Monday, November 3, 2008

Bible Illuminated: The Book, New Testament by Illuminated World

Bible Illuminated: The Book, New Testament by Illuminated World (which I previewed here) is unlike any Bible I've ever seen, and I know some people will have a hard time calling it a Bible. It looks, feels, and smells like a magazine (a very expensive magazine, according to the $35 price tag).

Reading Bible Illuminated definitely was an experience. I looked it over carefully, read some of the pages, thought a lot about the images, and discussed it with my husband and friends. I'm still having a difficult time putting my thoughts and feelings into words.

The cover is just as stunning in person, and the images within the pages are vibrant. The pictures are intended to shock people out of their comfort zones, make them think about their faith in a new way, to generate discussion. While most of the pictures made sense in the context of the Scripture verses accompanying them, others did not--and some appear to be included for the shock value alone.

Some of the images made me uncomfortable, including a picture of the cult leader Jim Jones and the Jonestown mass suicide. On the picture of Jones is this verse from Philippians: "All I want is to know Christ and experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life." And in the numerous pictures of celebrities and activists accompanied by the verse, "God said, 'I will send my messenger ahead of you to open the way for you,'" is a picture of John Lennon smoking and wearing a tie with a nude woman on it. Out of all the pictures available of Lennon, why was that one chosen?

But I think that the images that make me most uncomfortable are there for that very purpose, challenging me to deepen my faith, defend my faith, and get excited about my faith. And I can see how young people bored with traditional, picture-less Bibles that seem so far removed from what is going on around the world today, along with those who have little knowledge of Christianity, might need something like this to light a spark within them.

As for the Good News Translation used in Bible Illuminated, I compared a few passages to those in my New International Version and New American translations, and they were pretty much the same. This translation is very easy to understand, and verses that are displayed with the images are highlighted to show them in context. However, it would be very difficult to use Bible Illuminated in a Bible study group due to the lack of chapter and verse notations. When I was making the verse comparisons, it was difficult because I had no idea what chapter and verse I was looking at in Bible Illuminated.

Though Bible Illuminated won't be the first Bible I pull off my shelf, I think it is a resource that serves a very important purpose. If it gets people to talk about Jesus, to think about the importance of His words today, and to take action to help those around the world in need, then the book has done a lot of good.

However, the one thing I found offensive was the cover of the upcoming Bible Illuminated: The Book, Old Testament, slated for release next year. The cover is a closeup of a couple's face, mouths open, getting ready to share what appears to be a very sensual, sexual kiss (at least in my opinion). What does this have to do with the Old Testament? I couldn't think of an answer, but if any of you who have seen the picture have an idea, please share!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Bible Illuminated from OnlinePublicist for review purposes.


Serena said...

This is definitely a new way to look at scripture. I'm not sure what the intended audience is for this particular bible, but I think depending on the mission or audience the book is aimed at, it could be very helpful.

I wasn't offended by as many images as you were when you showed it to me, though I agree with Jim Jones and what was with the clowns in Germany. I for one was confused by the images in this respect because there didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason for them, especially if this book is geared to getting people interested in the bible...they may not be aware of certain scriptures, let alone the anti-globalization movement in Germany.

I was impressed by the idea of Bible Illuminated, but I was expecting an actual book not a magazine in the literal sense.

Alea said...

I agree with you about the cover of the Old Testament, I saw that and said "Oh now they are just trying to push people's buttons!" It doesn't offend me personally but I definitely could tell that that was used probably to shock people, I couldn't really think of another reason for it.

Anonymous said...

I had no interest in reading this until I read your review. After I get over the shock of the price, I'll pick it up!

Great review.

Anna said...

Serena: I thought it was going to be a book as well, with magazine-quality photos. The fact that it is a magazine didn't turn me off; it was just not what I was expecting.

Alea: A lot of it I think is for the shock value alone. I'm puzzled by that particular image most of all.

Sheri: Thanks! If I hadn't received a review copy, I don't think I would have been able to afford to buy a copy!

