I bought the book The Bible For Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present by Ruth Bottingheimer (1996 Yale U. Press) “used” on Amazon and it was a bit dry and historical, but it told me what I wanted to hear. That “Children’s Bibles” became popular in the 1800’s, and they drastically edited the various Bible stories to suit the readers’ needs. “Revisions undeniably aided nineteenth century mothers and governesses who felt incompetent to deal with the Bible’s unaltered text: its manifest improprieties forced them to resort to ‘constant artifice and evasion to divert the attention of inquisitive children from [unfit] subjects’. The Abraham and Isaac story is one of the only potential violent parental/child instances ever detailed; yet that one story is one of the most effective at scaring children into “becoming religious”. If you piss God off, he’s not going to be so lenient next time.
In another instance, “…the full, and illustrated story of Lot and his daughters has been so thoroughly suppressed in the twentieth century, that contemporary adults routinely respond to its telling with incredulous consternation.”
The author of the current satirical set of books entitled, Awkward Moments Children’s Bible contains cartoon illustrations of some of the most violent and innappropriate verses in the Bible. The author goes by the pseudonym “Horus Gilgamesh” because of the constant death threats he receives. And all he’s doing is quoting the Bible!
I recall when my oldest child was in pre-school at a local Lutheran church, they held a book fair, and he went through the line and simply picked up whatever book the kid in front of him chose. I flipped through it and was aghast at the implications therein: “If I die today, I won’t worry because I’ll be with Jesus”. To my paranoid parental mind, it invited a young child to dash into a busy street. I said as much to the parent standing next to me, and she said, “no, this is when you want to reach them, when they’re young.” And I thought, that’s interesting. She was talking about brainwashing.
Children’s Bibles tend to tell basically only the creation story, the flood story, the above mentioned Abraham and Isaac story, Moses in the rushes, Daniel in the lions’ den, Jonah and the whale/big fish, David and Goliath, and the Jesus stories. As much as kids question “why?” when they’re four, for some reason kids don’t question who Cain’s wife was. Or why God didn’t create Jesus from the get-go, if Christianity is the one true religion. Or why their friend goes to Synagogue and not the Baptist Church like they do?
I’m totally going to write a Children’s Bible for Skeptics.