The Saint John’s Bible and its Tradition

The Saint John’s Bible and its Tradition: Illuminating Beauty in the Twenty-First Century (Wipf and Stock, 2018)

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In an age of e-books and screens, it may seem rather antiquated to create a handwritten, illuminated Bible. The Benedictine monks at Saint John’s Abbey and University, however, determined to produce such a Bible for the twenty-first century, a Bible that would use traditional methods and materials while engaging contemporary questions and concerns. In an age that largely overlooks the physical form of books, The Saint John’s Bible foregrounds the importance of a book’s tactile and visual qualities. This collection will consider how The Saint John’s Bible fits within the history of the Bible as a book, and how its haptic qualities may be particularly important in a digital age.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. “Beauty in the Bible and the Beauty of Holiness,” by David Lyle Jeffrey
  3. “Should Bibles Be Beautiful? How Beauty Teaches Us to Pray,” by Matthew Moser
  4. “Beauty Cannot Be Rushed: An Invitation to Contemplation from The Saint John’s Bible,” by Robert Moore-Jumonville
  5. “The Marginal Life of Manuscripts: What The Saint John’s Bible Teaches Us through Error,” by Jack R. Baker
  6. “From a Mere Glance: Purposeful Reticence in Victorian Gospel Illustration and The Saint John’s Bible,” by Sue Sorensen
  7. “Picturing Words: The Gospel as Imaged Word in Thomas Ingmire’s Illuminations,” by Daniel Train
  8. “Personal but not Individual: How The Saint John’s Bible Responds to Consumerism,” by Jeffrey Bilbro
  9. “The Social Conscience of The Saint John’s Bible,” by Paul N. Anderson
  10. “Musing Dante and Divining Milton: A Collaboration Modeled on The Saint John’s Bible Project,” by Gretchen Batcheller and Jane Kelley Rodeheffer

Endorsements and Reviews

“This book refocuses our attention on how a stunningly illuminated Bible, such as The Saint John’s Bible, encourages us to meditate more carefully, look more closely, and SEE Scripture in the light of its eternal beauty. A very thoughtful collection of essays makes this a valuable resource.” Sandra Bowden, artist, author, and former President of Christians in the Visual Arts

“Arguably, no other book in the history of the world has inspired more poets, artists, and musicians than the Bible. The reason goes far deeper than the literary qualities of any biblical passage. J. Baker, J. Bilbro, and D. Train’s arrangement of essays in The Saint John’s Bible and its Tradition not only witnesses to the expansive imagination the biblical text engenders, but it also bears testimony to the interpretation of the Bible that the imagination fosters.” Michael Patella, OSB, Saint John’s University, School of Theology and Seminary

“This intriguing set of essays shows how illumination may happen, not just on the page but also in our minds and lives—but only if we are willing to replace our industrialized habit of ‘processing’ words with slow practices of dwelling on the words of Scripture, in all their challenging beauty.” Ellen F. Davis, A. R. Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

“The authors of Holy Scripture understand how important it is for human beings not only to think rightly about God but to taste and to see that the Lord is indeed good. . . . The way to the true knowledge and love of God therefore lies through the senses, not despite or beyond them. The creators of The Saint John’s Bible understand this fact—and exemplify it in a work of extraordinary beauty. And the authors of this volume do us a tremendous favor by showing us how The Saint John’s Bible might form us through its form. What an invaluable aid to teachers, pastors, worship leaders, and artists!” W. David O. Taylor, Fuller Theological Seminary

“What is refreshing … is that the dialogue set up between tradition and modernity is not only about challenge or conflict. … This allows for a series of fascinating, thought-provoking observations about how The Saint John’s Bible might bridge the gap between the time of handwritten, illuminated Bibles and a screen-based culture of scrolling and swiping. The result is a set of essays which constitute a fitting tribute to a Bible suffused with a rich beauty that has the power to include, persuade, and transform a contemporary reader.” Ewan Bowlby reviewing the collection for Transpositions.

“Baker, Bilbro, and Train’s The Saint John’s Bible and Its Tradition: Illuminating Beauty in the Twenty-First Century represents a first attempt to cultivate the kind of conversations around this project that the monks of Saint John’s Abbey hoped for. . . . These combined voices represent a sound beginning to scholarship on this Bible.” Jonathan Homrighausen reviewing the collection for CIVA.