Saturday, October 20, 2007

Manga Messiah and the (forthcoming) Manga Bible

I try to follow marketing of the Bible and here's another example. Published by Tyndale in the UK in 2006, and in the US in September 2007, Manga Messiah heralds the Manga Bible to be published in November 2007. According to Anime News network, The Manga Bible will include the entire New Living Translation of the text with three 32-page manga tip-in sections that summarize the narrative. Zondervan is getting on board with its own contribution.

Tyndale's project with Japanese artists is different than The Manga Bible by British born Nigerian artist Siku, published by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK, endorsed by the ABC in August.

A few comments on the Tyndale venture, Manga Messiah. It's a synthesis of all four gospels which makes reading a bit jarring (unless you are used to Tatian's Diatessaron, a second-century synthesis of all the gospels combining them all into a single narrative). At the same time, Manga Messiah has its own agenda. This has something to do with families. There's never a tension between Jesus and his family of origin. For example, Jesus' address to his mother in John 2:4, "Woman!" at the wedding in Cana becomes, "Dear Woman, What is that to you and and me?" Instead of this being the only thing Jesus says to his mother as it is in John 2 and thus strange, Jesus and his mother say to each other on p.71 of Manga Messiah before the wine runs out, "Um...Yeshuah..our hosts have a bit of a problem here..." "What happened, Mother? Everything appears to be going well for them..." This exchange is not in the biblical text.

Similarly, texts in which Jesus seems to displace his family of origin ("Who are my mother and sister and brothers") with "Whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother" in Mark 3:35, for example, are the subject of an inserted comment (Manga Bible, p.149): "Yeshuah's words did not express hostility toward his family...but his new teaching defined a new family relationship...one created by mutual faith...the family of God." Its obvious that there is a tension between Jesus and his family of origin. Why does Manga Messiah gloss over it? Is this an example of Japanese family values intruding into the text?

Most depictions of Pharisees or other opponents are caricatures of unappealing people which become sterotypes by the time one has finished reading the book. Pharisees are lurking in wheatfields looking out to catch hungry disciples eating wheat on the sabbath. This isn't good and it isn't plausible. Similarly, Judas goes out to betray Jesus before the Last Supper. Which means he doesn't have the Last Supper with Jesus and the other disciples. Why should he be excluded from this important meal? This isn't the sequence of any of the gospels. Also, for some reason Judas wears a single earring. Does this stereotyping have to do with the genre "manga?" Likewise, the genre can't convey the long discourses of Jesus in John's gospel. In the Manga Bible, Jesus speaks in sound bites.

Parables are "picture stories" rather than something else like "riddles" or enigmatic sayings. Aspects of the parable of the sower receive a single explanation: "The seeds must be God's word! And the good soil must be someone who believes the word of God" (p.151). No other fate of seeds is explained nor is any attention given to different soils. Isn't this simplistic even for teenagers?

It would be a good thing if this kind of book was not an end in itself.

2 comments:

tsc-sisters said...

hei u... i study theology in switzerland and i ve just bought a copy of the manga bible and i am fascinated. maybe i will take some parts for a sermon :) do you like art? if you look at the characters, they are drawn great.
and it always points to the bible. it has many connections, facts that i ve never realized like that before. in my opinion it is a great peace of art? do you also question 16th century pictures?

Sterilium said...

Hello. I bought a copy of Messiah Manga and it's a very fascinating book. In order to make sure that everything within it keeps track of what's really in the Bible, I read Manga Messiah along with a King James Translation in hand. I can say that I'm very impressed by how the work was referenced though I must say that there have been a few liberties. Of course you might be critical of the style of the art and minute details such as appearance of characters, earrings, and all the like but these are nonessential and have no impact to the truth of the message that Manga Messiah aims to deliver. As a Christian and a fan of Manga-styled art (way before it became popular in the West), I could say that it does not stray from the truth. You might note of some liberties such as that account of the fate of those Greeks who wished to see Yeshuah or that of Pilate's wife (which I could not find any reference of in the Bible) but I can definitely say that those "embellishments" do not in any way contradict Biblical truth nor does it aim to indoctrinate in any manner.

You might note that in Japan, manga is among the most popular forms of printed media out so it would definitely be a waste if such a popular form of art is not made use of in areas where it is popular of course (such as the majority of East Asia and the Philippines).

I'm in the opinion that you skipped page 193 which indicates that he had tension with his family (...they urged Yeshuah to reveal himself to the world but knew his own brothers did not really believe in him and [he - missing] would not consent). However, I would agree on your point regarding certain embellishments you discussed (such as commentaries present in the manga, similar to that found in some Bible translations as well albeit in unrefined teenager's language).

I have also noted the seemingly "teenager" English used in the manga might turn off a few people (especially the scholarly ones) but if you're going to present Biblical truth to a certain target population then there is nothing wrong with translating it into such a language (the very reason why the Bible has so many translations). You should probably give those Japanese who translated it a break since they're probably translating from a Japanese version of the Bible. The point is I believe the manga achieves its goal for its target audience, manga/anime fans.