Saint John’s Bible donated, makes history

 

At the end of this past summer, Malone received the first volume of the Saint John’s Bible, which is making its mark in history as the first of its kind in 500 years. Donated as a seed gift by a Malone alumnus who wishes to remain anonymous, it has started Malone on a course which will put it on the map and make it a destination people want to come to, according to Director of University Relations Suzie Thomas.

Malone currently has two volumes and according to Interim President Dr. Will Friesen the rest of the volumes are being sent as they are finished. The set will likely be completed by 2013.

Starting in 1998, Benedict monks at the Saint John’s Abbey and the University in Minnesota commissioned Donald Jackson, world renowned calligrapher and senior scribe to Queen Elizabeth II, to produce a hand-written, illuminated Bible that embraces ancient traditions.

Malone is in possession of two of the seven volumes of the rare Saint John's Bible, with the rest to follow as they are finished. The Bible has been handwritten by calligraphers and illuminated with artwork, and only 299 editions of the Bible will exist when the project is completed. (Photo by Kaitie Fox)

The Saint John’s Bible is written in the NKSV version and includes seven volumes, the first five being the Old Testament and the last two being the New Testament. An eighth volume will also be produced, providing a commentary on the illuminations. Already ten years into the project, only 299 editions will be produced throughout the world, with the first edition going to Pope Benedict XVI.

Malone currently has the 64th edition of two volumes which include the Pentateuch and the wisdom books.

Making this Bible even more unique are the illuminations that accompany the Scripture. The artists consulted with theologians and each piece is intentional. The styles include both traditional and modern art forms. Thomas, along with Associate Professor of Biblical Studies Dr. Joel Soza, visited Saint John’s Abbey to see the Bible and described it as almost three-dimensional.

“You feel like you’re reading Scripture in a whole new way,” Thomas said. “It’s hard not to have your jaw drop.”

Soza feels the art turns up the volume of the text and the purpose is to “ignite spiritual imagery of all faith traditions.”

“We hear the text a bit more carefully because we’re seeing it with the eye,” Soza said.

[pullquote]It’s hard not to have your jaw drop,” Suzie Thomas said.[/pullquote]

Being in possession of this unique piece of literature and art will no doubt have a significant impact on Malone. Malone will be one of only a few institutions in Ohio that will be a home to the St. John Bible. Thomas said he felt having the St. John will set the university apart and show who Malone is.

“It will show our seriousness about God’s world and the importance and history of it,” Friesen said. “It will show our commitment to good art and literature.”

Each work of art in the Saint John's Bible displays a theological interpretation of a passage. The 64th edition of the Bible is currently in Malone's possession and will be on display next spring. (Photo by Kaitie Fox)

 

Since receiving this gift, a committee has been established which includes Soza as well as members from the Office of Advancement, the library, the Department of Campus Ministries and the art department. According to Soza, the committee is still at the early stages and focusing on how to promote the St. John Bible to both the Malone and Canton communities.

It is possible that it could be displayed in early spring, Thomas said, most likely in the Johnson Center. Short-term and long-term plans are currently being made by the committee.

Thomas hopes to bring the community into Malone through the St. John Bible and would also like to see Malone involved with First Friday, Arts in Stark and the Canton Museum of Art. Another opportunity is to display the Bible with other artifacts Malone currently has including Walter Malone’s Bible and promoting Malone tradition.

Friesen said that he would also like to see the Bible used with students and the classroom. Other plans include potentially inviting guest speakers who are involved with the St. John Bible Project during the spring.

“It’s got a lot of potential that we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of,” Thomas said.

[LINK:] USA Today published a video on the St. John’s Bible earlier this year.

 Steena Hymes is a staff writer for Aviso AVW.

 

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