New Bible translation invites children on journey of faith

6/7/2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert

United Methodist News Service

NASHVILLE — Did you know in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible the book of Psalms begins with the word “happy,” and it is used 26 times in the rest of the book?

 

Did you also know “happy” is only used 20 times in the rest of the Old Testament?

Children will learn fun facts like this in a new edition of the NRSV Bible created especially for them. In the Children’s Bible, published by Abingdon Press, they will also learn the definition of words like “chaff,” and that sheep were important to life in Bible times and dependent on the care of a shepherd.

 

Curriculum writer Peggy Augustine has written concise, child-friendly summaries to each book of the Bible, and artist Dennis Jones has created pictures that are glimpses into what the reader will find on the following pages.

 

“Children have a deep desire to know and experience God’s love in their lives,” says Neil Alexander, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House. Abingdon is an imprint of the Publishing House.

 

“This new study Bible presents the message of Jesus in vivid and compelling ways. The Bible has illustrations to draw children in and includes notes throughout the text that help them experience God and discover how God wants them to live.”

 

This is the first time the NRSV has been used for a children’s Bible, says Paul Franklyn, director of Bibles, ePublishing, and Reference Resources with the Publishing House.

 

The Bible rolled off the press in early May and is already proving to be a hit.

“We can tell there has been a pent-up urgency for this type of children’s Bible,” Franklyn says. Other publishers like Augsburg Fortress and Harper are selling the Bibles, and Augsburg has already sold out of its first order and placed a second, he says.

 

In the past, the Publishing House sold “gift edition” Bibles that churches typically ordered for their third-grade Sunday school classes. The Bibles included a few inserts that were text based and were really just “award editions,” Franklyn says.

“We are trying to raise the bar for them, and we will see if they are ready to convert and do something that is more children-friendly.”

 

Jones, a Christian artist, illustrated the interior of the Bible and created the icons that guide children through the text. According to his Web site, Jones “logged a lot of pew time at the local Baptist church where he honed his artistic abilities on church bulletins.”

 

His whimsical drawings have an animation feel.                                                                   

“One of the criticisms of curriculum art by some scholars has been that it hasn’t kept pace with animation and computer graphics,” Franklyn says.

 

The Children’s Bible, developed for ages 8-12, is being promoted with the new Sunday school curriculum “Live B.I.G.!” which is also geared toward children growing up in a multimedia world, Franklyn says. “It is all part of the conversation here; we can’t use the same formula that was used in the ‘50s.”

 

Children are guided on a journey through this translation. “All children’s Bibles use a metaphor such as odyssey or adventure,” Franklyn explains. “We decided to go with the word ‘journey.’”

 

Blue introduction pages at the beginning of each book give information about who wrote the book, when it was written and what it is about. The opening page includes an illustration of a chosen verse that readers can look up.

 

For Psalms, the illustration is of a deer stopping for a drink of water. The reader is guided to Psalm 42:1: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

 

Four icons provide “signs along the path” to illuminate the text and help children learn how God wants them to live.

 

“God’s Path” is a picture of a curving path through the woods. It is a signal that this is something that will help them discover who God is and understand how God wants them to live.

 “Finding the Path” is a compass, with text that helps children apply the Scripture to their lives.

 “Points Along the Path” is an exclamation mark, accompanied by text that explores the people and places of the Bible.

 “Light on the Path” is a flashlight that points out memory verses that children can use.

 

“The memory verse is something that has been lost in mainstream Protestantism,” Franklyn says. “When I grew up in the evangelical world, it was a key part of Sunday school.”

 

The Children’s Bible is available in three different covers. The Noah’s Ark hardcover edition is based on the painting “The Promise” by United Methodist artist Mary Singleton. A blue/green hardcover edition and a gift and award edition in simulated burgundy leather are also available. The gift edition is $14.40 and the other two are $16. Details are available at cokesbury.com.

 

“Children will want to read the Abingdon Children’s Bible on their own,” Alexander says. “Lessons from Sunday mornings will go with them into the rest of the week in new ways as they make its stories, its people and its message a part of their lives.”