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Text, Image, and Otherness in Children's Bibles

Text, Image, and Otherness in Children's Bibles: What Is in the Picture?

Caroline Vander Stichele
Hugh S. Pyper
Series: Semeia Studies
Copyright Date: 2012
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt32c03q
Pages: 364
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32c03q
  • Book Info
    Text, Image, and Otherness in Children's Bibles
    Book Description:

    Children’s Bibles are often the first encounter people have with the Bible, shaping their perceptions of its stories and characters at an early age. The material under discussion in this book not only includes traditional children’s Bibles but also more recent phenomena such as manga Bibles and animated films for children. The book highlights the complex and even tense relationship between text and image in these Bibles, which is discussed from different angles in the essays. Their shared focus is on the representation of “others”—foreigners, enemies, women, even children themselves—in predominantly Hebrew Bible stories. The contributors are Tim Beal, Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Melody Briggs, Rubén R. Dupertuis, Emma England, J. Cheryl Exum, Danna Nolan Fewell, David M. Gunn, Laurel Koepf, Archie Chi Chung Lee, Jeremy Punt, Hugh S. Pyper, Cynthia M. Rogers, Mark Roncace, Susanne Scholz, Jaqueline S. du Toit, and Caroline Vander Stichele.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-662-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Caroline Vander Stichele and Hugh S. Pyper

    Children’s Bibles are not only widely distributed; they are also often the first contact people have with the Bible, and as such they can shape their perception of its stories and characters at an early age. The pictures in such Bibles also play an important role in how certain characters and events are remembered later in life. Think, for instance, of Adam and Eve or Noah’s ark, but also more disturbing events such as the Akedah. Such images not only illustrate the events narrated in the biblical text, sometimes they even have a story of their own to tell. The...

  5. Part 1: Identifying the Strange Other

    • Inside Out: The Othered Child in the Bible for Children
      (pp. 11-30)
      Laurel Koepf

      Biblical scholarship has increasingly brought attention to the roles and presentations of various others in biblical narratives. Scholars have rightly problematized the assumed normativity of the Israelite male within the text. More recently, some have begun to look more closely at children in the text, thus bringing the assumed normativity of the adult into question as well (Berquist 2009, Bunge 2008, Fewell 2003, Parker 2009). Although such a critique has great potential effect on the way contemporary readers interpret and write about the Bible, it does not change the primary text as we have received it. We may retranslate and...

    • “All God’s Children”: Authority Figures, Places of Learning, and Society as the Other in Creationist Children’s Bibles
      (pp. 31-50)
      Jaqueline S. du Toit

      Children’s Bibles constitute the religious norms and moral values an adult community treasures and intends to impart to the next generation. These Bibles are vehicles for the transfer of what the adult religious collective considers to be long-standing, traditional, and universal and therefore essential to their belief system, their way of life, and also their identity. For lap readers¹ this is presented by means of Bible stories traditionally told and interpreted at bedtime by the parent(s) while the child follows the accompanying depictions of the narrative. These stories are impregnated with traditional values emphasized and embroidered upon by the most...

    • Looking into the Lions’ Den: Otherness, Ideology, and Illustration in Children’s Versions of Daniel 6
      (pp. 51-72)
      Hugh S. Pyper

      In her introduction to the Dover edition of Gustave Doré’s Bible illustrations, that staple amusement of those nineteenth-century children who were forbidden frivolous books on Sunday, Millicent Rose discusses the scenes that she judges are particularly “for the children.” She points to those including “the Biblical animals: Daniel’s lions, the dogs who ate Jezebel, the she bears who punished the small boys who made fun of Elisha, all were brought to life in convincing form” (1974, ix). “For the children”: a list of scenes where people, including children, are devoured by animals.¹ Rose seems oblivious to the ghoulish implications of...

