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Special Collections Staff Favorites: The Saint John’s Bible and Holy Week

As we make our way through this Holy Week, I am reminded of our library's annual tradition of turning the page of the Saint John's Bible in the library's entrance to an image that represents the Easter story. Although a small action, it has become a special way to mark the year and to support the spiritual life of our campus. Like so many other traditions, we aren't able to participate in this activity this year. And so, as much of our world moves online, we wanted to take a moment to virtually "turn the page."


St Johns bible

An image of the frontispiece of the Gospel of John in the Saint John's Bible
Gospel of John Frontispiece and Incipit, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John's Bible and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA.


While perhaps not a traditional Easter image, this image at the beginning of the Gospel of John nonetheless calls to mind the resurrected Christ. The words in script on the left side of the illumination are from Colossians 1:15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first born from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Donald Jackson, the artist for this image and the artistic director of the Saint John's Bible project, used inspiration from Hubble Space Telescope images for the background of the image, representing the cosmic proportions of the idea of God becoming man. The small keyhole recalls a time when many manuscripts were locked and even chained to their shelves for protection, demonstrating the immense value placed on those objects and the words they contained, giving even more weight to the idea of Jesus as the word that "became flesh."

detail image of st john gospel


This year, I am particularly drawn to the words of the fifth verse in the first chapter of John:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

As we enter Passover today and Easter weekend in a few days, I wish you light in the midst of a challenging time.


If you would like to learn more about the Saint John's Bible at Pepperdine, please see this guide.

You may also be interested in the Journey with the Saint John's Bible, a free online course offered by the University of Notre Dame during this lenten period, and available until May 31, 2020.