Decorated, Illuminated, and Illustrated Bibles
Decorated, Illuminated, and Illustrated Bibles
- Jonathan HomrighausenJonathan HomrighausenDepartment of Religion, Duke University
The earliest extant illustrated biblical manuscripts date to the 5th century, and their descendants continued through the medieval era and into the era of print, including children’s bibles, artists’ books, and comics. The study of this large corpus suggests a wide range of ways in which decorations, images, and other kinds of nontextual visualizations in Bibles generate meaning. Most obviously, biblical illustrations always involve interpretive decisions about biblical narratives. Traditions of visualizing biblical texts also respond to previous artistic representations of that scene or character, as well as textual exegesis; indeed, visual exegesis parallels its textual counterpart in complex ways. Further, decorated and illustrated Bibles often reflect the events of their time, including images of kingship, ecclesiastical concerns, ideologies of gender and ethnicity, and polemics within and between religious communities. Images also serve a wide range of functions: to teach, to accompany preaching, to facilitate memorization of text, and to instill moral and spiritual virtues. Finally, a wide range of nonillustrative features of Bibles create meaning: ornament, word-image interplays, and symbols.
- Religion and Art
Orientation: Terms and Scope
Since at least the 5th century, biblical manuscripts have included illustrations depicting narratives and persons both biblical and extrabiblical; decorations such as geometric patterns, flora and fauna, and textile designs; visual–verbal interplays such as historiated initials and micrography; maps, diagrams, and other visualizations of information; and the use of elaborate color and gold leaf. Here the deliberately imprecise term “decorated Bible” refers to any manuscript or printed Bible that includes nontextual visual elements, or in which the written word serves as a visual element beyond mere signifier. The term “decorated” also mediates between the terminology of different fields. Medievalists refer to stand-alone images in manuscripts as “miniatures,” and manuscripts that have miniatures, gilding, or other extensive decoration as “illuminated.”1 Scholars of print Bibles typically use the term “illustrated Bible” to refer to any Bible that includes images of biblical narratives or characters. In this article the term “illustrated Bible” is used; but, as is shown, images do not merely illustrate the text like a mirror.
This article was written with scholars of religion and the Bible in mind and surveys different methods and approaches for thinking about how decorated and illustrated Bibles convey meaning. Each section explores a different analytic lens: the relationship between illustration and text, the interplay between images and the artist’s social context, the connection between illustrations of biblical texts and written exegesis, and so forth. Each of these perspectives is illustrated by examples, both Jewish and Christian, from various time periods. The scope is deliberately eclectic: medieval manuscripts, printed Bibles from the 16th century to the present, children’s Bibles, and Bibles retold in graphic novels and comic books. The scholarly disciplines drawn on here are likewise eclectic, ranging from art history to biblical studies to book history to historical studies of Christianity and Judaism. Organizing the material in this way suggests fruitful connections between temporally and geographically disparate materials.
While art-historical research appears throughout the article, many traditional questions of art history are not discussed, such as genealogies of style, relationships of influence between manuscripts, and techniques of book production. Similarly, broad surveys of the history of decorated and illustrated Bibles are widely available and need not be recapitulated here. Those chronological surveys, however, are referenced throughout in both notes and suggested further reading.
Defining “The Bible” and Its Physical Forms
Distinguishing decorated Bibles from other sorts of books is more complex than it at first seems. This survey delineates three senses of the term “decorated Bible.”2 Most narrowly taken, the phrase refers only to books that contain the text of the Bible in order. The modern concept of the Bible as a one-volume compilation, a “pandect” in manuscript parlance, is most familiar since the mass production of Bibles in Europe enabled by Gutenberg’s moveable type. But pandects are rare among medieval Bibles, both Jewish and Christian. Most medieval biblical manuscripts only contain the books most necessary for religious services: the Gospels and Psalms for churches, the Torah for synagogues. Many of these manuscripts also contain nonbiblical texts, such as liturgical calendars, prologues, colophons, and commentaries. After the medieval era, decorated Bibles include printed Bibles with illustrations, such as those marketed for children; and, in the 20th century, biblical adaptations in book arts, graphic novels, and comic books.
