Adventure Bible. Faithgirlz Bible. Boys Bible. Big Red Bible Revised. Hello? Revised? How does the Bible get revised?
Those are only four of the 177 options I found on the website of Christian Book Distributors, an online/mail order Christian bookstore, when I clicked on the link, “Children’s Bibles.” Granted, these represent several translations and paraphrases, but even within one translation, a parent will find a many splendored array of every kind of Bible, designed and packaged to meet every niche of the consumer market. “I just want a Bible for my kid,” some parents might be moaning. “How do I begin to choose?”
Here are some guidelines you can consider when purchasing a Bible for your own children or for the children inside your classroom.
1. Look beyond the cover. I grew up in an era where Bibles said what they were on the front – Holy Bible. We thought it extravagant to have a choice of covers. Now covers are designed to catch the consumer eye, to be more appealing, hopefully so the seeker won’t be threatened by the simple words “Holy Bible.” I appreciate publishers’ desire to attract more readers to the Bible but, don’t let an attractive cover be your only criteria. Open up the Bible and see what is on the inside.
2. Look at the print and layout. Is the Bible easy for your children to read? The vision of early elementary aged children is still developing. The print in a Bible should be larger and dark, making it easy to read. Does the Bible have an easy to find Table of Contents? As children are learning how to find references in a Bible, this is a key help that they will need to refer to often. It should be easy to find at the front of the Bible and easy to find the corresponding page numbers. Both page numbers and beginning and ending references for each set of pages should be prominent at the top of each page.
3. Look at the helps. Many Bibles now come with an array of helps, devotions, activities, and commentaries. Does the Bible under consideration have enough but not too much? Are they located at the back of the Bible or sprinkled throughout the pages? Are there so many helps that they overwhelm the actual text so that it is hard for a child to know where to read? I suggest that helps should either be at the back, before each book, or in textboxes or somehow clearly designated on the page, so that there is no confusion to a child as to what is and is not text.
Here are the helps I would consider important to have in a child’s bible:
Topical index: This is more pertinent to a child than a concordance. Concordances are confusing to children until they reach middle school.
Lists of Bible events such as Jesus’ miracles and parables, or a list of kings of Israel and Judah,
The helps I consider nice but not necessary:
Suggested memory verses
Introductions to each book, giving background information and outline
The helps I would stay away from:
Commentary and explanation about passages, unless it is predominantly historical and cultural background. These can be misleading to anyone especially the young fertile mind of a child. Commentaries can often reflect the doctrine of the commentary writer, thus misinterpreting the Scripture. Naïve beginners accept the commentary as truth, not being able to delineate between a man’s opinion and the actual Word of God.
Devotions: You want your children to actually be reading the Bible, not to be distracted by comments about the Bible.
What is my final recommendation? I think you would best spend your money by buying a simple, inexpensive Bible from International Bible Society, then spending the rest of your money on a good Bible handbook for kids. As with Bible helps, choose one that is long on reference helps and short on opinions and interpretations .However, some kids would never touch the handbook so for some kids, it’s nice to have the helps readily available within the pages of the Bible. If you want a Bible with an attractive cover and a good assortment of helps, I would recommend the Adventure Bible. My girls both had The Adventure Bbile, NIV and loved it. When they grew older, one girl wanted a Life Application Bible and the other wanted just a plain Bible with minimum helps.
Most importantly, before you log on to the Internet or head out to your favorite Christian bookstore, stop and pray. Ask God to lead you to the best option that meets the unique needs of your child or students, and that helps you be the best steward of the money He has given you.