    • The Other in South African Children’s Bibles: Politics and (Biblical) Systems of Othering
      (pp. 73-98)
      Jeremy Punt

      The connection between children and the (Christian) Bible has in the past often been privileged at various levels in popular perception. On the one hand, children and positive attributes associated with them were used metaphorically (if somewhat predictably) to express the nature of the Bible: simple, unassuming, and even conscious of their dependency on others. On the other hand, a popular notion found in milieus as diverse as church announcement bulletins and bookshop flyers is that, more than any other format of the Christian gospel, children’s Bibles are unadulterated, pure, and free from any bias; and ironically with the suggestion...

    • Veggies, Women, and Other Strangers in Children’s Bible DVDs: Toward the Creation of Feminist Bible Films
      (pp. 99-120)
      Susanne Scholz

      Films show us how to make sense of the world and how to think about social categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, and the geopolitical constellations in which we live, work, and move. Films are cultural products, undoubtedly “a crucial adjunct in the interplay of power relations between peoples, societies and cultures” (Gearon 2001, 290). They map, confirm, and reinforce prevailing sociocultural, geopolitical, economic, and religious paradigms. This is also true for children’s films, secular and religious. These films “help to craft and restore certain perspectives for each new generation of young minds during the crucial years when children...

  6. Part 2: Learning How to Deal with the Other

    • No Greater Love: Jonathan and His Friendship with David in Text, Tradition, and Contemporary Children’s Literature
      (pp. 123-152)
      Cynthia M. Rogers and Danna Nolan Fewell

      Despite the construction of Jonathan as an active and individualized character in 1 Samuel, subsequent commentary, artwork, and retellings have relegated Jonathan to a supporting role whose main functions are to amplify the conflict between Saul and David and to provide the friendly foil against which David rises to success. Children’s literature also often assigns Jonathan a secondary part and turns him into the model friend of the more important David. In this piece we compare the biblical portrayal of Jonathan with those included in the illustrations and texts of children’s Bibles and religious education curricula to explore the ways...

    • The Word Became Visual Text: The Boy Jesus in Children’s Bibles
      (pp. 153-172)
      Melody Briggs

      The only story in the canonical Bible that portrays Jesus as a child is his visit to the Jewish temple at the age of twelve, in Luke 2:40–52. While both Matthew and Luke contain birth narratives, only the Lukan account extends this narrative to include comments on Jesus’ childhood development and a story to illustrate this development. It is not surprising then that this story is frequently selected for inclusion in children’s Bibles: it provides child readers with their only view of Jesus at an age close to their own.

      While identifying with Jesus as a child may draw...

    • Depiction of the Devil and the Education of Chinese Children: The Bible in the Taiping Trimetrical Classic
      (pp. 173-192)
      Archie Chi Chung Lee

      The traditionalTrimetrical Classic(TC) orThree-Character Classicis meant to be a kind of primer, written in poetic form with three Chinese characters to each verse.¹ It has been used as a primary education textbook in China for over a thousand years. This primer has a unique literary form to teach beginners to learn to read and write about a thousand words. When the Jesuit Mission arrived at the Chinese coast in 1583, they discovered this genre and followed the model and format to compose theCatholic Trimetrical Classic(CTC) with Catholic messages. This was followed by the Protestant...

    • Conflating Creation, Combining Christmas, and Ostracizing the Other
      (pp. 193-210)
      Mark Roncace

      The Bible is a collection of books written by many different people in a variety of places over a long period of time in multiple languages to diverse audiences in a plethora of social, religious, political, and economic contexts. Children’s Bibles are different. They, generally, present the Bible as a single book and are written by one person in one place, time, and language to a fairly specific audience. Moreover, while the canonical Bible naturally features a diversity of stories from multiple points of view, children’s Bibles do not. Instead, they harmonize the canon’s disparate voices. This ubiquitous tendency among...

  7. Part 3: Destroying the Other

    • “The Water’s Round My Shoulders, and I’m—GLUG! GLUG! GLUG!”: God’s Destruction of Humanity in the Flood Story for Children
      (pp. 213-240)
      Emma England

      In the Genesis flood narrative (6:1–9:19) the narrator describes the destruction: the waters rose, the mountains were covered (7:17–20), and “all flesh died that moved on the earth” (7:21). The account is repeated with the addition of: “He blotted out every living thing” (7:23). The lack of God’s name emphasizes the destruction as an event, while moving him to the background. As a result, God’s direct involvement in the narrative is reduced during the destruction. Conversely, the death of those not on the ark is repeated three times (7:21, 22, 23) with the added clarification: “Only Noah was...

