In the early nineteen hundreds, when my grandparents were growing from children to adults, when they were meeting and marrying and making ends meet during the Depression, Catherine F. Vos was at work. She had been out shopping, looking for the perfect children’s story bible. The Christian bookstores of the day must have had the same unsatisfactory fare for young children that they carry today. Her standards were high as she was the wife of a professor of theology and she could not find what she was looking for. So she started to write. The results of her writing, The Child’s Story Bible was first published in stages between the years of 1934-1936. It’s been republished in every decade since that time.
My grandparents had my parents and they met and married and had me and somewhere along the way I acquired a Bible. I read from the book of Proverbs from time to time but mostly the Bible just sat on my shelf until 1995. In 1995, I took that Bible off the shelf, dusted it off and began to read. I learned a bit but I had a hard time making sense of when things happened. I skipped over the genealogies. I read through the prophets with eyes glazed over. And why was the Old Testament important anyway?
A few years later I was in the home of a woman who taught first grade at a Christian school. The Child’s Story Bible was laying on the coffee table in her living room. I picked it up because I had been searching for a good kid’s Bible. All the Bibles that I had been able to find in the Christian bookstores were filled with the simple Sunday school stories. I wanted to challenge my kids with something more than cartoon Noah and his smiling wife on a wee little boat with six smiling animals poking their heads through the windows. When I opened this Bible I became engrossed. This was what I was looking for!
I ordered a copy for our family immediately. I was so excited when it came in the mail. I gathered my two children together and we sat and read. I read a story to the kids and then they hopped down and played and I picked up my own Bible and reread the story with a new understanding. This pattern was repeated day after day, chapter after chapter. My Bible started coming to life. This story bible is arranged chronologically so I began to understand the order of events in the Bible.
The Child’s Story Bible is a hefty book as far as children’s bibles go. There are 110 chapters in the Old Testament section and 92 in the New. It doesn’t shy away from the hard stories like the sacrifice of Isaac or Ahithophel’s suicide. The words are simple enough for a four year old but it has a depth that makes it valuable for children of all ages. When scripture is quoted the King James is used. The single greatest thing about this book is the way that Catherine Vos tied the Old Testament to the New. An example of this tying of Old and New Testament is found in the chapter entitled The Brass Snake, a retelling of Numbers 21:
But the brass snake was a test. It was a test of whether the people really trusted in God, and whether they were willing to obey His commands. Those who believed what God had promised, that they would be cured by looking at the brass snake, were healed. Those who did not believe, and refused to obey, died.
And the brass snake was a picture-and a promise- of how God was going to save His people. The brass snake pointed to Someone else, who, long, long after this happened, was also going to be lifted up. It pointed to Jesus, our Saviour, who died on a cross so that you and I could be forgiven for our sins.
I still read this story Bible from time to time with my younger children. There are very few pictures and these are of the old-fashioned 1930s variety. Sometimes we supplement by looking online for artist’s renderings of the story we are reading. Sometimes one of the kids dashes off and pulls out the cartoon Noah book and finds the corresponding pictures. Most often, I let their imaginations provide the pictures.
If you have children around age four or older this story Bible is an excellent way to dig into God’s word. Even if you don't have kids age four or older, you still might like this book as a good beginning reference.
I like to think about Mrs. Vos because her life could not have been much different than mine. She washed dishes and raised children. She folded laundry and planned meals and shopped for groceries. And in the midst of this business of being a wife and a mother, she slipped away to an upstairs porch with her Bible, a pencil and a notebook. She wrote story after story, from one end of the Bible to the other. She wrote when her children were young and she was still writing when they went off to college. I am sure when she started writing this book she was just being faithful to pass on her faith to the next Vos generation. I doubt that she realized how many children she would reach. I wonder who among our generations will leave a legacy like hers.