Issues

Is The Bible Appropriate For All Readers?

A few years ago, in my former church, an upcoming church event was announced, at the end of which a disclaimer was issued: “This programme is rated 13. Viewers discretion advised. Not for sensitive listeners…” or something along that line. I was glad that such warning was issued upfront, and most importantly for the sake of young sensitive minds, visitors, people with health conditions such as panic attacks etcetera – to save them from being traumatized by the content of the programme, even though it was a Christian (and a church) programme.

I also remember years ago, a friend and I were chatting to a young girl of about 10 years old. When we asked what she learnt from Church the previous Sunday, she replied with: “We were told not to commit fornication and adultery”. While this bit of information is useful on the long run, I think there are many more important lessons for such young children of that age than sexual sins.

This brings me to my question of the day: Is the Bible appropriate for all categories of readers? Is the Bible appropriate for kids? And teens?

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I got my first Bible (that I can remember) at the age of 7, a small Revised Standard Version bible, primarily because it was on the list of books required by my primary school at that time. My Bible readings were mostly the passages recommended for my school work or the parts I needed for memory verses. I was also exposed to Bible reading at other times such as during Sunday School classes or during devotions at home and in church; or as I grew older, from the devotional books I used for my personal quiet times. Because those passages were focused, we were shielded from the brutal and bloody passages as well as from other age-inappropriate texts.

I love the story of David and Goliath. But how do I explain to kids that their hero – David at a young age took the giant’s sword and beheaded him. And lifted the bloodied decapitated head for his victory dance? The violence in that story is repulsive and the only explanation for me is that it was a military decision. It is no wonder they veterans often suffer from post-traumatic disorders as it is against the human nature to decapitate someone else at wars or otherwise and dance with the head.

And just yesterday I was reading the book of Ezekiel and I saw this passage (referring to Israel and Judah before captivity): “They became prostitutes in Egypt. Even as young girls, they allowed men to fondle their breasts” (Ezekiel 23: 3, NLT). King James Version was even more explicit, quoting “there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity”. This is not for kids. And you better don’t ask your teenagers to read the passage out loud during morning devotion.

And what is it with killing people and wiping out nations and then taking over their lands as we see in the old testament? Animal cruelty? Slave ownership and so forth…

All these information cast lots of doubt and confusion on the minds of the more vulnerable and more sensitive readers.

So, back to my initial question: Is the Bible appropriate for all categories of readers? Is the Bible appropriate for kids? And teens? Sensitive audience?

I remember there used to be widespread distribution of the Bible consisting exclusively of New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. This seem to have declined with the use of smart phones, Bible apps and modern-day technology. But I believe the New Testament is generally more user-friendly (except for some violent pages in the gospels and the mystery filled Book of Revelations). Generally, I will recommend younger people and new readers to focus on the principles taught in the New Testament. Of course, the Old Testament is still relevant, and it offers such rich historical background and important prophetic information, but we must understand that much of the information in the Old Testament are now “shadows of things to come”. Jesus has come to fulfil the Laws and the Prophets. We should rather celebrate him and focus on His perfect work that the New Testament offers.

Back to my question.

No, i don’t think the Bible is for everybody, due to some of the contents, some of which are not safe for children and teens. Parental Guidance is always recommended (“parents” here include Sunday school teachers and church leaders). The New Testament offers a good starting point; as we appreciate the New testament, we will be able to understand the writings of the Old. It is important for parents to help children understand the Bible in an age-appropriate manner.

And for the very young, I will recommend good Bible Story Books. They are readily available at Christian Bookshops. As they understand the summarized versions they get to appreciate the Bible when they grow older.

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