Religion and Spirituality

Bible Illuminated: The Book, New Testament pop culture, Dag Soederberg
Cover of Bible Illuminated: The Book:
New Testament

Modern 'Bible Illuminated' Includes Celebrity Photos

November 06, 2008 11:48 AM
by Josh Katz
The “Bible Illuminated,” with its pop culture depictions of the New Testament, is one of many recent attempts to present the Scriptures in an innovative light.

The Bible, Starring Angelina Jolie

The “Bible Illuminated: The Book” brings the New Testament to the public like never before. Scandinavian businessman Dag Soederberg hatched the idea of creating a Bible more accessible to contemporary society and various faiths by splashing the pages with pop culture images and presenting the text in magazine, not verses, format.

“Well-known figures among the more than 200 photographs are Andy Warhol in drag in the Book of John, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, cult leader Jim Jones, Bill Gates and John Lennon,” according to columnist Byron Crawford in The Courier-Journal. “Muhammad Ali, Angelina Jolie, Al Gore, Princess Diana and Bono” are also portrayed as characters from the Bible.

The esteemed American Bible Society teamed up with publisher Illuminated World to bring the book to the United States. The “Bible Illuminated” was first released in Sweden in 2007, where it won a large audience. The Old Testament version is set to arrive in North America in early 2009.

Illuminated World’s U.S. President Larry Norton said, “What makes this different than other non-traditional Bibles in the market is that ‘Bible Illuminated’ complements the stories with striking, contemporary photographs that tie back to people’s lives today,” MarketWatch reports. Soederberg allegedly thought of the idea for the book during dinner with friends, in which he wondered why the Bible is so often cited but so rarely read in contemporary society.

Paul Gutjahr, an associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University, does not believe the new Bible will attract older, more traditional crowds, however. “Christians believe that the word of God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and for decades American Bible publishers reinforced this sentiment in the ways they produced and presented the volume to their customers,” he said, according to The Courier-Journal.

Another new version of the Bible, based on Japanese comics, gives the Scriptures a futuristic twist. Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, a line of comic books hitting stores in November, is meant to teach and entertain.

“They have robots, advanced technology, and we’re using manga animation, which is the Japanese style of comics,” said Paul Castiglia, managing editor of the publisher JMG Comics. “In Mecha Manga, we’ve changed the setting, but the characters are the same. The names are the same. The themes and morals are the same,” Castiglia said. “We tried to adhere to the Bible as closely as possible.”

The creators hope that the manga version of the Bible will pique the interest of a younger audience, so that they would read the standard editions of the Bible as well.

A new chronological version of the Bible was just released in October. In the Chronological Study Bible from Thomas Nelson Inc., sections and books of the Bible are changed so that they appear in historical context. In other words, the “The new Bible’s chronology is based on the setting of each text—when the events in it occurred—rather than when it was written,” according to the Gannett News Service in an article published by Indiana’s Muncie Star Press.

But Doug Knight, Drucilla Moore Buffington professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, warns that such a version of the Bible could be problematic. Commenting on the fact that the authors of Bible passages often wrote about events long after they occurred he says, “What’s happening in the author’s own time is relevant.”

The Washington Post indicates that such modern versions of the Bible represent a trend. “In general, Bible publishers have always been creative, but now they are scrambling to meet a culture where people are moving away from print reading,” said Gutjahr.

According to the Post, “Dozens of versions of the Bible come out each year for various niches: the outdoorsman, the married couple, business leaders. There are electronic Bibles available for the Kindle, iPods and handheld devices. There are graphic novel and comic book interpretations.”

Experts claim that Bible sales usually increase during hard economic times or wartime. The Book Industry Study Group says that has been the case recently, with the Bible market expected to hit the impressive number of $823.5 million this year.

Related Topic: Codex Sinaiticus goes online

Reference: “Bible Illuminated”; guide to sacred texts


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