Yep, two new books, one certainly for grown-ups (but with pictures) and one for kids (without pictures.) This is gonna make your head spin — telling about books that are sooo good, Revealed and The Story of God’s Love for You. Available now, on sale.
We love selling books about the Bible, and, of course, real Bibles. There are so many good resources to help us understand that complex book, and the story of God’s redemptive work. We have introductory books for beginners, clear-eyed books struggling with the some of the harder portions, Old Testament overviews, New Testament introductions. There are Bibles with notes, Bibles with good graphics and charts, “reader’s editions” without verses, conservative elegant translations and easier-to-read renditions. We have large print and compact ones, inexpensive and pretty high end. If you have questions about these sorts of things, do give us a call as we delight in helping folks find more and better Scripture study aids.
Today, I will tell you about two very, very different resources, both of which thrill us to no end. They are so different in audience and style but, interestingly, the authors are in agreement about much that matters most: the God-breathed inspiration of the Bible, the narrative nature of its storied structure, how the hero of the drama is God (not the morals of this or that person in the plot, many of whom are flawed and stupid.) Both authors believe in what some call a Christo-centric reading, which simply means that Jesus is the heart of the plot-line of the Bible and is the incarnation of the God whose redemptive work is the driving force of the sweep of the story, a story of promise and deliverance. As one of the two authors has famously said “every chapter whispers His name.”
If we can’t say that during Advent we will miss much of the promissory nature of the season and Christmas will devolve into the sentiments of a baby bathed in lovely Christmas tree light, but not the grit of a covenant God rescuing the cosmos.
So the two books I’m about to describe – wildly different as they are – are in agreement about the importance and nature of the Holy Scriptures and how to best tell and teach it in order to find ourselves within that story as redeemed actors in the unfolding drama. They would both agree with the Hindu leader that Leslie Newbigin tells about in his fabulous, short, Bible overview, Walk Through the Bible, who said that the Bible must be “the true story of the whole world.”
The first of the two books is easy to describe and although I will be brief, I hope you understand our great enthusiasm for it. If you are a reader of BookNotes – occasional or faithful – and you care at all about the Bible being proclaimed well in our time, I think you should get this and pass it on to a kid you know. The second, well, that’s going to take some explaining…
The Story of God’s Love For You Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zonderkidz) $14.99, sale price = $11.99 I have raved about Ms. Lloyd-Jones’ popular The Jesus Storybook Bible before, celebrating the colorful, artful illustrations, the moving cadence, the whimsy and humor and yet deadly-serious conviction that Christ is the heart of the unfolding drama of Scripture, the coherent plot that makes up the 66 Bible books. Indeed, the subtitle on the cover says, “Every Chapter Whispers His Name” and the inter-textual reading offered for preschoolers is at times nothing short of remarkable. We do hope you know it.
Yep, the Jesus Storybook Bible is one of our favorite children’s Bibles, not because it covers as much as some do, or is “the” best children’s Bible, but because of the way it tells the story, the themes it whispers, the lovely language it uses to convey a Christ-exalting, creation-healing, all-of-life-redeemed vision of where the plot of the Bible is going. Its compact shape and bright colors make it ideal for little ones. The most popular edition is a smallish hardback, although there is a fantastic larger sized gift edition that we recommend.
Because so many people have grown to appreciate the lively storytelling and delightful blend of sweet and serious language used to tell this singular story of the unfolding drama of God’s redemptive plan, and value the class and charm and robust theological vision of the text, they’ve sometimes given this Bible designed for young children to older kids. I know youth pastors who have used it in high school ministry and – okay, I’ll admit it, happily – I’ve read it out loud on occasion in my own adult Sunday school classes.
And so, the publishers acted on the wishes of so many and created a Jesus Storybook Bible for older kids and middle schoolers. The text is unchanged but the title has changed to The Story of God’s Love For You and the children’s art has been removed. It is now a very handsome hardback, with blue ink, and cool info-graphic type symbols in front of each book of the Bible.
