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A Monumental Work of Sacred Art

Lighting the Word: Creighton and the Saint John’s Bible

In this video series, produced by Creighton Archives and University Communications and Marketing, Creighton University experts explore the timeless Scriptures and breathtaking illuminations found in the Saint John’s Bible – the first handwritten, hand-illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in over 500 years. A Heritage Edition of the Bible is currently on loan to Creighton from Michael McCarthy, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Nancy.

Ignatian imaginative prayer and the illustrations found in the Saint John’s Bible can provide new perspectives on biblical stories, says Beth Samson of the Creighton Campus Ministry Office, allowing us to “more readily experience the sacred in our daily lives.”

Leonard Greenspoon, PhD, professor of theology and the Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization at Creighton University, offers his commentary on the biblical crossing of the Jordan River, which he says is “beautifully and meaningfully” portrayed in a full-page illustration in the Saint John’s Bible.

The Rev. Dennis Hamm, SJ, professor emeritus of theology at Creighton University, says the creativity found in the illustrations of the Saint John’s Bible can help us better understand the creativity of the Gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He finds that particularly in the illumination of the crucified Jesus.

John O’Keefe, PhD, professor of historical theology and environmental theology at Creighton University, says the illumination found in the Saint John’s Bible at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark beautifully captures the multiple layers of the story of Jesus’ baptism.

Susan Naatz, senior director of Ignatian formation and ministry for faculty and staff at Creighton, says the Book of Ruth found in the Saint John’s Bible tells a powerful story about women. The beautiful illuminations connected with the story emphasize a message of strength and courage.

Molly Mattingly, director of music ministry at Creighton, says the creators of the Saint John’s Bible purposely incorporated an old bookmaking technique among its pages, wherein mistakes became an opportunity for creative expression.

Ross Paule, Creighton’s head women’s soccer coach and former standout Bluejay soccer player, is drawn to the illumination in 1 Corinthians 13 that professes, “Love is patient, love is kind. … It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

The Rev. Michael Flecky, SJ, professor of Fine and Performing Arts at Creighton, says the Saint John’s Bible on display at the University allows people to touch and see the Word of God.

Hannah Clark, a graduate intern with the Saint John’s Bible working on her master’s degree in poetry at Creighton, finds poetic form in the Beatitudes illumination that appears in the Bible.

Chase Becker, liturgy coordinator with Creighton Campus Ministry, says the Word of God is “living and effective,” in the words of St. Paul, and “we feel that especially when the Saint John’s Bible is present with us in worship.”

How do illustrations of gold bars tie into the 23rd Psalm, which begins “The Lord is my shepherd …”? Michael Kelly, JD, interim dean of the School of Law, explains.

Kevin Estep, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Cultural and Social Studies, says a beautiful illustration at the beginning of the Gospel of John invites a deeper reflection on the biblical passage “The word became flesh and lived among us.”

May 2018 graduate Lexie Kafka worked with the Saint John’s Bible as a student intern in the Rare Books Room. Kafka said she had an opportunity to share the Bible’s unique background and the stories behind the illuminations with a wide audience through events and personal showings.

The Saint John’s Bible will be on display during Holy Thursday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses at St. John’s Church. Creighton alumna Vivian Amu, a sacristan at St. John’s, says the display of the Bible helps mark special occasions, and serves as an invitation to participate. Watch her “Lighting the Word” video here.

Eileen Burke-Sullivan, STD, vice provost for Mission and Ministry and the Heaney Endowed Chair in Pastoral Liturgical Theology, explains that the artwork in the Saint John’s Bible connects the sacred text to the larger world. Watch the latest installment of “Lighting the Word.”

Bridget Keegan, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says the Saint John’s Bible on loan to Creighton University invites and challenges us to see God in new and exciting ways.

Dulcinea Boesenberg, PhD, assistant professor of theology at Creighton, shares how Hebrew words are used throughout the Saint John’s Bible, which is currently on loan to the University, creating a sense of continuity. She discusses this use of Hebrew in the current installment of the “Lighting the Word” video series.

Gintaras Duda, PhD, professor and chair of physics at Creighton and a cosmologist and particle physicist by training, discusses how the Saint John’s Bible, currently on loan to the University, incorporates modern science in its stunning illustrations. “It’s a Bible of the 21st century,” Duda says, in this week’s installment of the “Lighting the Word” video series.

Michael McCarthy, Chair, Creighton Board of Trustees

David Crawford, Creighton University Archivist

The Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible

Through the generosity of our new Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Michael J. McCarthy, and his wife Nancy, Creighton is now the steward of the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible. The Heritage Edition is a unique, full-size reproduction of The Saint John’s Bible – a monumental work of sacred art commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., in 1998. Completed in 2011, this beautiful, inspiring handwritten, hand-illuminated Bible was created by renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson and a team of scribes, artists, theologians, and scholars. Only 299 sets of the Heritage Edition were created, so we are deeply grateful that the McCarthys are sharing this wonderful work of art and Scripture with Creighton University and the wider community. A schedule for public display is being planned. We also hope to develop academic programming and events that will complement and enhance this unique opportunity to host the seven volumes that make up this Bible. Please stay tuned for updates, and please also envision how you might use and enjoy it in your own work. Thank you, again, to the McCarthys for making this possible. This is a treasured addition to our campus.

A priest moves the page marker of the St. John's Bible during Mass

Creighton University’s Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition Sermon Project

In addition to the Lighting the Word video project, we are further blessed to collaborate with clergy across the Omaha metropolitan area to bring this special Bible to local places of worship. In this interdenominational project, various faith leaders feature specific illuminations in addresses to diverse audiences, all joined by the common inspiration of The Saint John’s Bible.