"Bible Illuminated" Brings New Testament to Life

How do you create a bible that entices people who don't read the Bible? Swedish advertising guru Dag Söderberg decided recent versions lacked visual punch, so he made a new one with big, glossy photos, hoping design fans will display it proudly on their coffee tables. It worked in Sweden, where his "Bible Illuminated" sold 30,000 copies last year. Sweden's Archbishop endorsed it and gave a copy to the outgoing prime minister as a parting gift.

When "Bible Illuminated: The New Testament" hits U.S. shelves this month, it might be a harder sell. The book opens with an Andy Warhol poster ("Repent—and Sin No More!") and often juxtaposes modern imagery with ancient scripture. In Matthew, a passage about revenge is paired with a photo of shattered glass from a 1970 shooting of two black students in Mississippi. Mark ("God says, 'I will send my messenger ahead of you to open the way'") runs with photos of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela—OK so far—and Angelina Jolie. "It's a kind of un-Bible approach to presenting the text," says Philip Towner of the American Bible Society, which provided the book's Good News Translation. "The idea is to get the reader to move from the image to the text." Söderberg says he was inspired by the thought that the Bible is frequently referenced but too rarely read. "This is a way to make the text more available," he says. And maybe a bit less holy.