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Retelling Bible Stories for Children

by Rose Ross Zediker

Christian children's publications use Bible story retellings to help young children learn the Bible lessons in traditional scripture passages.

There are two ways to retell a Bible story. The Biblical retelling simplifies the text of the Bible verse. A contemporary retelling reflects the theme of the Bible verse through a story.

Biblical Retelling

A Biblical retelling must stay true to the Bible verse. Don't add characters or character names if they aren't in the Bible story. Choose a point of view and stick with it. Most Biblical retellings are in third person, but some can be told in first person.

Rephrasing the dialogue of a Bible verse can get tricky. The language must be kid friendly yet not change the meaning of what the character says. Keeping your target age group in mind, find and replace the difficult words in the text with simpler words. Look for words children may be familiar with but don't really understand. Sin is a simple word yet children may not really grasp its meaning, try to define those types of words by inserting an explanation of the word.

Enrich your story with the addition of emotions, actions and setting details. A few simple words like water jars and robes transport the children into the Biblical life style and holds their attention.

The first paragraph of The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 NIV) says:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

A retelling in the first person viewpoint of the expert in the law could begin:

Finally! I had a chance to test Jesus by asking a question. I knew the laws. I stood with my shoulders back and head held high. I looked into Jesus eyes. "Teacher," I asked "what must I do now so someday I can live in Heaven?"

A third person viewpoint may be retold like this:

A smart man who knew the law wanted to test Jesus. The man smoothed his robes as he stood. He raised his eyebrows in question. "Teacher," he asked, "what do I need to do now so I can live in Heaven when I die?"

In both retellings, actions were added to show the man's confidence in his own knowledge. This makes the story more interesting for the child but doesn't change the meaning of any of the original verse.

Contemporary Retelling

A contemporary retelling is a modern story with a beginning, middle and end. The theme of the contemporary Bible story retelling must reflect the lesson of the Bible verse. Apply the verse's message to a real life situation. This real life situation must be believable so the child can apply the lesson to their daily lives. You can't tag on the moral of the Bible verse at the end of the story. The lesson has to unfold during the story and the readers need to care about the characters and situation.

The following is a synopsis of a contemporary retelling of Luke 10:25:

A young girl and her mother wait at the bus stop. The young girl notices the people around her. She sees an old man in worn clothes and thick glasses approach the bench. The man politely asks a businessman for the time. The businessman frowns at the old man and refuses to tell him the time. The young girl can't figure out why the businessman is being so mean to the old man. Two teen-age boys walk past the bus stop. Again, the old man politely asks for the time. One young boy looks at his watch but the other pulls him along, telling him not to talk to bums. The old man worries that he's missed his bus. The old man looks sad and the young girl knows that Jesus would want her to help. She asks her mother if she can tell him the time. Her mother says yes and the young girl shows kindness to the old man by telling him the time so he doesn't miss his bus.

This modern retelling synopsis is true to the Bible verse. Two sets of people won't tell the elderly gentleman the time. However, an unlikely source, a young girl shows this stranger kindness. The theme of the Bible verse is shown in the last action of the contemporary story, the young girl helps the elderly man by telling him the time.

Before beginning either type of a Bible story retelling, read several translations of the chosen Bible verse. This can help clarify the theme of the verse. If your target market requires a specific version of the Bible use that version for any quoted dialogue. To view various translations of the Bible, an excellent on line resource is http://www.bibles.net.

Related Articles:

The Christian Children's Market, by Marcia Laycock http://www.writing-world.com/children/christian.shtml

Writing for the Teen Religious Market, by Kathryn Lay
http://www.writing-world.com/children/teen.shtml

Christian Writing Resources
http://www.writing-world.com/links/christian.shtml
Copyright © 2007 Rose Ross Zediker
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.


Rose Ross Zediker lives in rural Elk Point, SD. She is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature. Rose writes primarily for the Christian magazine markets like Bread For God's Children, Children's Ministry, Discoveries and Our Little Friend. She has acceptances in Highlights For Children and Cricket. Recently, she has been writing curriculum for Cubby Bears for Jesus.

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