Reading the Bible on Its Own Terms

Reading the Bible on Its Own Terms

Does the world need another publisher of Bible stories for children? From The Action Bible to Kevin DeYoung’s The Biggest Story, parents have no shortage of options when it comes to illustrated Biblical content. What are we at Little Word doing differently?

Most children’s Bible story books have particular strengths that line up with whatever aspect of the Bible they’re trying to emphasize. Kenneth Padgett’s The Story of God With Us focuses on God’s desire to be with and among His people. Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible highlights the presence of Jesus throughout the stories of the Old Testament. As far as we’re concerned, the more Bible books out there, the better. God’s Word is endlessly rich, and no amount of books could possibly exhaust its treasures (John 21:25).

At Little Word, we want to focus on the patterns that appear again and again in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. These patterns can take the form of characters, places, situations, details, and even specific words. In most cases, they’re easier to see than to describe, which is why picture books are a natural way to explain them.

One of the most obvious forms of this kind of pattern is how certain numbers appear again and again in Bible stories. The number seven, for example, first appears in Genesis 2 as the exclamation point at the end of the Creation week, when God rests and approves the work He did throughout the week. Every time the number seven appears in the Bible, the Sabbath is hovering in the background, giving the number the connotation of completeness. The Israelites circle Jericho seven times before the walls come down. Elisha instructs Namaan to wash seven times in the Jordan to be healed. When something’s been done seven times, it’s complete.

The symbolism goes further than numbers. Trees, for example, first appear in the Garden of Eden as a way for man to connect with God (Genesis 3:22), almost like a ladder to heaven. A good man is like a fruitful tree (Psalm 1), a wife is like a vine (Psalm 128), Jesus is the true vine (John 15). These are metaphors, yes, but they are metaphors that are baked in to how the Bible tells the story of God and His people. Suddenly, Jesus’ death on a tree (1 Peter 2:24) is given a new layer of meaning: He is the new Tree of Life, another ladder to heaven.

It’s exciting to read the Bible this way. For one thing, it helps us read the Bible on its own terms. For modern people, the sea is the sea. If we associate anything with the sea, we probably think of adjectives like “vast,” “roaring,” or “powerful.” In the Bible, the sea is closely connected with the Gentiles, the nations that surround God’s chosen people. In his missionary work, Paul traveled by ship because it was the most efficient mode of transportation at the time. But if we understand Biblical symbols, we can see that Paul is also symbolically traveling into the world of the Gentiles.

Reading the Bible this way is also exciting because it’s actually incredibly simple.
Details that are baffling at first become so clear that a child can explain them. Why does John the Baptist wear camel’s hair? If we follow the pattern of camels in Scripture, we see that he is like Abraham’s servant Eliezer, who was sent with ten camels to find a bride for Isaac. John even declares himself to be the “friend of the bridegroom” when his disciples ask him about Jesus, who is, of course, the true bridegroom, a new Isaac. (Learn more, HERE)

Our goal is to create books that highlight these Biblical patterns so that children and adults will start to recognize them and learn to read the Bible on its own terms.
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