Painting the Word

Text by Rev Nathan Nettleton images by Paul Gahan
​​​​​​​Posted by John Sampson on 10-8-2016

In our culture most picture books are for kids with the text on one page and the images on the other. Parents read the story and children look for the characters in the pictures. Similarly ‘coffee table’ books are produced for adults with short texts and beautiful images.

Paul and Nathan’s book is somewhat like the latter but reflects a much older tradition in which the Christian message is written in Icons. So in this case the texts are reproduced in the contemporary paintings that have been produced in response to the lectionary readings used by Nathan Nettleton at South Yarra Baptist Church where the paraphrase is in rather broad Australian English. (

It is a fascinating and challenging experience to read a paraphrase in the Australian idiom and then to ‘read’ the same message in a contemporary painting. It is quite a shock to have Jesus located in country Victoria.

But is not all our preaching about Jesus in the here and now?

Using local elements like the sulphur crested cockatoo as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the ubiquitous crow as a symbol of death or Spider Orchids as ‘lilies of the field’ may be confusing, but for me they offer images I can relate to. Now whenever I spot a cocky flying by or hear it squawking in the distance I am reminded of the Holy Spirit suddenly disrupting our complacency.

In addition Paul has included an account of his visits to Palestine and they also are very thought provoking

All I all I found this book to be a treat.
It is beautifully produced.
I read it with pleasure and leave it on the lounge knowing that the grandkids will pick it up and enjoy it too.

Paul Gahan ‘Painting the Word’ (2016)
Paraphrase by Nathan Nettleton / Paul Gahan (author. illustrator)
ISBN 9780646957630
Price $50
Available from Paul Gahan <>