    • Samson’s Suicide and the Death of Three Thousand Others in Children’s Bible Stories through Two Centuries
      (pp. 241-270)
      David M. Gunn

      Samson’s story, or some part thereof, is often retold for children, though no few authors also choose to bypass him entirely (and sometimes the whole book of Judges). My topic concerns the hero’s violent end, his killing of some three thousand Philistines along with himself in the house of Dagon. Given the binary world of good and bad that we often encounter in children’s stories, it is no surprise to discover that the Philistines are generally bad people. Storytellers, as we shall see, make sure that their young readers or listeners understand this fact. The biblical account, of course, is...

    • Translating the Bible into Pictures
      (pp. 271-290)
      Rubén R. Dupertuis

      I became interested in the intersection of comic books and Bibles for children as a part of my attempt to make some sense out of theBrick Testament, a web-design project illustrating scenes from biblical stories entirely in the medium of Lego blocks. Despite the ostensibly child-friendly nature of the images—Legos are, after all, a children’s toy—the project has a sharp critical edge to it. We catch a glimpse of it in the index, which has content ratings alerting viewers to which scenes contain “Nudity, Sexual activity, Violence and Cursing.” Indeed, what Smith chooses to illustrate from the...

    • Samson’s Hair and Delilah’s Despair: Reanimating Judges 16 for Children
      (pp. 291-310)
      Caroline Vander Stichele

      At the end of her essay on Bible films based on Gen 1–3 for Western children, Athalya Brenner notes that “popular culture can be used as an ally rather than mourned as an aberration. We’d better get involved in it if we want biblical studies to survive in higher education, beyond seminaries and religious institutions” (2006, 34). Her perception, it seems, is still valid, not least because popular culture as an object of scholarly work is often not taken seriously in the academy and even less so is material designed for children.¹

      In this essay I want to focus...

  8. Responses

    • Children’s Bibles Hot and Cold
      (pp. 313-320)
      Timothy Beal

      This outstanding collection of essays pushes the field forward on many fronts. Especially striking to me is the force with which they move us beyond the history of children’s Bibles as a kind of reception history, in which these widely varying works would be treated as interpretive receptions, translations, and abridgments of the (original) Bible, as if there is such a thing. Beyond such an approach, we are compelled to consider children’s Bibles as Bibles in and of themselves. They are creations of the biblical in specific cultural contexts.¹ What Michel Foucault said about other subjects of historical research, such...

    • The Otherness of Children’s Bibles in Historical Perspective
      (pp. 321-332)
      Ruth B. Bottigheimer

      Children’s Bibles are a simple fact of literary life in today’s book market. With lively illustrations and edited stories, they simplify the canonical Bible for young readers. Martin Luther provided a good reason to edit Bible stories before giving them to children when he observed that the Bible makes a fool of the wisest men. A century later, an English Bible editor labeled several Old Testament stories “the hard parts,” tacitly acknowledging their ethically and morally problematic nature and implicitly justifying either amending or emending their plots and contents. From the early 1700s onward, teachers and preachers edited Bible stories...

    • What Does a Child Want? Reflections on Children’s Bible Stories
      (pp. 333-348)
      J. Cheryl Exum

      I would like to begin by congratulating the editors for a stimulating collection that brings the critical investigation of children’s Bible stories to the wider attention of biblical scholars. Already flourishing in the social sciences and literary studies, the study of childhood and children’s literature is only beginning to take its place among the many approaches biblical scholars currently employ, and this volume will provide an impetus for much needed further study. The fruits of such study will benefit not only the field of biblical studies but other disciplines as well, where the Bible’s otherness (a topic that comes up...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 349-352)
  10. Index of Biblical Citations
    (pp. 353-356)
  11. Index of Modern Authors and Artists
    (pp. 357-364)