The History Channel series, “The Bible” has gotten a lot of buzz over the last few weeks, and once again I’m juggling my yearning to watch with knowing that I get a lot more done around here with only “peasant-view” channels on our ancient TV set.
I’m sure my kids are better readers for lack of television to watch as well. Right now my daughters (ages 8 and 10) are washing the dishes (we also have peasant-cleanse meal clean-up!) while listening to an audio drama on the radio.
I was given a copy of A Story of God and All of Us, Young Readers edition to review and was looking forward to getting a bit of a preview of what The Bible series is all about in literary form. This companion book is based on the TV series and includes several pages of colour photos from the film in the middle of the book. The kids turned to that first, of course. They take after me in that respect. (I also often read a magazine back to front. Shhh!)
I began reading it aloud to the kids yesterday, and noticed a few things right away. First of all, the kids love it, and listen well. They are familiar with the Bible stories covered already, and are quick to correct me if they think I’ve left something out. “Mom, her name wasn’t Sarai, it was Sarah!” In this case, Sam learned something new when God changed Sarai’s name in the next paragraph.
There are a few style and editing errors that give me the sense that the book was published hastily as a companion and promotional piece to The Bible series, which irks me. Also, am I the only one who is bothered by the possible confusion caused by writing about The Bible (TV series) and the Bible (the inspired word of God)? Also, I have never been able to enjoy a book that was based on a movie or television show. They are always dreadful. Books that spawned movies, on the other hand, top my must-read list.
The introduction to the book makes it clear that A Story of God and All of Us is not intended to be a factual Biblical retelling. As in the television series, the stories have been dramatized and abridged, and for someone who has grown up with the Bible, this is quickly evident. In the story of Abram and Lot, for example, Lot’s wife is credited with instigating the trouble that caused Abram and Lot to part ways and Lot to move to Sodom. This is not true to the Biblical account of conflict between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen as the cause of the division. Earlier in the book there is a brief description of Noah closing the “hatch” of the Ark. The Bible tells us (and I’ve been taught that this action contains great spiritual significance) that God closed the door. There is a description of the disciple John having a “gift of intuition” that I don’t see as Biblically supportable (unless by “intuition” you mean Holy Spirit), and an episode where, following Jesus’ resurrection, Peter serves communion to John, again, not found in the Bible.
These are little things, and yet they concern me. So much has been omitted from the story, and I understand that these things happen in a Bible story for the sake of brevity. But I am more troubled when things are added because it makes it just that much more difficult to tell truth from fiction, especially for children. I feel very conscious of the need to stop and explain any digressions from the Biblical account to my children as I read, as they are accustomed to stories and teaching that relies on a traditional Bible narrative that sticks closely to the facts.
The cover of the book does describe it as a novel, and this is emphasized again in the note to parents that opens the book. But I am reminded of a “novel” I read once based upon the life of Marilyn Monroe. I don’t to this day know what was fact and what was fiction, and much of what I believe I know about the actress, comes solely from that book. Fortunately in the case of A Story of God and All of Us, we have a true, factual account that is fully reliable in the Bible, and my sincere hope, (one shared by the producers of the History Channel’s The Bible series), is that the series and the books will motivate the viewers to search out the Scriptures for themselves.
There are many excellent resources out there that retell Bible stories both dramatically and factually. Eggermeier’s Bible Storybook, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor, My Bible Friends by Etta Degering are books we have used and enjoyed for different ages and stages in my children’s growth. Now that the girls are reading independently, they have their own New Living Translation Bibles that are easy to read and they are reading a chapter a day and writing down their thoughts, in addition to taking part in family Bible study and memorization. We aren’t perfect, and we miss days, but through this daily familiarization with the word of God, we will all be better able to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
I do have a copy of “A Story of God and All of Us” to give away. Leave a comment by noon PST on Monday, April 1st, and I’ll select one person to win.
The finale for The Bible on the History Channel airs this Sunday – if you’ve been watching at all, and even if you haven’t, this is the one you don’t want to miss!