Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What Kind of Bible for my Children?

It's either odd or fitting (I can't decide which) that on the brink of another baby I should ask this question. It's been bothering me for awhile now, and though we're close to a final decision, more input may be helpful.

My dilemma is this: my 7 year old is a good reader (though not yet as adept as an adult, of course). We would like to get her a Bible well-suited to her.

My own experience in this area is no help. I grew up with King James until high school, and though I suppose I understood it well enough, I don't think I understood it that well at 7.

I've been singularly unimpressed with Bible offerings for kids. They generally need a larger print, and I don't mind pictures, but I'm somewhat distrustful of notes that come with them. How do I know if they are accurate, short of reading them all myself? So I've been leaning toward a Bible that offers large print, text only, and smaller words.

I've been leaning toward the NIrV (gasp), because it requires a smaller vocabulary, has a better format, and (from the spot-checking I've done) is less gender-neutral than even the TNIV.

But yes, it is also more dynamic--I'm giving up some in translation. But my plan is that once the vocabulary is there, we could graduate to a larger Bible.

I was challenged recently by someone I trust. Should the primary factor in Bible reading be ease of reading? Is the Bible supposed to be easy to read? And should I worry that my daughter becomes so comfortable in this translation that she doesn't ever graduate up?

I don't know, and I've not been through this process before. But many of you have, since you have older children. Many of you share the commitment I have to a more literal translation, and all (that I know of) to a faithful, evangelical translation.

What have you done with your kids? How would you advise me about mine?

Thanks in advance.


Kim said...

All of our kids read the NIV at the age of 7, because they were all good readers. I did give my daughter a NASB when she turned 10 years old, and while she found it challenging, I am glad we did it. We have never been big on making things too easy for our kids (their therapists will thank us for it later), and it has resulted in good readers. Our 11 year old reads so well now that he was able to read The Lord of the Rings on his own.

I would rather sit and read from a good literal translation while they are young. My youngest reads the NIV, but our 14 year old reads the NASB.

rebecca said...

My youngest used the NIrV when he was young, like 7-10 or so. He liked it a lot, and I thought it was pretty good, too. He used to read his Bible just for the fun of it...and you can't beat that.

Rabenstrange said...

My first Bible was a NIV Young Discovers Bible from Zandervan. I got it when I was seven as a reward for reading the book of Matthew.

I still use that Bible because I like the large print. Just this week, I had to coat the entire cover in duck tape because it was falling apart from constant use.

ThirstyDavid said...

First, your questions:

Should the primary factor in Bible reading be ease of reading?

No. Sacrificing accuracy for ease is lazy and irresponsible.

Is the Bible supposed to be easy to read?

Not necessarily. I don't expect my kids to understand everything I do. Much of what I know came through diligent study, otherwise known as hard work. Understanding of Scripture, according to Scripture, requires hard work (2Timothy2:15). Learning to work for knowledge is a discipline that is vital and will pay off in every area of life.

I can hear the gasps of horror before I even type this, but here it is: Each of my children, on theit 7th birthday, receive a KJV - no study notes, just text. They learn to read it, and they learn to understand it. I'm not KJVO. I could go with another version, like a NKJV, NASB, or ESV. I am vehemently opposed to paraphrases and Dynamic Equivalents. I give them a KJV for a number of reasons. I'll share only one of them, one that might shock you. I want it to be difficult to understand (although the difficulty of the KJV is way overblown). I absolutely do not want them to understand some paraphrasing hack's bad interpretation. I want them to ask, "What does this mean?" and get the answer from me, not the Kenneth Taylors and Eugene Petersons of the world. I want the opportunity to teach and discuss the Scriptures that difficulty provides.

Finally, and here is the proof of my point, I was given a KJV by my Sunday School in 3rd grade, and look how great I turned out!

Libbie said...

I'm with David here - when my husband lost his battered copy of the NIV, I bought him a leather-bound KJV. Unfortunately, he left that one on the train, but still asked me to replace it with another KJV. He tells me he likes how it makes him work harder, lol.

We got a KJV for our 4 year old. It just makes sense because our church uses it, and so does Sunday School which she has just recently started. I too would rather explain something she doesn't understand.

jthomas899 said...

Matt, I'm surprised at you, I figure it would a be Greek N.T. Should I tell Dr. Z on you?


Charles Sebold said...

