Why the Bible’s popularity comes from it’s narrative

Jesus and the rest of the Bible has always been a plump source for inspiration in pop culture, from movies, TV, books and even great ads.

Jesus from 1one production on Vimeo.

On it’s own it’s a pretty clever ad, spinning the Jesus narrative to mesh well with 1one message of “like me :)’. For the narrative of Jesus as a whole, it’s further proof that, whether it should be considered Fiction or Non-Fiction, it’s influence comes from being one of the most effective narratives in history.

It’s a Transmedia Narrative

One of the biggest developments in narratives is the transmedia narrative, where a story isn’t just within one medium e.g. book but several mediums to create a experience. There are actual businesses whose purpose is  crafting a real-life version of fictional organizations i.e. the Umbrella Corporation and seeing what happens. However Transmedia is quite effective, often used successfully when marketing films.

Article Narrative Univers - Jesus Article 640px-CAPPELLA_SISTINA_Ceiling The earliest adopter of the the transmedia narrative is the Church, spreading and enforcing the Biblical narrative. As one of the most important institutions of the Western world, it exerted a strong influence on the faiths of everyone, and it did this by crafting a transmedia narrative entered around Biblical stories and stories inspired by it. From the sermons, to stain glass images, to the rituals, to possessing artifacts like Saint Cuthbert’s left nipple, every element created a transmedia experience to practically everyone. In many cases churches took advantage of location i.e. Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus crucified and buried, that were dedicated to to parts of Jesus story or to particular saints to further enforce the holy narrative as a whole (think how Israel’s tourism run on the Bible the way New Zealand is run on LOTR). The church Transmedia Narrative was further pronounced during the Renaissance, where the rebirth of European culture and the careers of some of the worlds most famous inventors, artists thinkers were employed by the Church to create interpretations of every bit (usually just the interesting bits) of the Bible. And while the Renaissance is over the effective use of Transmedia narrative by the Church still exerts a strong influence in our culture today.

It’s a Narrative Universe

One of the reasons why Star Wars or DC/Marvel universes have lasted decades yet still remain popular is that they are not tied down by popular characters like Luke Skywalker or Ironman. Instead the narrative universe draws strength from the characters around the more popular characters, opening up a whole world to explore the narratives of the sidekicks, villains, to even the extras around the most popular guy’s narrative. Likewise Jesus Narrative, while Jesus is the most important guy in the room, he’s not the only guy in the room.

Article Narrative Universe - star-wars-expanded

For example Luke Skywalker is the hero for the original trilogy however he is often not even present for the Prequel trilogy, and is just a supporting character to non-existent in much of  the Expanded Universe which can grow just fine without his presence. Likewise Jesus is only physically present in the Four Gospels and Acts, which occupies a slim percentage of the Bible as a whole. The world that the Biblical narrative still has characters like Moses or Paul, not to mention prophets, warlords, kings, commoners, etc. With this world, the Biblical Narrative invites narratives outside the bible. Most prevalent being the Saints in Catholic tradition (for all the cool shit they did to become Saints). While Bible is deep enough that a lifetime can be dedicated to it, it still allows inspiration for more narratives such as the early Christian Martyrs to Jesus as a Punk Rocker.

It’s a Universal Narrative

The stories that remain constantly popular and still resonate throughout generations are the ones have something to offer to anyone who read them, holding universal themes like love, death, fate etc. Classics such as The Great Gatsby still resonate with our generation as it’s about the pursuit of love and wealth, while Great Expectations is about class and perception thereof. 

Article Jesus Narrative - Classical Literature

For the Jesus narrative, it’s most common theme is spiritual, easily the most popular element of the Bible and why it still remains the most popular book to this day. However for Non-Christians, there are the stories of the early Hebrews to the parables of Jesus, stories often carry universal life lessons (it’s awesome if you help a unconscious guy lying by the side of the road).  But it was written to also to appeal to some of universal life lessons and stories we share. Even within Jesus’s actual narrative he’s God being human, or a revolutionary challenging the high priests, it’s themes hold together the narrative that will continue to remain popular for generations to come.