Shana said...

Anna, this version of the Bible is so hard to visualize. I guess I need to see it.

I'm curious if it will be sold in traditional Christian bookstores of if it's too edgy.

As far as the cover of the OT version, I think there is more sex and sensuality in the OT than the NT, the Song of Solomon being a glaringly obvious example, but there are others. Stories of adultery, rape, incest, etc.

As far as the relevancy, I'm not sure. Because the overarching theme is certainly not sexual or sensual. Maybe they're thinking it will get people to pick it up who would not otherwise do so?


Anonymous said...

I have never read Bible myself. but when i was in school; I had Christian friends, and just before exams we would all pray, and then open a page in the Bible; and then read it. Based on some attributes; if it is a good para, then the exams would go well and vice versa :)

Nevertheless I was excited about this new book; I wanted to know how different it was anyways. And your review is great!

I was kinda captivating by the cover... it is 'I dnt know' captivating :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm - most interesting. I think when I got some extra coin I might just pick this up. Shock value - maybe it TAKES that kind of sensationalism in today's in your face world to get folks to read the Bible.

Alyce said...

I had seen this book in a giveaway, and didn't enter just because the images did seem to be for shock value, and I couldn't imagine how they related to the text.

Jeannie said...

"But I think that the images that make me most uncomfortable are there for that very purpose, challenging me to deepen my faith, defend my faith, and get excited about my faith."

From the sound of your review, I can't agree with you more. I think these images were used to stir the reader's feelings and to bring up a dialogue about faith. And that is a very good thing!

The Bookworm said...

It seems like an interesting and thought provoking book.

Anonymous said...

Well, here is what the website says:

"Illuminated World seeks to introduce today’s audience to a revolutionary contemporary Bible, one that encourages dialogue and is culturally relevant, accessible and easily digestible for any reader regardless of religious, economic, racial or social background.

We have no religious agenda nor do we support a specific faith. Bible Illuminated is intended to be a unique vehicle for reacquainting today’s reader with one of the most important historical, and cultural texts ever written."

If they have no religious agenda, then you can't look at this through Christian eyes. It won't work. That said, I don't get the fact that there are religious quotes if religion wasn't its purpose.

I do agree with Alea. This was done to shock the viewers senses. You can't look at the book with indifference...or at least, I can't.

Laura said...

I definitely want to look at this book/magazine. I can't quite picture what it looks like, but I am very curious. From the reviews I've read, I can't make up my mind if I like the idea of reaching out to the younger crowd, or if the whole thing is a bit disrespectful?

Serena said...

Regardless of the legalese on the Web site for the publishers, I highly doubt that they merely wished to publish the New Testament for the sake of updating it. What other eyes can you use to look at it? I'm not Christian, and I still find it fishy that it would be published by a group that has no agenda.

Alea said...

I was sort of hoping they would continue on with other religious texts, but I have no idea if they are planning to do that or not?

Anna said...

Shana: You're probably right. People will pick it up just to find out what the cover's all about. I know I'd be curious if I saw it on display or something. And it is a book you really need to see to believe. The PDF version I viewed for the preview didn't do it for me. The hard copy is much, much more powerful.

Veens: Glad you enjoyed my review. The cover is captivating.

Marvin: I agree. I hope you get a chance to look at it. I'm curious about what you think.

Alyce: I really had a hard time with it to be honest, but once I really sat and pondered and discussed, it made more sense. I see the idea behind it, but it sort of still makes me uncomfortable. But at the same time I can see how it serves a purpose. This is why I had so much trouble writing the review!

Jeannie: I agree about the importance of dialogue, which is why I didn't immediately dismiss it even when it made me uncomfortable.

Naida: It is!

J. Kaye: Thanks for posting that! I personally don't believe there is no agenda, but that's just me. I don't see how you can look at the New Testament without thinking about Christianity. And you're right...indifference is not an option with this book!

Laura: I had the same concerns. But after careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that if it gets someone talking and thinking about Jesus in a good way and gets them to take action, then it serves a purpose. It's hard not to stir up controversy when you are talking about the Bible.

