Unadorned, God’s Word is an artistic masterpiece that beautifully captures the truth within the world in which we live. No other object is comparable. For Christians, the Bible is an item to be treasured, not merely as piece of art to be transformed into an idol, but as the Word of God that directs us to Him. Recognizing its immense value and the need for Christians to be more engaged with the Bible, Crossway has begun a new wave of Bible publishing. They issue the Bible in a variety of formats the emphasize study, reading, and interaction with the text. One of those additions is the ESV Illuminated Bible.
Perhaps ‘illuminated’ is a confusing term, but essentially the Bible is illustrated. However, the illustrations are not as one would expect, with depictions of stories and figures like one would see in a children’s Bible. Instead, the illustrations are more designs that incorporate themes, ideas, and objects found into the design of whatever is being portrayed. The Bible then, is reminiscent of the early Bibles which were published enhanced with decorative texts and lettering for the pleasure of reading. Those behind the ESV Illuminated Bible created this particular Bible to continue that tradition, praying that “the added ornamentation and illustrations will draw the reader’s eyes to the beauty of the Word of God itself, stirring up affection for the Creator and inviting deep reflection on the narrative and truths of Scripture.”
Because of what a Bible entails, there is much that can be said in a review, but for the purposes of this particular review there are three primary aspects to note. The first are the illustrations themselves. Each is courtesy of the artistic hand of Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured prominently with major corporations. Here, her work includes 64 full=-page book title illustrations. As I type this review, the one currently open is that of Ephesians, which features a primary design with the sword placed as the central focal point (pulling from the armor of God in chapter 6). The remaining 400 are made up of some design elements, but most are hand-lettered verses etched into the margins of the page (5o of those are also full-page illustrations). Their gold color offsets them from the background of the page and apart from the black text of Scripture drawing readers eyes to the elements of each. Something divine certainly does not need to be embellished by the hands of a human. Because God is perfect, His Word is perfect. Yet, Tanamachi’s illustrations certainly do not detract from the Scripture. Each is beautiful in its own way and worthy of attention. One notable aspect was the designer’s ability to differentiate the lettering, making each illustration unique.
A second aspect is to consider the reading experience. If the purpose is to read chapters at a time, then the illustrations can certainly distract from the reader’s flow. However, my personal experience with the reading followed much of what the editors had hoped to accomplish: to recognize God’s Word as something of beauty that stirs up affection towards the Creator. In terms of formatting, creators chose a 9-point Lexicon font formatted into a single column. In terms of the technical aspects, the choices made in the compilation of this edition makes for an elegant reading experience.
For most then, the major evaluation of this text is whether it or not it would be a valuable asset in one’s library. Part of that is dependent upon the purpose. This particular edition is an art journaling Bible, with wide margins so that others can supplement the artist’s own renderings with their own. The idea is that as particular texts are pertinent, one can reflect upon it in their own renderings. The paper quality is exceptional, but a little thin to get too extravagant. If this one’s intention is to utilize the Bible for any other purpose, then it’s not the Bible to be added to the collection. Personally, I appreciate the quality of the product and am easily captivated by the beauty of the artistic renderings, yet this is not a Bible that I would intentionally buy.
The ESV Illuminated Bible is obviously a creation undertake with care and I am convinced that the entire project glorifies God by causing readers to draw nearer to Him by creating an environment to reflect more profoundly on His Word. Admittedly, I came into this review questioning what is the point of this Bible? I no longer have that question but instead, recognize its value. However, I recognize the limitations of something man-made and that’s what is found here: a beautiful project that is of great value for the right people, but the most important thing is to be drawn back towards. God.
To purchase a copy of The ESV Illuminated Bible, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.