I was recently at a Forum organised by Children Matter where we were looking at faith at home and the big story of the Bible, and how we help children to engage not just with individual stories but with the Big Story in the Bible. While this was looking at the story in the WHOLE Bible, I realised we rarely even look at big chunks of text at home. As it’s Purim, I was on a search for a shortened version of the story of Esther to share at home with my 5 and 6yo when a wise Aussie suggested I needed a good reason not to just use the Bible text! I looked at The Message audio text at Biblegateway.com and calculated that to read the whole book aloud takes about 30 minutes. So we read it.
Last weekend I was introduced to Dear Theo, a Bible translation I’d not come across before called the NIrV (New International Readers Version), used in Dear Theo without any chapters of verses, as per the original text. This really helps the text to flow, enabling the reader to absorb much larger chunks of the story in one go, rather than pausing at the end of pre-determined sections. (The NIrV has simplified language and shorter sentences, and their Accessible New Testament has the text at a large 16pt in a dyslexic-friendly font. It is really easy on the eye, and my new readers found it the easiest Bible they’ve ever read, reading whole paragraphs when usually they’d spot words or read part of a sentence.)
As I read the story of Esther from our Large Print CEV (Esther not being in our Accessible New Testament!), I discovered that I could apply the same idea of ignoring verses and chapters, and instead pay attention to the unfolding story. It’s well told in the CEV and suitable for a 6yo, with only one possible exception (the word rape in chapter 7:8, which I read with no questions asked). When I read chapter one and stopped, I was encouraged to continue, so I did. And in half an hour we read the whole story, and surprise surprise, there are lots of bits which are omitted from the shortened versions we usually read.
I was struck by the timing, about which year and which month things happened in. I’d always thought the second law about the Jews fighting back was made and implemented straight away, but actually in the first month of the year, Haman had made a specific date to kill the Jews in the 12th month of the year, so that new law was made in the 4th month, but the Jews didn’t see it happen for over 6 more months. I like this as it makes waiting for things God has said will happen more usual.
What book of the Bible could you read in one go this week? If you’re wondering which one to try, you could use this chart giving estimated reading times for each book 🙂