Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Book: The Bible Illuminated

Yes, this is my second post about The Book: The Bible Illuminated. The first post was based on a PDF sneak-peak I was given, but now I have the actual goods right here in my hands - if you recall, I was pretty hyped to see if the real thing measured up. So am I still as excited about this new take on the New Testament as I was before?

Yep. In fact, I might be more excited. This is such a fresh new visioning of the ancient text of the New Testament - I find myself completely engrossed in the pictures, and the stories that the pictures are illustrating. It's not like I haven't heard them before - I grew up going to a christian school, after all - but something about this format makes the reading different, somehow. I think the decision to exclude chapter and verse was a good one, because it makes each book flow together as whole. I sat down and read the entire book of Luke - the entire thing! - in one sitting, because the story didn't stop, so I didn't want to either.

I was surprised when the package came in the mail - it was so thin! Even though I knew in my head this was not the same as a regular Bible, I wasn't expecting what I got. It looks like a magazine, or graphic novel - tall, thin, with big, glossy pictures between pages of text.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts are each separate sections, with their own title page, and distinct flavor. The letters, however, are grouped together - Romans through Jude - in one long section, with only small, intertextual notes to differentiate between the different books. I haven't had a chance to read all the way through this section, but am interested to see how this will change the traditional reading of these books. Revelation is given its own section again, with probably the most graphic pictures of the entire work. After the biblical text is a short message from the American Bible Society, who are the originators of the Good News Translation used in The Book. I found one section of the message to be an interesting, insightful summation of this new version of the New Testament:

"The New Testament that you have perused (and we hope have read in its entirety) has profound messages about what it means to live in harmony with our fellow human beings, the importance of justice and mutual respect, and the urgent need to care for the planet we cohabitate. "

Of course, it is not a perfect work - I know many people who would find The Book to be sacreligious, using contemporary images to portray sacred text. Personally, I am not a fan of the binding of the text - my copy is already showing fairly significant spine breakage, and I've been quite careful with it. I would like to see a hardback version for people, like me, who would potentially read this many times.

In general, however, I think it is an extremely sucessful work. It is beautiful and startling, much as I would imagine the texts were when they were first read thousands of years ago. I am pleased to have a copy, and pleased to have been involved in this innovative, exciting new look at the New Testament. I certainly cannot wait to see what the Old Testament will look like in 2009!


Alea said...

My copy came sort of beat up, which I guess is normal for a magazine, but since this was in a mailer it must have been before it was shipped. The cover even had a big slit in it through several pages, looks like they got the same treatment as actual magazines ;)

You are right, you have to be extra careful with it and it makes it a bit harder to read.

Andi said...

I've already requested a copy for Christmas. Can't wait to see it in person!

Anna said...

My copy came in not-so-great condition as well, which was awful for someone like me who's obsessive about the condition of her books. LOL So I agree a hardback would be great!

I was uncomfortable with some of the images, but overall, I thought it was interesting and served a purpose.

Diary of an Eccentric

Raffi Shahinian said...

Thanks for this. I really appreciate your perspective. I've also put in my 2 cents about the project, for anyone who may be interested.

Grace and Peace,