In the Beginning Was the Image... (And the Word came later. Trust Me.)

"God gave us His Word, i.e., the Word of God; NOT a picture book!  The Picture Bible is very dangerous to children today, because it effectively inoculates them from the true Word of God, and leaves out critical teachings in the Scriptures."
~ "The DANGERS of The Picture Bible" by David J. Stewart
Those are the opening words of a rather strange essay about "The Picture Bible" I stumbled upon while researching Bible comics recently. David J. Stewart is a vehement believer in salvation through guilt, i.e. fear of the punishment from a vengeful deity. And he believes the "ecumenical" Christians, i.e. just about all the Christians not sitting on his particular branch of the tree, are as certainly wrong as he is certainly right. He has made this quite clear in his essay. I don't believe I am going out on a limb of my own intellectual tree to say that the kind of narrow-mindedness Stewart displays essentially discriminates against those arms of Christianity that disagree with him when he states that "The Picture Bible" is invalid because it excludes certain phrases he finds central to his religion. (Although he does make it clear that this is probably acceptable for those other arms of Christianity). AND discriminates against those who process information and learn visually instead of verbally. Few people in the America I know and grew-up in would disgree with that.

I do not 'believe' in the Judeo-Christian God. God with a capital G. I do not believe god should be capitalized because god is not a person or a consciousness or an intelligence or even an ideology. We capitalize Josh Kopin because Josh is real person, we capitalize Santa Claus because Santa is a fictional person, but god is neither of those things. We don't capitalize the word gravity either, and that's a force that keeps us alive and exists everywhere and anywhere too.

Now with all of that religious 'here's what I believe' claptrap out of the way, let's talk about sequential art: what makes this essay of Stewart's important for our purposes is that in equal measure to his religious discrimination he is discriminating between modes of communication and thou must embrace variety in mediums of communication or thou shalt be poor in variety of messages indeed. That is also what I believe.

David C. Cook Publishers, the producer of "The Picture Bible" proudly describe their 800-page product thus: "For years, The Picture Bible has delighted young and old. ... Though the full text for 233 stories is provided, children can follow the colorful pictures and storyline without having to read every word." That's often the mark of good comics: clear visual communication.

To believe that visual narrative, as Stewart states, "may be more entertaining, but it cannot cut to the heart, cause GUILT, and bring the conviction of the Holy Spirit like the genuine Bible can" is to ignore the art and communication produced previous to the written word and over the large majority of human history and insult all visual artists, sequential or otherwise.

Indeed, if "The Picture Bible" truly can communicate the stories of the Bible clearly without text it does the 'Word of God' a proud service in transforming and adapting it to the 'Sequential Image of God'. (Not to mention shun guilt and fear as spiritual teaching tools in the process.) No small feat.


P.S. ~ You can read more about "The Picture Bible" and Cook Publishers at the page devoted to them on Christian Comics


  1. I must have subconsciously stolen my title for this post from the opening of John Carlin's essay ("A Brief History of the Graphic Novel and the School That Helped Make it Art") in the catalog for SVA's exhibit of last year "Ink Plots", because they follow the same logic.

    Ah, consider it an homage.

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