Ellen Frankel, author of JPS Illus­trat­ed Children’s Bible, as well as the Edi­tor-in-Chief and CEO of the Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety, is guest-blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Council.

For most of Jew­ish his­to­ry, the Bible was one size fits all.” There was sim­ply no such thing as a children’s version.

The sec­ond-cen­tu­ry rab­binic anthol­o­gy Pirkei Avot coun­sels: At five years old [one should begin the study of] Scrip­ture” (5:24). For cen­turies, Jew­ish chil­dren were intro­duced to the Bible, unex­pur­gat­ed and unabridged. In fact, Jew­ish children’s books did not emerge as a sep­a­rate genre in Amer­i­ca until the 1930s, with the pub­li­ca­tion of The Adven­tures of K’Ton Ton by Sadie Rose Weil­er­stein. Until then, Jew­ish chil­dren read the same texts that were meant for adults.

So, do Jew­ish kids real­ly need a children’s Bible? Or are we just imi­tat­ing our Chris­t­ian neigh­bors, who have been pub­lish­ing and teach­ing children’s Bibles since the 11th century?

With­out ques­tion, the Bible con­tains mate­r­i­al that is tough for chil­dren to han­dle. Many of the key sto­ries in the Bible are vio­lent. Cain mur­ders Abel. Abra­ham rais­es his knife to sac­ri­fice his son Isaac. Shechem rapes Dinah; Sime­on and Levi retal­i­ate by slaugh­ter­ing all the men of Shechem. Pharaoh con­demns to death all new­born Hebrew boys. Then Egypt is brought to its knees by ten dead­ly plagues. The Book of Joshua chron­i­cles a cam­paign of geno­cide against the peo­ples of Canaan. The Book of Judges runs with blood. And the blood­shed con­tin­ues through Samuel and Kings, with the Jew­ish peo­ple serv­ing some­times as exe­cu­tion­er, some­times as victim.

Oth­er books, too — most of the prophets, Psalms, Lamen­ta­tions, Esther, and Daniel — depict scenes of graph­ic vio­lence. And there’s plen­ty of x‑rated sex, too, includ­ing pros­ti­tu­tion, seduc­tion, rape, adul­tery, and pagan debauchery.

When I wrote my children’s Bible, I chose to leave out most of the sex and vio­lence, on the advice of col­leagues and my teenage read­ers. I did it for the sake of par­ents and teach­ers as much as for the kids. In light of rad­i­cal Islam and Jihadism, how can we coun­te­nance Joshua’s cam­paign of exter­mi­na­tion or Saul’s mas­sacre of Amalek, all in the name of God? In the shad­ow of the Holo­caust, do we want to expose lit­tle chil­dren to the hor­rors of Lamen­ta­tions?

But I didn’t exclude all vio­lence from my book. Some sto­ries, like the Bind­ing of Isaac, are too cen­tral to the Jew­ish nation­al sto­ry, even though they may dis­turb young chil­dren. Oth­er sto­ries, such as Cain and Abel or Noah’s Flood, are too famil­iar to omit. And some sto­ries, like the Exo­dus from Egypt and the Book of Esther, serve as use­ful object lessons for today’s world.

As for the cen­sored adult con­tent,” let par­ents tell their chil­dren that they have to wait until they’re old­er to read those sec­tions. There’s no bet­ter way to ensure that the chil­dren will come back to the Bible for more.

Ellen Frankel will be blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. Check out her new book, JPS Illus­trat­ed Children’s Bible.

Ellen Frankel served for 18 years as Edi­tor in Chief of JPS. She received a Ph.D. in Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture from Prince­ton She has pub­lished eleven books, most notably The Five Books of Miri­am. She has also writ­ten libret­tos for cham­ber pieces and two operas. She has trav­eled wide­ly as a Jew­ish sto­ry­teller. The Dead­ly Scrolls is her first mystery.