A Review of
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
In the fall of 2009, Jana Riess was stuck with a brilliant idea. She would tweet her way through the Bible, a chapter each day, humorously trying to capture the spirit of each chapter in 140 characters. Her first tweet, on Genesis 1 of course:
“After 6 days of creation, G’s totally wiped. Day off tomorrow! Key point: human beings very good. M and F in G’s image.”
Christening this project The Twible (rhymes with Bible, or like “tribal” with a lisp), Riess inched her way through the biblical text for almost 4 years. 1189 tweets later, she posted her tweet on Revelation 22:
“Bible ends with G opening a fruit-of-the-month club and restoring Eden. All has come full circle. (Warning: Do not add to story. Amen.)”
Submitting to the limit of 140 characters per chapter, highlighted Riess’s creativity. Names, for instance, often got shortened: note God shortened to G in the above two tweets. Humorously though, Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, typically considered the longest name in the Bible, is left unabbreviated (see Isaiah 8), with the pointed observation that he would “have a heck of a time filling out forms when he grows up.” Riess often draws upon pop culture imagery to get to the heart of some chapters. There’s a reference to Michelle Obama in the tweet about the familiar Proverbs 31, or consider Psalm 93:
“G is the king over all creation, in case you missed it. Not Elvis. Not Michael Jackson. Not even Budweiser.”
Riess’s Twible project is now available in book form, an ambitiously self-published volume (or as she notes in the acknowledgements “team published”). Even if one followed along with the Twible as Riess was tweeting it, and I doubt that there were few who caught every last tweet, this volume is essential because it not only collects all the tweets, but because it includes a substantial number of sidebars some illuminating (“Five Money Rules from the Book of Proverbs”), some humorous (“Mount Foreskin” which references stories in Joshua and Samuel). The volume is also sprinkled liberally with cartoons by Leighton Connor that bring Riess’s already vivid text to life.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the people or things we love in a fresh light. That’s the genius of Jana Riess’s The Twible (in a similar fashion to Eugene Peterson’s The Message that appeared over two decades ago). The Twible is not intended as a replacement for the Bible, but as a teaser of sorts that draws us into the rich life of the scriptural story. If we understand ourselves as part of the unfolding biblical narrative, then Riess’s Twible is not unlike the joking and storytelling at a family reunion; by humorously helping us to see ourselves in the Bible’s characters, we are reminded that these ancient people – in all their twisted glory – are our family, our people. Play is often overlooked as an important facet of the Sabbath life into which we have been called, and Jana Riess’s playful approach to the biblical text in The Twible, is a gift… and a striking reminder that we’re not all that different from our ancestors in the faith!