BOOK REVIEW: The Jesus Storybook Bible

Posted on Jan 29 2016 - 11:56am by Rebekah Schrepfer

Sally Llod-Jones has written quite a popular children’s Bible published under the children’s wing of Zondervan Publishing.  I might rather have called it, “the Children’s Bible Storybook” because it is not a Bible.  It’s not a translation.   It’s not even really a paraphrase. Maybe we might call it a children’s devotional book.  It is a storybook based on the Bible much like the Christian Bible history fiction books.  We know things didn’t really happen that way, but it’s close.  And maybe it drives us to find out more about that particular account in Scripture.   It reveals more about the author’s imagination than about the Bible.

So is it good to read it to kids?  Will they understand that nuance?  The line between fiction and truth may be blurred a bit too much for children, but in the end that’s up to every parent to decide.  VeggieTales takes literary license as well, but it’s more obvious in their stories than in this one when the story departs from Scripture.  I happen to think kids can understand just fine if you read from the Bible.  They may not grasp all that is there, but they are gleaning  line upon line, precept upon precept, here  a little, there a little (Is. 28:9-10).  We’ve done family devotions with children’s devotional books before.  They might serve as a jumping off place for discussion. This book can be used in a similar way, but I would encourage follow up with the real account and not just leave it at this reading.  In fact, each chapter title gives the reference out of which the author drew her writing which is helpful.

Having said that, I thought the book was really beautifully written overall.  I love the subtitle, “every story whispers his name.”  Christ is the centerpiece of Scripture and that is right. The illustrations were wonderful.   A lot of good concepts were highlighted.  For example,

Positive

  • A six-day creation is described (Pg 18). 
  • I liked her statement that “the rules couldn’t save them.  Only God could save them”  (Pg 106).    
  • I liked her description of some battles in the Old Testament.   “The plan wasn’t about fighting.  It was about trusting and doing what God said”  (Pg. 111).
  • “It isn’t how strong you are or how many swords and spears you gave that will save you.  God will save you” (Pg. 126).
  • Psalm 23 is a good poem based on the psalm using simple statements.  “He is here with me.  He keeps me safe.  He rescues me.”    But there was a reason the Psalm used imagery instead of thesis statements, but maybe that’s easier for our Western thinking children to understand.   Is that taking literary license too far? I’m not sure (Pg. 132).
  • I liked how she portrayed the book of Isaiah as a letter from God to His people telling how sad He was with them and His plan for the future. 
  • “So Mary believed God more than what her eyes could see.”  Pg 129
  • I really like that she defines baptism and its purpose for the kids by saying, “great crowds listened to John.  They were sorry they had sinned and they wanted to stop running away from God.  They wanted to be rescued.   So John baptized them – he plunged them in and out if the water.  It showed that they wanted to follow God and begin a new life”  (Pg 203).
  • The Gospel is finally mentioned on pg. 258, but not all if it.  Soon after introducing the concept it is finally stated, “You trusted me, and God has rescued you.” Later the essential element of believing in the Deity of Christ,  “The Pharisees didn’t believe Jesus was God’s Son” (pg. 285).  “I will die instead of you.  My blood will wash away all of your sins.  And you’ll be clean on the inside.  In your hearts” (pg. 292).
  • Good representation of the Last Supper  (Pg. 292).
  • “It wasn’t the nails that kept him there.  It was love”  (Pg. 304).
  • The crucifixion and resurrection were really well done.
  • Page 340 had a very clear gospel presentation for kids as well as on the last page.

The literary license taken doesn’t bother me so much.  Many books and movies, especially those geared toward children do this. The overall theme is the love story.  The question arises though, is the overall theme of the Bible the love of God?  Or is it God himself?  By pointing to God’s love of us, it does glorify God, to be sure.  But God’s primary attribute is His holiness.  The Bible is the story of God’s redemption of a fallen world because of His love for us.  So what came first?  The love?  Or the holiness?  This debate has been going on for decades.  This author says, love came first.

Negative

  • The inconsistencies come in subtle things like the snake slithered instead of walked before the curse (Pg 30).   It might be confusing when God creates Adam He says, “You look like me” (Pg. 26).   The serpent says, “Does God really love you,” instead of did God really say (pg. 26).  So already in chapters 1 and 2, there are some pretty significant discrepancies with the Biblical account.  Can that be overcome with explanation? You decide.
  • “I won’t ever destroy the world again” (pg 46).
  • The author is coming from a “Love Wins” kind of view of Scripture which is becoming popular.  It is echoed throughout the story especially in the life of Jesus.  “Jesus would get rid of the sin and the darkness and the tears.  He would suffer but he would win”  (Pg. 209).   Is the redemption story a story of love? Yes.  But it’s about the redemption and glorification of God primarily.  
  • “God chooses people we least expect” (pg. 70).  Not necessarily.  Both prominent and unpopular people are used of God.   Scripture says God delights in obedience rather than sacrifice.  We are most pleasing to God when we glorify Him. 
  • I was a little annoyed that she assumes the kids won’t know what the word “commandment” means (pg 104) but uses the word “rampart” in the very next chapter. I suppose I’m being nit-picky on that.  
  • Also I don’t like that the Psalms are likened to ancient pop songs.  The author says they might have been on the top 40 charts, and Psalm 23 would be number 1 on the Psalm Charts (pg. 130).
  • I don’t like her summary of the minor prophets.  The Rules (the Law) were read to the people and it made them sad (true), so they had a party.  “Ezra stopped his sermon mid-sentence and shut the book.  ‘We’re going to have a party! …. ‘God wants us to be happy,’ Ezra said.  All day they listened to the wonderful things God had done for his people.”   What actually happened was a re-institution of the feast days.  The author’s rendering completely mischaracterizes this (Pg. 173).
  • I don’t like that she says John the Baptist had long scraggly hair (Pg. 201).
  • I don’t agree with her characterization of the Kingdom parables.  “God’s kingdom is wherever God is king” (Pg. 250).
  • I don’t agree with her covenant theology.  When describing the growth of the early church, she says,  “And so it was, just as God had promised Abraham that dark night all those years before, the family of God’s children grew and grew.  Until one day, they would come to number more than even the stars in the sky” (pg. 340).
  • She totally skipped over the epistles and went straight from Paul’s conversion to John on the Isle of Patmos.  In effect, the concept of the church is not mentioned at all.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is a false gospel being taught here, but it might lend itself to non-baptist and non-dispensational theology.  Again, it is up to every parent to decide whether to use the book themselves or not.  I’m torn.  Which means I probably won’t use it.

Jesus Storybook Bible

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