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Why Christian parents should buy a Jewish Bible (Timothy R. Raymond)

I’m a big believer in family Bible reading and my family devours children’s Bibles faster than I can down cups of coffee.  Recently we’ve discovered another children’s Bible which, while somewhat unknown in our circles and unique from the rest that we own, has turned out to be a real delight to me and my family.  It’s the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible and let me tell you why I think this kid’s edition of the first 77.2% of the Bible is likely worth adding to your library.

First, what I absolutely love about this children’s Bible is that the text is actual Bible text and not somebody’s paraphrase.  Not infrequently, when reading children’s Bibles which retell biblical stories by means of loose paraphrase, I find myself disagreeing with the interpretation underlying the paraphrase.  Sometimes when this happens I try to edit on the fly, which can result in a confusing, incoherent mess.  Thankfully, you won’t have that problem with this Bible.  The text is a simplified form of the acclaimed (both by Jews and Christians) New Jewish Publication Society translation of the Old Testament, which is, by the way, an excellent, very helpful translation (and was one of my textbooks in Bible college).  In this case, the translation is lightly edited for ages 5 and up.  I’m always more comfortable reading true Bible text to my children, and not somebody’s rehash.

608911oSecond, the artwork in this Bible is beautiful, theologically-accurate, and actually quite didactic.  I find artwork in Bibles helpful for getting my younger children to focus on something while I read the text aloud.  This prevents them from pinching their brother or playing with the Legos they found in the crack of the couch.  But there’s nothing worse in children’s Bibles than art which is distracting, outlandish, or heretical.  When it comes to the artwork in the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, it not only holds my kids’ attention, but it teaches biblical truth as it does.  Just to give two examples of this, the creation account is accompanied by a 6-panel picture showing what was created on each day of creation.  Likewise, when we come to the plagues on Egypt, there is a 10-frame picture dramatizing the plagues in sequential order.  Such beautiful, accurate images, when combined with the reading of the biblical text, can aide (especially those of us who are visual learners) in better retaining God’s Word.

Lastly, my foremost reason for loving the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible is because it includes important biblical stories not included in most other children’s Bibles.  Since we’ve worked through several other well-known children’s Bibles (some multiple times), my kids are thoroughly familiar with the standard menu of Bible stories deemed suitable for kids.  Though they are young, they could quickly recount the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, and David and Goliath.  But when it comes to certain other stories, some of which are crucial in drama of redemption, they’re fearfully unaware.  This is where the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible can fill a real void.  For what other children’s Bible includes the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (in a discreet way) or the golden calf fiasco or Balaam’s attempt at cursing Israel or King Saul and the Witch of Endor or David and Bathsheba (again, in a clear but modest account)?  I believe this is where the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, if used in conjunction with some of the more popular evangelical children’s Bibles, could be a huge asset to Christian families.

Now, realizing that I absolutely love the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, here are a couple caveats worth mentioning.  Obviously our Christian readers will want to supplement this children’s Bible with the reading of the New Testament.  My plan is to read the Old Testament from the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, and then go directly to reading the New Testament from my all-time favorite children’s Bible so my children are learning the whole counsel of God.  This may take a bit longer than reading through your typical children’s Bible, but at this point I think it’ll be worth it.  Moreover, I don’t understand why the length of the stories the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible vary so considerably.  Some of the stories cover only 10 to 15 verses, while others cover several chapters.  I’ve decided to break up the longer stories into bite-sized chunks, but it would have been easier if they had done this for me.  Lastly, there are very rare occasions where the translation reflects Jewish rather than Christian assumptions (e.g., translating the Red Sea as the “Reed Sea”).  But truth be told, these are so rare that you could ignore this point all together and be fine.

I’ve already gone on record as to which children’s Bible my family would want if we were stuck on a deserted island.  But all in all, the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible is an important addition to the Christian family’s library and one I heartily recommend.

Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, weight-lifting, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.

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