The Book: The New Testament (Bible Illuminated)

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.

15 thoughts on “The Book: The New Testament (Bible Illuminated)”

  1. I had no idea you were reformed 🙂 Me too! That is I’m Reformed too. And I *love, love, love* R.C. Sproul 🙂 Though my favorite translation of the Bible is the ESV or English Standard Version.

  2. As much as I like the idea of making the Bible more appealing, I’m really skeptical of efforts like this one. I had the same concern about those magazine-y Bibles that came out a few years ago. (Revolve and Refuel I think they were called.) Any Bible that isn’t just text is of course going to be interpretive, but I think notes in study Bibles promote a thoughtful approach, while images or ideological essays are too predigested.

  3. I just bought the brand spankin’ new ESV Study Bible… it’s deep! I had become discontented with my old Life Application Bible. Many of the comments seemed shallow, if not downright lame. When it finally dawned on me that the index in the back was not a concordance, but an index to their own lame comments, that was the last straw!!

    Oh, and thanks for mentioning the R.C. Sproul podcast. I’m totally going to check it out!

  4. @Teresa

    I know where you’re coming from. There’s always a slippery slope with this kind of thing, but I feel like Illuminated World, the company who put this out, is doing it in good faith and cares about not editorializing too much.

  5. If it’s a magazine, won’t it just fall apart? I mean, it’s the BIBLE, I won’t leave it on the back of the toilet or anything, but still…

    Interesting concept otherwise. I might lightly browse it in a bookstore.

  6. As a Christian, I don’t know how to feel about this Bible… I mean, is it really ok to put Angelina Jolie in the Bible? Or is that demeaning a holy text that many live their lives by?

  7. As a christian I am excited by anything that gets ordinary people reading the words of Jesus.
    The writer of Hebrews does talk of the priesthood of all believers- men and women, but that means anyone can lead communion, not just men, and is a liberating message to those women who have a call to ministry in the church, but were previously told by some, that only men could lead communion, because Jesus was a man!
    As for famous people, whether good or bad, being pictured. Don’t anyone be afraid of modern imagery. If it gets people reading Jesus words, or the rest of the Bible, they are then perfectly capable of deciding the appropriateness of the imagery for themselves, and seperating the two (if neccesary) The Bible itself uses shocking imagery to get its message across to its readers (tent peg through the head anyone?)- the illustraters didn’t need to try very hard. Jesus himself used common imagery of his time, and scandalised the religious by associating with people they disapproved of such as prostitutes, cheating taxman, etc. He showed that his message was for all people, not just those acceptable to the religious.. (See the story he told about the pharisee and the tax collector in the temple! ) As I talk to people I find that it is not Jesus message that puts people off, but the completely contrary atitudes of some church people to what Jesus actually said and clearly meant. God and the Bible are not demeaned by associating with what some church or moral people might regard as people living particularly sinful lives- in fact it is his willingness to connect that is at the heart of Jesus message. “While WE were STILL sinners Christ died for us” The Bible is not meant to be something we stick on a pedestal and venerate, it contains a message to be conveyed by whatever means gets it across (see Paul in Athens and elsewhere). A magazine format means its cheaper to produce lots of copies, thus increasing the number of readers, and if you leave it in the toilet( as clearly designated reading material!) then its illustrated message might reach someone who would never read a plain text Bible(lots of people nowadays) or who would never darken the door of a church!!! My recently adopted son only tends to read graphic books/mags and would never have been pursuaded to read a words only bible, or even a childrens or prettily illustrated adult one, but the Manga and the graphic (Lion Publishers) ones have had him captivated for hours. He won’t come near our depressing, boring church, but is very impressed with the character and message of Jesus. Study bibles and discussions on interpretation can come later.

  8. I just checked the new testament bible illuminated out recently myself and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with what it had to offer. I know its a bit too much for many conservatives of my faith, but I for one don’t mind seeing things taken from a new perspective. I do think this will vibe well with an entirely different cultural branch and quite possibly intrigue quite a few people enough for them to take a closer look at what Christianity has to offer. For that only I support this book.

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