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Bible Illuminated: A fresh look at the Bible?

Last week, I gave you a sneak peak of a new “version” of the Bible called “Bible Illuminated: The Book“. It’s really just a new presentation of an existing New Testament Bible translation called the “Good News Translation“, which was first published in the 60’s. Now that I have the book in my hands, versus the electronic preview copy, I can provide a more detailed review.

What is Bible Illuminated?

As I mentioned, it is a new way of presenting an existing translation of the Bible. It’s a full-color, magazine-style book with some beautiful, and some disturbing, photos. The author selected some very intriguing images to accompany the text or to add commentary. To me, some fit well, while others seemed to be a stretch.

For example, the author picked a photo of 3 street thugs to represent the 3 wise men from the Gospel of Matthew. Something tells me that the Magi didn’t show up in gold chains, busting a pose like they’re on a rap album cover. And the intro photo to the Gospel of Luke probably didn’t need to show a mother holding a baby, with the baby’s “winkie”in full view, but then again, the intent is to show realistic, meaningful photos to create a sensory experience when reading the Bible. It’s up to the reader to determine whether they help or hinder the reading experience.

Is the Good News Translation the right one?

Ok, I admitted in my sneak peak review that I’m not going to comment on the translation chosen for this Bible, but after reading through Matthew, I have to say that the text seems to dilute the Scripture to the point that I just don’t get the impact I normally would from translations such as the NIV or NAB. While the lack of verse notations or footnotes make for much quicker reading, the main reason for reading the Bible is the history and lessons it teaches. If those lessons are changed too much to make it easier to read, then they’re not the same lessons.

An alternative to the Good News Translation that is more widely accepted, at least among Evangelical Christians (of which I am not), is The Message. After comparing both versions of Matthew (using the Bible Gateway to read The Message), I think The Message is much closer to the original Bible text and intention, but still in more contemporary syntax. Granted, I’m still a Catholic and our “approved” Bible is the New American Bible, but like I said before, if it makes it easier for me and others to read and study the text, and it’s “close enough”, then I think it’s worth the risk.

Physical Review of Bible Illuminated

Click to see larger version

As I stated, the book is in “magazine format”. While it’s the same dimensions as a regular magazine, the front cover and inside pages are very similar in thickness and texture as a National Geographic. That means that since it feels more like a weekly periodical, it’s probably not made to withstand the normal wear and tear of a standard Bible. I know many Christians reference their Bibles so much that even leather-bound books can look decades old after just a year of use. Therefore, this version is not meant to be used as a daily reader, Instead, it’s better for those new to the Bible who want to get their feet wet by reading the New Testament cover-to-cover in contemporary language. For more serious study, I recommend getting a properly-bound version of the NAB, NIV, Message or other high-regarded translation.

As far as the colors, font, etc., the book is laid out very well. Images take up one page or spread across two, while the text runs across 4 columns per page in relatively easy-to-read font. Interspersed in the text are highlighted sections that indicate there is an accompanying image to that text.

And while there are no verse notations or footnotes, each book or letter of the New Testament still has the appropriate chapter/section headings so that it’s not just a series of paragraphs jammed together. Again, since there are no verse notations, this isn’t a good reference Bible.

One thing I had to ask the publisher (via my book agent) is why the cover has a little table of contents that, when I go to those pages, doesn’t quite match up in content with the book. For example, there is a pointer to “A Good Investment” on page 93. When I go to page 93, there’s no section of the same name. Instead it’s just normal Bible verses. If I really stretched, I could infer that it refers to either “Riches in Heaven” or “The Parable of the Rich Fool”, but I was expecting a heading titled “A Good Investment”.

The response from the author was:

“The cover is meant to be like the headlines on a magazine, something that will drive you in and get you to investigate.  There is not always a direct correlation. It is meant to get you to think about how it relates.”

Yeah, that’s stretching it. Especially when sometimes it’s just pointing you to a picture. I was expecting a commentary on how the Bible relates to common investments or something.

Overall Impression of Bible Illuminated

While the magazine format of this Bible is new and perhaps unique, I would have liked either a smaller (width, height) version to make it more portable. In addition, as I’ve stated, it’s not a good daily reference due to the delicate nature of its cover and pages, and the lack of verse notations. Lastly, I think it would be much more relevant if the author selected a better version than the Good News translation. But with that said, any text that will get Christians and non-Christians studying the faith more is a good thing (assuming the Scripture is taken in the correct context, which is never seems to be). More educated arguments within Christianity and between religions/atheists can help our world community better understand other points of view.


The cover price of this book is $35. However, I would never pay that much for a standard Bible, much less one that has a more niche purpose. But currently Amazon lists the Bible Illuminated at $23.10 (subject to change). If you’re comfortable and familiar with the Good News translation, and want a new perspective on the Bible, then consider purchasing this version. If you want an easier to read Bible version, in everyday language, consider The Message: New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs for $9.99 (actually, I’m going to check this one out myself), or just read it “The Message” version through the Bible Gateway for free until you know you want to buy it.

I commend the author for combining such vivid photographs with the text in a unique layout and format. Perhaps they will decide to reissue this book in a smaller, more compact version with stronger binding, and maybe in multiple translations. Having an notation-less magazine version definitely makes reading easier and more enjoyable as there’s fewer distractions, but I’d like the have the whole package at my fingertips rather than multiple versions.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • That’s so interesting. Our church uses the King James version & I love its beautiful, courtly language. I would be sorry to lose it, but this version’s language is certainly much easier to follow. I don’t like the photos, though (at least the ones that I see here). I don’t think showing a photo of a person on fire is really appropriate to the text.

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