Monday, May 5, 2014

The Books that Timothy Wrote

All my kids have enjoyed the Berenstain Bears books, as I did myself when I was young. Currently my 5-year-old son is really into them. Of late I've noticed that the books have been tapping into the Christian market by writing stories with broadly religious themes, like being nice to others and basing this on a Bible verse, or the need to pray, or go to church. They're usually fairly bland on the theological content; I don't believe they ever mention the name "Jesus," at least not in the ones I've read. (More info here)

Tonight I was reading The Berenstain Bears Hurry To Help (Zonderkidz, 1992, 2010), when I came across an amusing speech from Mama Bear that calls into question not only the proof-readers at Zondervan but even the motivation behind these "Christian-themed" bear stories.

When the bear cubs attempt to earn a merit badge by helping someone and return disappointed because they think they've failed, Mama Bear reassures them:
"Well, it seems to me," said Mama, "that you have done a good deed. You got Papa home. Just like one of those special letters that Timothy wrote, '...good works are easy to see. But even good works that are hard to see can't stay hidden.'" 
Ah, yes, one of those special letters that Timothy wrote.

What Mama Bear quotes from Timothy is actually the New International Reader's Version of 1 Timothy 5:25. (Yes, there is a Berenstain Bears Bible in the NIRV.)

So, Timothy wrote 1 Timothy? Makes sense. After all, the traditional view is that Peter wrote the letters named for him, and so did John, and the Gospels are named after their authors. But any study of the Bible at all clues one into the fact that this is not the reason that the letters named Timothy have that title, or Titus, or Philemon. Really, how little of the Bible do you need to know to write the sentence "like one of those special letters that Timothy wrote..."?

Is this just a silly mistake, or do the people behind these Christianized Berenstain Bears books really not know anything about the Bible? And if the latter, what can be motivating them to write books aimed at a Christian audience?


Danny Dowell said...

A number of organizations you would expect would require a statement of faith do not do so. Zondervan is part of Harper Collins and thus may not require a statement of faith. A few job postings on the site list things like "passionate about Christian resources" or "aware of trends in the church." It is pretty symptomatic of the collapse of Dutch Reformed Theology which is in a tailspin into liberalism.

Ed Gallagher said...

Thanks, Danny.