Taking the term more broadly, one might categorize a variety of texts as quasi-Bibles. These include illustrated Bibles that contain many images but only small snippets of text or excerpts from biblical books, such as the 10th-century Joshua Roll (Figure 1), a Byzantine illustrated scroll of the book of Joshua.3
These became more popular in 13th-century Western Europe, especially France, when books with large cycles of biblical images arranged historically or in complex typological schemata became popular in elite circles. These include the Bibles Moraliseés, the Morgan Picture Bible, the Biblia Pauperum, and the Speculum Humanae Salvantionis.4 Similarly, in many medieval illustrated manuscripts of the Apocalypse of John, the images dominate the page and the text includes only fragmentary verses from Revelation.5 In all of these cases, one must ask whether these are biblical texts with illustrations or books of biblical images with captions. Similarly, the Byzantine tradition of Gospel lectionaries from the 8th century to the present, with the text of the Gospels rearranged for the liturgical calendar, suggests another kind of “quasi-Bible.” These contain the biblical text—not in continuous order, but spliced and rearranged.6 In all these cases, biblical text is present, but it is excerpted or abbreviated and subsumed to images, liturgical purposes, or typological schemes.
Finally, some works present the Bible in some fashion but radically change or retell its contents. Contemporary retellings of biblical stories for children can at times take great liberties with the text even as they claim to represent the Bible for their audiences.7 Similarly, Gospel harmonies, which are retellings of the life of Christ that synthesize the four Gospels into one continuous narrative, radically change the text—such as French painter James Tissot’s popular Tissot Bible (1896; Figure 2), which pairs his Gospel harmony with his paintings of scenes from the Gospels.8
Old Testament examples include two illustrated manuscripts of Old English vernacular paraphrases from the early 11th century, the Old English Hexateuch and the Junius Manuscript.9 In one sense, none of these examples are not Bibles per se, but they likely presented themselves as or functioned as Bibles for at least some audiences. This ambiguity fits into a broader awareness in scholarship on biblical translation that the lines between translation, free paraphrase, and creative retelling are often quite blurry.
Finally, many works can in no way be described as Bibles, yet they still contain biblical imagery or illustrations of biblical narratives. These include Christian liturgical manuscripts, such as missals and Books of Hours, and Jewish liturgical manuscripts, such as siddurim, mahzorim, and haggadot. They also include some early modern illustrated devotional and theological works, such as Luther’s Passional Christi und Antichristi with Lucas Cranach the Elder’s woodcuts.10 These works do not aim to reproduce the text of the Bible, nor do they present themselves as Bibles. Though relevant for the study of illustrated Bibles, they will not be discussed further.
The majority of Bibles over the past two millennia have minimal decoration and no (or little) illustration. Among Christians, the 5th-century Quedlinburg Itala (Figure 3), now extant only in fragments from 1 Samuel, is the earliest illustrated Bible.11 It has been convincingly argued, however, that Christian biblical decoration began at least in the 3rd or 4th century in the form of staurograms, a scribal convention of superimposing the Greek letters tau and rho to form a cross (Figure 4).12
The earliest extant Jewish decorated Bible, the Cairo Codex (895 ce), is an early example of the 9th- to 12th-century tradition of Masoretic biblical codices.13 Many decorated Bibles were created in highly conventional ways in relatively large numbers and are more interesting in the aggregate, such as Byzantine Gospel Books and Psalters.14 But the medieval Bibles that garner the most attention from art historians tend to be the most lavish and singular. They may be anomalies with few extant parallels, such as the Ashburnham Pentateuch (Italy, 6th–7th centuries); they may be exceptional examples of a genre, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels in the context of Latin Gospels; or they may be part of an anomalous group with other manuscripts in a localized tradition, such as the Byzantine illustrated Octateuchs (11th–13th centuries).15 With the invention of moveable type and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible in Mainz (1453–1455), decorated and illustrated Bibles took on new form.
While the absence of illustration or decoration was often merely a matter of expense, at other times a lack of illustration is itself meaningful. Iconoclastic tendencies in 8th-century Byzantium and 17th-century England led to gaps in illustrated Bibles from these times.16 Even so, this iconoclastic tendency did not prevent the earliest edition of the King James Version (1611) from containing pictorial initial letters beginning several biblical books (Figure 5), as well as elaborate title pages and maps.17 Among Jews, rabbinic law forbids any illustration in the Torah scroll for the synagogue; and some degree of avoidance of human figures runs throughout Jewish history, though this practice was by no means the cultural universal many suppose it to be in the 21st century.18
Finally, any analysis of image and text in illustrated Bibles must keep in mind that such Bibles are often the product of many hands and minds: patrons who specify the program of illustrations or theological or political emphasis, scribes who write the text, and painters who add the miniatures and gilding. This collaboration complicates attempts to ascribe meanings of the work to particular authorial voices.19 Such dynamics arose in the creation of The Saint John’s Bible, an illuminated manuscript of the entire Catholic Bible completed in 2011. This Bible was the fruit of a collaboration between the monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota, who commissioned it and gave theological and exegetical guidance to the artists; British calligrapher Donald Jackson, who served as its artistic director; and the team of scribes and artists Jackson assembled. This collaboration was at times tense, with theologians and artists admittedly speaking very different languages.20 Among printed Bibles, the joining of text and image is often driven by market forces more than individual creative genius; illustrators for children’s Bibles, as with children’s books as a whole, are often assigned by editors with little input from the author. Other illustrated Bibles do not include new art designed for the Bible but instead gather or copy the works of previous painters for prestige’s sake, as with British publisher Thomas Macklin’s ambitiously illustrated Bible of 1800.21 The vision of the individual artist as genius, a notion derived from 19th-century Romanticism, is likely the exception rather than the rule for decorated Bibles.
