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"I wanted to make something the reader would want to read and not just have as a centrepiece," said Chua Ee Chien of Oriental Editions' four Gospels. Photos by Natalie Tan.

Within the English-speaking Christian community, two projects launched a few years ago changed the way the Bible was presented: The Alabaster and Bibliotheca. 

Both took the form of the Bible, traditionally a thick book filled with microscopic lines, and re-presented it with the aesthetic considerations of book design in mind.

“Looking around, I realised there was nothing in Asian languages like this.”

Inspired by how the two outfits have revived an interest in reading ancient Scripture, Chua Ee Chien decided last October to start his own little venture — a modern redesign of the Chinese Bible — with the same goal in mind.  

Chua’s project, Oriental Editions, “references the work done by Alabaster and Bibliotheca, where the Bible is well laid out and easier to read, and easier to digest”.

“I wanted to make something both beautiful but also something the reader would want to read and not just have as a centrepiece,” said Chua.

The compact Gospels come in a case.

 

This Friday (May 29), a 30-day online kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce 500 copies of the Chinese translation of the four Gospels will go live.

“Looking around, I realised there was nothing in Asian languages like this,” said Chua, who has titled the project Oriental Editions. It is “an opportunity to change the way people see the Bible”.

“As the younger generation grows up, I realised that there might be a disconnect between how churches preach and share the Gospel, along with the Bibles they get to read.

“I felt that it would be a good way to reach out to them in a way that might be more presentable and relatable.”

Chua said that he tried to make the Word more accessible through two ways in particular: Using the right translation, and improving its presentation.

“What better way is there to focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus than by starting with the Gospels?” 

The translation used is the Chinese New Version, which he sought permission from the Worldwide Bible Society to use. It will be in Simplified Chinese.

While the Union Version is the one Christians are more familiar with, he wanted to present a more readable version, especially if readers are new to the faith, he said.

As for how the Bible looks, he said that the traditional form might be difficult or boring for people to digest, whether they are new believers or long-time followers.

To simplify the reading process, he decided to break the Bible down into individual books, as well as revamp its typography.

Chua went for the Gospels first because “what better way is there to focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus than by starting with the Gospels”?

“These are teachings and stories of the Saviour’s life and ministry, allowing us to focus on Him and His grace.”

He aims to raise S$33,000 through the online fundraising campaign. Besides financing the cost of printing the Gospel books, the money will also go towards the next endeavour – copies in other languages like Korean, Filipino, where there are sizeable Christian populations, and Bahasa Indonesia.

There are plans to work with local artists in each of the countries. 

Oriental Editions’ four Gospels.

Meanwhile, he is looking at producing the current set of Chinese-language Gospels in July and August, and deliver them to donors by September. Ten percent of sales will go to the Worldwide Bible Society to fund their efforts.

The books will be in soft copy. Chua had initially wanted to publish them as hardcover books, but the cost was too high, especially as he wanted to print the first set in Singapore to ensure the high quality of the books.

A cheaper, softcover version also makes the price point more accessible, he said.

The first hundred sets will be priced at S$58, while the remaining 400 will go for S$68.

“Perhaps the books could be an early Christmas present?” he suggested.

He also intends to print Chinese-language copies of other biblical books, specifically Proverbs, Psalms and Ecclesiastes.

“These three books have beautiful prose, and they have words of wisdom that the secular community might be more open to.

“It’s an opportunity to bring more people to the Gospel, and something people can give their friends too.”

Oriental Editions kickstarter campaign

Click here for more information on the kickstarter campaign, launching this Friday, May 29.

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Salt&Light

Salt&Light is an independent, non-profit Christian news and devotional website with a passion for kingdom unity, and a vision of inspiring faith to arise in the marketplace.