Some Christians mad at R. Crumb

R. Crumb's new Book Of Genesis has apparently pissed off certain religious groups because it includes illustrations of the sex and violence that, of course, is found throughout the Bible. From The Telegraph:
 200909181312 "It is turning the Bible into titillation," said Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, a religious think-tank. "It seems wholly inappropriate for what is essentially God's rescue plan for mankind."

"If you are going to publish your own version of the Bible it must be done with a great deal of sensitivity. The Bible is a very important text to many many people and should be treated with the respect it deserves.

"Representing it in your own way is all very well and good but it must be remembered that it is a matter of people's faith, their religion.

"Faith is such an important part of people's lives that one must remember to tread very carefully." Other leading religious figures have been more supportive of the work. "I didn't think it was satire," said the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines.

"He set out to say; 'this is important, fundamental myth' and it seems to me he's done a good job."
"Biblical sex row over explicit illustrated Book of Genesis" (The Telegraph)
The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb (Amazon)


  1. Worse than the obvious stupidity(Oh noes! Somebody had the temerity to illustrate the bible as written! I think I’m going to go cry now…) is Mr. Judge’s blatant assertion that, because some people are emotionally invested in a text, others must censor themselves. That is where enlightenment society starts to die.

  2. Maybe they didn’t like Crumb’s art because it’s easier to fantasize without his pictures? IMO, his realistic style and use of normally proportioned, age-appropriate appearing people would make fantasizing, especially over the Bible, difficult at best.

    I really want to see this now.

  3. The book of Genesis contains quite a bit of mythology from earlier periods. Angels mate with women for example. The best deconstruction I’ve read is “Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis” by Raphael Patai. For women I’d suggest reading his book “The Hebrew Goddess” which is now in its 3rd edition.
    There were multiple oral traditions that are reflected in the codified text. What Crumb has done is to make visual what’s really there. So many invoke the bible but few really read it. It’s full of some really crazy stuff.
    The forbidden fruit we treat as an apple. That came about because the Hebrew word for the evil inclination, rah, when translated to Latin resulted in a word that can also means apple.
    In a good bible the annotations exceed the text.

  4. There needs to be a cage match over this; Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute vs. Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead. Fight!

  5. Cue Mark Twain’s railing about expurgated bibles and candy coating of the realities portrayed so the refined wouldn’t be offended…

    Sorry people, according to THE BOOK, it happened…


  6. Rather than flogging a dead horse, I will say that, if the book is being marketed as being some kind of new, edgy “scandalous satire”, that’s just as lame as all the religious people getting in a huff over it. Appealing to our desire for more sex and titillation to sell more product is actually more disgusting to me than ignorant, closed-minded religious people, who are, at least, sincere in their beliefs- and I’m guessing Bob Crumb would agree, since he’s spent a lifetime breaking down the hypocrisy and crassness of American Culture.

  7. It clearly says on the cover “Graphically Depicted. Nothing Left Out!” And even issues an underage warning. So if you don’t think you can deal with it, don’t read it! I am getting so tired of people like Judge.

  8. Were it not for Crumb’s book I don’t think I ever would have read Genesis. Those opposing the book should consider readers like me. BTW, the book is fantastic.

  9. Crumb illustrating the bible is just way too appropriate. His style fits the mood perfectly. Now I’m gonna have to buy it; *sigh*

  10. Did they rave this way over “Judith and Holopherne” by some chance: Extrapolated ridiculously from a small part of the Bible and full of more idealized characters… Really hot read:-) NSFW-DUH but look it up.

    I read that, cover to cover, in a local bookstore/coffeehouse… Wow. Makes me wish he’d do the whole thing, though he probably won’t live that long, age alone, not to mention crazed fanatics.

    It’s amazing and it goes over all the stuff most Christians love to skip out on- Like the Nephilim, various wordings that trip up the “Monothiest” arguments, Lot and his Daughters… I love how he did the “Gay night of the living gays of the city of Sodom” better than even Jack Chick!

    But, unlike the freaky Euro guy, he’s not making things up or ridiculously extrapolating. He’s sticking dead on to the KJV and that itself is full of so many things that are obviously edited from collections of myths and “Bronze Age Taboos”…

    You ever hear, on the Simpsons, Rev. Lovejoy: “Marge, have you ever READ this thing!? Technically, we can’t go to the bathroom!”

    Now, in a nomadic camp that parks in place for a few months maybe then goes elsewhere to graze their animals, it makes total sense for a rule that to take a dump you get a spade, march a mile from the encampment and do your business and cover it up. Try that in a modern city, ignoring current plumbing as “Temptations of the DEVIL!” There will be a ring of filth around (and IN) the city and the local farms and suburbs will be millitant in rage.