Image and Text: Biblical Illustrations as Exegetical Traditions
One common lens employed to study biblical illustrations is that of visual exegesis or visual criticism, in which visual narrative retells the verbal narrative differently.22 The very earliest decorated Christian Bibles contain narrative illustrations. The painter may have an explicit interpretive agenda, but even if they do not, details cannot help but shift when translating a narrative from one medium to another. The illustrator manipulates the viewer’s point of view in their reading of the text by aiming their camera lens, so to speak, through the eyes of a particular character. For example, visual depictions of the Raising of Lazarus typically situate the viewer outside the tomb with the crowd, as in the 14th-century Armenian Gladzor Gospels (Figure 6); Donald Jackson’s illustration of this event in The Saint John’s Bible (2001) places the viewer inside the tomb, looking out with Lazarus (Figure 7).23
Illustrations also frequently fill in narrative gaps or reduce the story’s moral or psychological ambiguity, as in visual retellings of Cain and Abel in children’s Bibles and comics that flatten the moral and psychological ambiguity in the text.24 Finally, the illustrator may add details absent in the text or only subtly implied: the reactions of minor characters to the events, visual and spatial backdrops so rarely described in biblical narratives, or facial expressions of characters in the scene as windows into their feelings and thoughts.
Biblical illustrators make their visual-interpretive choices within a tradition of previous interpreters and artists, though individual artists vary widely in their knowledge and conscious imitation of predecessors. Here biblical scholarship’s relatively nascent field of reception history or history of effects intersects with the traditional art-historical interest in iconography, the history of particular visual forms and their meanings in different eras and places. Contrasting the visual treatment of a given narrative with the verbal narrative often clarifies the formal, technical, and interpretive choices made by each artist.
The book of Job supplies a fruitful example. Recent work on the reception of Job situates its visual treatments in the context of their contemporary musical, liturgical, theological, and literary treatments.25 Against the backdrop of these big picture surveys stand detailed studies of works made in continuity with one another. For example, in the fifteen surviving Byzantine illustrated Job manuscripts from the 9th to the 16th centuries, what at first appear to be repetitive and uncreative later works in fact differ from their models in subtle but exegetically significant ways.26 For artists who work in a continuity of tradition, these small differences become ways to innovate, to respond to previous treatments of the same text—both in the same medium of book illustration and in other media, such as murals, paintings, and sculpture.
Of course, the relationship of text and image in Bibles is often more complicated than one-to-one relationships in which one illustration depicts the narrative events of one passage. Two examples of more complex relationships suffice. A woodcut of a woman kneeling before a youthful king, found in two Netherlandish Bibles from 1530 and 1532, could portray David and Abishag or Solomon and Bathsheba.27 The ambiguous image may illustrate multiple texts—a fruitful and possibly deliberate ambiguity that suggests thematic connections between the scenes and the kings.
The Utrecht Psalter provides a second example of complex word–image relationships. In this 9th-century monumental Carolingian Psalter, every psalm is accompanied by a drawing in a style traditionally deemed “literal illustration” rather than overtly typological (Figure 8). Given the metaphor-laden language of the Psalter, it is unclear what “literal” means here. If an action used as the source domain for a psalmic metaphor is drawn, is that a literal rendition of the psalm’s meaning? The Utrecht Psalter’s illustrations also add many details not explicitly in the text, including Christological overtones consonant with spiritual exegesis of the Psalms found in Augustine and Cassiodorus.28 Given the complexities often papered over by the term “literal,” other terms have been suggested for how this Psalter images the psalms, including “images of words” and “charade illustration.”29 This brings us to the next point: the relationship of visual exegesis and biblical text always takes shape in the context of textual exegetical traditions.
