The Bible Illuminated

Posted on June 3, 2009

1, and Old Testament, New Testament (with author video)
A Critical analysis by Chuck Colson.

(BTW, Dag Soderberg will be on Stephen Colbert Thursday, June 4, 2009)

the book - bible illuminate

From the website:

This modern illuminated bible is an oversized (8 ¼ x 11 ½), full-color, 264-page glossy magazine. It has striking, provocative, contemporary photographs. It uses the Good News Translation (GNT) and it is aimed to be less intimidating than traditional bibles.

Who is the publisher?

Our mission is to illuminate the world around us. Whether it is through ancient texts, or our partners around the world, we seek to create a platform for dialogue that brings people closer together.

We take important historical texts and apply beautiful, modern and approachable design to create a bridge to a contemporary audience. If you are interested in learning more about Illuminated World please visit our publisher’s website.

Here are some lower-res .jpg’s of all the imagery from the gospel of Luke (there are additional pages with text only), the free chapter they’re allowing you to download:

— VIA —

The graphics are stunningly beautiful, high quality, and simply overwhelmingly captivating. It draws attention, evokes emotion, prompts a quite visceral response and though I have yet to actually hold one of these, I’m sure the print quality is going to be fantastic.

And, as with other productions (like Revolve), this raises many questions.

Question one is, On what premise and purpose is the production?

The publisher and team are not forthcoming of any religions affiliation or persuasion. They refer to the Bible as “historical writings,” and they’ve chosen the Good News Translation, which is a much more “accessible” translation than others which may have higher translation standards (but that is a debatable issue). It’s hard not to be cynical, but given the market (the Bible being the number one best-seller, every year, to-date), the financial motive is great for something this new and fresh. But as with other things, “…what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)

Question two is, What does this do to the message of the Scriptures?

Colson (in the article linked above) already criticized it for losing the gospel. He states:

To nail down this point, the editors include supplementary text entitled “Eight Ways to Change the World,” a project of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Readers are encouraged to help eradicate hunger and poverty, promote “gender equality,” and “environmental sustainability.” Interestingly, nowhere are readers encouraged to fight abortion or human trafficking — both worldwide tragedies. And nowhere — except in the small print of the Scripture itself — are readers encouraged to give up their sins and follow Christ.

In effect, this New Testament takes Christ out of Christianity. And it substitutes a human agenda for God’s.

While I don’t fully agree with Colson’s conclusion (creating a false dichotomoy between the justice issues, the moral issues, and the salvation issues of Jesus’ or Paul’s theology), I do concur that the message cannot help but be radically transformed, or at the very least, re-contextualized into our modern context. This is the problem that we all face with any translation using language only, but think now of what happens to an ancient message once we add cultural issues and images. The message is bound to change. While that may make any orthodox, fundamental, or evangelical a bit uncomfortable, I submit to you this reality. But not just for The Bible Illuminated, but for every English translation that we own today.

This musing will take much more than this simple blog post, but suffice to say, as any student of McLuhan will attest, as the “historical writings” are re-contextualized, re-translated, and augmented with helpful highlights, notes, and now images in order to help better communicate to a contemporary audience, the message will change. I’m just curious how much with the dawning of the grand imagery involved with this magazine.

Question three is, What then shall we do with this new publication?

Personally, I’ll hope to get one some day…and to share it. As I have come to terms with the “medium is the message” reality of communication and existence, I realize that while publications and print may cause controversy and confusion, disarray and dilemmas, the real context is the relationships that you have; first and foremost with God (if you’re a believer) and the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (if you’re a Christian), and second with the world around us.

So, while many may be fearful of The Bible Illuminated, and others ecstatically welcoming, the real crux of the issue still comes down to the Biblical concept of “love.” Will we love each other and the world enough to re-contextualize ourselves, using whatever tools may come our way. We do not have to be in despair that we are compromising our faith, or doing damage to the Gospel we so affectionately call our “salvation,” if we are willing to love God by emptying ourselves of our fear (1 John 4:18), and if we strive to love our neighbor through living (ie. “contextualizing”) what we believe in flesh and bones in our very lives.

update: 06/04/09

On the Colbert Report, Soderberg said that while the Bible is the most widely distributed book in the world, it is hardly read. This production is wanting to “bring the Bible from the bookshelf to the coffeetable.” While that may be true, will it really get more people to “read” the Bible, or now simply be distracted by the images interlaced in the book? Thoughts?