What happens when a Swedish ad executive sets out to make the New Testament relevant to a postmodern generation of media-drenched Westerners? Bible Illuminated: The Book, a lush and edgy presentation of the New Testament, packaged as a glossy color magazine hip enough to read on the subway and uncomfortable enough to keep you up at night.
As media-savvy editor and publisher Dag Söderberg told National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary in a profile late last year, the project came out of his curiosity about why so few people—young, urban people in particular—read the most famous text on earth. As Söderberg sees it, “A coffee-table magazine is read by the many, every day, everywhere. This is a way to make [the Bible] as available as any other magazine.”
But The Book isn’t just accessible to a young, cosmopolitan audience likely to identify as secularists. Once it’s in their hands, it speaks their language. The Book is heavily visual—and at turns uses that imagery earnestly and ironically—interspersing the American Bible Society’s Good News Translation with bold, frequently jarring photographs from around the world and portraits of Western culture’s golden idols. The full-color views into our excesses, our disparities, and the threads that bind us all together aren’t lighthearted fare. But they do tap into something in the original text that speaks compellingly to this moment in time.