Image, Text, and Text: Biblical Illustrations and Exegetical Traditions
Biblical illustrations relate not only to the text and previous visual treatments of it but also to textual exegetical traditions in the artist’s milieu. In a 2006 essay, art historian Christopher G. Hughes suggests three ways art and exegesis might relate: (a) art can illustrate exegetical texts themselves; (b) art can illustrate biblical text in a way that reflects textual exegesis; and (c) art can itself serve as exegesis.30 While these categories are not absolute, it is always important to keep in mind that interpretive images are not merely echoes of textual exegetical traditions. Images are exegetical works parallel to and in conversation with, not mere mirrors of, commentaries in written form.
Jewish Biblical Illustrations and Midrashic Traditions
Jewish illustrations of biblical scenes often intersect in creative ways with the category of Jewish texts known as midrash, literary-homiletic reflections and embellishments on scripture. One common feature of midrash is its tendency to knit different biblical stories together—to interpret one biblical passage or verse by means of another, forming connections between them that spark insight.
Jewish illustrations of the book of Esther particularly exemplify this trend. This artistic tradition is best known in the many illustrated scrolls of Esther for liturgical chanting at Purim, which date back to the first millennium but only began being illustrated in 16th-century Italy.31 Given that Esther receives a great deal of midrashic elaboration in rabbinic literature and medieval commentary, it is not surprising that her visual treatments reflect motifs and details added to the Esther story. Many of these motifs appear in decorated Esther scrolls. Popular motifs include the beheading of Esther (Figure 9); Haman’s daughter pouring the contents of a chamber pot upon her father’s head; an angel reading the royal annals to King Ahasuerus rather than a scribe or courtier; and the motif of Ahasuerus’s throne being depicted as Solomon’s throne.32
The heritage of illustrated Esther scrolls finds a modern descendant in J. T. Waldman’s 2005 graphic novel Megillat Esther, which adds more connections to other biblical texts, such as the Joseph saga (Gen 37–50) and the Jacob-Esau rivalry.33 Though many of these scrolls clearly draw on the current art of the day, and some may even echo Christian paintings of Esther, their artists also clearly incorporate Jewish midrashic motifs. These details heighten the drama of the story, elaborate on its moral lessons, and suggest the divine will guiding the improbable coincidences of the narrative.
Similarly, Jewish interpreters of the Psalms, like their Christian counterparts, frequently read Psalms through the lens of the life of David. This lens is already present in the Psalter through the many superscriptions relating the psalm to David. Later interpreters added to this by relating psalms without Davidic superscriptions to David, and by spelling out specific connections between verses of Davidic psalms and moments in the life of David. Connecting the Psalms to David performs double interpretive work: it enfleshes the at times ambiguous emotional language of the psalms in particular narratives, and it provides psychological insight into the David portrayed in Samuel–Kings that biblical narrators typically do not. Portraits of David, then, sometimes appear in decorated Hebrew Psalters or in Bibles just before the book of Psalms, such as the 13th-century Ashkenazi Milan and Wrocław Bibles. The 13th-century Italian Parma Psalter contains even more specific Davidic imagery in the form of historiated initials depicting specific events from his life correlated to that particular psalm. Other Hebrew Psalters depict David with harp, alluding to both his playing music before Saul and his authorship of the Psalms.34 While Esther exemplifies midrashic details added to biblical texts, the inclusion of portraits of David in the Psalms exemplifies midrash’s role in making connections between different books of the Jewish Bible.
Christian Biblical Illustration and Typological Exegesis
A decisive difference between Jewish and Christian exegetical traditions is that while both Jews and Christians related Hebrew Bible texts to one another, Christians also read the symbols, characters, themes, and narratives of their Old Testament in the light of the person and ministry of Jesus. Old Testament motifs, themes, and symbols were seen as fulfilled in Christ: Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish foreshadows Christ’s three days in the tomb, Moses’s teaching at Sinai parallels Christ’s Transfiguration, the akedah becomes a type of the crucifixion, and so forth. Very broadly speaking, this is a more hierarchical relationship than the midrashic connections between biblical texts in Judaism: Christ sums up and fulfills the Torah given at Sinai rather than merely being another teacher of it. Increasingly complex visual languages were developed to express this hierarchy in biblical illustration.
Typology is a concern in the earliest Christian illustrated Bibles, though their visual grammar of typology was rather simple at first.35 In the 9th-century Carolingian Moutier-Grandval Bible, juxtaposition and shared iconography links Old and New Testaments; in one depiction of Moses receiving and teaching the Law, Moses is given the distinct beard and hair of St. Paul (Figure 10).36
The visual grammar becomes more elaborate in later medieval books, most famously embodied in the 13th-century Bibles Moraliseés, a group of massively illustrated pictorial cycles relating Old Testament types to New Testament figures and contemporary events.37 Rather than one-to-one relationships, these pages suggest multiple relationships between multiple scenes, left for the viewer to puzzle out rather than textually explained.
