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New Testament Scholar Lectures on The Saint John’s Bible

November 14, 2016

Michelle Adams O'Regan
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7240

Fr. Michael Patella, O.S.B. lectures on The Saint John's BibleFor the next year, Saint Anselm College is privileged to participate in "A Year with The Saint John's Bible," hosting the beautifully handcrafted Gospels & Acts volume of The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition on display in the Geisel Library.

The college held the first major event featuring the Bible on Thursday, Nov. 10 in the auditorium of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, where Benedictine monk and New Testament scholar, Father Michael Patella, O.S.B., lectured on "The Saint John's Bible: A Postmodern Interpretation of Sacred Scripture?"

Fr. Michael was the Chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text (CIT), comprised of many members of the Saint John's University and Abbey community in Minnesota including theologians and scholars who worked to launch the project in 1998. He also worked closely with main artist and master calligrapher Donald Jackson to help guide the imagery along with the Scripture.

The Bible, which was finished in 2011, was the first hand-illuminated Bible in 500 years. Created using medieval methods and materials, the manuscript's illuminations illustrate biblical themes through a lens of modern theological and global issues.

In his lecture, Father Michael described elements of the artistry on 20 different pages of the Bible and explained the symbolism of each. By combining the words of the Scriptures with the illuminations, readers are encouraged to interpret The Saint John's Bible through both visual and textual representations. He described the work as "simply reigniting and revitalizing a tradition."

For example, the image representing the Genealogy of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew includes a menorah, symbolizing the fact that Jesus was in fact born Jewish. In addition, the menorah is pictured with a DNA double-helix to represent genealogy.

"I found Father Michael's discussion of the illuminations and the thinking behind them to be fascinating," says Father Jerome Day, O.S.B. "The illuminations in The Saint John's Bible clearly reveal the richness of the biblical Word of God, the way it speaks of its own time but also addresses the needs and the conditions of men and women of every time. The presence of visual elements from the 20th and 21st centuries, our own time, underscores the intertextual reality of Sacred Scripture shows how both image and word can become sacramental."

Father Michael also noted Jackson's personal additions into the illustrations, including his depiction of New York City's Twin Towers on a page in the Gospel of Luke, as he was working on that specific page on Sept., 11, 2001.

"The Saint John's Bible was filled with fascinating art that interpreted each story of the Bible in a creative and abstract way," says sophomore Candice Bonarrigo. "I am very grateful to Saint Anselm College for giving me the opportunity to see an incredible piece of history."

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Story by Lauren Wanless '17

Photos courtesy of Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota. 2014

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