Mary and Joseph

Mon, 24/12/2018 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

Children's Bibles are great. They retell key stories from the Bible in a way that children can readily follow. Each one has its own editorial policy, aiming for a particular reading age and style, with consistent illustrations.

But they're a minefield. When you try to summarise to remove extraneous details, it's easy accidentally to remove the most important thing. Like Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralysed man in Matthew 9:1-8.

When you have extra details that need a little explanation, it's easy to do so in a way that removes the most important tensions of the narrative. Like this example …:

Joseph and Mary

I can understand why you'd want to portray to children that the woman expecting a baby is married. Really, I can.

But in this instance, just: No! Find another way to explain what happened, but not this.

I should add that this is from the Candle Bible for Toddlers, a book I am immensely fond of. I might review it properly one day, but for now:

It's brilliant. The illustrations are simple, drawn in a style that children can relate to and recognise, without too much detail in the drawings, and with consistency of style. The Bible stories are retold in a way that makes each one really simple but yet brings it alive. The overall picture in the whole Bible of a Jesus portrayed in a way that makes you want to follow him. It works for children at this level, but frankly it works for adults too. As an adult who loves Jesus, there are several points that bring a tear to my eye as I read this aloud to a child, or to children, for portaying the Jesus I know and love in such a wonderful way. Each individual story is just the right length, and the lengths are even.

I'd say, for children aged about 2-5 or 2-6, it's spot on. If you want to buy a present for someone who's having a child baptised, or who has just had a new baby, this would be a good one.

It does have 2, maybe 3, stories that let it down in the way they're told. This is one of them. But I've not yet met any children's Bible that doesn't have at least 1 or 2 of those moments. That's a reminder to read discerningly to children, not a reason not to buy or read this Bible.

For today, let me remind you how the story goes, and wish you a happy Christmas:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly.

20 While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,”which means “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, 25 but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 NCV)

Happy Christmas everyone! I'll return to blogging in the new year.

Blog Category: 

Add new comment

Additional Terms