The Good Book

Picking out a children's illustrated Bible proved a bigger challenge than I anticipated.

My young son is old enough to hear Bible stories and look at pictures. Actually, it was the illustrations that stopped me: Many are either too cartoonlike, too graphic, or make people look tacky, like paintings on black velvet.

Somehow, as my husband pointed out, a Bible that makes the prophet Elijah look like Snuffy Smith isn't worth considering.

Illustrations in other books were too explicit: A knife-wielding Abraham about to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, before God stopped him, would be difficult to explain to a three-year-old.

It was also important to me that God not be depicted in human form, but left for readers to envision in their own way.

Pictures of Jesus were a bit complicated, too.

I was surprised to see that some artists still give him blond hair and blue eyes, despite the fact that he was a Jew living in the Middle East. Because my husband is Jewish, I wanted my son to have visual evidence of the closeness of these two great world religions.

I was also uncomfortable with Bibles that emphasized a God of wrath. While some religions may teach this, the message I was looking for was one of a benevolent, protective Creator.

It is certainly true that the Bible has its brutal elements. But the overarching theme, to me, is of human progress, spiritual growth, and redemption.

I finally settled on a Bible with pleasing illustrations, but as soon as my son outgrows pictures, we'll graduate to one without them.

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