15 May 2008

the jesus storybook bible

Over the past few weeks my daughter Claire, who's five, has really been enjoying The Jesus Storybook Bible written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago.

Lloyd-Jones presents the sweep of the entire scriptures, from creation and Adam and Eve to heaven's descent into our world at the consummation, all within the overarching framework of the biblical narrative as a single Story. Moreover, Lloyd-Jones' re-telling of various biblical stories is a theological one.

This isn't to say that she skimps at all on the details of those events, yet she ably narrates them all as testimonies to God's faithfulness to his purposes in the world, flowing from his "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love." And for Lloyd-Jones God's love comes to its greatest expression in Jesus Christ, as God enters fully into his own story. Thus she allows the event of Christ as the culmination of the biblical narrative to shape her re-telling of every part of that narrative.

From the start of her book then, Lloyd-Jones weaves in hints of Jesus' work yet to come: God's promise of rescue offered in the Garden, heaven's descent in Jesus as the answer to Babel, a coming Prince like Joseph far from home and given up for dead who nonetheless saves the world, and so on. These hints build suspense as the story unflows, whether one reads the book in sequence or not.

The chapter titles are also delightful, often drawing Claire into a story she might not otherwise be quite so interested in: "The girl no one wanted," "The teeny, weenie... true king," "A little servant girl and the proud general," "Daniel and the scary sleepover," "Treasure hunt!," and the like. The illustrations help also, offering bright, engaging windows into the stories, often with a touch of humor.

Nevertheless, one drawback of the book is the selectivity of its stories. While many highlights of the biblical narrative are covered (creation, fall, flood, Babel, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, the exodus, etc.), there are just as many omissions. The judges (Ehud, Gideon, Samson, etc.) are passed over in silence as are most of the kings (Solomon, Ahab, Josiah, etc.) and many of the prophets (Elijah, Hosea, Amos, etc.). And there is no real attention to either the tabernacle or temple, which one would expect to have significant play in a book so keen on the christological dimensions of the entire scriptures.

As one blog reader points out, this selectivity has the side effect of eliminating many stories of biblical women. While, for instance, the story of Jacob is told largely through the lens of Leah, and Naaman's healing focuses upon the faithful witness of his servant girl, the wider selectivity causes us to miss out on Shiphrah and Puah, Jochabed, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Huldah, and Esther. And that's unfortunate.

Despite these drawback, however, I would overall highly recommend Sally Lloyd-Jones's The Jesus Storybook Bible, especially for families with children age 4 and up, and also for adults who might want to refresh their knowledge of scripture and the biblical "big picture."