For example, Christian exegesis tended to heavily typologize the Crucifixion of Christ. In the New Testament, Psalm 22 was a favorite source for images of Jesus’s suffering. Images of the Passion even added details from Psalm 22 into images of Christ’s torture that were not present in the Gospels themselves. The Stuttgart Psalter (Carolingian, 9th century) and the Peterborough Psalter (England, early 14th century) both include so-called illustrations of bulls and dogs attacking the wounded Christ, visualizing Psalm 22:12–13 (Figure 11).38 Here the line between the facts of the narrative and its typological meaning is blurred in the service of devotional imagery.
Images as Windows into Political, Ecclesiastical, and Ideological Concerns
Images in decorated and illustrated Bibles can also be related to the world of the artists, who imbue images with concerns and polemics of their time. Images should never be accepted simply as mirrors of social reality. More often than not, they reflect hopes, fears, or polemics, and they attempt to create social reality through influencing viewers just as much as they reflect society.
The Iconography of Kingship, Biblical and Medieval
Illustrations in Bibles often relate to the temporal powers of the day, who were often the wealthy patrons or intended recipients of deluxe illustrated Bibles. Not infrequently in Christian Bibles made for the viewing of Christian monarchs, the king was himself pictured in the Bible, often paralleled with David, Moses, Joshua, Saul, or other biblical kings. Elsewhere the focus on kingly concerns was more subtly introduced into the images.
Two examples of Bibles from the Carolingian court (8th–9th centuries) exemplify kingly iconography in illustrated Bibles. The First Bible of Charles the Bald, created as a monastic gift for the king in 845, ends with a full-page image of the book itself being presented to the king (Figure 12; in manuscript studies parlance, this is a “presentation miniature.” This image, when combined with the manuscript’s broader iconographic foci and lengthy Latin dedicatory verses, suggests a portrayal of the youthful Charles the Bald as a righteous Christian king supporting the Church. Given the king’s youth, it is more likely that his portrait embodies not who he was, but who the ecclesial gift-givers wanted him to be.39 Similarly but less explicitly, the focus on David and kingly models of virtue in the Utrecht Psalter suggests an ideal of a just ruler making peace and reigning with humility.40
The theme of David’s kingship as a model for Christian kingship appears later in the Morgan Library Picture Bible, also known as the Crusader Bible or Shah Abbas Bible, produced in the Parisian court of Louis IX around 1250. This major picture Bible pairs 346 illustrations with brief biblical excerpts—perhaps more a book of captioned biblical illustrations than a Bible per se. Its images focus most consistently on David and Saul’s royal wars, suggesting that Louis IX’s involvement in the Seventh Crusade was as divinely aided as David’s wars with Canaanite kingdoms (Figure 13).41 Its depiction of David and his army in the armor and weapons of contemporary French knights transforms Old Testament narratives into chivalric tales that were popular in the day.
In a parallel vein, several printed Bibles of the English Reformation, such as the Coverdale Bible (1535) and the Great Bible (1539), contain variants on an elaborate title page endorsing the ecclesial authority of Henry VIII.42 Unlike the medieval Bibles for kings, these images were widely disseminated for greater social impact. They remind the reader that their interpretive community is not the Roman Church but the English Church, whose bishops are authorized by the king who is depicted prominently on the page just below the text of the title. The image uses complex typologies to teach that the king endorses the bishops and God, in turn, endorses the king.
Polemics between and within Religious Traditions
Polemic within and between religious communities is of constant interest in the study of religious images. Here, interreligious polemics are inseparable from intrareligious polemics, and more distant religious Others often serve as a cipher for more proximate targets of polemic.
Some of the most obvious and well-studied examples of religious polemic are how Christian Bibles have depicted religious Others—especially the Jews of the Old Testament, of the Gospels, and of the artists’ own time, though the lines between the three are often blurred. The Khludov Psalter (Byzantine, 9th century) responds to the then-recent Iconoclasm controversy with extensive marginal illustrations of the Psalms visualizing anti-Jewish polemics known from contemporary Christian literature (Figure 14).
