I hear people bemoaning biblical illiteracy. It’s true that many children, youth and adults in today’s culture have a poor understanding of what’s in the best-selling book of all time.
How did we get here? What’s to blame? Perhaps it’s our secularized society. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the shrinking American church. Or maybe we, the more biblically literate, have unintentionally scared people away from the Bible.
Many people are simply intimidated by this ancient 1,000-page volume filled with hard-to-pronounce names and places. The church, knowingly or not, has often portrayed the Bible as a complicated text that requires professionals to decipher it for the common people. It’s treated as part of an academic endeavor. That’s why we use vernacular such as “text,” and “Bible study,” and “Bible school.”
When we gather around the Bible it’s usually seen as a rudimentary teaching time–rather than a time of enjoyment, adventure, wonder or intimacy.
My wife Joani belongs to a neighborhood book club. Their get-togethers are highly relational times of discovery and fellowship. They don’t gather to study their book of the month. They come together to enjoy the writing, seek understanding of the author’s intent, and converse about how the literature might apply to their lives.
Maybe it’s time to consider presenting the Bible more like a book club selection, and a little less like an obtuse academic lesson.
That’s what we set out to do with a creative team from Group Publishing. We wanted to create a biblical experience to draw adults and youth into the essence of God’s Word–to see or recapture the notion that the Bible isn’t a stuffy textbook. It’s a colorful intertwining of stories that exhibit a God who pursues his people with relentless love.
The result is a new book titled Eyewitness: The Visual Bible Experience. We took major stories from the Bible and told them from a first-person perspective. So, Adam and Eve tell their stories of temptation and regret. Joseph tells about spurning a powerful man’s wife, and finding reconciliation with his brothers. Esther tells her story of sticking up for her people. Jonah describes his arguments with God, who loved him through it all.
Then, knowing we live in a very visual culture, we commissioned original fine artwork to illustrate these stories. Eyewitness features the work of 16 artists from around the world. We gave them the original scripture and the new first-person stories. Then we asked them to depict these scenes in fresh ways to capture the visual drama of these true stories.
For example, see these scenes from Nathanael’s account of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of 5,000, and Noah’s heart-rending account of an impending flood:
It’s been gratifying to hear back from people who had been reluctant to pick up the Bible. But the art and first-person stories in Eyewitness drew them in, and now they want to dig in to the rest of story in the Bible. They’ve come to see that the scriptures tell the stories of real people, just like them, who experienced the unstoppable love of a forgiving Savior.