Rare illuminated Bible coming to Arkansas this year

Four Catholic health ministries are bringing the Year of the Saint John’s Bible to Arkansas in recognition of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Little Rock.

The Bible will travel to Catholic hospitals in Fort Smith, Rogers, Jonesboro and Little Rock, with each location hosting programs for employees, physicians and the public. In addition, the programs will connect with schools and parishes so they may encounter the first hand-illuminated Bible in 500 years.

The project will also pay tribute to the great work of the diocese in advancing encounters with Scripture through the Little Rock Scripture Study and other formation.

“The Saint John’s Bible is meant to inspire the religious imagination of people,” said Jared Bryson, vice president of mission for Mercy in Chesterfield, Mo. “It’s a book of the Church, by the Church and for the Church.”


How it started

The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned by the Benedictine monks of St. John Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., in 1998 and was completed in 2011. The original manuscript of seven volumes remains at St. John University, but 299 sets were created as a “Heritage Edition” for travel and display around the world.

The Saint John’s Bible was the vision of artist and calligrapher Donald Jackson, who led the international team that created every aspect of the manuscript.

The Saint John’s Bible incorporates many of the characteristics of its medieval predecessors: It was written on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments and gild such as gold leaf, silver leaf and platinum.


‘Book is alive’

Chad Raith, vice president of mission for Mercy Northwest Arkansas, said hosting the Bible fits with Mercy’s commitment to care for patients holistically: physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“We are excited about the privilege of having the Bible here in northwest Arkansas,” he said. “One thing that unites Christians of all stripes — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant — is our common dependence on the Bible for God’s wisdom, guidance and consolation.”

Martin Schreiber, vice president of mission for Mercy Fort Smith, said the presence of the Bible will give communities a chance to discuss the role of Scripture in faith traditions.

“I think having a dialogue around this Bible is important,” he said. “I think it allows us to see God. The Book is alive; it’s not dead. The word of God is alive and full of color.”

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