There has been little innovation to the form of the Bible since John Gutenberg developed his cutting-edge printing technology in the mid-1400s.
What was once an oral tradition and subsequently a hand-written tradition, had now been sealed in movable type, paper and leather binding. The digital-social age has proven a rich soil into which many disciplines have planted new methods of communicating and sharing information.
But the Bible has been left behind. This is largely because we celebrated its appearance on our screens as some kind of revolution. But in fact, we have only cut and pasted Gutenberg’s 15th century tech onto a flat surface. Columns of black text on a white surface.
If the Bible is to meet the hands of the next and future generations, it will have to embrace the rich and promising depths of what our digital age truly has to offer.
Enter Parallel Bible.
Here we have a smartphone-app Bible imbued with the power and connectivity of social media; deepening the links between people, their communities, their stories and Scripture. Call it the first social, visual edition of the Bible.
Like any social media app, a reader opens an account, follows friends, and shares pictures and comments to a stream. The difference from say, Instagram, is that all these images and comments are tagged with Bible verses. And thus emerges a truly new innovation to the sacred text. Your pictures, your stories, right alongside Scripture.
The task of connecting our modern lives with this ancient writing is old as the hills. In churches and small groups and Bible studies everywhere we constantly ask the question, “what does this passage hold for me today, now, in my present life?” And then we attempt our clumsy, beautiful, vulnerable answers, encouraging whoever is listening with the simple truth that the Bible not only is still relevant, but is literally shaping my life, right now.
Essentially Parallel Bible is a collection of these answers – depositing them right next to the very verses they reference. And so inversely, as we read this Bible, we can swipe over to the parallel stream of pictures and stories – a deep archive of the applications that the verses take to people’s lives.
One example: a mother is suffering the agony of coping with the death of her child. She looks to Luke 7 – where the only son of a widow has died. The Bible says in verse 13: “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her…” Now it is one thing to read this promise of Jesus’ compassion in the text. It’s quite another to find next to that text the stories of other mothers going through the same grief right now, and being able to reach out to them or simply know that they are there. She finds living community within the text itself.
Now, together with its readers, Parallel Bible is printing its first book. A “community-illuminated” Gospel of Mark, it will be the first-ever printing of Scipture that sources all of its visual content from its readers. 678 verses across 1,000 pages of full-color imagery contributed by readers of the app. An exquisitely produced Bible Story, made beautiful because each picture submitted is an original response to the text, and anyone can contribute.
We are meant to read the Bible in order to look up from the pages and take that journey ourselves. The human story is never the same. Each person’s is original and deserves to be voiced and heard and known. This book will give people a vivid reminder of that truth, and support the work of a Bible to make even Johnny G proud.