Childhood Studies Jewish and Christian Views of Childhood
by
Marcia J. Bunge
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0048

Introduction

Scholars from a wide range of disciplines are now focusing more attention on children and contributing to the new and burgeoning field of childhood studies. In line with these trends, scholars in diverse areas of religious studies, theology, and ethics are also beginning to focus attention directly on children and childhood. This article is devoted to scholarship regarding children and childhood in Judaism and Christianity and highlights examples of literature from several primary areas of research in religious studies: history, biblical studies, ethics, theology, and spirituality. Literature on children and childhood is growing in all of these areas and is opening up new lines of intellectual inquiry, challenging preconceptions about children, and even reshaping research methodologies. Religious studies of children and childhood concern not only adult perceptions of or behavior toward children and children’s vulnerabilities but also children’s perceptions and experiences and their own capacities. The attention to children’s voices, capacities, agency, and participation has, in turn, prompted scholars to rethink and reshape their own research questions and methods and disciplinary theories and practices, taking into account the ideas and actions of children themselves and the complexities of child–adult relationships. Although there are numerous and outstanding sources regarding Jewish and Christian views of children related to family life and faith formation, this short bibliography focuses on texts that directly and primarily explore the theme of children and childhood in Judaism and Christianity. Since so much is written on ethical perspectives, this article divides the literature on ethics into sections on selected topics that are significant in both traditions and that help illustrate Jewish and Christian thinking about responsibilities of both children and adults.

General Overviews

There are several resources that provide an introduction to the overall theme of religious perspectives on children and childhood. Browning and Bunge 2009, an anthology on childhood, and Browning, et al. 2006, an anthology on the family, both include helpful introductions and a range of primary texts regarding children and adult–child relationships from Judaism, Christianity, and other world religions. The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion (Shweder 2009) is the most comprehensive resource on scholarship from all areas of childhood studies, including religious studies. Joseph Hawes and N. Ray Hiner are specialists in the history of childhood, and their research guide (Hawes and Hiner 1991) provides the best introduction to historical studies. These resources provide a solid starting point for exploring a range of themes and resources on the subject of childhood in Judaism and Christianity. Bunge 2006 provides a short and helpful overview of developments in research regarding children and childhood in religious studies and theology.

  • Browning, Don S., and Marcia J. Bunge, eds. Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press: 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    A collection of primary texts regarding children and childhood from six major religions of the world, including Judaism and Christianity. Each of the six chapters, edited by specialists, focuses on one religious tradition and includes an introduction and a selection of primary texts ranging from the ancient to the contemporary.

  • Browning, Don S., M. Christian Green, and John Witte Jr., eds. Sex, Marriage, and Family in World Religions. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    A collection of seminal texts on the family from six religious traditions. Each chapter focuses on one religious tradition and includes an introduction and range of primary sources and texts. Although the book focuses on marriage and family, it includes several sources on children and child–adult relationships.

  • Bunge, Marcia J. “The Child, Religion, and the Academy: Developing Robust Theological and Religious Understandings of Children and Childhood.” Journal of Religion 86.4 (2006): 549–579.

    DOI: 10.1086/505894E-mail Citation »

    Brief introduction to the burgeoning research on childhood in the fields of religious studies and theology and the need for strengthening religious and theological understandings of children and childhood.

  • Hawes, Joseph M., and N. Ray Hiner, eds. Children in Historical and Comparative Perspective: An International Handbook and Research Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1991.

    E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive guide to research on the history of childhood from the ancient to the modern in several areas around the world. Each of the nineteen chapters is written by a specialist in the field and offers an overall introduction to the topic and a list of additional references.

  • Shweder, Richard A., ed. The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive reference with more than five hundred entries on children and childhood written by scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines.

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