We’ve been discussing for years what our family Bible version will be. Our children were small, so we had time to think it through. Should we stay with the King James Version that we both grew up with? Should we get our children a simplified paraphrase for their “first” Bible? Since we’re in the military, it’s impossible to predict what version the churches we go to will use. Can we predict the likelihood of version? We have discovered that there are advantages when church people agree to use a common version at church (corporate reading aloud, teaching, memorizing to some extent), although pew Bibles or overhead projections are often used well for this purpose.
David is six and able to read enough to warrant getting a”real” Bible. He has a little Gideon’s New Testament that’s well loved (but never read). We’ve avoided picture Bibles for several reasons. First, because the point of a Bible in church is to read God’s Word corporately, to confirm that the teacher or preacher is indeed using God’s Word appropriately. Having a picture Bible seems a little like window dressing. We struggle with this when our primary students come to children’s church and leave their Bibles with their parents (We do use our Bibles in children’s church!). Or when children are given stickers for bringing a Bible that they never use. Second, we wanted the event of getting a real Bible to be significant (not merely getting an upgrade).
I also have noticed that children recognize that a picture Bible is not a Bible. Even if it has words of the Bible in it (and we have several of these in our house), children don’t reverence it like a Bible. I see this with the cheap award Bibles parents often give children (reasoning that young people are hard on Bibles, so wait until they’re older to give them a real one). Children notice the difference, and so I am particularly sensitive that a Bible should feel like a “real” Bible, to the degree practical for parents. I do like some of the covers on Bibles (although a hardback glossy one looks like a picture book to me, even if it contains the whole Bible). I particularly like the bright solid colors, with durable materials. They’re distinctive enough to look like a Bible, but still appeal to a child.
We finally decided to have an official family version. That way when all the children are able to read the Bible together, we’ll be reading the same words. We’ll be memorizing from this version as a family. We do have other versions that we use, but the Bibles we purchase for our children will all be the same. We decided the New King James Version was best for our family.
If I were choosing a version only for readability, I’d go with the easiest version to understand; however, that’s not necessarily the most accurate translation. If I were choosing a version for academic value, I’d choose the King James Version (It is the language that the writers of the classics grew up with, and there are academic advantages to knowing its language well). But they can learn Elizabethan English in other ways. Academic achievements are incidental, but not a part of my decision making process. This is the Word of God, not a textbook! The New King James version is not prohibitively difficult for a new reader (particularly if he’s familiar with scriptures already, and its language), and the syntax (word order) is particularly more accessible for children than the authorized version.
It’s not that the old King James Version is too hard for children to learn. We grew up with it at home and at church, and we know it well. However, as adults, we’ve discovered that portions of the Old Testament in particular were not well understood, in spite of having reasonable intelligence and growing up with it in home and church. What I have found is that the vocabulary, which most parents discuss, is not the biggest hurdle to overcome. The most difficult element seems to be the word order and sentence length, even for older children who are good readers.
So we purchased a Bible for David. Tomorrow I’ll talk about one of the best days I’ve had as a mother. 😀