My brother Mike brought up some excellent points yesterday in his comments on this blog, as well as in a similar discussion at the Refugees in Jesus discussion board. He pointed to Zondervan’s NIrV Bible which is supposed to have been written at a third grade reading level. He said to give them a Bible they can handle. (Of course, he also said we need to lead them to salvation in Christ more than we need to give them a Bible, which is true. But that’s beside the point, as I want to determine what would be the best translations to give to a young child, saved or not.)
Often, from the time a child is an infant, he or she has been read to from either a Bible or a children’s Bible storybook. Some children take to this much more willingly than others. So it’s very difficult to determine just what an 8-year-old child can handle. Everybody’s different.
When I was that age I could read pretty well; I enjoyed reading and loved books. I held my new Bible as a special treasure; I already knew it was God’s message, and I tried to read it, though much of it was very difficult. Would I have valued a “children’s” Bible so highly? I can’t say for sure, but I doubt it. As far as I was concerned, my new Bible was the “real thing”!
Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: I kept my Bible that I received as a third grader all the way through high school. I don’t think I would have done that if it was a kids’ Bible. I would have outgrown it. And I think that may be a good reason to rule out giving a Children’s Bible to our third graders. So in my thinking, that rules out the NIRV, and any other Bible which has been written to such a low grade level.
As I said before, I was given an RSV. Do I think we should be giving RSVs to the kids yet today? Of course not! Nor KJVs, NKJVs, NRSVs, ESVs, NASBs, or any other Bible that is full of Biblese or Bible Language. Not that those are “bad” Bibles; many are excellent. But their purpose may be more fully realized as “Study” Bibles; Bibles intended more for the use of serious Bible students and scholars.
So not only am I ruling out the Children’s Bibles, but also the “scholarly” Bibles at the other end of the spectrum.
We have Bibles today that are written in conversational English, perhaps a small step above the way people speak out in the streets, more on the level that intelligent, educated adults speak. Someone has called it “magazine” English. Prime examples are the NIV, TNIV, NLTse, and perhaps the Good News Bible.
Kids can handle a Bible like that. They can understand much of it; they can and do treasure such Bibles. And you can get them in “Gift and Award Bible” form, quite inexpensively, in case the youngsters don’t treasure them highly enough. 😉 What’s more, the kids wouldn’t outgrow them, they’d grow into them!
And more than that, adults can handle that kind of Bible, too. Many of us do; many of the more desirable Bibles that we look forward to purchasing are of that genre. And when both the kids and the adults are using the same Bible, then the playing field is more level, and communication between the generations is more easily facilitated.
So I think I’m going to go with the more conversational English Bibles in this series.