It looks great for all ages, just a touch of cool graphic appeal, and a small, handy size with heavy-stock paper. It is a fabulous looking little book. There is a regular hardback (the price shown above is $14.99 before the discount) and there is also a very nice leather-like gift edition that comes in a paper slipcase ($19.99 before discount.)
We’ve already sold it to pastors using it with elementary aged children who have outgrown the picture-book style and for a middle school Sunday school class; a teacher of a small confirmation class thought it would work with young teens who would appreciate its tender, personal cadence and its big picture vision. Kudos to Ms. Lloyd-Jones and Zondervan for working to put this project together. Order a few today!
Revealed: A Bible Storybook for Grown Ups edited and compiled by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $36.99 sale price = $33.29 This, gentle readers, is a treasure of a book that came from a brilliant idea — an adult Bible overview using mature, suggestion-rich, high-quality visual art. Much of the art is original, commissioned or created for this volume, which was years in the making. It may be a bit controversial — some of the art is (shall we say) vivid — and it may not be immediately evident why such a creative resource is so useful, but I think this is nearly a historic publication, and you should seriously consider owning it.
There are some notable distinctives of this picture Bible for grown-ups, which I will explain anon. After the holidays I hope to do a more thorough, detailed review of this as I am smitten with it, and have spent a lot of time lost in its artwork, even having seen close up some of the remarkable originals. There are back stories to tell (Ned has been working on this for years!) and there are interpretation of texts to debate, art choices to evaluate, and so much to discuss that I simply cannot do it now. Perhaps other publications will review it seriously — Christianity Today? Books & Culture? The Christian Century? Image Journal? Comment? — as I assume Christian arts organizations like CIVA, IAM, and Fuller’s Brehm Center surely will.
For now, join us in celebrating its limited release; we are the only place to currently stock it!
As you can imagine, it would make a very surprising gift under somebody’s tree. Bible lover? Art fan? Book person? I can assure you they will be intrigued and delighted and won’t have expected it. Revealed is rare and brand, brand new.
Here are three things you should know as we launch this extraordinary volume into the publishing world.
STUNNING BLACK AND WHITE PRINTMAKER’S DESIGN
Firstly, the art is all black and white, using styles that seem to hang together well. The editor – manager of the arts-oriented publisher, Square Halo Books – told me that the early vision and initial work for the book compiled too much, and the diversity of art styles ended up appearing as a distraction. That Mr. Bustard limited this big project to woodcuts and lithographs, etchings, and contemporary modern photography and graphic art allowed for the book to be visually coherent. From classic lithographs by Durer to sketches by Rembrandt to old school woodcuts (including two by the historically significant Eric Gill) to quite powerful (and, occasionally nearly whimsical) modern ones to a few very contemporary photographs and mixed-medium art pieces, this book holds together visually. It is designed well — one of Bustard’s great gifts for which he has won awards is creating sharp page layouts.
A COHERENT, HONEST, OVERVIEW OF THE WHOLE BIBLE
Secondly, besides the coherent look and feel, and perhaps more importantly, the hermeneutic itself is coherent: Revealed believes the Bible is God’s Word, revelatory, speaking still. Bustard has read some of the best books (like The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Michael Goheen & Craig Bartholomew) and wonderful little essays like Calvin Seerveld’s “How To Read the Bible Like a Grown-Up Child” so understands that Scripture is to be entered into as a story, trusted, lived out.
Therefore, these are not random pictures based on random episodes or eccentric texts, compiled with some quirky agenda, but a knowing, faithful unfolding of the canonical plot-line, with an unflinching look. More than anything, this is a Bible story book, enhancing our understanding of the whole of Scripture. Bustard’s own annotations to the texts and his exceptionally astute comments about the art help us “get the point” (even if I might argue he occasionally over-reaches just a bit in his homilies on the Scriptural passages, perhaps oddly worried that the graphic art wasn’t enough to carry the story along.) Still, mostly, his text is good, the art insights very helpful, making this a solid and stimulating introduction to or enhancement of the Bible for those who believe the Bible is somehow deeply, truly, true.