  11. My mother and her new husband are taking part in a three year Bible study program aimed at a deeper understanding of the Bible. Surprisingly, for Bible folk, they are pretty rational and understanding and I think this program will either unhinge their beliefs or at least give them more historical context and a more flexible understanding of this really old text.

    That being said, I can’t wait to give them this for Christmas. It’s hard to imagine (especially given the wording) some of these stories and what they really mean I personally can’t wait to see the look on their face as as they go back and forth from the comic to the Bible with a sense of shock and awe.

    I applaud Crumb in his brilliance. Whether it was his intention or not, faithfully and accurately representing what’s actually written is the easiest way to show people how silly some of this stuff is.

  12. Anyone who thinks this isn’t another ‘thumb-my-nose’ at the Bible or organized religion or Christians is being intellectually dishonest. Crumb knows it, I know it, anyone with a brain knows it. That being said with certitude, so what? Crumb can do what he wants and anyone who’s offended can be pissed off – with equal latitude.

  13. R Crumb is one of my heroes, and this just confirms it. The sooner the human race gets shed of this religion crap, the better off we’ll be.

    1. The sooner the human race gets shed of this religion crap, the better off we’ll be.< ?i>

      The human race seems to be growing more religious than less, so don’t hold your breath.

  14. so, if a religious pantyknot is offended by something, then of course it should be immediately stricken, but if someone with intelligence, curiosity, and a functioning bullshit detector is offended, by, oh say, impacted rancid religious nonsense, well then that’s just too bad? ok, thanks for clearing that up.

  15. Not exactly related, but this discussion put me in mind of an elderly lady I know.

    She was looking for a good, scholarly old testament study group, and a Jewish group was the best one she could find in the city (possibly the only good one, I’m not sure).

    Some years after joining the group, she converted to Judaism – not that it was a requirement to be welcome at the study group or anything…

  16. “The Bible is a very important text to many many people and should be treated with the respect it deserves.”

    So is “The Origin of Species”, to me anyway. And besides, there are millions of Christians using parts of the Bible as an excuse for war– that’s far more offensive.

    “Titillation”– well , I can say from experience there there are plenty of people who get off on just the words of the Bible describing incest and such, without illustrations: a girl I knew in grammar school came up to me in the library giggling and pointing out a passage in the Bible that was risque. And considering that Crumb often makes people look hideously ugly, I’m not sure many people will be substituting this for regular porn.

  17. Holy f-ck! That Mike Judge dude wants to censor the holy f-cks!

    I’m really looking forward to Crumb new work. Sad that so many take the gory mixbag of sexually repressed and expressed content that is the bible for literal holy truth. I doubt Christianity in general I must say. Take that Jesus dude. Did he really exist? I mean where is the BIRTH CERTIFICATE? I’m talking about the long form birth certificate! Smells like fabrication to me. FOX, are you with me? FOX?

  18. Funny how they protest this but when conservipedia announced they were going to rewrite the Bible because it was ‘too liberal’ there was not a peep from them. Just another hypocrisy from the religious right.

  19. Christians have gotten so censor-crazy that they have to censor the book they say is the infallible word of god?! Man. God’s editor. That’s got to be a tough job.

  20. “this is important, fundamental myth”

    that shows how wonderfully liberal the anglican church is that its own bishop admits that, in fact, the bible is myth (and not “literal, inerrant fact”). You go, bishop!

  21. As a Christian and student of the Bible I would say that the Book is, in essence, 3 separate books. A history of my religion, a self help book for my fellows, and finally a sacred text. If you can not accept and embrace the first 2, the third is a lie that you tell yourself to feel better. This is a depiction of the history and as such I say “well done Crumb.”

    As to the others I say, “To deny your history is to deny yourself.” You are committing a blasphemy against the sacred text by denying it a a truthful representation of everything that came before. Abraham pimped his wife. Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had sex with him. Deal with it or pick a new religion.

  22. this is all well and good, but when is the illustrated Qur’an coming out? (I like the flying horse idea.. it’s like a unicorn chaser for the whole story.)

  23. If you think the Christians are annoyed just wait until Crumb finished his illustrated version of the Qur’an.

  24. I’m a regular reader, first-time commenter but also what you guys would call a ‘fundamentalist Christian’.

    It is clearly intended as a bit of fun and I have no objection to its publication (I’d consider getting a copy myself). It would be better if it kept the full text in, but at least it’s not pretending to be a Bible alternative (unlike several Christian Bible translations that mess about with the text, leave stuff out, etc.) Christians should remember that before they have a go at all this.

