Not Sunday School Approved…
Robert Crumb a well-known hippie era cartoonist who designed the “Keep on Truckin’ figure has produced a graphic version, graphically illustrated of the Book of Genesis. Crumb utilized the translation of Robert Alter who reviewed the end result at the New Republic:
“This interpretation of Genesis raises a larger question about the narrative medium, about the difference between words and images–a question that is not dependent on the nature of R. Crumb’s gifts as an artist. Western art is of course rich in paintings that represent specific scenes from the Bible, and many of the stories in Genesis have attracted many painters. The banishment from the Garden, the binding of Isaac, the wooing of Rebekah, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh: these have all been the subject of memorable and even great paintings. But all paintings isolate particular moments in the narrative for pictorial representation. They do not portray the whole tale, but only that part of the tale that has for some reason engaged them. And they do not tell, they show…Crumb’s Genesis is a bold undertaking, and most readers will be grateful for the many delights afforded by its visual inventiveness. But every artistic medium takes advantage of its own resources, and these ancient Hebrew stories use the resonance and the reticence of well-chosen words to proliferate possibilities of meaning, and to create access to the inner zone of human experience in multifarious ways. They cannot be pinned down, which is one of the sources of their power and their beauty.”
Considering that Crumb is also known for his x-rated animation, this version of Genesis probably won’t make it on recommended reading list for even adult Sunday school. While a shock to the prim & the proper, the first book of the Bible contains some “R” rated stories like the daughters of Lot and Judah & Tamar that tend not to show up on VBS or story time. While some will find Crumb’s more graphic pictures shocking or offensive, its odd how conventional morality ends up sanitizing the word of God from all of its own graphic portrayal of human perversity. As to illustrations, whether they are by Crumb or by Sallman (designer of the once considered masculine but now feminine head of Christ that adorns every true Baptist fellowship hall) and no matter what the motive (shock value, cash, titillation, reverence) I find my inner iconoclast emerging – I think they detract from the meaning of the text rather than add, flatten the imagination instead of expand it and bypass an essential ingredient of how God’s word speaks to our soul – the Holy Spirit.