Re-released in February, 2005, The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories is a fun and colorful read-to-me and early-readers’ Bible. Zonderkidz officially cites this children’s Bible as “the bestselling Bible storybook of our time with over 5 million copies sold.” The giant-eyed, happily grinning cartoon-like characters return to this 511-page hardcover reprint, including a three-page dictionary, which is rated for children ages 6 and under.
Because editor Catherine DeVries and illustrator Kelly Pulley are sensitive to their audience, parents will find a safe product with no text or artwork too graphic for young eyes. Case in point: in the story of David and Goliath, a likely favorite for little ones, the text excludes the fact that David cut off the giant’s head, and the art only shows Goliath on the ground, his tongue hanging out. The art does not show a wound at all. The text reads: “It (a stone) hit Goliath’s forehead, and he fell to the ground! The Philistines saw that their hero was dead. They ran away.” Items too harsh for your toddlers and preschoolers, like King Herod’s slaying of the innocents, are not included in this Bible storybook. Peter’s exuberance with his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane is only addressed in passing: the artwork shows Peter with his hand drawing out his sword and Jesus putting His hand up to stop Peter. The team also retold the Crucifixion carefully. Jesus is shown held by a guard when facing the religious leaders. The next page, page 450, shows Jesus picking up His cross. He is not bloody or bruised. Page 451 simply shows Him on the cross from the thighs down, with a woman weeping at his feet. Her head and hands cover where the nail would have gone; this picture does show reddish abrasions on His knees and right leg. The text says: “…There they nailed Jesus to the cross. Jesus died on the cross.” The final page in that chapter shows Jesus’ friends crying as they leave behind the outline of three crosses. Again, you can sense the care the team took to be true to the Word, but careful with young hearts. As a mother whose children loved earlier versions of this Bible storybook, I sincerely appreciate that sensitivity.
Doctrinally speaking, I read nothing in the text nor saw anything represented in the pictures that went against long-accepted essentials of Christianity. Mary is young and unmarried when she becomes pregnant with Jesus by the power of God. Joseph is represented as an adult man, but not aged. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are not portrayed as blond and blue-eyed people; they were, after all, Jewish. A star draws three “Wise Men” to Bethlehem where “they found little Jesus,” who is portrayed as a toddler. The miracles are all represented as works that only God could perform. Pentecost offers the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire to believers in the upper room, and they spoke in other languages, but “speaking in tongues” is not included in the chapter about the church. The church is drawn with both genders and a variety of skin tones/colors. The final page assures the young reader in text that Jesus is coming back soon, and in the artwork, Jesus’ open arms and smiling face would assure children, I believe, that He loves them and welcomes them.
When my children were young, we used The Beginner’s Bible as reading practice during school, as well as our night-time, tuck-me-in storybook. When this review copy came in the mail, Rebekah, now 12, ran to her room and took her much-used copy out of her “baby box” and recounted stories of how she remembered reading in that book. Her favorite stories? Baby Jesus, and Jesus with the children. Jacob, now 11, remembers best Jonah in the “big fish” and, naturally, David and Goliath.