Bibles for Artists (Resources for Engaging Scripture Creatively)
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Since I began the Bible Artist, I've written several posts about the arts, drawing, Gen Z, biblical adaptation, and youth ministry, but I realized recently that I haven't suggested many on-the-ground resources (i.e. Bibles, journals) that creative and artistic Christians can use to engage Scripture imaginatively. So, with it still being relatively early in the New Year, when many of you are probably still adjusting to new routines and perhaps trying to get into a groove with their Bible reading plans, I want to take a moment to point you to some really cool Bibles and other tools that can enable you to approach God through your creative and artistic self.
By the way, I recently became an associate with Amazon Services LLC and an affiliate with Christianbook. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Same goes as a Christianbook affiliate. This doesn't affect what resources I am spotlighting for you. Affiliation just means that when you make purchases using the links below, you'll pay the same price you would have if you found the items yourself, but I will also receive a small financial commission for helping you find it.
Inspire Your Creativity with Illuminated Bibles & Bible Adaptations
ESV The Four Holy Gospels
Whenever I visit a museum and have a chance to view a medieval illuminated manuscript, I always find myself wondering why this beautiful practice is no longer in vogue. It's not a matter of whether the Bible should be adorned or not. Protestants and Evangelicals love adding adornments to Scripture - the adornments that they choose just happen to be primarily text-based rather than visual. There are hundreds of Study Bibles with notes on everything ranging from the original cultural context to how passages apply to teenage girls, but very few modern illuminated Bibles. That's why I was so excited when I heard that Makoto Fujimura had produced this edition of the Gospels filled with gorgeous embellishments and designs. The average Christian is probably more acquainted with Fujimura's work about beauty, the creative process, and culture care, but in this work we get a chance to appreciate his renowned aesthetic firsthand.
Eyewitness: The Visual Bible Experience
Although we are often told that the Bible was written by dozens of diverse writers over the course of centuries, the uniform manner with which most modern Bibles present their contents creates a very different impression. What sticks out to me about Eyewitness is how it utilizes a diverse array of artistic styles in depicting biblical stories and in doing so subtly conveys to readers the immense diversity of experiences and cultural contexts that contributed to the original biblical text itself.
To be clear, this is a biblical adaptation and not merely a Bible peppered with illustrations - the author focuses on a handful of unique personal narratives that take place throughout the overarching storyline of Scripture. Unique individuals have their stories told with unique visual styles, while all simultaneously witnessing together with a unified voice to the one goal of God's redemptive story in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Epic Bible: God's Story from Eden to Eternity
The Action Bible
I love comics and graphic novels, so the next two items are no-brainer suggestions for me. If you think about it, most biblical stories are very much in the same vein as mainstream comic book. Whereas contemporary print novels tend to be character-driven and detail-oriented, biblical stories and mainstream comics tend to be heavy on action and spectacle.
Ironically, the ponderous and analytical style with which biblical narratives are often unpacked in sermons or Bible studies can mask all the excitement and give teens and young adults the unfortunate impression that the Bible is nothing more than a set of abstract propositions hidden in dry and arcane allegories. Works like The Epic Bible and The Action Bible have the potential to correct this false impression, and so I highly recommend them for youth who are reluctant Bible readers.
But don't let that recommendation stop you from trying these out if you're an adult reader! Because we're often trained to mine the Bible for timeless truths, adaptations like these can help us approach biblical stories with a fresh perspective, so that we actually read them as stories.
Engage Imaginatively with Illuminated Bible Journals
The ESV Illuminated Bible
The ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal Set (NT)
The ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal Set (OT)
In the wake of the successful reception of The Four Holy Gospels (above), ESV began producing this lower-end Illuminated Bible and set of illuminated Bible journals. While the built-in artwork is nothing like the caliber of Fujimura's work, it can still be quite beautiful and interesting. The real draw, however, isn't in the pre-made illustrations but rather in the wide margins that provide space for readers to create their own illuminations. Whether you're into word art, patterns, or actual representational depictions of biblical stories, these resources can provide a great home for your creative engagements with Scripture. Right now, I prefer the journals for individual biblical books, since it invites you to take a different approach for each book, but at other times in my life I know that I would have preferred the comprehensiveness of having everything together in a single volume.