We started our kids (got 'em when they were 7 and 9, the kids that is) with standard large-print NIVs. But we ran into problems between that and the formal equiv translations that my wife and I use (ESV and NASB95, respectively) and that our pastors use (again, ESV and NASB95) in church that we decided late last year that it was time to get them something better. We ended up opting for the Children's ESV, and it has turned out really well. They like the pictures (and the pictures work without giving me the willies about the 2nd commandment etc., and there aren't too too many of them), the text is standard ESV and readable enough for 9-year-old, and the helps in the back include a good monergistic description of salvation taken from Desiring God's children's ministry. The footnotes aren't so many that it effectively becomes a study bible or commentary, I think. Oddly enough I think they actually have an easier time with the ESV than they did with the NIV. Check out the samples online before you buy, but I can heartily recommend children's ESV (and you know I'm not a knee-jerk ESV man by default).

Steve Sensenig said...

I agree with the basic ideas presented here with regard to not just trying to make it so very simple that they don't even have to think about it at all. However, I have trouble going all the way to the KJV end of the spectrum in order to make sure it's "difficult" for them.

This is a situation where I believe each parent needs to prayerfully consider their own child's needs and abilities and make a decision based on that. There's no way I can tell you what your child needs.

In our situation, we recently changed from KJV to NIV for our son. His particular personality and special needs meant that the KJV wording was just going WAY over his head, and the frustration he was experiencing was becoming a hindrance to his openness to even read or discuss the Scriptures.

I'd eventually like to get him into a NASB, but for now, I don't believe the NIV translator's decisions have near enough influence on where he's at (read: very basic milk) to warrant any concern.

Just my thoughts...

steve :)

Gummby said...

Another challenge perhaps unique to our situation is that we have no "official bible" within the congregation. Even if it were KJV, I would get one for them to follow along, if such a thing were possible.

One issue, and perhaps it's my own prudishness, is that I'm not sure I want my daughter coming to me and asking "Daddy, what does W-H-O-R-E spell?" That's an issue w/the ESV, even though I'm a huge ESV proponent.

ThirstyDavid said...

I don't think language like that is a problem. Worse is what some paraphrases have done in order to be "modern." In 1Samuel20:30, the KJV and NASB have Saul calling Jonathan a "son of a perverse rebellious woman," which is almost literal. The Living Bible called him a S.O.B., not abreviated.

Rebekah said...

Oh, the fun we used to have with KJV (I went to a KJVO school and church growing up). If we wanted to curse, we'd just use Scripture references!

1 Kings 21:21 (we'd say we were "42'd")
Acts 9:5 (for a bad dude)

That's all I can remember right now.

I'd probably use ESV or NASB, personally. We have no children, though, so it's a bit of a moot point right now. :)

RevGoT said...

Our six year old loves taking his Children's ESV to church. Of course mom, the pastor's wife is mortified when he drops it on the tile floor of our cavernous rented room where we hold services.

Our kids are all down with WHORE since we blast Derek Webb around the house. LOL.

Good to hear from you on the old blog. I'm being pressured into blogging mostly from my blogaddict wife!!

Congratulations on #4. We find that to be the perfect number!

Patrick Chan said...

I realuze I'm responding pretty late now, but, well, I thought I'd put in my two cents' anyway.

I'll second Charlie's recommendation of the ESV Children's Bible. I think that might truly be the best way to go.

But a couple of other notes:

* Re: the KJV Bible. I'd think it'd definitely be far too hard for most children to understand. That said, there's a "new" edition that essentially revises the KJV (last officially revised in 1762, I believe, if you don't count the W-H revisions?) called the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible. The obvious problem with this one is that there's no consideration whatsoever of the modern manuscript evidence, or modern archaeology, or even linguistics, etc. Also, it comes with the Apocrypha, so that may raise other questions or issues.

FWIW, here's a good review of it:


* Or perhaps you might instead consider The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos (she was the wife of noted theologian Geerhardus Vos), and then move onto the Bible itself, after familiarizing them with a sort of basic outline of the Bible in this way? I'm by no means terribly thrilled about this idea, though, since story Bibles are of course watered-down, but I know the Vos edition is supposed to be good one, and depending on other things, even if you don't use it as the Bible for your kids, it might perhaps have some other place in their study of the Holy Scriptures?

Here it is thru Monergism Books:


Well, just thought I'd throw these ideas out there...

Patrick Chan said...

BTW, you can also d/l PDF excerpts from the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible itself, if you like:


Gummby said...

Jeff Thomas: Smart aleck. I'm breaking the kids in slowly on the Greek.

Steve: Given what you've told me about your son, I think you've probably made a good choice. I'm still a big fan of the NIV, despite its somewhat interpretive nature.

Rev: we've been rather happy with 4, which is why this pregnancy was such a surprise. From what I've read on your wife's blog, it sounds like I need to get tips from you, since your boys are like mine, but older.

Patrick: You're not late at all. At least half the people I had hoped would comment haven't yet, so you're good to go.

We have the Vos storybook, and it is a good one. We use it regularly in family worship, and are pleased with it, for the most part (though, as you pointed out, it's not a Bible).