The way that “children’s Bibles” alter and distort biblical violence is a source of great interest to me as I’ve continued to mull over how best to introduce an R-Rated text to a general audience. In my book What’s So Confusing About Grace? I identify three common reading strategies. And here I’ll give an example of one of them: distortion. Consider this retelling of the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6:
Notice that there is no reference to defeated peoples, let alone their slaughter. Instead, the text refers only to the fact that Rahab and her family were saved. Saved from what? The answer, of course, is that they were saved from the slaughter that the text chose not to mention. Indeed, one assumes the choice of the word saved instead of spared is intentional. So according to this retelling, the famous story of Jericho is nothing less than a rescue operation.
That most certainly is a distortion of the text. But is it a permissible distortion? Or are there better and more responsible ways to teach this narrative to children? Or should we just not teach it at all until we can responsibly give them all the gory details?