These images parallel Christian iconoclasts with the reviled Jews and Muslims who similarly avoid figural depictions of God.43 A similar overlap of anti-Jewish and Christian sectarian polemic arises in two 13th-century manuscripts of the Bibles Moraliseés, major manuscripts from France containing extensive typological imagery of biblical scenes and characters.44 These religious Others need not be minorities or Jews; recent studies of anti-Muslim polemic in 10th-century Beatus manuscripts (the book of Revelation with the 9th-century commentary of Beatus of Liébana) from Islamic Iberia show how Muslims were painted as the apocalyptic anti-Christ at a time when Christians and Muslims were warring over territory.45 In all cases, images reflected Christians’ anxieties about social and theological problems by projecting those issues onto religious Others.
Early printed Christian Bibles continued this heritage of sectarian polemic, most notably in Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Apocalypse woodcuts found in Luther’s New Testament (1522) and Bible (1534). Here, for example, the whore of Babylon (Revelation 17) wears a papal tiara (Figure 15).46 Such potent images disseminated far more broadly through the reproduction technologies of moveable type and woodcut than any medieval manuscript, making them powerful Protestant visual propaganda.
In response, religious minorities often appropriate that polemical iconography in subtle and subversive ways. While traditional scholarship tended to file this away under the passive rubric of “influence,” more recent studies use postcolonial theory to highlight the subtle, in-group messages of minorities’ cultural resistance. Such subtle counterpolemics can be found in medieval Ashkenazi (i.e., French and German) Bible codices—whether in images of knights alluding to Jewish messianic hopes in the face of Christian rule in the Yonah Pentateuch (Ashkenaz, 14th century) or inversions of the Christian visual polemic of rabbit-hunting as persecuting Jews in the Schocken Bible (Germany, ca. 1300).47 Similar dynamics have been ascertained among medieval Jews and Christians in Islamic lands. Arabic Christian Gospel manuscripts from 12th- and 13th-century Egypt and Syria, for example, borrow the visual languages of calligraphy and geometry from Qur’an manuscripts and adapt them for manuscripts of Christian texts, including Byzantine-style evangelist portraits that would not be found in any Qur’an. These manuscripts may visually suggest that the Gospels are the true word of Jesus rather than the Qur’an.48 And even as Sephardic Jewish Bibles evince the nonpictorial decorations of geometric ornament and carpet pages found in Islamic manuscripts of the time (so-called because they look like textiles on the page), Kogman-Appel has shown how one such Bible, the Farhi Codex (1366–83), contains in its Islamicizing carpet pages a catena of verses polemicizing against Islamic claims of Jewish corruption of the Torah.49 In all of these cases, minority religious groups appropriate and adapt the visual culture of the majority to strengthen their own claims to legitimate religious truth.
Patrons’ Concerns and Emphases
In early medieval Europe, manuscript production was mostly the domain of the monastery and the royal court. In the 12th century, this shifted, as wealthy people began commissioning manuscripts from lay scribes. This expanded range of patronage, which included wealthy women commissioning manuscripts and convents creating them, became evident in the books they funded. It was not uncommon, for example, for English Psalters of the 12th and 13th centuries to include small portraits of the commissioning patron at prayer.50 In another major English manuscript completed between 1325 and 1336, the Luttrell Psalter made for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, Michael Camille has shown how the extensive marginal images of agrarian manor life in the manuscript relate to the social realities of Luttrell’s life and times (Figure 16).
Studying images of banquets in Luttrell’s hall and his peasants at work, Camille argues that these images do not just mirror the social reality of the time but convey the image Luttrell wanted to project. These marginalia reflect the social ideals he wanted to cling to against the reality of his struggles, including peasant revolts amid the commercializing economy and his own struggles to produce an adult male heir.51
Because some of these late medieval patrons were women—either wealthy lay women or convents—their involvement suggests gendered ways of thinking about the images’ production as well as the intended viewers’ response to those images. One example of how biblical imagery might have been viewed uniquely by women lies in the Pepys Apocalypse, a 13th-century English illustrated Apocalypse book with the biblical text in Latin and an Anglo-Norman metrical translation. Bartal argues that this manuscript was likely produced for religious women and reads one unique image of the bride in the Marriage of the Lamb scene holding a host as a symbolic vision of a woman equating herself with the priest during Mass.52 While arguments about medieval viewers’ reactions are by definition usually tentative, this suggestion of a gendered response to biblical imagery is thought-provoking.
