Reading the Bible Versus Reading Edited Biblical Stories: What’s Better?

Over at the BibleMesh blog, Thesis, John Starke has a thought-provoking piece up entitled “Danville, Illinois and the Eschatology of a Five Year Old” about family devotions and the use of Christian books versus the Bible.  Starke raises the question of whether our family devotions should include more Bible and less (helpful and well-intentioned) condensed and edited retellings of biblical stories.

Here’s a bit to whet your appetite:

The story leads me to consider the new peculiar (cruel and unusual?) practice we’ve started at our home, where our three children range from the age of just about 2 to 6— two girls and one boy. We are the normal, young reformed family that has jumped on the story book Bible craze. The steady diet of The Jesus Story Book Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible have brought much fruit and color to our family devotions. But I have to say, with some disappointment, that many of our lessons have never ended with questions. I don’t mean “discussion questions” usually included at the end of study guide chapters, but the curiosity of a four or five year old, who wonders, “Why would Jesus say that?” or, even, “What does circumcision mean?”

Our devotions usually ended with the attitude of, “That’s great, dad! Jesus sure is swell!” We didn’t always feel a sense of tension, confusion, or wonder. Now, don’t hear me wrongly, these story books are so helpful in putting the whole story of the Bible together for young children, in a way that just plugging through the Old and New Testament struggles to capture. We should read and re-read them.

The whole article is worth considering.  I like using books like those John mentioned, but there is no substitute for the actual Word of God.  It’s kind of like keeping your little ones in church.  It can be hard, and there’s some extra work you have to do, but in the end, it seems well worth the effort.

I happen to think that the books in question can be a big help to parents, especially as they’re putting together the pieces for a Christocentric reading of the Scripture.  In our home, we use both books John mentioned.  But as my children age, I am looking forward to digging into the Bible with them.  That will take some hard work, a good bit of explaining, and some patience, but it will be eminently worth it.  Resources to understand the Bible are great.  There is no substitute, however, for the God-breathed Bible.  None.  It’s what we need, it’s what our children need, it’s what our churches need, and it’s what our world needs.
(This is cross-posted from the blog of Vitamin Z
  • Mike

    It was a good piece. My wife teaches preshcool sunday school class, and she insists on reading the story directly out of the Bible, uncut. When I subbed for her one Sunday, I found the kids loving her methods. She still reads most of the scripture press story, but always includes the entire story from the Bible. For my own children, we mixed it up, inlcuding mostly storys. Now that they are a bit older (5 and 7) we usually use Keys for Kids and read the extended bible selection and discuss that in addition to the story for the day. My son (7) recently transitioned from his Bible story book to his Bible for his own quiet time. After several months, he is asking a lot more questions.

  • Andrew

    How would this relate to the progression of adult readers through different translations? Typically, it seems that adults start with an “easy” version like NIV, then progress to more literal formats like ESV and NAS.

    Would a similar method be useful for kids (I don’t have any, so no personal experience to draw from!)? Should pre-K kids be exposed to more kid-friendly (less genocide, more pictures) formats, but then moved to Easy English NIV when in grade school?

  • owenstrachan

    Mike, I love that story about your wife. I find that encouraging.

    Andrew, those are good questions. I suppose approaches could vary. Some say go from harder to easier, others the opposite way. Speaking personally, I’m not sure my daughter would understand a great deal of the Bible, so there’s a place for story books. But I look forward to easing her in.

    Of course, I love the KJV for its literary beauty. That’s another point for another day, though.