Illuminated or Informational Word?

Today my 6 year old daughter and I spent some time drawing. For inspiration I pulled out a book on illuminated manuscripts. We looked through pictures of Celtic knot borders, crazy twisted animals, and robed angels. It occurred to me as I flipped through the carpet pages and the various designs embedded and surrounding the text that there is something missing in modern Bibles.

Book of Kells

Book of Kells

There is a lost design element in our modern view of the Scriptures. Whereas the interpretations of the Scripture in previous hand lettered medieval manuscripts were done through color and image, a flare for mystery and highlighting the other worldliness of the Bible, our modern Bibles fill the margins with simply more words. In our thirst for knowledge we are more concerned with useful additional information and only find beauty in typesetting and page layout.

[Even the Genealogy of Christ was worth adding a full page flourish]
— Book of Kells —

Bibles are marketed by the number of notations and study helps or by the scholars behind said study guides. We name the Bibles after the name of the major note-maker (Scofield, Ryrie, Jeremiah, Dake, etc) or the theological mindset behind the features (Orthodox, Wesleyan, Reformation, Charismatic, etc.). We might even market it to a specific sect of believers (Singles, Women, African Americans, Recovering Addicts, etc.).

I love the old manuscripts because monks poured over these words with a different mindset. Their time to hand write each page, to use their talent to accentuate the text anonymously is evident. The biblical words were enough; their joy was to merely highlight it. Their pictures are not historically accurate and sometimes leave more questions than answers. They enveloped the text in mystery and mysterious contorted creatures keeping watch over the God-spell. They adored the word and simply adorned it.

One day I would like to work on a modern illuminated manuscript. I must begin first with the desire to learn to love the text just for what it is. We scholarly types have lowered adornment for a more educational, useful approach to crowding the text with more insight rather than highlight. I think the church today could use a little influx of more text and less opinion; of more embracing mystery and passively receiving the beauty therein. May we all learn in our busy and need-to-know lifestyle to stop and savor the story of our salvation. That is my desire, to see the vivid words of life anew, illuminated, adorned in beauty just as it is.

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