These stories from the Bible, simplified for children, are a treasure trove of historical information as well as moral instruction. Many Biblical characters symbolize universal virtues, vices and moral difficulties, and their stories communicate truths about human nature that are well understood even by young children.
Eight Classical Children’s Bibles to Choose From
Biblical history is more than just a record of events in the history of the nation of Israel. Read simply as historical document, the Bible is as reliable as any ancient chronicle, but for Christians, the it is a sacred text, inspired by God, that provides a “moral” as well as a chronological history of God’s chosen people.
The Judeo-Christian view of man is that he is both a spiritual and a physical creature and that material comforts can satisfy his physical needs but only obedience to the will of his creator can satisfy man’s spiritual needs. This is the core proposition that has inspired Christian culture for over 2000 years, and it is the theme of many of the stories in the Bible. This view of man’s relationship to God is easily understood by youngsters, and the stories of the Bible can be readily simplified for young children.
We recently added two new Bible histories to the Heritage library, and hope to add several more during the coming year. We believe that students benefit from reading Bibles that are age-appropriate and therefore offer short, easy-to-read versions, as well as longer, more detailed renditions. The Children’s Bibles’ listed below are presented in order of difficultly, with the simplest versions first.
Grammar School Favorites
Stories from the Old Testament and Stories from the Life of Christ are two volumes from the Told to the Children, series of simplified classics. Both are adapted for novice readers, nicely illustrated, and can be read independently by grammar school students. Stories from the Old Testament is so short that it confines itself to just a few of the most famous stories from the Old Testament. Characters introduced in by Chisholm include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.
Kelman’s Life of Christ is likewise simplified, but recounts thirty short stories parables from the Gospels from the birth of Christ to the Ascension. These books do not provide a complete introduction to Biblical history, but are perfect for younger children. They are substantial enough to relate interesting stories, but short enough for a younger child to get through on their own.
Nursery Book of Bible Stories by Amy Steedman is a beautifully illustrated volume that retells thirty-six stories from the Bible that are especially appealing to young people. It is more detailed than the Told to the Children series, but still suitable for grammar school students, and the pictures that accompany these Bible stories are outstanding. This well organized collection is one of our favorite Children’s Bibles, because of its clear and vivid prose and beautiful illustrations. Older grammar school students can read this book on their own, but it is also an excellent choice for read-aloud to very young children.
Heroes of Israel is significantly longer than the previously listed Children’s Bibles, and covers the Old Testament thoroughly. It is a good choice for students who may already be familiar with the most famous Bible stories and are ready to read an account of the Bible that includes more stories from the period of Kings and minor Prophets. We’ve included it in the Young Readers Collection, along with the previous three volumes, because it is an exceptionally good selection for family read-aloud.
Lawton Evans, is one of our favorite authors, and Heroes of Israel is one of several of his books in our collection that we recommend to history lovers of all ages. He is an eloquent, well organized story-teller with an exceptional talent for appealing to young readers. His rendition of the Old Testament is broken up into ninety short chapters, all named in a familiar manner so it is easy to navigate. The illustrations are few, but of extraordinary quality.
Middle School Selections
When the King Cameand The Story of the Chosen People are dissimilar in many ways, but we’re grouping them together because they are both written for a middle School audience and both provide much detailed background information that helps put the events of the Bible in historical perspective. One covers only the Old Testament and the other deals only with the Gospels, but both authors use additional sources very skillfully in order to explain contemporary events and customs. Both books are true to the spirit of the Bible, and we recommend them for intermediate students who are ready to learn about the historical context in which the events of the Bible took place.
When the King Came is an engaging story that follows the life of Christ, but it is not a conventional children’s Bible. The author adopts the tone of a kindly grandfather, recounting the great events of the gospels, while taking care to explain the important points in some detail. For example, he explains the naming of Jesus, the symbolism of Frankincense and Myrrh, and the Temple rituals in a way that adds depth to the narrative. This additional information helps young people understand the events of Christ’s life in a historical context, while preserving the mystery and miracles that were central to his ministry.
Guerber’s history of the Jewish people tells many familiar stories from the Old Testament, but is written more in the tone of a history of Israel, than a Children’s Bible. The author recounts the stories of Genesis and Moses based entirely on Biblical sources, but uses independent historical sources to provide background information for later periods, especially that of the kings and minor prophets. Guerber explains the political events in regions outside Israel in order to put the conquest of Israel and exile of the Jews in context. Her history concludes with the story of the Maccabees, the dynasty of Herod, and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, in 70 A.D.
Richly Illustrated Family Classics
The final two selections, The Children’s Bible by Kent and Sherman, and the Story of the Bible by Jesse Hurlbut are large scale and very reliable renditions of the Bible, but are more appropriate for older students than younger children. Both were written by Biblical scholars and cover many stories that are sometimes excluded in shorter volumes. Both are also richly illustrated. The Children’s Bible was over 350 pages as published, including over 50 illustrations, but we have broken it up into two separate volumes, for ease of use. Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible was even longer, over 700 pages, but including over 200 illustrations. It is currently preserved in a single large volume, but we will probably split it into two volumes in a future revision.
The The Children’s Bible is a true classic, and was a favorite in American homes for decades. Kent and Sherman were renowned Bible scholars, and every section of the Bible is rendered with great care to preserve Biblical accuracy while retelling the most important stories in common language. This first volume contains the most famous stories of the Old Testament, all told in fascinating detail. The second volume of the Children’s Bible covers the New Testament, from the Birth of Christ, to the Acts of the Apostles, ending with stories from the Epistles of Paul, James, and John.
The Children’s Bible is richly illustrated and very faithful to the original. Our only criticism is many of the chapters were very short, and had somewhat cryptic names, so we “fixed” this, by combining common chapters and simplifying chapter titles. It is also true, that adding minor incidents from the Bible, rather than focusing only on the more famous events and characters, make the text somewhat more challenging. For this reason, we don’t recommend The Children’s Bible as a student’s first introduction to the Bible. It is an excellent transition, however, from a simplified Children’s rendition, to an adult Bible.
Jesse Hurlburt’s classic retelling of most of the famous Stories from the Bible has been a popular favorite, in print continuously since it was first published in the early 1900’s. It is a beloved classic, just as famous for its fantastic illustrations, as for its engaging prose. It follows The Children’s Bible in difficulty because of its massive size rather than its readability. The text itself is clear and well organized. Each chapter could be easily read by an older grammar school student, but there are over 160 chapters, that cover all important events and characters in the Bible.
All of these Children’s Bibles are appealing to children, and faithfully transmit the truths of Christian scriptures. The first four of the books are included in the Young Readers Classical Curriculum, and we are currently working on a collection of Biblical and Ancient Histories that will include all eight versions, as well as several other volumes related to Ancient Civilizations.