February 11, 2008
When the Word Has Few
Manga Bible aims to reach a new generation of (non-) readers.
The Bible is the most read, translated, and packaged book in history. There are Bibles for soldiers, teens, dispensationalists, the reformed, golfers, and on and on. The latest effort to contextualize and target the Scriptures is The Manga Bible, just out from Doubleday.
Manga, a Japanese-inspired form of the graphic novel, is a big seller right now, so many will see its marriage with Scripture as a match made in heaven. However, this is not your father's (or mother's) Bible, according to a story in The New York Times.
The medium shapes the message. Manga often focuses on action and epic. Much of the Bible, as a result, ends up on the cutting room floor, and what remains is darker.
"It is the end of the Word as we know it, and the end of a certain cultural idea of the Scriptures as a book, as the Book," Timothy Beal, professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University, said of the reworking of the Bible in new forms, including manga. "It opens up new ways of understanding Scripture and ends up breaking the idols a bit."
While known for characters with big eyes and catwalk poses, manga is also defined by a laconic, cinematic style, with characters often doing more than talking.
In a blurb for the Manga Bible, which is published by Doubleday, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is quoted as saying, "It will convey the shock and freshness of the Bible in a unique way."
No doubt. In the Manga Bible, whose heroes look and sound like skateboarders in Bedouin gear, Noah gets tripped up counting the animals in the Ark: "That's 11,344 animals? Arggh! I've lost count again. I'm going to have to start from scratch!"