Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bible Illuminated - The Book: New Testament

A few weeks ago I saw one blogger reviewing the new Illuminated Bible which originated in Sweden and is "coming to America in the Fall of 2008!" I read the review because I wanted to know exactly what the illuminated version of the Bible was supposed to be like. The picture made me think of Meyer's Twilight series and so I was not expecting to be wow-ed by the review that I read. But I was wow-ed. Just not in the way that I expected.

So, really, what is this? A gimmick? A marketing scheme? The review that I read of it assumed that this was published/produced by a Christian who wanted to make the Bible more approachable by today's modern society. This particular Bible has the feel and is created much like the glossy magazines that you see on news shelves. You'd likely find this one next to the Digitial Photography sections of the magazine rack. Or Cosmopolitan. Or People. Or something worse, I don't know. I only know you wouldn't be finding the Bible where you'd want to find it or might normally expect to see it. It's definitely . . . unique, shall we say?

Let's take a look at this. I think we need to. Yet again (and again and again and again does it ever STOP!?) Christians have been handed "a new approach to the gospel of Jesus Christ" that is supposed to give the modern masses the warm fuzzies. People who might never have read the Bible before will do so now because it is approachable. Yes, the images might shock you but "they'll also make you think." The Bible is uncomfortable so it's ok for this new material to make you feel the same degree of angst and initial consternation. You'll get over it and before you know it, you too will be buying extra copies of the Illuminated Bible to hand out to your friends and co-workers for Christmas. Dag Soderberg certainly knows what he is doing with this new piece of work. After all - he does have a marketing background and it seems to be paying off as "Illuminated World increased the market for bibles [in Sweden] by almost 50 percent without affecting normal bible sales." (Quote from the official website that I have linked to below.)

In other words, this is an up and coming fad that won't be going away any time soon. In fact, Americans will now have the pleasure of viewing and responding to the Illuminated Bible for themselves, as it is hitting the bookshelves even as I type.

Again I would ask people to stop and think for a moment. The insides of this magazine (I hesitate to call it a Bible at all) are filled with images that will shock most Christians. If you aren't a Christian and you pick up this Bible, the chances of you understanding the point of Scripture is on the slim side of things. It is filled with running text (as opposed to verses), and is altered in ways to be "relevant to today's society." Furthermore, the Christians that I have discovered to be already talking about this book (because of their advanced review copies having been received and perused) are talking about it as if it is a tool to help make the Bible itself seem more relevant to today's non-Christian. It could be used as a tool for evangelism, right? That's the argument. But can it? Well, let's stop for a minute and find out a little bit more about it.

I would encourage you to go to two website locations to find out more about this Bible. The first place, American's Happy Playground (and mine!), is

Here is the direct link.

The following was taken directly from Amazon's website:

What is the goal of publishing The Book?

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.

Since this was Amazon's marketing plan for selling this book, I decided that I should probably go straight to the Official website for the Illuminated World. It is there that I viewed an carefully marketed advertising video of the book itself (images of its insides included!) and an interview of its creator, Dag Soderberg. Go check it out.

Here is a quote from the official website:

MISSION (statement)

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.

In reading those two statements I do not walk away with the opinion that the creators of this book have any idea of drawing people to Christ (which, after all, is the point of The Bible). I get the distinct impression that it's all about marketing . . . and other things. Yes, it is very true that Soderberg said that he wants to make the Bible more relevant to the people of today. But he follows up that statement by saying that he doesn't necessarily support Christianity. That's not his primary goal nor is it the primary function of this book to do so. This book does not exist with the purposed intent to draw people to Christ. So to anyone who might think that new and different shocking things might somehow and sometimes be of benefit to the modern human, Soderberg himself steps away from the idea that it's an evangelism tool. No, it's a marketing tool. His main arguments for it talk about profits and sales in Sweden and now, glory be!, the American market is open to him. Yay.

More important than what people find acceptable or endearing, is what scripture has to say about The Word of God -- how it is to be treated, how it is to be received, believed, handled, perceived and paid attention to.

To the argument that says the Bible, in plain black & white (and sometimes red) text, is not friendly and welcoming to the modern human . . . or worse yet, doesn't seem applicable:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

God's Word is sufficient if you want to believe it. It's living; it is not dead. It is powerful, open and accessible.

To the argument that says it is not enough and needs help in order to be more attractive:

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecc. 3:14

It is enough. It is more than enough.

