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This Guy Wants $25,000 to Translate the Bible Into Emojis

We talked to Kamran Kastle, a guy with an ambitious plan to translate the more than 31,000 verses of the Old and New Testament into emojis.

The Bible is generally considered a pretty good book, but one of its biggest criticisms has always been that it's just too damn long. Who has time to read all those words? If it were a bit more user friendly it would really have the chance to go viral—maybe even on a level with that ​​"Too Many Cooks" video. Kamran Kastle understands this problem and is trying to fix it by translating the entire thing—both the Old and the New Testament—into emojis. Kastle, a USC graduate, has started a Kickstarter page for the project, simply titled ​​The Bible Translated Into Emoticons.


​This isn't a totally revolutionary idea, of course. Moby Dick has already received a similar treatment in a project titled Emoji Dick.  But while editor Fred Benenson completed that massive undertaking by hiring Amazon Mechanical Turk workers to translate the text, Kastle plans to translate the Bible entirely by himself (although he says he might reach out to Mel Gibson and the Pope for a bit of help).

He will also be designing his own emojis for the project, as the Unicode Consortium (the shadowy creators of the original emojis) doesn't have enough characters that accurately illustrate common Biblical stories. He says he'll be creating 5,000 of them, and project backers on his Kickstarter will receive each one. So far he has raised one single dollar, so here's hoping we can change that.

VICE: Hey, Kamran. So, to be clear, you are translating the entire Bible, correct?
Kamran Kastle: Yes, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Have you thought about translating other iconic religious texts as well? 
Yes. Some suggested I translate the Qur'an and theTorah next. I imagine one day a lot of classic texts will receive the emoji treatment.

Will you call the Koran version the Emotiqur'an?
Brilliant idea. Emotiqur'an. I love it.

Tell me about the logistics of translating the Bible into emojis. How is this going to work?
It involves reading the Bible… and simply translating it line by line. I read a line and then figure out which emoticons I should use to represent that Biblical verse. I chose not to use standard emojis because there are a limited number of characters. I just invented a lot of my own. I had to. There are too few emojis for Biblical purposes.


Right, I hadn't seen a Jesus emoji before; just prayer hands.
There isn't an emoji for the Red Sea parting, either. So I invented it. There isn't even a Jesus emoji, so I created that one, too. I am not only translating the bible into emoticons, I'm also designing the emoticons myself.

An evil emoticon created by Kastle

Do you think churches or religious figures will use the emojis you've created?
In the future, I believe lots of places/things/people will use emoticons so that people who speak other languages will be able to comprehend something. The most common international symbol might be the cross for churches, or the red cross for hospitals. Red crosses are used in hospitals all over the world, and every culture understands what a red cross means. In World War II, medics wore red crosses and neither the Nazis nor the Allies killed them, regardless of what side they were on.

Some might find your project irreverent or even demeaning to religion. How will you respond to that?
I have had people tell me that certain individuals may be offended. I find that odd, because the purpose of my emoticon bible is to make people who do not typically read the Bible, read it.

Who are the translators you're working with?
I have not hired or met with any translators thus far. I will do that after my Kickstarter fundraising concludes. I'm going to contact the following people to help me translate the bible into emoticons: Mel Gibson, Mark Burnett, the Pope, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Denzel Washington (who translated the audio book for the Bible Experience), and Anschutz Entertainment Group founder Philip Anschutz.

Those are big names. How do you plan on getting in touch with all of them?
Email. The worst that can happen is they will say no.

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