Book Review – The Jesus Book

I am very particular about the books I use to teach my children, especially when it comes to things about Jesus and the Bible. With so many fluffy, say-nothing books in the market that oversimplify the life of Jesus, it is a hard task indeed for the discerning parent to find an acceptable book about Jesus. Into this mix comes The Jesus Book, written by Stephen Elkins and illustrated by Claudine Gevry.

With very colorful, one- or two-page stories/lessons, The Jesus Book attempts to give relatively simple answers to the following categories:

-Who Jesus is
-What Jesus did
-What Jesus taught
-When it happened (answering questions like “When was Jesus born?” or “When did Peter deny Jesus?”)
-Where it happened (answering questions like “Where was Jesus born?” or “Where is Jesus now?”)
-Why it happened (answering questions like “Why was Jesus sent?” or “Why does Jesus have authority on earth?”)
-How it happened (answering questions like “How do we receive eternal life?” or How will we know when Jesus comes again?”

I was very glad to see Scripture references included with each lesson instead of simply relying on the book itself to tell what the Bible says. The beautiful illustrations accompanying each lesson are simple, yet conveying the substance of the lesson. The book covers many various aspects of Jesus’ life that most other children’s books don’t even come close to discussing, such as what the prophets of the Old Testament said about Jesus, why Jesus had to die, where Jesus died, why does Jesus have authority on earth, etc.

There are two major drawbacks that I have concerning the book. The first, and perhaps most important, is while hinted or implied, the book never outright says that Jesus IS God. It says he is the Son of God, came from heaven, is the Word, the One who made the earth, but never that he is GOD. In the lesson where it describes Jesus as “the Word,” although it references John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word…,” even here it does not finish or even talk about the rest of the verse where it says “and the Word WAS GOD.” For a book targeting children, such an important point shouldn’t be overlooked.

The second is in relation to the subject of salvation. We are told that Jesus died in order that sins might be forgiven (p.32), but no clear reason is given for WHY sins need to be forgiven. Additionally, we are told on p. 41 that repentance means we “choose to change ourselves for God.” I know that there may be some disagreement on this point, but as a proponent of Reformed theology and the depravity of man, I believe that this is a misunderstanding of the work God does in us first. There is no recognition of our need for God to help us change. Even in the “sinner’s prayer” on p.89, no confession or repentance of sin is mentioned.

While the book shouldn’t be viewed as a doctrinal primer, these two areas that I’ve mentioned are essential in understanding the person and work of Jesus. Otherwise we end up with a book that talks about a really good man that simply shows us an example of how to live. The Jesus Book, while certainly a step in the right direction, still leaves a lot to be desired.

(Thanks to the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger program for providing a copy of this book.)

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