When people really hear Scripture, it comes alive in their hearts and their imaginations. They can see Jesus and his disciples trudging the dusty road to Jerusalem, Peter receiving a vision of animals lowered in a sheet, or Paul in prison writing another letter.
Scott Hayes, publishing director for Eastern European Mission (EEM), a ministry committed to giving the Bible away in formerly Soviet-controlled countries, believes Bible pictures can grab people and pull them into the truth of the text. He and graphic artist Fred Apps have produced 499 New Testament drawings—two for every chapter—to illustrate the whole book, from Matthew to Revelation. EEM is giving the images away under a Creative Commons license for anyone to use for ministry. CT asked him about the vision for this New Testament art project.
Why illustrate the New Testament?
At EEM we have this philosophy: “The Bible. We want everyone to get it.” Well, that’s actually a triple-meaning motto. We want them to get a physical copy. We want them to “get it,” to understand it. But them we want them to get “it,” meaning the ultimate indwelling of Christ.
We have meetings once a year where we sit down with all the people who distribute our Bibles—the boots on the field—and do a little bit of planning, a little bit of dreaming. Where do we need to go? What do we need to do? For years—four of five years—the same topic comes up every year. We need something between the teen Bible and the New Testament.
And then I’ve been at meetings with other Bible publishers and they have the same discussion. It’s like, “What do we do for older teens and young adults?”
The idea with the illustrations is that they can go in a Bible and help pull people in, be easier to read, but still you have the complete Bible.
My desire was to provide something that will encourage them to read and slow them down a little bit. I hope the illustrations might help people think more about the New Testament.
I don’t think I’ve seen illustrations like this, not just capturing the narratives but the epistles too, two drawings for every chapter. Had you seen something like this before?
No. But when I was a teenager there were different popular memorization methods, and I took one of them and developed it for the entire New Testament. I had an image for each chapter. You could ask me about any chapter when I was a teenager, I could tell you from the images I remembered what the chapter was about. It was a memory-peg system.
That’s where it started for me. I’m also a Bible teacher. I’ve been a Bible teacher all my life and it’s a passion, along with helping people get the Bible. I’ve taught through all those passages multiple times, and when I teach I picture images in my head. I have an idea in my head.
One thing I like about images in the New Testament is even a normal reader will remember that illustration on a page. They may not remember what chapter Jesus says to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but they’ll remember an image of a head on a coin. And you can flip through quickly, you find that you find what you’re looking for.
You worked with an artist named Fred Apps, your ideas, his art. How did that process work?
I told him from the beginning I was interested in doing illustrations for every chapter of the New Testament. He’s like, “Wow. Okay.” He’d done things that big, of course. He’s illustrated a lot of Bibles! Fred is a graphic artist, lives in London, and in the later part of his career, he kind of specialized in Bibles. He retired and then didn’t like retirement and went back to work and he’s done a number of big projects for EEM. But in all that work, he’s never done something so comprehensive for the New Testament, like what I had in mind.
He said he’d be willing to do it, but he had to have three eye surgeries. I wait a year and a half. Then he said yes, and that was right at the start of COVID-19.
I wrote instructions for each image. I sent him an instruction manual—279 pages. I read through the Bible, and for each chapter, I would come up with an image; try to find some examples surfing the internet, looking on Google Images; and then write a paragraph explaining the idea.
Then he would send me a pencil drawing and I would say, “Wow, look at that.” Or sometimes I’d say it needed something.
How long did all this take?
He puts out work pretty quick. He said, altogether, it was half a year’s work for him.
Are there plans to publish a Bible with these images? Right now they’re all available for download and you’re sharing them with a Creative Commons license, but will we see illustrated New Testaments soon?
It’s just artwork at the moment. We’ll see what they become! This is truly an experiment.
I want them to be used. We used the Creative Commons license, so I’m hoping other people will come with creative ideas that I would never think of. At EEM, our specialty is printing Bibles and New Testaments. But it’s also giving them away—not selling them. So that means anything we produce, we’re always looking to give it away.
If you add all these pictures to a New Testament, it would add about 10 percent to the length. That’s not too bad. They’re line drawings, black and white, so they won’t cost more to print. Just some extra paper.
The earliest we at EEM would put something out is 2024. But I’m also talking to people who put out Bibles in German, French, and other languages; we are maybe going to release very cheap versions to sell on Amazon. There could be an illustration Serbian New Testament soon.
I hope lots of people will find uses for it and it helps more people get the Bible.