The Saint John’s Bible was conceived by Donald Jackson, artistic Director and Illuminator of the Bible, in the 1970s. It was officially commissioned in 1998 and completed in 2011.
The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition is a fine art reproduction of the original hand-crafted version. Saint John's Abbey has limited publication to 299 sets. Saint Joseph's University's set is number 60.
The University has all seven volumes: the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, Psalms, Wisdom Books, Prophets, the Gospels & Acts and Letters & Revelation.
The Bible is illuminated. Father Michael Patella, OSB, who was chair of the Committee on Illuminations and Text, that designed the Saint John’s Bible explains “The Illuminations are not illustrations, they are spiritual meditations on a text. It is a very Benedictine approach to scripture”.
Two volumes are on display in the Drexel Library on the first floor. Pages are changed out every few weeks to minimize exposure to light and to highlight sections of the work. Currently on display are the Gospels and Acts and the Wisdom Books volumes.
In the Gospels and Acts volume the open page is the Luke Anthology which depicts 5 parables and one story from the gospel of Luke. These were illustrated in diagonal bands. Three of the parables are about God seeking and finding lost sinners. In the parable of the Lost Son, the contemporary image of the Twin Towers is used in the band as an example of the challenges of forgiveness, according to Donald Jackson.
In the Wisdom Books the open page is the Job Frontispiece. The left side of the page shows the world in chaos, while the darker colored right side has some slim gold bars in it to let Job know that God is still present. On the facing page it shows this sentence from the Book of Job: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?”
- Lesley Carey, SJU Archives & Special Collections