cover image The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present

The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present

Ruth B. Bottigheimer. Yale University Press, $60 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-300-06488-9

This comprehensive analysis of children's bibles, which traces the evolution of the genre from the time it first emerged in Germany with the invention of the printing press, graphically demonstrates that Bible stories for children teach far more than the Bible or biblical content. In fact, such volumes reveal as much or more about the times in which they were compiled and about the moral and social perspectives of their various authors and editors. Social utility joins soul-saving as various generations retell stories, include or omit stories from their collections and emphasize or marginalize portions of stories. Troublesome heroes such as Jael, along with sexual scenes such as David and Bathsheba, pop in and out of children's Bibles as the years pass. Such selective editing is inevitably reinforced by illustrations (Bottigheimer has included 46 examples here). An impressive scholarly achievement, this volume may prove too academic to appeal to the casual or seeking reader, but its content just may prompt the interested reader, the concerned parent and certainly those who teach Bible to children to examine their materials closely for implicit social messages as well as for theological content. (May)