I am really thankful to Lisa Roe for the chance to take a look at this provocative new version of the Bible. I am really intrigued by modern attempts to make the Bible more “relevant,” mostly because I’m not sure it needs it!
From the publisher:
There is no religious mission behind The Book. We believe that its success will be driven by the fact that this is not coming from any specific faith, religion or church. We are from many faiths, backgrounds, and beliefs; ultimately we are trying to create something for the many and not just for the few. The goal is to drive an emotional reaction and get people to think, discuss and share. It’s meant to trigger bigger moral questions that will in turn help people to understand the common heritage between all religions through the Bible’s text. We hope people will find the images, design and layout intriguing–intriguing enough to talk about the actual stories in the Bible and what the morals and lessons mean to them. The more you know, the more you can participate in discussions about the world and understand the bigger picture.
“>The Book: The New Testament is laid out like a magazine, with gorgeous glossy images setting off the Good News translation, as well as mini-essays on issues of social justice. The images themselves perform a translative purpose, placing a Sojourners-type veneer onto the text. That is, everything is selected to appeal to a post-religious, politically liberal, socially conscious hipster. Contemporary, yes; orthodox… eh, not so much.
I want to talk about two of the images to give you an idea of how they impute meaning onto the verses that they connect with. The first comes from the book of Hebrews, illuminating the verse which says, “For when the priesthood changed, there also has to be a change in the law.” The accompanying photo shows “Margit Sahlin [seeing] the shroud she’s going to wear when she becomes the first female priest in Sweden.” This, obviously, is meant to endorse the progressive notion that women should be ordained into leadership over churches.
Now, if you have studied the book of Hebrews you will know that the author is not talking about church leadership. He’s talking about the transformation of the priesthood of the Levites, as ordained by God in the Pentateuch, into the priesthood of a figure called Melchizidek, who is meant to signify (or actually be) Jesus. The resurrection of Christ replaced the law of the Old Testament with the law of grace, meaning that all who repent and believe in Jesus will be saved and baptized into the priesthood of believers. In other words, under Christ’s rule of grace, all men and women who follow him are priests. The image redirects this powerful message into a poke at those denominations who take a strict interpretation of the teachings of Paul regarding the qualities of a leader. Paul’s letters are generally concerned with the foundation of church doctrine and practice. Hebrews (not written by Paul) is intended to teach the Jewish audience how Christ fulfills the law and the prophecies. So this image is clever, but not really appropriate.
The second image is one of the many celebrity images that pepper the book, and it’s of Angelina Jolie. I know that many people view Ms. Jolie as a supernaturally beautiful paragon of good works, and indeed she’s done a lot of good in the world. I personally love her for breastfeeding her twins. However, she’s also famous for her role in the public destruction of a marriage. So is she meant to represent the adulteress woman that Jesus encounters? I don’t really think that is the publisher’s intention, though it’s interesting to ponder. I don’t think that most readers will use Ms. Jolie’s picture as an occasion for contemplation.
I find this whole project quite fascinating, and I’m very curious to see how they package the New Testament. I am not really the target audience, though. I’m into Reformed theology and like the New King James version of the Bible. I just took advantage of a promotion on the website for Ligonier Ministries, where I’ve been digging RC Sproul’s “Renewing Your Mind” podcasts. Give any amount before 11/1 and they will send you the new Reformed Study Bible! I’m sooooooo excited for this to come. I haven’t used a study Bible since I wore out my Ryrie way back when, and my Bible reading needs a kickstart that The Book just didn’t give me.