    Having said that, like an above commenter, I await the equivalent telling the story of Mohammed’s life, and waiting for the inevitable violent protests that would accompany its release. Christians are easy targets. Publishers don’t have the guts when it comes to Islam.

    1. If you really don’t have a problem with R. Crumb then you’re probably not what I would call a “fundamentalist Christian.” I’m curious about that “Christians are easy targets” comment though. In what way does this book “target” Christians if it accurately follows the text of Genesis? (I assume you didn’t mean “target demographic”).

    2. Disrespecting or blaspheming the Qur’an gets you a death warrant from Muslim religious leaders. So are Christian leaders “wimps” or “enlightened” for not declaring fatwas when someone like Crumb (apparently) blasphemes the Bible? I know there are plenty of Christian leaders who would like to have the same power as the ayatollahs, so don’t pat yourselves on the back just yet.

  25. To the various people spouting about “the Christians”, please read the actual article. The author quotes four Christians, two of whom are complaining about Crumb’s book, the other two supporting it.

  26. Christians are only “easy targets” in the West because they have been (somewhat) humbled by secular power. Now they expect to be congratulated on the toleration we have forced on them.

    1. Would make for some pretty awesome graphic effects! That seven headed, ten horned beast. Who do we get to play Babylon?

  27. To his own surprise, Crumb wound up *not* goofing on Genesis, and the result demonstrates enormous respect for the text and its scholarship. The Telegraph misrepresents Crumb’s work, and “Mike Judge” merely exposes his own ignorance.

  28. In the United States, every time someone kills an abortion provider, every time someone burns a cross on an inter-racial couple’s lawn, every time someone drags a gay man to death behind their car, the odds are overwhelming that a Christian did it in accordance with their religious beliefs.

    I kind of admire the historical Jesus; it’s just his posse I have problems with. They make the rest of us theists look bad; when you say “God” people just assume you mean some kind of foreskin-collecting angry bearded man in the sky, because Christianity has always completely dominated the English-language public conversation about faith.

  29. After reading about the Honduran coup related in webcomic form, and now this, I am firmly convinced we should immediately endeavor to publish the unexpurgated books of all religions in comic book form.

    For centuries issues simply lay, abstract and ignored by society at large, in books. All it takes is visuals and, ala peanut butter sandwiches, instant discussion.

    I would also say the history of world politics, but I think it would be much harder to compile a list of definitive texts for that. Maybe the archives of a few decent newspapers.

    1. I thought of The Brick Testament myself when I read this story. Maybe Lego form would be a benign way to get started on other religious texts…

  30. yes! yes! yes!!! The good christians eyes’ shields/blinders are removed. Faith has
    nothing to do with anything. R Crumb is simply a master of the obvious, therefore
    the oblivious ones’ faith is SHATTERED. The bible is a book. Continue with your life.

  31. I leafed through Crumb’s book at a bookstore and couldn’t put it down. It is clearly something special, the kind of mad project that comes along only rarely.

    I encourage everyone, Christians, Atheists, Pastafarians, and all, to buy this book and actually read it before jumping to any conclusions about it. (And if you can’t afford it, beg, borrow or steal it!)

    It’s not a joke, as some others here have suggested. It took Crumb five years to make and is a remarkable work of art. He clearly treated the material with respect and took great pains with each and every illustration. There’s something naked and unflinching about Genesis that fits perfectly with Crumb’s unique style.

    Like all great works of art, it illuminates all around it.

  32. “If you are going to publish your own version of the Bible it must be done with a great deal of sensitivity.”

    It seems to me that Crumb was very sensitive to the details of his illustrations.

  33. Are people expecting to be patted on the back if they see the post and drop in just to make stereotypical pot-shots in the comments?

    It’s not hard to discuss this on the merits of the issue instead. This is actually a pretty easy topic to discuss constructively.

  34. I bought this book. It’s great and really brings Genesis to life. Every person mentioned, including the usually boring lists of ancestors, has been drawn with individual character and care.

    I’ll be taking it along to my church and putting it on the projector next time it’s my turn to do the bible reading.

  35. To get the qualifiers out of the way first, I’m a religious Jew who prays several times a day, keeps kosher and says a blessing over every piece of food I eat. I hold that Torah is as was handed to Moses at Mt Sinai.

    As far as the Documentary Hypothesis goes well that comes from politics and ignorance on the parts of its all too human authors. When priests and other churchmen who wish to “prove” that they were the rightful owners of the Covenant, working without the benefit of a biblical education grounded with the Oral Law, of course you get something that doesnt add up. R. Crumb does not agree with me, but that does not reduce his work in my eyes in any way.

