In January, our family began the year long Bible Reading Project. Each month we read a different book of the Bible. As we read through the Bible with the girlies, my husband and I are reminded that Biblical sometimes includes violent and sexual content.
We recently read through I Samuel and II Samuel, two very important Old Testament books. These are crucial reads because they help us understand Israelite history and show Biblical themes of God’s love, patience, and forgiveness. In spite of all this, some events should not be read to young ears. Consider the beheading of Goliath (I Samuel 17), the rape of Tamar (II Samuel 13), and Absalom’s rooftop encounter with King David’s concubines (II Samuel 16:15-23), just to name a few.
To help ensure that we’re aware of violent and sexual content in the Bible, my husband and I make sure we’ve personally read and studied the specific passage of scripture we’re reading that day. That way, we’re not surprised by what we’re reading aloud. We use our Bible study resources to help us understand the scripture and to prepare us for any questions the girlies may have.
But even after having studied a passage of scripture, my husband and I are still left to decide how to deal with incidences of sex and violence in the Bible. First, we must know how much exposure our children can handle. After we know that, we then decide how to deal with sex and violence in the Bible. Here are four options we consider:
Skip the content altogether. If something is too explicit, we don’t share it with the girlies at that time. We understand that as they age and mature, we will be able to revisit certain passages of scripture and share more details of an event. Sometimes it is easy to skip a passage of scripture because it doesn’t immediately impact subsequent scripture readings. For example, we did not feel the need to read the scriptures that describe how Noah’s sons discovered him drunk and naked within his tent (Genesis 9:18-28).
Read and retell. Sometimes skipping a passage of scripture is unwise because it leaves gaps in an event and makes comprehension more difficult. When that happens, we read directly from the Bible (always our preference), until we reach a passage that is graphic. After that, we summarize the rest of the passage using age appropriate language and explanations.
Summarize the entire story using just the facts. This is when Joe Friday’s declaration, “Just the facts ma’am,” is important. When we came to Tamar’s rape and Absalom’s subsequent killing of Amnon, we didn’t read the specific verses because it would have been too much for the girlies. Instead we offered an explanation something like this:
Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom were three of King David’s children. One day, Amnon attacked his sister Tamar. When Absalom learned that Tamar had been attacked, he became angry with Amnon and attacked him. When King David learned what happened, he sent Absalom away.
We opted to summarize the passage rather than skip it, because this passage of scripture is needed to help understand why Absalom was banished and why David later fled his kingdom.
Use Bible story books. When studying the Bible, our first choice is always to read straight from the Bible. However, with young children our goal is to share the Word in a way they can understand. Therefore, we may sometimes use a detailed story Bible to introduce or explain a passage of scripture. When the girlies are older, we will turn to the Bible and use it to explain the passage of scripture more fully. Using a story Bible allows the girlies to gain an understanding of the event, but without details that might unnerve them.
The Bible is the most important book in the world and we definitely want to share it with our children. However, we must remember their maturity levels and present the Bible in a way that will not make them fearful. If you’re concerned about sex and violence in the Bible, don’t abandon the scriptures. Consider using one the strategies mentioned and delve deeper once children have matured.
© 2014, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.