A Child’s Commentary on the Bible

Introduction

It is inevitable that a work like this needs an introduction. Children are as different from one another as other people are, and they develop at differing rates. In addition, they belong to different sorts of families, with different moral and cultural backgrounds. It might seem wisest to leave this sort of thing alone.

However, Jesus told us that unless we come to the Kingdom like a little child we will never enter it. As a result, I believe that it is high time children were given a commentary of their own, to help them as they, too, enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Bible is full of God, but it is almost as full of people, and people are a sinful, depraved bunch of creatures. There is much in the Bible that people will want to censor when reading to a child. That is certainly the parent’s prerogative, and indeed, sometimes duty. However, while I will probably deal with things from a pietistic perspective (because of my own background) I believe children are much more resilient than we often give them credit for, and frequently are being exposed to many frightful things in the schools to which they are sent, or in the media which they consume. Allowing them to have God’s perspective on these things is a gift.

The Bible was written in Hebrew, among the ancient Jewish people, and in Greek, among slightly less ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman people. Their culture was different than ours, and culture is inevitably expressed through language. I believe that the Bible is without error in its original autographs, but that doesn’t mean that I believe an English, American understanding is always correct. Sometimes the Bible expresses things in a way that sounds like one thing in a 21st Century ear, but would have sounded different in the ear of a 3rd Century BC Hebrew. I am not a scholar of these things, but I will try to be clear when my interpretation is based upon a supposition of this sort.

Finally, all Bible commentaries are presumptuous. You should really be reading the Bible! Cliffs Notes and summaries are popular, but there is a reason that courses are never taught about the Cliffs Notes version of Shakespeare’s plays, etc. The play is the thing, not the summary of it, and the Bible is the thing, not the commentary on it. It is my hope that you will be helped in understanding the Bible through this work, and that you will thereby come to know God more closely, but there is no substitute for reading His own work, the love letter written across millennia to His Bride.

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The Bible or the Axe

I realize I don’t have anything very quippy to add to the title of the book I’m reviewing, but there we are.

I met William Levi at the Father-Son camp in downstate Illinois when he was a featured speaker. I was attracted to him, as I am attracted to all African ex-pats, but his story was surprisingly moving. The Bible or the Axe is his memoir of an interesting childhood and a gripping escape from Sudan.

William’s education is as an engineer, and it shows in the writing. It can be dry and pedantic, and of course he’s dealing with multiple variables of racism and culture as he’s writing cross-culturally. Nevertheless, the further I got into the book, the tighter the prose became, and I was hooked into the narrative as things got personally interesting for him — particularly during his escape from Sudan.

This book is a great reminder for Christians that our citizenship is in heaven, and that every decision we take here will affect our witness for that Kingdom, whose King is the Prince of Peace. Levi had an opportunity to live that struggle in a very personal way, but not just under the jihadi rulers of Sudan. It played out differently among secularized Christians in Egypt, and with American college students who unwittingly mocked his “easy” life.

It’s also a good book for people who want to see the reality of life under jihad, especially for someone whose experience of it greatly precedes 9/11. I found it encouraging, considering some of the anti-theism and anti-Christianity that seems to be growing in parts of our society. While it seems far-fetched right now, the days may not be so far off before we are called upon to make some similar choices to those faced by William Levi.

In all, I think it’s a worthwhile read, although the early chapters dragged a bit, and he can be “preachy” at times. For this last element, it’s usually when he’s decided to tell, instead of show, his point. In other words, the point is valid, but it would be better for him to trust the reader to get it from his narrative.

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