The Book of Genesis Illustrated

Writer(s): God (or Man, depending on your beliefs)
Artist(s): R. Crumb
Publisher: W. W. Norton
ISBN: 978-0393061024
Price: $24.95
Page count: 224
Year Released: 2009
Status: in print
Original Source: n/a
Other Collected Edition(s): n/a
Genres: historical fiction; literature
Recommended for Fans Of: biblical studies
Possibly Objectionable Material: nudity; sexual situations; violence (though all of this is taken directly from the Bible)
If You Like This Book, Try:
Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
This book is a straight-up illustration of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Crumb didn't skip a single word in Genesis, nor did he add any words (with a few tiny exceptions). His primary sources for the text were the King James Bible and Robert Alter's scholarly translation, which can be found in The Five Books of Moses. Crumb states that he approached this project as a strict illustration job--he did not editorialize nor attempt to satirize the story in any way (although he does provide some illuminating notes on each chapter at the end of the book).

Nonetheless, I don't doubt that several Christians, Jews, and Muslims would take offense at this book, despite the fact that Crumb in no way attempted to make a mockery of one of the founding documents of those three religions. The fact of the matter is that Genesis contains fratricide, incest, murder, adultery, mass destruction, etc., etc. In short, Genesis is a book filled with sex and violence. But it also includes some fascinating stories: God's creation of the universe, Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Ark, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Joseph's rise to power in Egypt, etc. It's all here; every last word.

My Own 2 Cents
Not being a religious man, Crumb approached this project from a historical perspective. His illustrations are, for the most part, grounded in reality. Reading Genesis as Crumb presents it here, I experienced these stories of the Bible not as myths but as stories of Middle Eastern history--and this is exactly what I was hoping for. In his introduction Crumb mentions that he did quite a bit of research on the clothes and buildings of biblical times, and it shows. Those who have criticized Crumb's visual choices (e.g., his decision to draw God as the stereotypical old man with a flowing beard) seem to be discounting the fact that what Crumb has done here is to ground the work within its own history, rather than to treat it as an ethereal document of faith. This is not William Blake's Bible of angels and demons, but rather Crumb's Bible of human beings. Personally, I believe that Genesis Illustrated will stand the test of time as Crumb's masterpiece.

(For some additional reading on this book, I recommend Bill Kartalopoulos's review on and an irritated rebuttal to Harold Bloom's clueless review of the book by 'Dorothy Parker' at