The Cartoon Gospel

Cartoons of the Gospel Lectionary for Year C

First Published by:

Liturgical Publications, Inc.
2875 South James
Drive New Berlin, WI 53151
Paperback ISBN: 0-940169-09-6

The Cartoon Gospel Color Edition, 2000
Published by:

Richard L. Diesslin
Compact Disk ISBN: 978-0-9702244-1-5

Copyright (c) 1990 by Liturgical Publications, Inc. 2875 South James Drive, New Berlin, WI 53151. All rights reserved. All rights transferred to Richard L. Diesslin, author/cartoonist, by Liturgical Publications, Inc.  Color edition published by Richard L. Diesslin, Copyright (c) 2000. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission from Richard L. Diesslin (e-mail at, website or


The Cartoon Gospel is unique because it is cartooning of scripture passages instead of scripture illustration or normal Christian cartooning (which primarily lampoons church life). The purpose is to add freshness to the interpretation of the passages. It should challenge the reader to (re-) read these verses and see if it adds a new dimension to his/her understanding.

The Cartoon Gospel attempts to portray biblical characters as real people trying to know and follow God's will. It is all too easy to read the Bible and be left with the feeling that they are rigid, perfect, even superhuman characters instead of people with the same possibilities that you and I have. The cartoons are meant to be stimulating and humorous and are based on researched interpretation. Each one is "defensible" theologically (with the exception of minor cartoonist privilege now and then), even though the point is to assist the reader in his/her own analysis of the actual scripture passage. Hopefully, the humor and challenge stand on their own merit.

Whenever humor is mixed with the holy, there is a very delicate balance to be maintained. In order to stay within the realm of good taste, a review panel comprised of clergy/ministers from Catholic and Protestant denominations assisted in defining the boundaries (listed in the acknowledgements). Their guidance and suggestions throughout the creation of the Cartoon Gospel have been important to the process. For example, the cartoons were intended to be published stand-alone which may have caused them to be taken out of context. So one idea was to create a cartoon devotional; this is where the concept of the brief message with each cartoon originated. The message allows for the context to be set and some of the background research to be passed on.

The scripture passages are excerpted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, since most of the original research was done from this translation. The Gospel scripture selections usually follow the Common Lectionary Readings for Year C. Thank you for reading the Cartoon Gospel. I hope it entertains you and enriches your spiritual life.



I'd like to thank my parents, Howard and Micki, not only for raising me, but also for their interest in my cartooning projects, even if that support came only after I had fulfilled my duty to them: producing a grandchild. I have to thank my wife Mindy as well, not only for her part in producing the "grandchildren," but primarily for several years of support and encouragement on this book. I have to thank my college fellowship for fertilizing the mustard-seed sized spirituality I brought with me; it's a really big weed now! Doug Dickey, Roger Callahan, and John Southwood were the ministers at the time I attended college. Joking around, working and even fishing with these guys indirectly led to the Cartoon Gospel. The Recently Discovered Book of Ralph (forever to be unpublished) was my first effort in cartooning the Gospel and having fun with the people involved in the fellowship at the same time.

The review panel was of great significance to this effort. If it were not for their insights and criticisms I may never have stumbled into the current format. Their reviews were insightful and helpful, challenging me to modify, enhance and even drop some of the text and cartoons. I would specifically like to thank D. Elton Trueblood. I know him only through our correspondence (he was kind enough to respond to a letter I wrote him in appreciation of his book The Humor of Christ). He agreed to review the Cartoon Gospel and wrote "The work you have done is impressive. You have done a great deal of thinking." Words like that coming from a noted scholar are encouraging, to say the least.

The review panel consisted of:

  • Rev. Thoas A. Baima, Associate Director for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois
  • Rev. Roger Callahan, Purdue Christian Student Fellowship, W. Lafayette, Indiana
  • Rev. Steve Daniels , Hawker United Church of Christ, Beavercreek, Ohio
  • Rev. George Davis, University Heights United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Rev. Douglas A. Dickey, Pacific Christian College, Fullerton, California
  • Elton Trueblood Yokefellows International, Richmond, Indiana

with additional review from Mindy Diesslin and Doris Anne Onken.

I would specifically like to thank Keith B. Lawson, Director of Publications, and Liturgical Publications for believing in this work and giving it a shot. Elton Trueblood put it best: "I congratulate you on your success in finding a publisher for your unique work. Most authors are not so fortunate." That is how I feel, very fortunate. I would also like to thank all those who provided encouragement early on when the book was still just a concept.

Most importantly, I thank God who blesses us with the presence of Jesus. I have come to a deeper understanding of the Scripture and a deeper relationship with Jesus than I had before I started. I guess I will always think of Jesus as the man-God who always has a twinkle in his eye, even when he is making his most serious point. I hope it adds another facet of Christ's personality to your life as well.


"The widespread failure to recognize and to appreciate the humor of Christ is one of the most amazing aspects of the era named for Him. Anyone who reads the Synoptic Gospels with a relative freedom from presuppositions might be expected to see that Christ laughed, and that He expected others to laugh, but our capacity to miss this aspect of His life is phenomenal. We are so sure that He was always deadly serious that we often twist His words in order to try to make them conform to our preconceived mold. A misguided piety has made us fear that acceptance of His obvious wit and humor would somehow be mildly blasphemous or sacrilegious. Religion, we think, is serious business, and serious business is incompatible with banter." -Excerpt from The Humor of Christ, by D. Elton Trueblood, Harper & Row.


"One of the barriers to hearing the word of God when we read the Bible is the feeling, "I've read all this stuff before." One way to break down that barrier is to see the humor that is often hidden in the Scripture.

Rich Diesslin, in his THE CARTOON GOSPEL, uses a sometimes "off the wall" sense of humor to show us a humorous and, paradoxically, a dead serious side of the Scripture. [...] Jesus, who often used humor in his teaching would, we think, be pleased by these unorthodox and penetrating insights into his teaching." -Douglas A. Dickey.

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