PUBLICATION DATE: MARCH 01, 2012
very and Saltares have created a masterpiece that in my opinion is both exquisite and timely. It’s difficult to give a critique of the book, however, as I don’t honestly have anything to compare it against.
It undoubtedly is unique.
The book itself reads like any other graphic novel, having panels of illustration and characters dialogue are in speech bubbles while other text or information is kept in squared insets. What makes it different is the content.
The main character, an extremely likeable fellow in modern dress and wearing glasses, speaks directly to the reader. While unnamed, his demeanor is incredibly warm, and he certainly makes the technical information easy to understand.
The closest I can get to capturing what Avery and Saltares have created, is to say that it’s a documentary film on the history and creation of the Bible, in book format. The illustrations are lush, and the eye is pulled along in the narration without a break or bobble.
The book is broken into nine sections, including a fantastic prologue and letter from the author. He cites several great quotes about the Bible from learned men of science and politics, as well as touches on the contributions the Bible has inspired in classical art and music and modern films.
This is bookended at the back by an index of verses, further recommended reading, and a time line of events.
In between, are four parts, each tackling a different realm of how we got the Bible. The first focuses on the production of the Bible. The narrator is placed in a class room like setting, complete with chalk board, to talk about how long it took the Bible to be written down. He highlights the fact that the Bible is not a single book, but several books written by kings, shepherds, priests, farmers and fishermen across a vast period of time.
This long monolog of information would be tedious if not for the dynamic illustrations, and the conversational way that the information is worked into the frames as dialogue.
After the general timeline is locked down, the narrator takes on each grouping of books; the Bible’s historical books, prophetic books, and the books of poetry. The narrator is transported from the class room setting to a panel depicting the physical beginning of the Bible. He becomes a guide in the ancient times as well as the teacher in the modern settings of How We Got the Bible. He explains how oral tradition and story tellers preserved the information in spoken form, then the panels move to show when the Phoenicians created their alphabet, when Moses received the Ten Commandments, and when scribes began to use papyrus and velum to create scrolls. All of these scenes are lushly illustrated.
Throughout all of the stunning eye candy, the narrator carefully balances the different schools of thought on who wrote what book, and when approximately it was written.
Each subsequent section in the book follows the same order; a class room or museum setting to start the explanation, followed by time travel back to the period under discussion. This back and forth allow the writers to keep the tediousness of some of the topics at bay as well as show the cost in ink and blood that was paid to put the word of God into the common man’s hands.
The only drawback to the book is the absence of any mention of how women helped to preserve and translate the Bible. It would have been gratifying to have the Amplified Bible, and Mrs. Francis Siewert the woman who did the primary work on that translation, mentioned as they talked about the different translations and where they came from.
Nevertheless, Ben Avery and Javiel Saltaves have crafted a teaching tool that makes the Bible exciting, clarifies how it came into being, and gives solid extra biblical proofs of Scripture in a form designed to engage the next generation.