The Bible, Rated R

The Book of Genesis
Illustrated by R. Crumb
R. Crumb
W. W. Norton, $24.95, 224 pp.

Suddenly, everybody is reading the Bible, and not only to themselves. The Bible Experience started the trend a few years ago. TBE is a set of CDs—publisher Zondervan calls it a “dramatic audio Bible”—that features Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, and Cuba Gooding Jr., among hundreds more, performing the Christian Scriptures.

Don’t spend much time in a car? More recently, David Plotz, the editor of the online magazine Slate, blogged his thoughts as he worked his way through every jot and tittle of the Old and New Testaments. Last year, Jana Riess, a journalist and editor of religion books, began tweeting the Good Book—compressing each of the Bible’s 1,189 chapters into a 140-character summary, and posting them on Twitter. (From Exodus: “Israel: ‘Remind us again why we didn’t just die in Egypt?’ G faces PR fiasco; issues 40-year desert sentence to all whiners.”)

The technological bent of these projects suggests that the Bible continues to pervade whatever culture it meets, in whatever format becomes available: Riess’s Twitter posts, except for being more entertaining, are not so different from those tiny but complete novelty Bibles that come with a magnifying glass.

However, the Bible does not pervade our culture—not the way it used to. Hand even many...

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About the Author

Paul O’Donnell is a freelance reporter who often writes about religion and pop culture.