Serena: I agree with you.

Alea: I have no idea, but I'm thinking if there is no agenda and no siding with a particular faith, then they'd be considering other texts as well. I guess we'll see

Anonymous said...

LOL @ Serena

Anna ~ Maybe from an artistic POV? Mind you, I haven't actually read the book/zine, but that's what came to mind when I saw the photos. It's meant to shock or that's how I take it and art does just that.

As for the agenda, I wasn't going to say a word...lolol!

Anna said...

J. Kaye: You know, I really never thought of this as an art book, probably because as a lifelong Christian, I'm approaching it from that viewpoint. But I can see that. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

Alea said...

Yeah I guess I would be someone looking at it from an artistic perspective, having a background in design and no background in christianity. That's what's so cool about this, it's peeking the interest of tons of different people for different reasons :)

Bookfool said...

You did a fantastic job of describing the pros and cons, Anna. I agree that a few of those photos didn't make sense to me and it's definitely not a Bible to use in a study. I do like the way it makes you think, though. And, yeah . . . too expensive.

Anna said...

Alea: I've been having a great time reading the different reviews and different opinions. It's so interesting to see how one book is perceived by people with different beliefs and backgrounds. I'm fascinated!

Bookfool: So glad you enjoyed the review. This is one I pondered for awhile. I wanted to make sure what I said came across the way it was intended.

Anonymous said...

I'm not religious and I have seriously mixed feelings about this book. I'm thinking about picking it up today just to see what this is all about, especially this notorious Angelina Jolie picture that every blog is complaining about.

No matter what, whether they are promoting a religious agenda or not, it's an interesting idea and it may have gotten me to pick up my first Bible ever.

Anna said...

I was a little surprised that Angelina Jolie was in the Bible. The celebrity photos are accompanied by a verse about God sending out His messengers, and there's a page listing all the good that the featured celebrities have done, though not all are celebrities. I don't put Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. in the same group as Angelina Jolie.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's such a good idea to have a Bible presented in such a manner. It demeans Christianity to have Angelina Jolie in a Bible, don't you think?

Anna said...

Irma: I hear what you're saying, but in the context that it's presented, they're focusing on how these celebrities do good works. And the Bible tells us to help those less fortunate in Jesus' name. I understand that celebrities' personal lives don't always display Christian morals, but we have to remember that no one is perfect and it's not our right to pass judgment. I was a little shocked to see her in the Bible, but I understood what they were getting at (or at least thought I did). And we have to remember that this isn't a conventional Bible by any stretch of the imagination. Thanks for stopping by my blog and joining in the discussion.

Anonymous said...

I am still trying to figure out how the Old Testament cover means. The only thing that I can think of is that there's a good deal of marital relationships in the Old Testament. My guess is that they're trying to make it more "sexy" than it's considered. I appreciate your opinions. I don't think that this is for everyone. I'm just glad it's out there. BTW, the picture you highlighted was probably the hardest for me. Yuck!

Anna said...

Literate Housewife: Thanks for stopping by my blog!

They do say sex sells, I just never thought about it selling the Bible! Still, I'd like to check that one out, too.

Do you mean the Jim Jones picture? That really upset me.

Anonymous said...

Just picked up a copy and wanted to comment about the Jim Jones picture and caption.

On its own and with just that passage from the Bible quoted, I agree, it's a bit out of place. But the editors add a note of their own that I think works to complete the thought:

It is frightening what can happen when the Bible's radical promises are misapplied. Jim Jones was the leader of the People's Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana. November 18, 1978, Jones conducted a mass suicide, ordering more than 900 of his followers to drink punch laced with cyanide. The cult leader was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

For me, this explanation helps. Any thoughts?

Anna said...

Dave: Thanks for the clarification. It makes sense, but seeing Jim Jones in the Bible still makes me uncomfortable.

Anna said...

Raffi: Thanks for the link. I'll go check it out right now.