows your child Jesus and not just a moral lesson. For example, can you distill the story down to a moral lesson of “do better or try harder” or does it begin to reveal the promises of Jesus through all the stories? If it doesn’t reveal Jesus, then it is subtly teaching your child a theology devoid of grace.

Text – Story books are fine, but if you want a Bible, then you need to get a full text Bible. It should be a Bible will all 66 books of the Bible. Don’t give your child just a New Testament. The Old Testament is just as important as the New Testament. I also avoid red-letter editions. The red-letter editions imply that words spoken audibly by Jesus are more significant than the other words of Scripture. But we believe that all the Bible is inspired and breathed out by God. If all the words are God’s words, then they all carry the same weight. Finally, when it comes to translation, I recommend using the translation from which your pastor preaches. There are some translations that advertise as being “easier to read.” They’re not. Your kids are smart. They’ll understand whatever translation you’ll take the time to explain to them. It will actually be more confusing if it is different from what you or your pastor are reading. Also, some children’s Bibles come with study notes. These are fine if they are from a reputable publisher. You certainly don’t want their study notes contradicting what they hear in family worship or in church. The best notes for kids stick to simple facts or “did you know…” trivia.

Images – At some point in time, publishers decided that children must have images in their Bibles. I believe this is more a marketing decision than a theological one. If you choose a children’s Bible with images, you need to consider what these images are communicating to your child. Because we often declare that the Bible is true, your child will implicitly believe that any image in the Bible is accurate. If they are cartoonish images, will they present the situations of the Bible as a fantasy or make-believe world? Do the images affirm the historicity of the text? Are the images overwhelmingly Anglo or European? Is it an accurate representation of what happened? These images will go a long way in subtly shaping what your child pictures when she thinks about the stories of the Bible. I avoid images of Jesus. Jesus had a real body and a real face. Can this image be accurate in portraying that real body? What if someone drew a picture of you, but the image was a different ethnicity, different hair color, different nose, different eyes, different shape of the face? You might object and say, “That doesn’t look anything like me.” But the person might reply, “Yeah, but when I think of you, I like to have this image in my mind.” That’s crazy. But when we make images of Jesus, we’re doing the same thing.

Construction – Consider the size of the Bible. It shouldn’t be too big. Finally, consider the binding and cover. You want a Bible that will last and is easy to use. Smyth Sewing is fairly common and durable binding that allows the Bible to open flat. And choose a cover that your child will like. Let him help pick it out.

As I said, I have yet to find the “perfect” children’s Bible. None of them hit exactly on all these marks. But whatever Bible you choose, encourage your child to use it. Read it to and with him. Encourage her to carry it to church and read along during the service. Use a pencil to underline favorite verses or important words. The best Bible for your child is the Bible that is used.