Still, reading the Bible -- or any other sacred text -- "as" literature is no easy task. The sacred mode of reading, in which every word is regarded as the word of God, and must be filtered through thousands of years of theological thought and debate, is far different from the 'literary' mode, in which meaning is debated anew, everyone's 'response' is (potentially) meaningful, and one can talk about things such as style, pacing, and characterization. It's not disrespectful to religion -- but religious right and wrong have to be set aside in order to discovery literary meaning and value.
This is easiest with those sacred texts that are narrative in form, as opposed to those which are more collections of hymns, prayers, or sacred sayings. The Bible has an ample supply of both; at the core of the Old Testament is the history of the Jewish kings of old, and the many prophets sent to get Israel back on the right track. Alongside these, there are others -- the Psalms of David are hymns, and the Song of Songs is an erotic love poem, one whose meaning has had to be re-directed over time to a 'higher' plane of understanding.
The history of illustrated Bibles is an interesting one: first, of course, the old prohibition on images, which is in the Second Commandment, had to be set aside; if the semi-literate could understand better from pictures, it was reasoned, why not use them to share and spread the religious message? It doesn't always work out so well -- R. Crumb's illustrated Book of Genesis was widely hated by evalgelical Christians in the U.S., even though its pictures and text are very strictly based on the King James text of the Bible.
In Russ Kick's version we have several different styles and approaches. In J.T. Waldman's adaptation of The Book of Esther, the original Hebrew text is there, and the style of drawing is woven in and out of the wide and narrow lines of its script; in Benjamin Frisch's Book of Daniel -- he chooses, aptly enough, the parable from Daniel about idol-worship and the Fiery Furnace -- the figures look like stained glass windows come to life. Finally, in Rick Geary's Book of Revelation, we have a fairly spare, figurative style that seems to me to hark back to the old Classics Illustrated.
Is one of these more suited to its subject than the others? Should the approach to illustrating such stories be reverential? Humorous? Both? And what does seeing them add to these stories?
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