The short reflections he offers, next to the Scriptural text itself (each on one page, facing the full-page art piece on the right hand part of the spread), includes short quotes and citations, too, from the likes of N.T. Wright, Luci Shaw, C.S. Lewis, Bono, Timothy Keller, Denis Haack, and more.
I suppose you realize that this classy work could serve well as an introduction to the real-world, complex plot of the Book for those who may not yet believe. Come to think of it, this would make an ideal gift for skeptics, or those a bit cynical about how evangelicals portray the Bible these days, or those who have drifted from church or faith. Bustard himself, like many of us, frets that some in the watching world, when invited to consider the authority of Scripture, think firstly of images of Westboro Baptists or the kitschy angles mass produce by Precious Moments. He hopes to offer, in Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups “the Bible as it really is – in all its raw, violent, and sexy glory.” It will nearly force us to take a fresh look.
After all, as Bustard writes in an excellent introductory essay, “Christ came to save the lost…not the misplaced. A book that does not address the deep depravities and gut-wrenching sorrows of the human condition is no good to any of us, believer of unbeliever alike.”
YES: FOR GROWN-UPS
Thirdly, by design, this handsome work attempts to tell the story of God’s holy faithfulness amidst human sin and stupidity, care and cruelty, faith and frustration, by highlighting what some Bible curricula leaves out, namely, some of the sex and a lot of the violence. I suspect Ned, who is by nature culturally conservative, must have been inspired by some pressing muse, getting this subversive idea of doing an R-rated adult Bible project; he wanted to offer a gift book that might be arresting, really noticed, showing it slant, helping people engage the reality of the messy truth of God working in mucky history. (The Bible is not so sacred as to somehow avoid the human, the offensive, the tragic, indeed it at times seems to make a point that God shows up among the broken and bad and badly broken.)
The piece shown here above is a linocut of Rahab; Bustard quotes Denis Haack of Critique magazine who writes of it,
“Rahab is usually depicted as the scandalously promiscuous woman who was saved by grace, always with the impression given that since someone much more low class and tasteless than I can be saved, there is hope for the likes of me, who is a sinner, but not really all that bad compared to her…”
But the composition of this print forces the viewer to look up to Rahab, begging the question: are you going to humble yourself and take salvation offered by this holy hooker? Bustard cites Hebrews 11:31, and then notes that she “ended up marrying one of the spies and her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth — placing her in the genealogical line of Jesus Christ.”
Bustard studied solid books that explored the “texts of terror” and the good and bad of sexuality in the Scriptures. He debated the meaning of difficult passages with wise Bible scholars. He considered the ways in which these contested texts were handled in earlier eras (in commentaries, sermons, and, of course, by older artists, who, we’ve come to discover, didn’t share the Victorian queasiness that has shaped many in the modern Western church.) He had no intent of being salacious, nor does he want to trivialize the important questions of how to help form readers in true godliness. Clearly, Revealed is not a silly book or a novelty item (there are some of those out there, scintillating for effect or even mocking in tone about the rough stuff in the Bible.)
You will have to read for yourself the careful analysis of the wholesome eroticism in Slow Dance by Steve Prince, shown here (illuminating 1 Corinthians 6:15 – 7:6) but it is gritty and good.
Graphic as it may be at times (I wanted to turn away from the awful power of the portrayal of one individual death shown as a rendering of the genocide of Joshua 10, and the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel is portrayed very strongly by Erin Cross) it is on the whole aesthetically nuanced and not always blunt, sometimes merely suggestive, a fine example of the balancing act between artful integrity and clarity of illustration. These prints are, after all, curated, mixed and matched, collated and combined with their aesthetic power harnessed for the sake of breaking open The Book. Vivid, disturbing, striking, moving, at times breath-taking, these are mostly stellar works and together they create what must be called a tour de force. I know of nothing even close to it on the market.
