Posted by: jmark | March 6, 2008

Book Review – The Jesus Storybook bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

As I pastor I’ve just finished preaching an overview of the bible – I’m passionate about gettting people to see the big picture. So I was really excited to see this for children. The idea is superb, the tying every story to Jesus is magnificent. Our 4 year old daughter has started seeing the connections already. And that excites me. I love how it fits every story in with the plot-line of the bible.

However I have a couple of caveats.

Since children get so much from imagery I was really disappointed with the artwork. I have a problem anyway with images of Jesus since I see them as breaking the second commandment, but I had reservations about some of the rest of the illustrations in the book. The quality is great, but the content very poor, and underscores misconceptions of the bible, actually making the bible look less believable. Noah’s ark is shown balancing precariously on the pinnacle of the mountain, as well as being that silly shape that it is often drawn – nothing like the proportions given in the bible. Jericho is a five house town – not much of a conquest there. Goliath is make to look like a gruesome ogre of fairytale proportions. The people of Israel coming to the Red Sea look like a small Sunday school outing rather than 1.5 million people making the exodus. I could go on. For me, the pictures undermine the very thing the words are seeking to do – they push the stories into the realm of fairy tales.

(A far better set of illustrations are by Gail Schoonmaker in the The Big Picture Story Bible written by David Helm.)

The other caveat is that sometimes Lloyd-Jones is a little loose to the story, making up things that aren’t in the passage. For example – Jesus being bathed in a golden light at his baptism, there being three wise men, Jesus winking at the boy who brought the 5 loaves and saying “watch this” and others. It’s little things like she says Jacob had to wait 7 years to marry Rachel instead of just a week, like God creating by saying “Hello Light”, like using “Papa” for Father – a word which doesn’t carry the same connotations as Abba. Like the feeding of the ‘5000 people’, rather than 5000 men, plus a lot more women and children. Like Jesus playing games with children. Like Zacchaeus being so small that he had to take a flying leap to get up into his chair for breakfast.

In one sense they’re small things, and it is in the style of other children’s books. And therein lies the problem – the bible isn’t another children’s book. It’s true in every detail – so when it comes to a Children’s version of the Bible, it should be true in every detail. We owe that to our kids.

I’d prefer not to have to edit the story as I tell it. Growing up, we had the Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos read to us. Time and time again when we thought she was stretching the text, when we looked up our bibles we found she was exactly right. Since we read it so many times, a vast quantity of accurate bible knowledge was imbibed. That’s what I look for in a children’s bible.

Having said all that – the links to Jesus often make you stop and praise God for Jesus. We’ve read it following on from the aforementioned Big Picture Story Bible – which I would heartily recommend. And that’s probably the best way – read it along with other children’s bibles and correct it as you go.

Looking forward to the revised edition of this potentially tremendous asset.

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