The Bible: An argument from design

I’m sitting here with chills running over my skin. Is it possibly the onset of malaria? I don’t think so. I’ve been browsing the designs of Jim LePage for his Word project. He has created graphic designs for each of the books of the Bible as a way of energizing his own exploration of the Bible.

I’ll share just two of the designs with you. To see them in their context with Jim’s reflections click on the images.

On this blog we’ve talked about limerick Bibles and Manga Bibles and LOLCats Bibles. But here I’m seeing something a bit more profound. And I use that word “seeing” in a conscious manner. Ours is a visual age. Images like these speak “a thousand words” and they do so in a thousandth of a second. I wonder how much power an artist like this wields in “preaching the Word” when compared to the author of a book, or preacher of a sermon on Sunday.  In our instant era, an image like this instantly marks us and then we move on. I browsed the images on his site, representing hundreds of hours of work and contemplation, in probably less than 2 minutes. Am I the only one here with a short attention span, or am I simply one of the many in this brave new world who are left speechless by such art?

See Jim’s introduction to the series here:

And thanks to Facebook buddy, Jeremy Nordmoe for sharing this.

10 thoughts on “The Bible: An argument from design

  1. J. K. Gayle says:

    I thought this one would’ve caught the Lingamish eye:

    the creativity of a master artist, Elisha, like some kind of bizarro Dr. Dolittle…. Then he probably looked at the camera and said something like “I can’t bear to be teased”

    “Visual rhetoric” is all the rage now among professors of Composition Studies teaching first-year college students the rhetorics of writing. Even the wikipediaists are writing about it (so it’s nice to “see” some biblical attention from other than R. Crumb, who must Keep Truckin’ with his Illustrated Genesis):

    “Visual rhetoric is the fairly recent development of a theoretical framework describing how visual images communicate, as opposed to aural or verbal messages. The study of visual rhetoric is different from that of visual or graphic design, in that it emphasizes images as sensory expressions of cultural meaning, as opposed to purely aesthetic consideration (Kress and van Leeuwen 18).

    Visual rhetoric also examines the relationship between images and writing. Some examples of artifacts analyzed by visual rhetoricians are charts, paintings, sculpture, diagrams, web pages, advertisements, movies, architecture, newspapers, photographs, etc.”

  2. David Ker says:

    It’s all dancing about architecture. 😉

    One of the weaknesses of BBB is actually the “singing about singing” syndrome: talking about English Bible translation in English.

    The images are actually quite text heavy. And I suspect that it is an insider’s iconology within the Western art tradition. I wonder how many of them translate?

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning Keep On Truckin’ Crumb has been mentioned a number of times on this blog.

  3. Theophrastus says:

    Well, I am a great fan of illustrated Bibles, and I especially like large-margin Bibles because they give me lots of room to add my own doodles.

    Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something vaguely anti-Semitic about Jim LePage’s designs, reinforcing as they do the hackneyed idea of a vengeful, petty deity in the “Old Testament” and reading Christological interpretations into the text whenever possible (e.g., see his image for Isaiah.)


    I do think there are a number of absolutely stunning illustrated Bibles. Here are just five that I like:

    * Barry Moser “Pennyroyal Caxton” Bible (KJV)

    * The Turner/Oxford Vatican Library Bible (NRSV) Including six-color (including gold!) illustrations, largely taken from the Urbino bible

    * St. John’s (handwritten) Bible (NRSV)

    * Luther bible of 1534 (Luther) (see also this collection

    * Gustave Doré Bible (various translations) (see also <a href="; this collection).

    Here is a book which is quite reasonable and contains a number of wonderful illustrations from Bibles.

  4. David Ker says:

    That’s a point I was hoping would come out. These are definitely looking at the OT through the lens of the NT. I’ve been called a Marcionite enough that I’m probably not able to comment on this without bias. But here goes.

    Take a look at the art for the book of Psalms. He’s pushing the issue to the forefront. The interpreters of God’s actions in the OT were vengeful, hateful and narrow-minded. Pointing that out is not anti-Semitic as much as anti-ANE. That was the culture of the era. And his showing that “our” Bible contains such sentiments is vital counterpoint to a Christian understanding Jesus’ life and words. Which brings us to your second point. It is specifically Christian but I would add specifically devotional. He’s using his art to articulate his faith and interpretation of his holy book.

    You’ve listed some old art. Got any new stuff that isn’t Crumb or cartoons?

  5. Theophrastus says:

    Well, I disagree vehemently with your interpretation — it is a fundamental misreading, but we can have that discussion another time. For now, let me just point out that Jesus was named after Joshua.

    Old art? Barry Moser is still alive; and the St. John’s Bible is as new as can be, as it is not yet finished!

  6. Theophrastus says:

    I suppose I should also mention the Salvador Dali edition of the Jerusalem Bible — I do have a copy of this, but I do not think it is a particularly strong illustrated Bible.

    There are a few dozen books in my collection that illustrate a small part of the Bible (e.illustrated Psalms, for example, or an illustrated Song of Songs, or even an illustrated selection of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    However, the actual traditional text of the Bible, as written by a scribe, has a haunting beauty to it, so I recommend reading the facsimile of the Leningrad Codex — the more the reader knows about the Masoretes, the more precious this volume will be. It is by far the most beautiful Bible I own.

  7. J. K. Gayle says:

    Thanks for mentioning Keep On Truckin’

    David, I was also remembering the illustrations you showed at

    Theophrastus, You say to David, “Well, I disagree vehemently… we can have that discussion another time. For now, let me just point out that Jesus was named after Joshua.” I may blogpost on this elsewhere so as not to hijack a BBB post. Hijacking is not a good thing! I will say this, that the gospel writer John, or someone later faking to be him, wrote in Greek that this later Joshua used his finger to draw in the ground (κατεγραφεν “kate-graph-en”). There are many interesting parallels between Rahab and the unnamed adulteress, between the two Joshuas, as followers of Moses (and now I’m thinking also of David Rosenberg’s An Educated Man: A Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus in which he says the later Joshua was really also a pharisee, which makes what he draws in the sand pretty interesting graphics).

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