I will most likely review this in greater detail here at BookNotes, but you may want to know that it is soft-back 9 x 10 inches, solid, over 260 sturdy pages. Of the 130-plus images about a third were newly commission for this project. Besides great ancient art, the woodcuts and etchings and lithographs of contemporary artists are shown, work by renowned artists such as Tanja Butler, Wayne Forte, the exceptional Edward Knippers, Chris Stoffel Overvoorde, and the spectacular African American craftsman Steve Prince. Some of the finest pieces are from a Lancaster collaborator with Bustard, Matthew L. Clark, and one exceptional piece was done by Margaret Bustard.
I wish there was a way I could show more of this, as the pieces are very compelling, and arranged so well. Even the opening inside cover and the closing inside cover pieces are offered with an intentional touch: Durer on creation, and Durer on new creation. The insight and care put into this is simply phenomenal.
Consider these delightfully written, compelling endorsements:
Revealed sets out to crush any notion that the Bible is a safe, inspirational read. Instead the artwork here, historic and contemporary, takes a warts-and-all approach to even the most troubling passages, trading well-meaning elision for unvarnished truth. If you gaze deeper, Revealed springs another surprise, too: it debunks the equally prevalent misconception that a sacred anthology ages in the making can offer no single, unifying message. To see that message, however, might just require a second look at verses that make the pious avert their eyes.”
J. Mark Bertrand–novelist, speaker, and founder of the Bible Design Blog
“Of all the stories the biblical authors could have written down for posterity, Revealed homes in on this deleterious collection. These provocative, often-shocking, and relentlessly pervasive stories were not only included in Scripture, but are integral to understanding its message. Revealed not only forces us to look again at those stories, but artfully asks us to meditate on them, engaging both our moral and literary imagination.”
Andrew Johnson–author of Biblical Knowing: A Scriptural Epistemology of Error
“Revealed reminds us that verbal metaphor does not always translate smoothly into visual form. Awkward or not however, visual form does grab our attention and generates a more graphic sense of what words may be saying. So an illustrated text may come alive for us in fresh ways. What comes to life in Revealed is that the Bible is a collection of stories about human foibles and
failure rather than triumph. The surprising images in this illustrated Bible remind us once again that we are saved by Grace.”
Joel Sheesley–professor of art at Wheaton College
“If your Bible reading threatens to become a matter of simply “going through the motions,” this is the book for you! Eye-opening woodcuts, lithographs and etchings accompany short Scripture readings, along with evocative blurbs which, for all their brevity, bear much theological and aesthetic wisdom. This one really is for grown-ups.”
Joseph W. Smith III–author of Sex and Violence in the Bible
“Revealed collects a smart range of beautiful printmaking approaches both old and new to illustrate some of the Bible’s more unique and uncomfortable moments–opening up a fascinating new way to read a familiar text.”
Brenton Good–professor of art at Messiah College
“Revealed is a poignant reminder that worldly pessimism isn’t dark enough, nor is worldly optimism bright enough. The works of art herein are worthy of thorough, meditative study. You will emerge with a deeper sense of God’s willingness to engage the malignancy of the fall.”
William Edgar–professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary
“In Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grownups difficult passages from scripture–especially the stories “nice” people find offensive–are paired with the art of printmakers and an explanation of what is conveyed by each image. Our imaginations are enlivened as we are led from the shocking murder in the First Family to the terrifying holiness of God. Revealed reminds us that God does not blink or evade the true story of human violence and injustice, but neither does he turn from our intimate acts of love.”
Margie Haack–author of The Exact Place and God in the Sink
The Story of God’s Love For You
Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups
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