If you're looking for an ultra-simple Bible for a young child, consider The Beginner's Bible, published by Zondervan, the world's leading Bible publisher. Over 5 million copies of The Beginner's Bible have been sold. Not only does this children's Bible relate 95 stories from the New and Old Testaments, but it does so in language that could not be more simple. The illustrations - which are comic book style, with bright colors - also widely appeal to children.
Some stories that are included: Adam and Eve, Abraham, Noah's ark, the story of Jesus' death and resurrection, the Christmas story, Balaam and his donkey, the Tower of Babel, the burning bush, the chariot of fire, the story of creation, the story of Daniel, David, Delilah, the plagues, Elizabeth, Gideon, the Good Samaritan, Hannah, Isaac, Jacob, both Johns, Jonah, the Last Supper, Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, Jesus' miracles, many of Jesus' parables, Naomi, the story of Palm Sunday, Paul, the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, Rebekah, Ruth, Samson, the Sermon on the Mount...even snippets of two Psalms and a simple retelling of the book of Revelation.
Here is a sample of the text, from the story of Jesus' crucifixion (John 18 and 19), after explaining that Jesus went with the Roman soldiers:
"You see, it was time for Jesus to die. God had planned it long ago. Jesus knew it would happen when he came to the earth. He came to take the punishment for all the wrong things anybody had ever done, or ever would do. And now it was time. The soldiers took to him to their leaders.
"The leaders did not believe he was God's Son. They said, 'He must die, because he calls himself the Son of God.' So they killed him on a cross. It was a sad day for Jesus' friends. but they did not know that God had planned a wonderful surprise for them. And they would not be sad for long!"
What I Like: My initial reaction to the Bible was "ho-hum." I'm not a fan of comic book illustrations and the text seemed so simple it was boring. But my two year old really loves this Bible. The colorful pictures interest her, and the stories are short and to the point. (Most are no more than four pages.) It's hard to argue with success. Clearly the simplicity of this Bible appeals to young children. Too, the editors do a great job of explaining many "adult" concepts found in the Bible.
What I Dislike: Oddly, this Bible does not contain all of the Ten Commandments. The text says God gave Moses some rules, including "Do not kill. Do not steal. Respect your father and mother...[and] many other rules." Since the Ten Commandments are so fundamental to Christian faith, this is a major drawback. And while I appreciate that the Psalms are at least touched upon, I would have preferred if one or two had been shown full length. For example, four lines of "The Lord is My Shepherd" (Psalm 23) are included - but why not more? This is a simple Psalm that children can easily understand and relate to.
Overall Rating: Very Good.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 - 8, but toddlers will likely enjoy this, too.
Publishing Info: Zondervan, 2005; ISBN: 0310709628; hardback $16.99.
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Special Info: The Beginner's Bible (which has a subtitle of Timeless Children's Stories) should not be confused with other Bibles and books with similar names published by Zondervan, including these board books, which we've previously reviewed. (They are similar to the versions found in The Beginner's Bible, but not exactly the same.)