In celebration of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary invited all institutions with a Saint John’s Bible to turn a page a day for seven days during the week of Sept. 21 – 27. Azusa Pacific University is one of 60 universities participating across the United States.
The page-turning schedule allows readers across the United States to reflect on one page and one image a day.
“We’re all liturgically doing this at the same time,” said Professor Luba Zakharov, associate professor and APU librarian, who spearheaded the task of acquiring and using the Heritage Edition at APU. “Using their schedule, we participate and become a part of the larger community.”
APU’s edition was calligraphed by the monks of St. John’s Abbey, under the direction of Donald Jackson, senior scribe to Queen Elizabeth.
“I am proud to represent the team of skilled artists and printers who have striven to make the Word of God come alive on the pages of this edition of The Saint John’s Bible,” Jackson commented in an article published by the Christian Post.
The Bible is based on a handwritten original that is kept in a vault at St. John’s Abbey. Only 299 sets of seven volumes exist.
“We had the [St. John’s] Bible for a year in 2012 before we bought it,” Zakharov said. “Then we purchased one volume and the second volume. We’ve set aside purchasing all seven over a period of time.”
Even rarer is the Apostles Edition of the St. John’s Bible, which is believed to be the first handwritten and illuminated Bible produced in about 500 years. The 1,150-page work took an approximate 15 years to complete. According to the Saint John’s Bible website, only 12 of them exist and when Pope Francis was presented with his copy, he donated it to the Library of Congress on Sept. 24.
The Hugh and Hazel Darling librarians at APU have made a point of flipping the pages at 11:20 a.m., when many students are leaving chapel and passing through the library.
Throughout history, illuminated Bibles have typically depicted the times and cultures in which they were created and the St. John’s Bible is no different. Timeless scriptural passages are joined by illustrations depicting a multicultural humanity and portrayals of science, technology and historical events.
At APU, the Department of Theology has put the St. John’s Bible to good use. “[It] has actually been taken into classrooms,” revealed Zakharov. “We do a presentation on the history of the Bible, so people get a sense for it and get a chance to turn the pages.”
The Heritage edition of the St. John’s Bible is on display in the very center of Hugh and Hazel Darling Library on West Campus, where all guests are welcome to view it.