Are There Better Bible Translations for Kids?

October 27, 2022

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Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the kids God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I am thrilled that you've joined me today for another episode.

Now, our question today is a shorter one with pretty simple answers, so it won't be quite as long of an episode today, but I thought it was an important one to cover. So this question says, "Are there translations/versions of the Bible that are more appropriate for different age levels?" And I'm so glad that this question came in because I think it's an important one for us to think through.

Now, my recommendation, first of all, is to just get kids into the Bible as early as possible. Now, a lot of times we think like, "Oh, little kids, they need children's Bibles." And now, there's nothing inherently wrong with a children's Bible, but we need to recognize that a children's Bible is not the Bible. It might tell stories and narratives from the Bible, but it's different than the Bible itself. So I would encourage you, even at the youngest of ages, even when your children are just three or four, start diving into God's Word.

And a way to do this is to just read a book together as a family. Choose one book of the Bible and start reading through it together. Now, it's easiest with younger kids to make sure that you're going through a narrative book. So choose one of the gospels, choose the Gospel of John, or choose 1 or 2 Samuel, and start going through this book together as a family. I saw this modeled so well by my pastor and his wife at the church that I attended just outside of Chicago. By the way, if you were looking for a great church in the Chicago suburbs, check out Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville. I highly recommend it. It's a small church plant, but just wonderful body of Christ, faithful preaching of the word of God.

And so my pastor there, Tom and his wife Rachel, from the youngest of ages, they had their kids immersed in God's word. I used to go over every once in a while to babysit for their kids. And when I would babysit for them, they would just give me the nighttime routine, what to do. And they would actually read through an entire chapter of Scripture with their kids at night. And when I am talking about their kids being young, I'm saying even when they're kids who were five, three and one, they would be reading through an entire chapter of Scripture together. Now, would their kids sit there perfectly still with their hands folded on their lap and their eyes glued on whoever was reading? No. Sometimes they might be bouncing up and down on the couch. They have the wiggles, but they were still capable of sitting there and listening to an entire chapter of Scripture being read.

And so this requires some intentionality, because we live in a world that's just full of screens. And the fact of the matter is that brain research has found that consistent exposure to screens under the age of two is really harmful for brain development, that really under the age of two, our children should be very minimally exposed to screens, maybe FaceTime once every few days with grandpa and grandma, but they should not be watching things on the iPad, they should not be playing with a phone, they should not even consistently be watching a 20-minute show. Once they're two and above, having 10 to 20 minutes of screen time a day isn't harmful. But if we're having our kids on iPads or on a screen for an hour or more each day, that's really detrimental to their brain development, that there is just going to be ... like the synapses are not going to be correctly wired in their brains if we're letting them be exposed to such a heavy volume of screen time.

And so we might need to actually take a step back to actually wean them off screens. It's going to be hard because there are dopamine addictions with those. So we can't just get rid of all screens willy-nilly, because our kids are actually going to be going through withdrawal, but we have to slowly wean them off of so much screen time and train them to listen well, to actually sit and listen.

And now, I love this about my sister-in-law, Linea. She has done such a great job of not letting her kids be involved with screens very much. And she reads to them all the time. And so what do they want to do when they want to have fun? They want to read. She has two very active boys and two really sweet and active girls, but they love reading. They might be outside having an adventure, all you have to do is open up a book and start reading out loud, and everybody comes to you like a fly to honey. And so just when we train our kids to love to read, reading God's word to them is going to be much easier.

So now about the actual question about the versions, when we're working with kids ages seven and younger, the International Children's Version of the Bible, it's a good translation to use, in that it uses very, very simple words. Now, all of the translation might not be quite as accurate as other translations, but when we're talking about seven on down, that can be a good version of the Bible to use that has really, really simple vocabulary. So just check out the International Children's Version.

Then, pretty much any other faithful translation can be okay for children. Now, I know I'd get some pushback here from people who are KJV-only, but I do not recommend using the King James Version of the Bible with children, just because Old English is not a language that anybody uses regularly now, and Jesus did not speak Old English. God did not speak Old English. He did not give us to the Bible in Old English. And so why have our children just learn a language that is not going to be beneficial to them in any way? It might be beautiful, but nobody uses that language. If you want to use the new King James, that's fine. I went in all of the Foundation Worldview curriculums, except for our early childhood, our early childhood curriculum, which is for four to seven year olds, or sometimes four to eight year olds, we use the International Children's Bible just because it's easier language. And then when we do curriculum for eight on up, we use the ESV. That just happens to be me and my team's preferred version of choice. We like the translation philosophy there, so we use the ESV. I think that's very appropriate for kids eight on up.

Another one, the Christian Standard Bible is a translation that's fairly easy for kids eight and up to read. The New International Version is another one that's fairly easy for them to read. The New American Standard Version, if that's your version of choice, that's a very accurate word-for-word translation. Just the one thing you have to know is just because it's translated in such a literal way, just sometimes understanding the thoughts are going to be more difficult for children to understand. So if you are using that translation, they're just going to need more guidance as they're reading through it.

Now, the translation that you use, if you're using one that's decently easy for kids to read, just the one thing to be prepared for is that you know there's going to be some vocabulary in different passages that they're not going to be aware of, and that is not a bad thing. What we need to do then is we need to make sure that we're just directly teaching them that vocabulary and teaching them reading skills that they need. How do they read and comprehend a passage well?

And so the goal in teaching is to always teach up with the correct supports. As long as we're providing the correct supports, like teaching them new vocabulary, helping make sure that they understand comprehension skills, teaching up is always a good thing. We don't want to dumb it down, because kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. So don't dumb things down, but just give the proper supports and teach up. And again, just really encourage you, we want to get kids into God's Word. We don't want to just have them in a Children's Bible forever. Yes, when they're really little, Children's Bibles can be a helpful way for them to understand the whole story of Scripture. But we don't want them to be in Children's Bibles for very long. We want them to actually be in God's word.

So just a few encouragements. First, we need to make sure that we are not doing all the work for these kids. Okay? Yes, we can help them with vocabulary, we can help them with reading skills. We can have good conversations about scripture with them. But we need to make sure that we're not doing all the work of always planning a lesson, planning and devotional, planning everything out for them, because then what we do is we create dependence on us. And the minute we're taken out of that equation, they're not able to do any Bible reading on their own. And we don't treat any other area of life like this. We know that we need to train our kids to do their own laundry eventually. We know we need to train them eventually to pick up after themselves. We know we need to train them eventually to be able to cook, and we need to train our kids to be able to read scripture. So encourage us, don't make them dependent on us.

So first, we need to teach them the big story of Scripture. Children's Bibles can be beneficial for that. Then we need to teach them this basic skills of sound biblical interpretation. Okay? How do we tell if a text is descriptive or prescriptive? How do we read verses in context? How do we look at the specific covenant that these commands are part of? And then after that, we need to teach them how to read genres correctly. Okay? How do we read poetry in a way that's different than we read biography? How do we read prophecy in ways that's different than we read letters? If you are thinking, "Ah, I don't really know how to do this," highly recommend you check out our curriculum, our Foundation's Studying the Bible Curriculum. We teach kids all of these skills.

But just really encourage you, get kids into God's word. They are not too young. Even if you're talking about three year olds, you can read Scripture out loud to them. But if we want to develop biblical literacy and we want to develop a love for God's word, we need to get these kids in our care into Scripture.

Well, that's a wrap for our episode today, but would really encourage you just to continue thinking about how you can get the kids in your care to dive into scripture. And as always, it's my prayer that as we go forth from here, that God would bless you as you continue to intentionally disciple the children that he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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