Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: The Almighty Bible

The Almighty Bible is a new and exciting project which aims to present the entire narrative of the Bible in a graphic novel format for teen and preteen audiences. What makes this project so attractive is that they are publishing individual books of the Bible with an almost complete text of the book in a translation based on the American Standard Bible. This means that a good chunk of the Bible is presented with full color illustrations, elevating this from a simple picture Bible to an elaborate and thorough illustrated version of the Bible.

The Almighty Bible is edited down from the World English Bible translation, that is itself based on the 1904 American Standard Translation. The chapters and verses that are the source for each page are listed on each page of the book and the full text is a simple two-fingered tap away on the iPAD version. The Almighty Bible is produced under the direction of Kevin O'Donnell who has 25 years of experience with high level children's projects, including Liberty's Kids on PBS (which he created and co-produced) - The Adventures of Hyperman (on CBS - which he co-created and produced) and interactive games for companies like Lucas Arts, IBM and Sundance.
Professor Tremper Longman III, PhD (Yale) writes forewords for the books and helps bring his insight to the project as the team attempts to be as historically accurate as possible, in terms of dress and technologies of the times. The Almighty Bible is created in a manner that maintains the drama and excitement of these amazing books but is also respectable of family norms and values when it comes to the nature of the images. Pastor Charles Kim heads a multi-denominational Advisory committee that is designed to keep The Almighty Bible on track for years to come.

Moses begged Yahweh and said, "Repent of this evil against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you said, 'I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.'" Yahweh repented of the evil which he said he would do to his people. Exodus 32:11-32:14

The illustrations are not elaborate but they are dynamic and hold a strong style, almost appearing like stills from a Disney film. They illustrate the text and give movement and emotion to the story, helping the imagination and providing emotional detail to the text. This combination with solid biblical text creates a good transition from a children's Bible to a full Bible. The Almighty Bible is currently available in Genesis and Exodus, with the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Acts soon on the way. In addition to the hard copies, the Almighty Bible is available for the IPad and on CD.  

This project has innumerable strengths because of its emphasis on accessible storytelling, technology, art and depth; however, there are a few notable weaknesses. First, the Almighty Bible features an abridged form of the text. This is true for all children's Bibles, but this is understood because of the limitations regarding the age group. You could argue that many teens and preteens are capable of reading at an advanced enough level to appreciate the full text, and anytime you abridge the Bible, you risk losing the meaning and negatively influencing the interpretation and meaning of the text. It's risky business, especially the closer you get to the whole text because the abridgment becomes more intentional. Children's Bibles are understood to be a loose paraphrase. Will this project be understood that way, or will it be approached as a whole Bible? 

The second negative is one I noticed immediately: the unrealistic portrayal of the supernatural. Surrounding Jesus's miracles with bright lights and some sort of magic energy adds an unreality to the text and could easily encourage people to not believe in Christ's miracles. The power of God becomes something akin to the magic of children's movies or worse. When Jesus healed someone it was real, but there wasn't magic energy and stirring music, it was unseen power manifested in a healing and miracles, to portray otherwise makes it seem like magic. In addition, not all of the illustrations are in the best possible taste and depending on your personal convictions may portray moments like Adam and Eve in the garden in too graphic a presentation. This is part of the battle between literary and graphic presentation for all artists and publishers must decide what is better left to the imagination. My hope, however, is that projects like these will help engage the imagination in a positive way and encourages readers to better understand the engaging reality of the narrative of scripture.

In spite of these weaknesses, I am pleased with the ambition of the project and the holistic approach of the material. I may have wished the publisher would have gone about it a little differently in some areas, but this still makes a great bridge between the Children's Bible and the whole text if your adolescent needs such a bridge. The graphics' ability to draw the reader in should be useful and accessible. I hope The Almighty Bibleopens the door for many comprehensive illustrated Bibles and opens the Bible afresh for a young generation. You can flip through Genesis and Exodus below.

My thanks to Apple of the Eye publishers for providing complimentary review copies of Genesis and Exodus. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.

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