An eccentric atheist from the San Francisco Bay Area has illustrated over 4,450 scenes from 412 stories in the Bible almost entirely with Lego blocks.
And though Brendan "The Reverend" Smith abandoned his Episcopalian heritage and faith in God in his early teens, his more-than-eight-year project isn't meant to mock the Bible or those who believe in it (though there is a scene or two that will raise eyebrows).
Rather, The Brick Testament, as he calls it, simply presents verses in the Bible in a fun yet accurate way.
"[T]he goal of The Brick Testament is to give people an increased knowledge of the contents of The Bible in a way that is fun and compelling while remaining true to the text of the scriptures," says Smith. "To this end, all stories are retold using direct quotes from The Bible."
The idea for The Brick Testament came up after Smith read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time while he was studying philosophy and ancient Christianity at Boston University.
Shocked by some of the scenes he read, Smith decided he wanted to re-tell the stories in a way that was more literally accurate than the other illustrated Bibles he had seen. So, using perhaps the most versatile medium available – Legos – Smith began constructing scene after scene and eventually posted photos along with captions for each scene online.
Since the website for The Brick Testament launched in 2001, it has drawn over two million visitors and landed Smith a book deal. Furthermore, his book series – which compile snapshots of his Lego illustrations on the story of the Ten Commandments, stories from the Book of Genesis, and the story of Christmas – has been translated into several languages, including German, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, and Hungarian.
Interestingly, Smith's project has drawn praise from both atheists and believers. While the former group enjoys it for how it points to what they consider to be absurdities in the Bible, the latter group hail it for its evangelical potential.
There are, of course, critics that come out every now and then, mostly upset over some of the graphic scenes depicted in Smith's illustrations – particularly scenes involving sex and, less frequently, violence.
But for the most part, the feedback to date has been positive. Smith says he hears nearly every day from ministers and Sunday-school teachers who ask for permission to use his images in their lessons.
So high is the volume of demand that Smith moved the question on how to get permission to the top of his FAQ page. And now, Smith simply asks those wishing to use his illustrations for off-line, noncommercial, and nonprofit purposes to drop him an e-mail, which he simply holds on to for record keeping purposes.
"Although Rev. Smith will read this e-mail and keep it in his files, you will not receive a reply," states his website.
Despite his nickname, Smith is "not an ordained member of any earthly church" and admits to referring to himself as "Rev. Smith" or "The Reverend" because he is "highly presumptuous and extremely vain."
Still, the 36-year-old Lego fanatic does hope that visitors to his website leave The Brick Testament entertained and better informed.
"It is obviously not intended to be evangelical, but it is not necessarily anti-evangelical either," Smith had told the local newspaper for his home in Mountain View, Calif. "I leave it to individuals to make up their own minds about their religious beliefs, but I do think everyone is better off making informed decisions on the matter."
This past summer, Smith finished the final four illustrated stories from the book of Revelation and said he plans to continue illustrating even more Bible stories and adding them to the website "for the foreseeable future."
Aside from The Brick Testament, Smith is also involved in making music and drawing comic strips. His comic strip "The Second Coming" ran in The Daily Free Press, Boston's third largest daily newspaper, from 1992 to 1995.
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