Friday, October 16, 2015

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Initial Thoughts

We recently had our baby shower, where we received many wonderful things in preparation for the birth of our son Wesley Alexander Mulligan (November 3rd is coming so fast!). One of those gifts (well, three, actually) was the Jesus Storybook Bible. I decided it would be good to do an "initial thoughts" post, then come back to it after I've actually read it all the way through (probably with/to Wesley).

First thing: I LOVE this Bible.

Second thing: It's not perfect. There are things that I think could have done better, and a few things that I think are actually wrong/bad about the way events were portrayed. (David described as "the weakling of the family, he's only teeny-" being one of the most annoying errors, since he killed lions and bears with his bare hands!).

Third thing: But it's still amazing.

I think what I love most about it really is the subtitle: "Every Story Whispers His Name." Jesus is THE image of the invisible God, and in a very real sense every verse in the Bible points to Him. This Bible makes that explicit, over and over again. I'll just include one example: The first of them, and the most amazing. This is how this Bible ends the story of Adam and Eve:

"But before they left the garden, God made clothes for his children, to cover them. He gently clothed them and then he sent them away on a long, long journey--out of the garden, out of their home. 

Well, in another story, it would all be over and that would have been...

The End.

But not in this Story.

God loved his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan - a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes.

You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children - with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God's children would miss him always, and long for him - lost children yearning for their home.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Even: "It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I'm going to do battle against the snake. I'll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I'm coming back for you!"

And he would. One day, God himself would come."

That is my absolute favorite part about this Bible: It opens with a STRONG emphasis on Christus Victor. And all throughout the Old Testament portion of this Bible, nearly every story contains a reference to "The Great Rescue," God's secret plan to save the world. And who is the rescue from?

The Genesis section makes it fairly clear: In order to rescue his people, God MUST do battle with the devil. While human beings are definitely active sinners, they are primarily prisoners to be freed, not enemies to be vanquished (which, by the way, has many Calvinists on Amazon absolutely livid). *

Another thing I love? The Artwork. It's amazing. And the most amazing thing it does is to bring out the humor often overlooked in passages: For instance, the section labeled "How to Pray" (covering Jesus critiquing the prayers of the hypocrites in Matthew 6) features three people praying very passionately: Two of them are emoting vividly, heads dramatically tilted upwards, while the third actually has one eye open to see if anybody is watching him pray!

Again: This Bible is not perfect. Since it's designed for children (who, being children, are incapable of many of the finer points of Biblical interpretation and analysis), there's a LOT of built-in interpretation, connecting dots that are sometimes "gimmes", sometimes much more contested. (For instance, during the last supper, Jesus says "My body is like this bread," which Catholics on Amazon are not down with). Unless you happen to be the author of this particular book, there WILL be something in here that you disagree with....but then again, that's literally unavoidable when paraphrasing and commentating. c'est la vie. 

Will I read EVERY line to Wesley, exactly as written here? No. When speaking of David, I'll talk about how he was the youngest, and how that made him seem very unimportant to most people...but I'll also talk about his strength and bravery. But I'll read MOST of it exactly as written, because i think it does an incredible job at communicating the love of God and his desire for humanity to be saved, woven throughout the Bible. (and HOLY CRAP I just realized that I will be mostly responsible for the theological formation of a tiny person who will take my words as absolute truth oh my gosh WHAT AM I GOING TO DO)

Ahem. Anyway...yeah. I'll be writing a lot more about this...about whether the simplification going on here is a valid move, when it's appropriate to simplify and when it's NOT appropriate, and a couple others. But for now, I just wanted to get this out there.


  1. "Unless you happen to be the author of this particular book, there WILL be something in here that you disagree with....but then again, that's literally unavoidable when paraphrasing and commentating."

    And translating too, for that matter. :) (Obviously, I don't believe in the "reinspiration" of the KJV...) It turns out that (despite what some of us were taught), there isn't one clear, obvious, and unavoidable way to read an ancient text written by a variety of human authors, under the influence of the Divine. But really, all stories are like that. The best reveal new depths and nuances as the reader grows and changes.

    For what it is worth (as the father of five), even little kids will question and challenge you (my second daughter was and is the philosopher of the family starting at age 2 or so). Ultimately, regardless of what you do, they will come to their own conclusions. If not as kids, then as adults. If you bring the Calvinist "this is the only way it is" to the discussion, then they will either have to agree or rebel. If your teaching of your children resembles the way you blog, I think they will understand that there are multiple ways of understanding the Greatest Story, but that ultimately God is indeed Love.

    One of these days, I need to explore the Christus Victor view more thoroughly. It is quite a change from the PSA that was drilled into me for decades.

    1. If you want to learn more about CV (especially how it relates to PSA), I LOVED Aulen's treatment of it at

      The book is awesome right up until the end, when Aulen wusses out and states that the conflict "doesn't go all the way to the top"...which, of course, defeats the whole purpose.