The St. Johnís Bible. The Pentateuch. Handwritten and Illuminated by Donald Jackson. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006. pp. 158. $69.95 hb. ISBN 0-8146-9052-1
Reviewed by Alice L. LAFFEY, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610

The Saint Johnís Bible is the first handwritten Bible since the invention of the printing press. It is comprised of seven volumes, including Pentateuch, Historical Books, Prophets, Psalms, Wisdom Literature, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. An additional companion-volume entitled Illuninating the Word: The Making of the Saint Johnís Bible describes how this edition of the Bible came to be. The manuscript is a joint effort of the monks at St. Johnís Abbey, Collegeville, MN, and Donald Jackson, who has served as scribe in the Queen of Englandís Crown Office, and is the projectís initiator and artistic director. Artist-calligraphers using eggs, feathers, calf-skins and hand-ground inks along with gold, silver and platinum applied ancient techniques to produce a contemporary masterpiece, what Newsweek magazine has called ďAmericaís Book of Kells.Ē Jackson spent seven years working in collaboration with others on the project in his scriptorium in Wales. The translation used in the Bible is the New Revised Standard Version. Because the purpose of the projectís undertaking is to ignite the spiritual imagination of the people, the companion-volume describes the lectio divina, an early monastic technique consisting of reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Benedictine monks continue to practice this method by which Scripture comes alive through the power of imagination.

Pentateuch is the third volume to be published and includes the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In addition to its diverse calligraphies and its frequent illuminations, the volume contains illustrations of Creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Jacobís Ladder, Abraham and Sarah, the Ten Commandments and the Death of Moses.

The achievement of The Saint Johnís Bible will be wasted on the reader whose intent is ďto get the message,Ē with a goal similar to that of speed reading. If however you and/or the believing community to which you belong, wish to get more closely in touch with the reverence for and awe of the Bible as Word of God that pervaded the Tradition throughout the centuries and that found expression in artistic grace and beauty, in hand-written text carefully copied and lovingly preserved, there is perhaps no better way than to engage prayerfully the biblical proclamation made possible by The Saint Johnís Bible.

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