It is finished.
I mean no disrespect to Jesus, but this month I completed a project that has been four years in the making. Chapman is now the permanent home of the Heritage Edition of The Saint Johns Bible. In addition to the purchasing the Bible, my campus team of 10 went to Saint Johns University in Collegeville, MN for training in 2019. We had a display cabinet created two years ago for the library so that we can showcase one of the volumes there permanently.
And this month? William Tunberg, whose spectacular marquetry can be seen in virtually every space in the Fish Interfaith Center, delivered a stunning sculptural showcase that will stand just inside the magnificent Doti-Henley doors of the chapel. One volume will always be on display there.
What is The Saint Johns Bible? It is the life dream of Donald Jackson of Wales, who spent most of his working life as the Queen of England’s senior scribe. The monks of Saint Johns Abbey and University commissioned him in 1998 to create the first hand-lettered Bible since modern printing. The 1,150 calfskin vellum pages hold the calligraphy and illuminations of over a dozen artists from around the world. They used ancient inks and the quills of turkey, swan and geese for the writing. The project was completed in 2011.
Donald Jackson personally oversaw the Heritage Edition project: full-sized, museum-quality, lithographic reproductions of the Bible. There are 299 limited editions of this seven-volume Bible. Each volume is bound in rich Italian leather. Chapman is home to edition 101.
The original remains unbound and pages are circulating to fine art museums for special showings.
As stunningly beautiful as this Bible is, I was interested in having a Heritage Edition as a permanent installation at Chapman because of the 21st century progressive Christian theology that is portrayed in the art. Particularly the monks wanted this volume to:
- Celebrate the biblical stories of women.
- Celebrate the prophetic theology of inclusion that too many in western Christianity have ignored—inclusion of immigrants, women, children, the ill, the imprisoned, the poor. It even celebrates other world religions!
- Celebrate science, technology and discovery. There are homages to quantum physics, mathematics, space travel, to name a few. In one illumination, the heart of hell is an artist’s rendering of the HIV virus. In another, the valley of dry bones includes the rusted shell of a car and other modern trash.
The Bible travels to classrooms and is used in Bible studies and services in the Fish Interfaith Center. Because of its size, it is made for small groups of people to gather around and talk about what they are seeing. In summers, I hope to have days when the public can come to campus and see all 7 volumes at once in Wallace All Faiths Chapel.
To see the Bible or have a volume come to your class, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, go to www.saintjohnsbible.org.