To the argument that says God didn't have a hand creating the Word and that human intervention/writers might have miscommunicated the facts of the matter:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. . . 2 Tim. 3:16

To those who might argue that it's not possible that God had everything to do with Scripture, I share an excerpt from an article written by Tim Challies on the inerrancy of scripture which you can view in full by clicking on this link. :

If it was God who inspired men to write the Bible, what does that teach us about Scripture? Is it possible that Scripture, as it was given from God to men, can be anything less than perfect? Would God lie? Would He write in only half-truths? The Bible tells us otherwise:

2 Samuel 7:28 - "And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant."

Numbers 23:9 - "God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?"

Psalm 12:6 - The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

Proverbs 30:5 - Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

We find a consistent Scriptural witness that God does not lie, for He is incapable of telling falsehood. The men who wrote God's words, had supreme confidence in the rest of His words. If God is incapable of telling a lie, it stands that the words He spoke to those who wrote the words of Scripture must also be perfectly true. At this point, I trust we have sufficient Scriptural basis to conclude that Scripture is authoritative and that the words given by God to men were without error. But how can we know that the words we have today accurately represent those words?

I would encourage you to go and read the entire article by Tim Challies if you have the time. Again, here is the link. (I'm providing you his article because it saves me the trouble of repeating him and he says it so much better than I would anyway!)

In short, my response to the Illuminated Bible is to say that it should not be. We should not welcome it as an evangelistic tool, if only for the reason that it isn't being created with that intent. We should not welcome it as truth that is in any way complete, again because it does not claim to be complete. It is not claiming to be anything other than a book of disarming pictures displaying sometimes shocking and disturbing images. It is a marketing fad. It is partial truth at best and it fights against truth at worst.

Therefore I believe the only response to have to welcoming this book to the world is to say, "No thanks!" We do not need it because we have the Word of God which is perfect, God-breathed, faultless and pure. Nothing needs to be added to it and nothing taken away.

This is another case where we can clearly see that God is perfect and we are not. When we take the Words which we have been given and try to make something else out of them, or birth something out of them that we were not in a position to give birth to, then we fail to safeguard the Word which has been entrusted to us.

As Paul exhorted Timothy to protect the Gospel which had been given to them:

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:14 NAS

That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. 2 Timothy 1:14 KJV

So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It's as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 The Message

Guard it. Now it's your turn.


Amy said...

I received this for review, and I disagree that the book should be dismissed.

I never saw this an "evangelistic" tool but rather as an interpretive piece of work. Not the same as the Bible you read for your devotions, but perhaps worth a look.

We all interpret the Bible. If we suggest otherwise we are simply not being honest with ourselves. The Bible has been translated into English many times and each translation carries with it the weight of interpretation.

B said...

I'm with you on this one, Carrie. I don't understand the need for people to repackage the Bible in a way that is "relevant to modern society" and "encourages dialogue." That sounds suspiciously like "making it palatable to modern tastes" and "encouraging the attitude of entitlement that pervades our world." Thanks, but no thanks. The Bible remains powerfully relevant in its most faithful translations, and all a book like this "Illuminated" Bible does is put a little more distance between the sinner and the recognition of his sin.

Carrie said...


I actually don't have a real big problem with various translations of the Bible. I'm not a King James Version thumpin' Bible believer.

What I DO take issue with is the fact that the creator of The Bible Illuminated is not making any attempt to stay true to scripture whatsoever. In the other translations you might see (American Standard, NIV, KJV, etc) they are trying to translate the Bible and stay true to the truth and the message. Illuminated makes no such claims towards accuracy. At all. In fact, the creator has stated just the opposite.

It's definitely not something I would pick up for a devotion, no . . .

Lisa Spence said...

My turn to say to you: Well done! "Christian" marketing is nothing short of amazing. And I do say that tongue in cheek...

(nice touch, including a quote from our good friend Tim...)

Unknown said...

I LOVE Yes, it is a happy playground.

I know nothing of this book, but I will humbly correct you on the cover. It does look almost exactly like Stephanie Meyer's The Host, which is not part of the Twilight series, but that's a good call, and I wonder why?

And will the stalking never end?? You girls need to start a fan club, LOL.

ChristineMM said...

What a great post.

Did you read my "first thoughts" and my review?

It bothers me that the message is expanded upon by adding in United Nations mission and pushing certain political and social issues.

my final review after having the book in hand

my first thoughts after the online preview can be linked to at the bottom of that review.

I also got brave and published my review on Amazon. I bet I'll be flamed and criticized. Oh well. So far there are only 5 customer reviews on Amazon which is suprising to me.

John Mutford said...

How does a quote from the Bible rebuke the folks that say humans wrote it, not God? The people that make that argument are suggesting that humanity isn't always pure and, with ill-intent or not, have misconstrued facts. So, they would (quite easily) counter your quote from Timothy and say it is just another example. You may believe that God doesn't lie, but history has proven that humans are quite capable.

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