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Swedish Adman Has Good News of Great Joy, Marketed to All People

If Thomas Nelson created its “Revolve” edition of the New Testament five years ago because their market research showed “he only thing [teenage girls] read is fashion magazines,” at first look Swedish advertising executive Dag Söderberg seems to be operating on the assumption that adult reading habits aren’t much different. He’s stripped the books of their chapter and verse headings to present them as straightforward stories, illustrated with glossy photographs that comment with varying degrees of irony on selected verses. The title spread for the Book of Revelation, for example, quotes Rev. 1:7 (“Look, he is coming on the clouds…!”), while a verse from Romans 14 about how a person with faith can eat anything, but the person who is weak in faith eats only vegetables is illustrated by an attractive hand model working a cooked bird.

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Söderberg’s Bible Illuminated: The Book was released in two volumes (one for each Testament) in Sweden last year, and is said to have expanded that mostly secular nation’s Bible sales by 50 percent—which would appear to validate his intention to get the Bible into the hands of people who are too turned off by contemporary religion to consider reading it. (“The text is older than the churches,” he says in a promotional video. “The text is really our history, our heritage.”) An English-language edition of the New Testament, using the American Bible Society’s modern “Good News” translation, is coming to the U.S. market this fall, with the distributors at Midpoint Trade Books anticipating a first printing of 200,000 copies—further backed by a $500,000 marketing plan that includes a PR firm whose usual clients include resort hotels and casinos. And, while Söderberg’s stated mission has been non-religious, it’s said that talks are underway with “a major evangelical figure” to act as a spokesman for the book, aimed at cushioning criticism from evangelical circles of the book’s glossy photo layouts.

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