Monday, February 22, 2010

How to create a Bible comic Part IIA: The Challenge

The challenge of translating the Bible in any form is this: how do you take a message delivered thousands of years ago and give it voice to speak to the world today?When the prophets and writers of the Bible delivered God's word, they did it to people in a specific time and place. The hearers of the word knew the geography, the references and situations being described. The word was given to a specific people in a specific time and place. And yet, we hold by faith that God's word is eternal. We have witnessed it's power in the present, and know it to be applicable to our lives today.

One of the primary responsibilities of a translator is to make decisions: Do you focus on the ancient world or on our modern lives? How closely do you follow the form of the original languages, and when do you need to use modern phrases and ideas to convey the message? Bible translations take into account who will be reading or hearing the passage(s). What is their age? Where do they live? Would they understand the references?

It is helpful to be clear in translating, and in making a comic bible, who you are speaking to, and which approach will help communicate the message. Here is a model which shows the choices and approaches. (please note, translators may vary their approach in an extended work, but I find that they lean towards a direction)

If you survey comic translations of the bible which are currently available, you find that they use a variety of approaches to the challenge of translation. Here are some examples:

Translation Approach: World of the Bible
This way focuses on the written word and the world in which it was originally proclaimed. It's strength is to provide background which may be missing in our world today.

Example: The Book of Genesis, Illustrated by R. Crumb, Norton & Company, 2009
Crumb does a verse by verse illustration of the entire book of Genesis, working primarily from a translation by Robert Alter. His work shows a great deal of research on the ancient world, and his approach is primarily a narrative translation.
Translation Approach: Ancient World Speaking to Present
This way of translation retains a focus on the biblical world, but uses words , phrases and images more familiar to a modern reader. These books seek to cover large portions of scripture in a volume. The translations lean towards paraphrase. Modern phrases and dialogue are added to engage young readers, and they are especially helpful for becoming acquainted with the biblical stories.

The Lion Graphic Bible, by Jeff Anderson and Mike Maddox, A Lion book, 1998
The Manga Bible, Tyndale House Publishers, 2007
The Manga Bible From Genesis to Revelation, by Siku, Doubleday, 2007

Translation Approach: Modern World Listening to the Ancient
This approach seeks to follow the text more closely, but with an intentional look at how it
can be applied in our life and times.
Example: The Unlikely Chosen: A Graphic Translation of Jonah, Esther and Amos, by Shirley Smith Graham and Earnest Graham, Seabury books, 2008

Translation Approach: Modern World
This approach focuses on the modern reader. These stories blend the ancient world and modern world. They are especially useful in looking at the big picture of the bible, and highlighting important themes in the stories.
Examples: Marked, Steve Ross, Seabury Press, 2005
Blinded, Steve Ross, Seabury Press, 2008
Manga Bible, 5 volumes, Young Shin Lee and Jung Sun Hwang, Zondervan 2007
Even with these examples, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what Comic translations can do to share the message of God's word.
Project Idea: Choose a passage from the Bible, and write four different scripts using these four approaches. How does it change the way you tell the story? What kind of preparation is needed to write it? Show the translations to a variety of people. How do they respond? Do you find that one approach works better than another?

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