Religious Communities’ Concerns
Images in Bibles reflect not only the issues faced by patrons and kings but the theological and communal issues faced by religious groups in a particular time and place. Such images often aim to persuade, especially in the post-Gutenberg era when such images could be reproduced on a broad scale.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for example, the land of Palestine—real or imagined—was used in biblical illustrations to various rhetorical ends. Two Christians and two Jews illustrate this trend. The Christians, Gustave Doré (Figure 19) and James Tissot (Figure 2), were French artists whose engravings (Doré, 1866) and paintings (Tissot, 1896) toured widely and graced many printings of the Bible in both Europe and North America. While Doré’s extensive use of imagined Near Eastern artifacts and landscapes was based solely on travel narratives and images of archaeological finds, Tissot’s were based on his own pilgrimages to Palestine and sketches of its towns, landscapes, and people, especially Jews.53 The use of a romanticized and timeless Palestinian backdrop, a known Orientalist trope, responded to the climate of higher biblical criticism of the day. As historical critics such as Julius Wellhausen and Ernest Renan questioned whether Old and New Testament events actually happened, these images affirm that historicity by suggestively placing biblical narratives in the real, observable land.
Two Jewish artists working in the early 20th century illustrate the Holy Land for their own ends. Both of them, Ze’ev Raban and Ephraim Lilien, were European migrants to Ottoman Palestine who worked in the Bezalel School, an art academy founded in 1906 to create an Israeli visual style. Both Raban and Lilien illustrated several artistic editions of biblical books with images of the land, including Lilien’s Die Bücher der Bible (The Books of the Bible, 1908–12) and Raban’s Song of Songs (1923). Their romanticized illustrations projected a cultural Zionist ethos, aimed to convince other Jews to return to their ancestral land.54 All four—Doré, Tissot, Raban, and Lilien—broke with previous traditions of European painting to depict biblical narratives not in their own time and place but in a timeless, romanticized landscape of ancient Israel that lay somewhere between fact and fiction.
More recently, The Saint John’s Bible reflects the specific theological concerns of the post–Vatican II Roman Catholic Church. Completed in 2011, The Saint John’s Bible models itself on 12th-century “Giant Bibles” like the Winchester Bible, but with images reflecting more contemporary concerns. Such concerns include the changed theology of Jews and Judaism in the post–Vatican II Church, a focus on ecology and care for creation echoing the teachings of recent popes, and the importance of foregrounding women’s stories in the Bible.55 Since many contemporary illustrated Bibles are the product of individual artists rather than ecclesial bodies, this monastic Bible offers a unique parallel to the many medieval examples in which ecclesial patrons’ concerns direct artistic creativity.
Ideological Issues: Gender, Colonialism
Recent scholarship in both religious studies and art history highlights how cultural products such as texts and images both reflect and perpetuate ideological concerns, such as gender, race, ethnicity, and empire. Biblical commentaries and illustrations are no exception.
Gender has played a large role in the study of the reception of biblical characters. Indeed, many biblical women enjoy far more attention in reception history than in the Bible itself. These visual portraits can both repeat and rebuke textual depictions seen as misogynistic. For example, several visual images of Eve in medieval manuscripts—the Cotton Genesis, the Junius Manuscript, the Moutier-Grandval Bible, and the Ashburnham Pentateuch (Figure 17)—suggest a more sympathetic and nuanced picture of Eve as mother than some medieval textual sources.56
The visually potent story of David spying on Bathsheba provides another venue for artists to characterize the two and suggest on whom the moral blame falls. Miniatures found in Psalters with pictorial cycles of David’s life vary in whether Bathsheba is blamed or shown as victim, and how her nudity is presented to the viewer’s own Davidic lustful gaze.57
Of course, any given artist’s gender ideologies are often more complicated than the simple labels “feminist” or “misogynist” might suggest. The major graphic novel of Genesis by Robert Crumb, who is best known as a decidedly pop-culture cartoonist, elicits a wide variety of responses for its large-breasted, often-nude women.58 While at times he receives praise for his sensitive depiction of Genesis’s matriarchs such as Rebekah, he also has been critiqued for his insensitive rendering of sexual violence in the text.59 These multifaceted responses show the complexity and sophistication of Crumb’s own translation of text into comic images. They also suggest the limits of studying any one image in isolation instead of a book as a whole.
