Bible Story Resources

On an upcoming podcast, while considering how we read Bible Stories to our children, I mention a few Orthodox Bible story collections.  I thought I’d post these resources here for your reference in case you’re in the market for a new Bible Story book:

For elementary-aged children, I love  A Sacred History For Children, by a Russian Orthodox priest, Fr. P. Vozdvizhensky, and translated from the Russian by Tatiana Marr and adapted by Nancy Mirolovich.  It narrates the most well-known Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments in a child-friendly voice, interweaving Orthodox theology and interpretation as it goes. Whether you’re teaching the Jesse Tree stories for Nativity Lent (or perhaps, considering starting to do so in a less formal way) or looking to read to your Sunday School class or to your own children at bedtime, this is a very worthwhile collection from St. John of Krondstat Press.

For slightly older children, another fully Orthodox option is The Bible for Young People from Narthex Press.  Christos Gousides’ gorgeous icon-inspired artwork tends to steal the show but Zoe Kanavas’ beautiful text is loaded with wonderful theological insight.

It’s not really a problem to use the various non-Orthodox versions of children’s stories available to us, so long as we are careful to discern any strange ideas that may need to be corrected, but what a blessing it is to read a beautifully written version which offers an Orthodox understanding of the text already woven into the narration!

Do you have any recommendations for beautiful Orthodox Bible Stories that Sunday School teachers and parents might want to add to their collections?

Elissa Bjeletich

About Elissa Bjeletich

Elissa Bjeletich hosts three popular Ancient Faith Radio podcasts: Raising Saints, Everyday Orthodox, and together with Kristina Wenger, Tending the Garden of Our Hearts. She is the co-author of Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home and author of Welcoming the Christ Child: Family Readings for the Nativity Lent, and In God’s Hands: A Mother’s Journey through Her Infant’s Critical Illness. She serves as the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. Elissa lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband, Marko, and their five daughters. You'll find more information on her website: elissabjeletich.com

3 comments:

  1. “Story book” adaptations like these are problematic. Presenting the Biblical narrative in the same format and style as their make-believe stories leaves children with the impression as they become adolescents and adults that the Bible is a book of fairy tales. These story collections also invariably adapt or cut out the difficult and “ugly” bits of the Scriptures. When children later encounter the real texts–especially if it’s encountered as an attack on the faith by teachers or peers–they are extremely vulnerable to loss of faith. It is far, far better to teach children from the actual Biblical text–and to treat it as special and holy!–than to “dumb down” the holy stories.

  2. I agree that there are plenty of Bible Story books out there that dumb down the stories and sanitize them — often to the point of uselessness. That’s why I was recommending these two books, as they preserve the complexity of the story, explaining the Orthodox understanding of the difficult parts (which would have instead been removed in a lesser version.)

    I disagree that picture books and Bible Stories written for children cause them to confuse holy texts with fiction or fairy tales. Today’s children are learning the difference between fiction and non-fiction at an early age, and indeed they see text in all sorts of formats (with online textbooks and slick websites being the norm for all information, both educational/fact-based and not.) I’m not afraid to offer Orthodox teachings in a picture book format, and many of the Orthodox books out there have illustrations reminiscent of iconography, so they truly are set apart as special right from the beginning. That said, by the time my kids are in middle school, they each have an Orthodox Study Bible of their own.

    What is important to me, though, is that we resist offering watered down scriptural stories as moral tales. Too often, editors present a story teaching right from wrong instead of offering a sacred text in which we encounter the Living God. The Raising Saints podcast archives are full of episodes about how to bring the stories of our Scriptures to life as part of a lived faith. (I’d recommend my interview with Christian Gonzalez and Teaching the Story, as well as the episode on Noah’s Ark, if you’re interested.)

  3. If that’s what these versions are doing, I’m sold. I suppose I was reacting most to the fourth paragraph as it suggested these weren’t fundamentally different from the universally terrible Catholic and Protestant children’s Bibles that I’m familiar with. I’ve not seen one that does not have the problems we’re both talking about.

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