The Illustrated Bible: A Dramatic Reading Of God’s Story, by Jeff Anderson and Mike Maddox
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Bibles. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This is a book that turns out more or less what one would expect if one took the title of the book and the biographies of its illustrator and author seriously. The book promises to be illustrated (it is) and to be a dramatic reading of God’s story (it is). It does not promise to be complete, nuanced and layered, or containing the full and complete story, and it does not provide these things in its brief material of a bit more than 250 illustrated pages. The illustrator of this book, Jeff Anderson, comes from a background of comics and graphic novels, and it shows here, as this is a book written like a graphic novel. Likewise, Mike Maddox has a background of writing Dr. Who audio dramas as well as books geared towards children and young adults, and one gets a sense of that history here, particularly in the timey-wimey nature of this book’s somewhat muddled chronology. This is a book squarely aimed at 8-12 year old boys who lack the literacy to tackle a more textually heavy story like the old Bible Story volumes illustrated by Basil Wolverton but who want to get a sense of the drama and action of the Bible, and it serves as a useful point of entry to the Bible for such an audience, provided that parents and Bible teachers are willing to clarify its chronology, correct its errors, and fill in the many details that this book leaves out on account of its small size and focus on drama and action.
The contents of this book are a series of stories that range from the creation ex nihlio in Genesis to the unveiling of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. The pace is extremely brisk, and one way that the authors manage to compress much of the material is by presenting the stories within the larger narrative as being told by the biblical personage at the end of their lives, as is done with David and Moses to give two examples. Almost 160 pages of this book are spent in stories from the Old Testament: creation, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Ruth, Job, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, Elijah, the fall of Israel and Judah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, and Ezra and Nehemiah. The remaining portion deals with the New Testament, with about 75 pages devoted to a story of Jesus through the Gospels, which is perhaps the most chronologically muddled aspect of a book whose timelines could have come straight out of a series of Dr. Who, jumping back and forth between different centuries of history, where the order of story is based on the appearance of material within the English language Bible and not based on an underlying sense of chronology . The book ends somewhat abruptly with a retelling of Acts and Revelation, providing throughout a dramatic telling of a story that usually gets the gist of the story right even if the order is often somewhat chaotically presented, and even if the subtext of a given story is often expressed in the text itself through gossipy characters or editorializing.
How one feels about this book depends on what sort of genre one considers this book. If you are comparing this book to Bibles , it will come up short in many aspects, not least of which is the fact that the authors appear not to have any sort of strong textual basis nor do they manage to convey a lot of the poetry and prophecy among the Bible, focusing on its narrative, its story, and its drama. Yet if this book is viewed as a graphic novel that happens to be based on a true story, it manages to come off much better. Some reading this book will likely have a few questions to ask about the Bible and its narrative, and someone who is reasonably well-versed in scripture would be able to use this book as a point of entry in providing Bible discussion to someone who has an enthusiasm for the Bible that they may not have had before. Viewed in that light, this book comes off as something akin to a comic book version of the Bible that makes its appeal obvious to boys who cannot be bothered to read hundreds or thousands of pages of material, but who can be trusted to be more interested in the story once they see its vividness and excitement. As a graphic novel, this book works, but those who give this book to their sons or their students should expect to have a lot of explaining to do about the chronology and the details of the story included.
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