Illustrating Bible (NIV)
Illustrating Bible (CSB)
Whereas the Illuminated Bible seeks to invoke the medieval book tradition, the Illustrated Bible offers a different aesthetic context. Created to resemble a contemporary sketchpad, while still containing the full biblical text and wide margins for sketching, this might be a good resource for those who favor a more modern style. The binding also allows it to stay open more easily, which can be a very helpful feature, depending on your style of art.
Meditate on Scripture with Coloring Bibles
Beautiful Word Coloring Bible (NIV)
Art of Life Holy Bible
If the Illuminated Bible or Illustrated Bible sound a little intimidating because of all the blank space, a coloring Bible like Beautiful Word, Inspire, or Art of Life might be more up your alley. These won't engage your full creativity, but they also won't require as much mental investment. Coloring in the pre-made line art of key verses is a great way to keep your hands busy while you reflect more deeply on the personal application of these truths to your heart. Also another great resource for youth who are still inexperienced with reading the Bible, since it encourages them to slow down and think over key verses instead of speeding through like younger readers often do.
Have posts about The Chosen like this one helped you understand The Chosen or explore it with your ministry or family? Would you consider giving a few bucks to support my work as a writer? It's really simple to do using my account on Buy Me a Coffee. Thanks so much!
If you liked this post, I've done several other posts on The Chosen that you might want to check out, including explorations of how the show adapts key biblical characters and guides on how to lead your youth group in discussing each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1 & 2. You may also be interested in some of my other content on adaptation and youth ministry.
Beyond The Chosen
Amazon Prime's The Rings of Power & The Challenges of Biblical Adaptation
In Defense of The Chosen and Other Christian Movies, Books, & Media (Part 1)
In Defense of The Chosen and Other Christian Movies, Books, & Media (Part 2)
The Chosen Season 2 Controversy (Jesus, the Bible, & the Process of Inspiration)
Imagining Mary Magdalene (5 More Bible Adaptations While You Wait for The Chosen Season 2)
Adapting Biblical Characters Series
The Virgin Mary in The Chosen ***Season 2***
Judas in The Chosen ***Season 2***
James & John in The Chosen ***Season 2***
Mary Magdalene in The Chosen ***Season 2 Update***
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen ***Season 2 Update***
Exploring The Chosen with Youth [Guides for Youth Leaders]
Season 2 Reflection P1: What is The Chosen Season 2 about?
Season 2 Reflection P2: What was The Chosen Season 2 about? (Plots & Theme)
Episode 1 Guide: The Beloved Disciple
Episode 2 Guide: Philip, Nathanael, & Matthew
Episode 3 Guide: Life Among the Disciples of Jesus
Episode 4 Guide: Simon the Zealot & the Man at the Bethesda Pool
Episode 5 Guide: Mary's Demons & the Destiny of John the Baptist
Episode 6 Guide: Mercy and Not Sacrifice
Episode 7 Guide: Quintus Returns
Episode 8 Guide: Judas, Matthew, & the Sermon on the Mount
Episode 1 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Lilith, and the Redeemer
Episode 2 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and Shabbat
Episode 3 Guide: Depicting Jesus in Art, Film, and TV
Episode 4 Guide: When Jesus Met Simon (Peter)
Episode 5 Guide: Mary, Mother of Jesus
Episode 6 Guide: Jesus, Shmuel, & the Pharisees
Episode 7 Guide: Did Nicodemus Follow Jesus?
Episode 8 Guide: The Woman at the Well, Eden, & Zohara
Posts on the Nature of Adaptation
Youth Ministry and the Arts
6 Ways to Infuse Creativity and the Arts into Youth Ministry
Bibles for Artists (Resources for Engaging Scripture Creatively)
Project-Based Learning, Bible Art, and Gen Z: 7 Ways PBL Can Transform Youth Ministry
Project-Based Learning, Bible Art, and Gen Z: Cultivating Biblical Literacy with Bible Adaptation Projects