    IMO much of the troubles people have now with things like “seven days” have to do with problems arising from mis-interpretations and mis-translations of the original Hebrew which more are accurately understood six time periods in modern English. In any case the initial creation story and that of Adam & Eve is allegory. Wonderful, beautiful poetry in the original Hebrew, and there is no denying the extreme influence the various translations have had on the languages and literature of western culture across the board.

    All that said to put in context the extreme joy with when my copy of this book arrived. What R. Crumb has done here is not strict KJV, but mostly from Robert Alter’s 2204 “The Books of Moses” (as per the introduction of the book itself). As far as I’ve seen there are no cuts or skips from the text. All 50 chapters are there in full detail. There is no parody here, no satire. By including all the begats and giving faces to all named characters, Crumb has made parts of the text which people often gloss over quite engaging. The depiction of Noah as slightly broken with fear in his eyes, or the tears in Rebekah’s mother’s eyes as her daughter is about to depart to become Isaac’s bride, the look of shock on Jacob’s face when he wakes up with Leah instead of the expected Rachel and so many other examples really bring out the humanity of major and minor characters. The five years of work that Crumb put into this really show from beginning to end, full detail and attention never falter. If only R Crumb lived long enough and were able to complete the rest of the books of Moses with this kind of care, how fortunate we’d be!

    One last thing which I noticed is that this book’s publication/shipping date co-incided almost exactly with this year’s annual rewind of Torah where we restart the public readings of the scroll from Genesis. Dont know if that was timed by some sly editor at Norton publishing or not but it did make it timely for me.

  36. FWIW, I’m employed by the Episcopal Church, but I comfortably inhabit a place between agnostic and atheist on the spectrum of beliefs. I’m a librarian for a seminary, and we have ordered this book. I fully expect it to be in the collection, available to seminarians, clergy, and professors to read and check out. I also expect that some might take offense to parts of it, but I know there’s no way it’ll be removed from the collection: it’s purchase was approved by my boss, a priest.

    I hope that my anecdote can prevent at least some of the knee jerk anti-Christian language. “Some asshats call themselves Christians” ≠ “All Christians are asshats”.

  37. This is ridiculous, but not unexpected. The vast majority of the book is hardly titillating, but serves to expose the actual content of Genesis through the use of actual, original translated texts and historical research.

    Crumb goes into great detail to explain this in the book’s introduction. He approached it as a straight illustration project and went to great pains not to politicize the content.

    It’s funny that the real text of the Bible presented without commentary or distorted interpretation actually angers conservative religious groups. I suppose because their distortion is the only message they want to have some air time.

  38. I’m a Bible-thumper, a preacher, the whole nine yards. Crumb’s illustrations are awesome. Of course his fetishes are on full display. So what? Enjoy, for God’s sake.

    Then you might want to wrestle with the God of these texts. Jacob, one of the slimy characters within the narrative, does just that. He seeks a blessing, is given it, but he is the never the same again.

    Crumb also wrestles with the God of the Bible. He doesn’t exactly give in to this God. But it’s a great cage match. I’m convince that God wins the cage match. But I may score in a different way than some other readers.

  39. @Paul Turnbull this I know, but if it took him 5 years to do Genesis, would he live long enough to complete the rest of the Books of Moses? I personally hope so.

    @JohnFH Interesting choice of words to describe Jacob. Never heard him called “slimy” before. How do you figure?

    1. Jacob is made of mush. Rather than face the brother he cheated like a man, he sends everyone ahead, at great risk to them, and he alone stays back, where he meets his Maker. It’s all in Genesis 32. Earlier, he overcomes the duplicity of his uncle Laban, but why what means. Even greater duplicity. It’s all in Genesis 30.

      The trouble with the Bible is that it depicts people as they are. The greatest saints within its pages are complex and contradictory, from Moses to Paul, from Elijah and Elisha to Peter.

      Most people prefer Disneyland fantasies, which end with a smooch.

      The Bible is dark with tragedy, and redemption only comes through tragedy. Many people find this intolerable, even as they acknowledge its truth, even though they know it corresponds to reality. That is the Bible’s unforgivable sin: its faithfulness to reality.

  40. Sigh. For every great idea, every work of art, and every commentary, there will always be some crazy bastard who is offended and thinks that it should be censored so that others aren’t also offended. He could have just painted a single picture that was entirely blue and somebody would have been pissed off that it wasn’t red or green or a prettier shade of blue.

