The most translated book in the world, the Bible, has now been translated into emoji.
The book Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millennials was released this week on iBooks for $2.99 and is billed as “a fun way to share the Gospel.” With more than 3,000 pages of smiling yellow faces, twinkling stars and cartoon serpents, all 66 books of the King James Version of the Bible have been translated into the emoticons and today's slang that young adults are familiar with. The word “and” is replaced with "&" and the word light appears as a light bulb, and so on.
Will the new emoji Bible draw young people, who have been identifying as Christians less and less? Anything that helps draw people to Scripture must be a good thing. But there are critics. Some say the words themselves have power that emoticons take away from.
“Ah... Dear Millennials, please insist on using WORDS to translate the Bible, not emoji. Please. It’s important,” tweeted Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The author said:
A major goal of this whole process was to take a book that I think is very non-approachable to lay readers and try to make it more approachable by removing a lot of its density… I don’t think many people do a good job of understanding the Bible in context...What makes emojis so great and part of the symbolism I wanted with this project is that emojis are universal in the strictest sense...Emojis have no gender, no race and no agenda.
He says he hasn't rewritten the Bible, only condensed it and added slang and emoticons. About 10 to 15 percent of the text is changed to emojis, with one or two symbols appearing in each verse.
The creator told the Memo:
[Emoji are] language-agnostic — they allow you to convey an idea to anyone, regardless of what language they speak… A major goal of this whole process was to take a book that I think is very non-approachable to lay readers and try to make it more approachable by removing a lot of its density.
The author hasn't released his name, hiding his identity behind an emoji wearing sunglasses. He says he wants to be anonymous so people can't project an agenda onto his Bible project. He told the Huffington Post that when the Emoji Bible was first announced, he received abusive comments from both Christians and atheists. “People who want me to be a Christian zealot say, ‘It’s crazy right-wing Christians desperate to reach millennials,’ and people who hate it think I am part of a leftist agenda to dumb down society and turn religion into a joke,” the author said. He points out that you don't translate thousands of pages of Scripture if you think it's just a joke.
Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's Greg Jao is cautiously optimistic:
At one level, any tool that helps get students into scripture is a win. I want students to encounter the Bible in all of its glory and challenge and hope. And so, I think of the emoji Bible, a little bit in line with what people have done from the very beginning; which is to draw pictures and write notes in their Bibles. So whether it’s The Book of Kells, as an example of great art, people [have been] drawing pictures to help illustrate part of what’s going on with scripture. One of the challenges I think, of the emoji Bible, is that they’re actually replacing words with emojis. And so I think that’s a little bit challenging because you don’t want to lose the words of scripture. Words have power. And emojis, by definition, already interpret the scriptures for you, because they’re giving you emotional reactions rather than filling it will content.
Jao thinks that some students will be attracted to the emoji Bible and that some good conversations may come from it.