Hallelujah! Emoji Bible brings Christianity into the digital age

By Kitty Knowles 25 May 2016

Let there be?

Do you know William Tyndale? He gained acclaim for his translation of the Bible into English, back in the 1500s.

Suffice to say the high church was not best pleased: the Bible was for learned, holy men, who could read Greek or Hebrew, not low-life monoglot scum.

This act of tyranny – along with the fact that Tyndale wrote a book about just how much he disagreed with Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon – saw the Christian executed by strangulation, and then burnt at the stake for good measure.

Not footsteps many would follow. Until now.

An emoji Bible is coming

A mysterious person, publicly known only as ? , has translated the Bible into emoji. You read that correctly: emoji.

Launching on Apple iBooks this week, the move could be seen as a natural progression.

Why read scripture in boring old Oxford English, or any of the other 531 bog-standard languages it comes in, when you can read it in jazzy picture symbols instead?

Indeed, as we communicate more and more in emoji, perhaps it will become the universal language, the most accessible of all.

What’s the story of Bible Emoji?

For ?, the emoji Bible project is about accessibility.

“Emojis are emotional, and allow people to express feelings in a visual way within the structure of “normal”, written language,” they told The Memo.

“What’s made them so successful, is that they’re language-agnostic — they allow you to convey an idea to anyone, regardless of what language they speak.”

?  hopes that using emoji will open the Bible up to wider audiences, and hope it will be in the top 5 or 10 books when you type in “Bible” in the iBooks store.

“A major goal of this whole process was to take a book that I think is very non-approachable to lay readers and try to make it more approachable by removing a lot of its density,” ?  explained.

“Bible Emoji … hopes to be a more accessible version of the Bible.”

How did ? do it?

Initially ?  launched their emoji translator and mapped out all the different ways that the KJV Bible text could be visualised. “You start with emojis that are really common — for instance, the earth emoji can mean earth, world, or planet.”

“Eventually I created an actual translator program with a list of 80 different emoji icons, and 200 corresponding words. In addition: I built in some common shorthand — so that “and” became &, and “first” became 1st.”

The end result is a shorter, but still complete version of entire book with about 10-15% of the total characters cut out.

?  even says that more books will include emoji in the future:

“I could see a gif/emoji/video hybrid type of media in the future that allows deeper storytelling.”

A worthy challenge

Of course translating the Bible into emoji is not without its challenges.

“The Bible has a lot of old language, there’s a lot of nuance involved in translating it — a lot of the time, you need to think beyond 1-to-1 fit,” said ?. “There’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of rereading.”

Some have also been critical towards the whole idea of the project.

“I’ve received a lot of tweets, some very nice some very, not nice,” said ?.

“But it’s all worth the goal of making the Bible a little more approachable, to inject some levity, and to get people to look at it, with no particular agenda beyond that. ”

? ? ?

The emoji Bible launches on iBooks on May 29. Follow @BibleEmoji to get your own emoji gospel, and make your own BibleEmoji translations with the ‘Bible Emoji Translator’.