What Bible should you give a child? Walk into any Christian bookstore or check out Christian Book Distributors online and you can quickly become overwhelmed by all the options available to parents today.
There are many wonderful beginner Bibles available that tell the stories of the Bible in simple beginning reader words. These are great when your child is first learning to read or for you to read with your child, but my suggestion is to move quickly toward getting your child an actual bible by the time they are 6 or 7 years old.
Now, which version of the Bible? There are several excellent translations (or really paraphrases) for children. I have used the International Children’s Bible (New Century Version) and the New International Reader’s Version. Both Bibles use simple words at a beginning reader’s level. This is good because it gets the child actually reading and handling the Bible and they are able to actually read words they can understand. However, again, I would not leave my child too long at this level. In order to simplify the words, the big concepts are corrupted by the choice of easier to understand words which hamper your child’s ability to have a full understanding later of some of the meatier concepts of Scripture. Also, when your child starts to memorize Scripture, it’s good to memorize in the version he or she will be using into adulthood. I grew up in the 60’s when our only choice was King James or Revised Standard. The New International Version came out in the 70’s and that is now my preferred version. However, I still am quoting from the KJV and RSV and sometimes I quote from two versions in the same verse! (Does that make me Scripturally bilingual?!) This confuses me and my students!
Yes, I recommend the New International Version for children from third or fourth grade on. It uses simple words, it flows well and it is easy to memorize. It is also conceptually accurate. The only Bible more accurate in translation is the New American Standard Bible. It is so accurate that the translators even translated the word order according to the way it was written in Greek. This is uncomfortable to our English speaking ears so the NIV translates the Greek text grammatically as well as word for word.
Lewis Foster, one of my professors, at the Cincinnati Christian University was one of the NIV translators. He told us of the process they underwent to translate the Bible. It is an arduous process with much cross checking. Just hearing of the process they took to translate the Bible compared to other translations and paraphrases convinces me that the New International Bible is the best for our current English speaking generation.
The choice of Bible doesn’t end here! Bibles come in a broad array of styles and covers, appealing to different audiences with different reference helps. Is there anything such as a plain ole’ Bible anymore? How does a parent choose? We’ll talk about that next time.