everything I know about the bible I learned from a children’s story book

Day 14, NaWriMoPo November challenge when the going’s getting tougher and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel. Please don’t throw any stones!

Last weekend as I was walking past a large display window of a children’s library, where books are attractively arranged so as to entice children to want them, I happened to notice a copy of a large, beautifully illustrated book of Bible stories for children. An old book memory flashed quickly to mind so I circled back to have a closer look. The cover featured Noah’s ark sitting in a dry riverbed as I remember, and even though there was no sight of the flood God had warned him about, the animals are already going aboard in pairs.

When I was a child, I inherited my own book of Bible stories from my two slightly older boy cousins after Grandma felt they had outgrown it. I remember it like it was yesterday. The  front cover was hanging by a thread, and much of the illustration had been torn away–clearly not the quality book we expect today. Enough of the cover illustration was intact, however, that it made quite an impression on me.

It was a picture of Daniel, sitting behind the metal bars of a jail like room while he was being menaced by two very large and very angry lions. Eyes had been gouged out with a knife, though I cannot remember at this time if it was Daniel’s or one of the lions’. Sentiment makes me hope it was the lion’s eyes–not Daniel’s–that had been cruelly cut out, no doubt by one of the boys trying out his knife,  as clearly the apprehension I felt every time I looked at the book was for Daniel and not the lions.

The only thing I knew about lions at the time came from seeing the giant one that roared on the MGM movie screen and scared the beejeesus out of me sometimes when we went to a picture show. I knew I had to get through that lion on some occasions, though not every time (didn’t know at the time it was an MGM icon) , but I loved movies so much I was willing to brave it. I remember bracing myself, however, in case the lion came because I was so afraid one day it would leap from the screen and not only attack me but eat me up. Remember the days of childhood when things like that happened all the time in books?

You’ve heard the old axiom when it rains it pours. For some reason, it seemed the season for Bibles popping up in my life, having–just the week before–found the new testament written in modern English which I’d given my father years ago. My mother passed it back to me after his death in 1973, and I always thought I’d read it someday.

Everything I knew about Christianity heretofore I had learned from that story book, so I thought I would sit down and read a few chapters of it since Hubby was off helping at the elections and wouldn’t be home until very late anyway. So I did–and was truly impressed and surprised how easy it was to read.

I was also really surprised how depressed King Solomon was when he was writing Ecclesiasties. I mean, if someone that rich who had everything at his disposal, armies to fight to keep his stuff safe, as much food as he wanted plus somebody to prepare it for him, and as many beautiful ladies to oil and annoint him and whatever else he wanted–I mean, how do mere proletarians such as we expect to keep the faith?

Getting back to the Bible connection, today there was a letter to the editor in the local paper that made me want to go to the library again and check out one of those children’s Bible story books and see if I could find passages and stories to fit what the letter writer referred to in his letter, which I found very interesting indeed in light of the fundamentalists from the bible belt insisting the Bible is God’s word verbatim and everyone should live exactly the way the scriptures exhort us to.

To paraphrase the letter, the writer quotes the Bible’s words concerning same-sex marriage (Leviticus 18:22) which states that it is an “abomination” to “lie with a man as one lies with a woman,” which is a pretty serious issue locally as it is in the rest of the country. So, if he accepts that Bible passage as inarguable, he says, then he needs a lot of help and maybe a little further advice on some of the other laws he’s come across in the Bible. Here’s what he had to say in his letter:

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. What would be a fair price?

My neighbor insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may own slaves, male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend claims that this applies to Mexicans but not to Canadians. Why can’t I own Canadians?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

He ends his letter thankful that God’s word is eternal and unchanging. And with that, I end my post today by promising to look for a new illustrated childrens’ Bible story book with stories from Leviticus and Exodus. How good do you think the odds of finding one? In the horror section perhaps?

8 thoughts on “everything I know about the bible I learned from a children’s story book

  1. Goodness Gracious…..and I’m just an Episcopalian.

    Yes, I learned all those stories from wonderful Bible picture books too. The illustrations were marvelous, and now I want to go find that edition. I want to see if the illustrations are as wonderful as I remember. 🙂

  2. The Children of Israel were God’s chosen people; through them the Son of God would come into a dark world. These people had to be kept apart from the rest of the world which was steeped in sin. Purification and holiness was necessary. Hindus have priestly people called ‘Brahmins’ set apart from the rest of the world. This is because God can’t come near sin.

    The “set-apartness” is no longer necessary. Since Jesus came and took the punishment for our sins, we simply have to take Him as Saviour and all sins are forgiven. My friend Nidhi, a Christian with a Hindu Brahmin father, was in Church with me one Sunday. She would not take communion as she was having the ‘time of the month’..I said ‘the book of Deuteronomy says that when your time is over you have to bring a goat to the temple to be sacrificed before you can rejoin the community…’ We both laughed. Since Jesus came, that stuff is not necessary…

  3. I always questioned stuff the nuns told us and got my knuckles rapped for being impertinent (which usually began — “but Sister, that doesn’t make sense”). Most of them left me alone because I had a father who was . . . horror of horrors! . . . a Protestant.

    The result of my folks ‘mixed’ marriage is that I’m a renegade Catholic and a lifelong questioner.

  4. My father told us bible stories, renaming the villains for contemporary bad guys like Hitler or my mother’s brothers. When I went to Hebrew school and read the Old Testament (in Hebrew, with simplified translations from the teachers) I put these stories in the same category as Greek and Roman mythology. It’s no wonder I’m not a believer.

  5. I saw something similar, citing the bible, showing how many cherry picking the certain verses as “gospel” and dismissing the rest.

    My favourite:
    “A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?”

    And 14 days, you are doing wonderfully!

  6. Have you seen The Book of Genesis as illustrated by R. Crumb? I just bought a copy and I’m cranking up to write a review. This is the R. Crumb who created Felix, the Cat. You can check out the cover on Amazon.

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