    If you ask me, Crumb’s work is many things: it’s an accurate depiction of the stories in Genesis, it’s simpler to read and understand because the pictures speak more than any Olde English translation of Hebrew, and it’s a (perhaps unintended) satirical commentary on how an entire group of people can be offended by the very book that they tell others to read and obey.

    Let the people be offended — they should be. The world and the acts depicted in the text are terrible. Confusing those ideas in archaic language may make them more palatable, but only because the reader hardly understands what is being said. Let them see the story for what it is so they can truly understand it.

  41. @JohnFH: at the risk of thread jacking, I can clearly see that your viewpoint is indeed that of a Bible thumping preacher.

    From my point of view, the great thing about the Bible (tho I can only speak for the Hebrew Bible) is how it depicts people as they really are and that the faithfulness to reality is a merit rather than a sin. I’d guess that this ties to one main difference between Jewish and Christian faith, the focus on life now vs a focus on the hereafter, the focus on deeds rather than faith.

    I cant agree with you that “Jacob is made of mush”. As the last of the three Patriarchs, he deserves more than a simple dismissal like that. Its too easy to only look at the brothers meeting again in G32~33 without considering that Esau had sworn to murder his brother in G27:41. As for Jacob increasing his own wealth while in the employ of Laban in G30, doesnt this show Jacob’s merit and Laban’s failure? If you owned livestock, wouldnt you make a little more effort to see how they were cared for? If Laban’s own daughters backed Jacob over their father, this should tell you something. Consider also that between Jacob and Esau, which one followed the wishes of their parents and which was preferred a bowl of beans to his birthright as first son?

    Moreover, why is Jacob the last of the three Patriarchs? Why isnt Jacob’s son Joseph, who clearly has a greater reader fanbase and who’se story got more lines of text not counted amongst the Patriarchs? Two things come to mind: 1) God did not speak to Joseph directly as He had with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. 2) God did not promise the land of Canaan as an inheritance to Joseph as to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. Finally, remember that it is Jacob who orders all family members to give up their idols (G35:2). After Jacob, the Hebrews were to be entrapped in Egypt and to nearly forget the ways of the Patriarchs. The man may have been crafty, but definitely was not made of mush.

    1. Downpressor,

      Perhaps you did not read my comments carefully. I was saying the same thing when I noted, with obvious appreciation, that the Bible depicts people as they are.

      I fully agree with you that Jacob is a complex figure. That doesn’t change the fact that he is a con-man with huge streak of cowardice. If Jacob is to be judged on his merits, he is a huge underachiever. Like Avraham, who passes his wife off as his sister.

      BTW, Crumb renders the Patriarchs realistically. You will not come away with a sense that they accumulated zekuth, merit, for their ancestors, except insofar as they clung to God’s promises in the midst of chicanery and other failings. I don’t want to exaggerate their faults, but there is a long history of whitewashing the ancestors in a way that the text itself does not. Yours is a defensive approach.

      On the other hand, we agree on the essentials. As you say, “the great thing about the Bible (tho I can only speak for the Hebrew Bible) is how it depicts people as they really are and that the faithfulness to reality is a merit rather than a sin.” Exactly. The same is true of the New Testament, as you will discover if you give it a chance.

  42. @JohnFH What can I say? Jews tend to revere the Patriarchs warts and all. One other bit of disclosure, my Hebrew name is Israel so I’ll admit I’ve got a soft spot for Jacob as a survivor against the odds. I dont expect you to see eye to eye, I know quite well by now that most of the Christians Ive met have a tendency to downplay core narrative of the Torah and to value self sacrifice over being a survivor. Clinging to God’s promises, and the base fact of one indivisible God is what we do, its our nature and in a sense, our “mission”. That this seems perfectly obvious to Westerners now is missing the point. In the time and place of the Patriarchs it was a radical and even laughable concept to worship only one God, one that could not be seen, wasnt in charge of a specific thing, didnt have any icons, etc. We still value this, and its reflected in the structure and language of our daily prayers. You might call that defensive, but to us its tradition. You got your thing, I got mine and that is that.

    @Tdawwg thats what I’m talkin bout!

    1. @Downpressor. Hey, no fair! I like your last comment better than any of mine. Jews are survivors, like Israel. As the New Testament says, in reference to Jews, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”

  43. A lot of Christians like to say, I’m a new Testament kind of guy, dismissing the Laws of Moses and insulting Jews. I am an Old Testament kind of guy. Okay with me. So, butt out.

  44. I have long thought that illustrating the book of Genesis would make an interesting porn movie. The author even wrote a pull out and ejaculate scene (Onan) just before the end of the work.

    And the New Testament begins with a paean to begetting, which necessarily involves sex.

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