Kids’ bibles and the disasterous effect of only one tree in the garden


It’s been a while since I wrote anything on the Garden of Eden. We have several children’s bibles which I read to my boys at bedtime. Every one of these picture bibles begins with creation and makes the same mistake, mentioning only one tree in the Garden, focusing only on God’s prohibition, “do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will die”. Each time we begin to read a new bible my boys get the same wrong impression that Eve had of God; that he is a miserly, restrictive, severe school master sort of God.

Here’s some examples:

The Christian Focus Story Bible (Christian Focus)

“God told Adam that he was not to eat from the knowledge of good and evil. But Satan tempted Eve.”

First Bible Stories (Marks & Spencer)

“In the centre of the garden grew a special tree. It was called the Tree of Knowledge. God made it very clear that this tree was different from all the other trees. ‘You must not eat the fruit of this tree’, God warned Adam and Eve.”

Storyteller Bible (Lion)

“There’s just one more thing,” God said. “Do you see that tree over there? The one in the middle of the garden? Well, the fruit of that tree is not good for you.”

My very first bible (Lion)
The snake whispered what to do: they ate some fruit God had told them not to eat.

Meeting with God (Christian Focus)
He also gave them a very simple command to obey. He told them they must not eat from one tree that grew in their garden home, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or they would die.

Instead of simply reading these accounts, I discuss with the boys the fact that there were two trees in the garden with a promise attached to each. We focus on the goodness and generosity of God in offering Adam and Eve the promise of eternal life if they would show him their faith in his promise by eating from the tree of life. We discuss the horror of their choice to eat from the other tree, wanting what God had said they were not to have, knowledge of good and evil. Then we talk about the punishment God threatened if they disobeyed God’s law, the threat of execution by God.

Three things result. First, my boys get the gospel. They get that God is generous and good and that they need Jesus to keep the law and die by execution as their substitute. Second, they get the Lord’s Supper. If eating the fruit of the tree of life was the way Adam and Eve were to show God that they trusted his promise, then eating the Lord’s Supper is the way God’s people show they trust the promises of God in Jesus and so inherit the promise of eternal life. Third, they learn to read all secondary Christian literature with caution. If it is not in the grown up bible then it needs careful consideration before we take it as gospel truth.

My sons are five and three years old. If they can get the Garden of Eden then it is time our children’s bible writers got it too. Oh, and, what’s the reason kids can’t express their faith in Christ in his Supper?

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9 Responses to Kids’ bibles and the disasterous effect of only one tree in the garden

  1. Dan says:

    Interesting Observation.

  2. Mark Hopkins says:

    Hi Neil, this is a very interesting point. I have the Lion Story Bible (which is a children’s bible in 50 volumes). Its Adam and Eve volume reads

    ‘You may eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden,’ God said, ‘except that one tree in the middle.’
    It was easy to obey, because there were plenty of other good things to eat.

    There is no mention at all of the tree of life. Even when Adam and Eve are banished from the garden. God simply says, “when you grow old, you will die.”

  3. John Wallace says:

    Great Point! Satan is a busy fellow, even in the Christian world – Here’s a quote written about a hundred years ago concerning Lucifer when he deceived a third of the angels in heaven – “It was his policy to perplex with subtle arguments concerning the purposes of God. Everything that was simple he shrouded in mystery, and by artful perversion cast doubt upon the plainest statements of Jehovah.”

  4. Tim says:

    Neil,
    I am a beginner at children’s bibles.
    We are using the M&S at the mo.
    M&S seem have a problem with trees it seems. The tree at calvary is glossed heavily (to the point of ‘blink and … oh I missed it!’).
    So God’s goodness is restricted at the beginning and his love restricted at the end!
    I find myself joining with your cry ‘ Save the Trees!’
    😉
    Tim

    • neilrobbie says:

      Hi Tim

      Which M&S Bible do you have? Ours (bought 7 years ago) has almost 40 pages from the last supper to the resurrection and a whole chapter on the cross alone.

      The Big Picture Story Bible (only one tree in the garden) and the Jesus Storybook Bible (also only one tree, grrrr) are very good. Pop over sometime and have a browse.

      Chat soon

      Neil

  5. Tim says:

    Neil

    Yes, perhaps you don’t have the under 1’s in your mind. Ours is the cardboard page version. Paper is too fragile at this stage … and so of course that limits it significantly.

    Despite being covered in a ‘furry teddy bear’ binding, the Lloyd-Jones, My little bear bible (not sure it is called that exactly) is winning me over from a position of complete scepticism.

    At the moment the key thing for us is getting into a routine of reading and praying with him.

    Hope you are well

    Yours

    Tim

  6. peterB says:

    Sorry to drudge up an old thread….

    I had totally not noticed the single tree thing, and I think it’s in every one of the bible stories I’ve read with the two of our three who are old enough.

    Our eldest son (4 1/2 years) is really enjoying The Jesus storybook bible, it’s really good at linking OT stories to Jesus.

    We have greatly enjoyed our battered M&S bible where each page has a little prayer. Couldn’t find it last time we looked though.

  7. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Peter, welcome to TG and thanks for your comment. Kids bibles can oversimplify, the single tree angle seems to me to be a covenant of works thing, which you’ll see from elsewhere on my blog, I take a different line on.

  8. bernicium says:

    Reblogged this on bernicium and commented:
    I actually had a very similar opinion my whole life… for far too many years, I thought there was only one tree, and that God was just a really mean dad.

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