The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them
Archaeology and Faith
A reading experience that combines the Bible with actual archaeological finds and information—bringing scripture to life in a more vivid and academic (yet accessible) way than children typically encounter. The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first 85 pages convey select portions of the Old Testament, and the last 35 pages encompass the New Testament.
The actual content is engagingly laid out. The text-based segments include condensed retellings, singular emphasized bible verses, cultural/contextual explanations, and quick “Did You Know?” facts set in larger stand-alone font. Visual aids range from maps to illustrations to pictures of actual archaeological sites, artifacts, reliefs, and frescos. Though there are plenty of visuals and free space, some of the segments are very text dense with font small enough I would say this trends more toward a Middle Grade audience than simply “kids.”
The illustrations crop up on roughly every other 2-page spread and are made up of gorgeous paintings from the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Their styles, while variable, all carry a cohesive feel that ties the aesthetics together. The downside to this… the paintings are all European in origin, and so the many Biblical characters depicted are almost painfully Caucasian in appearance.
Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the paraphrased retellings. They tend to leave much out in a bid for simplicity—which, I realize, one must compromise on when adapting material like this for child consumption. Still, it runs the risk of perpetuating contextual misunderstandings that have been long-running issues for both the churched and unchurched. I recommend parents read the retellings with their children so that they can answer questions and potentially modify elements that don’t as successfully convey the point. (I had to do this with the Adam & Eve telling in particular, as the wording didn’t make it clear that Adam was present to watch Eve eat the fruit first and she did not ‘trick him’, as my children were gathering.)
Note: At one point the book states that Abraham sacrificed a lamb in Isacc's place. (All texts I can find state it was a ram, not a lamb.) A minor discrepancy of animal sex and developmental age, perhaps, but still a touch concerning.
I also found it curious how frequently the Old Testament section includes possible scientific explanations for numerous miracles, plagues, acts-of-God, etc. This was especially prominent in the portions dedicated to the plagues of Egypt, and the Israelite nation’s crossing of the Red Sea. While these are interesting considerations, it had something of a vaguely dismissive effect. It also seems relevant to note that the New Testament is not given this same treatment (i.e. there is no attempt to explain or downplay the miracles of Christ.)