Illustrated Bibles also display a wide range of ideologies around race, ethnicity, and colonialism. These are often marked by the skin tones given to biblical characters. Ancient Israelites, for example, may be anachronistically depicted as light-skinned northern Europeans; or characters deemed “bad” in the narrative may have darker skin. In a 1792 New York printing of Scottish clergyman John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (first published in Edinburgh in 1778), an allegorical frontispiece features a Bible being offered to the personification of America, a regal woman with a stereotyped Native American headdress—suggesting a typology common at the time in which European colonizers were like ancient Israelites settling in Canaan, bringing their true religion.60 A recent study of one hundred illustrated tellings of the Book of Ruth for children published between 1980 and 2015—mostly in the United States—found that fully forty-nine depicted Ruth as unambiguously white, including many for Jewish and explicitly multicultural audiences.61 Concerns for avoiding racially particular illustrations appear in the American Bible Society’s vernacular translation, Good News for Modern Man (1966), which features 378 simple line drawings by Swiss artist Annie Vollotton.62 While many examples of racial and ethnic ideology come from North American Bibles, illustrations in South African children’s Bibles have been shown to be vessels for teaching children about racial ideologies—and that those illustrations changed as the nation changed.63
Illustrated Bibles for children present a final ideological window into cultural conceptions of childhood. Since the inception of Bibles designed and marketed for children in the early 18th century, many have explicitly promoted a paternalistic view of fatherhood, respecting fatherly authority and representing ideal children as obedient and well-behaved—even in chilling instances such as illustrations of the binding of Isaac.64 In succeeding editions of one American children’s Bible, declining notions of parental authority from the 1950s to the 2000s can be traced in changing illustrations.65 As with so many of the illustrated Bibles surveyed in this article, biblical images for children reflect what a society wishes to project about childhood and cultural values more than what it actually is.
Images and Viewers: The Liturgical, Didactic, and Formative Functions of Biblical Decoration and Illustration
More recently, much work on biblical decoration and illustration has focused not on relationships between different manuscripts or between image and text but on the connection between image and viewer. These studies seek clues for the intended responses of the implied viewer of a particular Bible. While viewer response is a rich site of inquiry for any art, it is especially so for religious images, which often are created with an explicit didactic aim.
Discussions of the function of images in medieval Christian manuscripts often point to Pope Gregory the Great’s letters to Bishop Serenus at the end of the 6th century. Gregory defended the use of pictorial images of biblical narratives in churches, in his words, “in order that those who do not know letters may at least read by seeing on the walls what they are unable to read in books.” While this is often thought to reflect the idea that visual images are simple and less complex than reading, in context the application of his words is less clear. He speaks specifically of paintings on church walls, not manuscripts; and he is describing images not as didactic in themselves, but as aids to preaching of the Bible.66 Yet Gregory’s discussion of the functions of images suggests a wide range of questions about the visibility of biblical manuscripts’ illustrations, about the use of such illustrated Bibles in liturgy, and about different kinds and levels of literacy.67 Scholars of images are quick to point out that visual literacy in Christian iconography is often itself quite complex and must be taught.
Although Gregory’s letters do not refer specifically to manuscript images, they do suggest that some early Christian illustrated Bibles may have played a role in preaching in the liturgy. In the early medieval Ashburnham Pentateuch (Figure 17), for example, the selection of Old Testament passages for illustration and their typological treatment parallels Augustine’s instructions for catechists teaching Christians how Israel’s sacred history relates to their present experience, such as a typological relation between the Exodus from Egypt and baptismal liturgies at Easter.68 These parallels suggest that the manuscript was used to train deacons for preaching. Similarly, analyses of selected full-page illustrations in the Book of Kells, created in Ireland between the 7th and 9th centuries, suggest that these images may have been used alongside sermons on the days in which their corresponding Gospel texts were read in the lectionary (Figure 18).69 Evidence suggests that early medieval illustrated Christian Bibles were displayed during liturgy; even when closed, their ornamented covers conveyed theological messages.70 The illustrations in these Bibles, then, were for both the literate and the illiterate, both preacher and audience.
Images were useful not only for teaching biblical narratives and their typological meanings but also for moral and spiritual formation. Illustrations relating to the Psalms, those Hebrew poems that span the range of human emotion, suggest particular virtues or foci of their intended audiences. For example, the Southampton Psalter’s (ca. 1000, Ireland) images of David fighting a lion and David fighting Goliath correlate with an Irish monastic emphasis on the role of reciting and praying Psalms in spiritual warfare against Satan.71 In later centuries, Psalmic iconography would come to focus more on penitence and humility, such as David’s shame over killing Uriah and taking Bathsheba.72 A manuscript’s cycle of images cannot be reduced to one theme, however. The miniatures in a densely illustrated 11th-century Byzantine Psalter (Vat. Gr. 752) emphasize multiple overlapping themes of penitence, humility, the responsibility of the preacher, and the importance of proper instruction in orthodoxy.73
Finally, images could also serve as mnemonic aids in an era when books were less plentiful and instruction was more committed to memory. The intricate illustrations in the Utrecht Psalter may also have functioned as mnemonic aids for monks memorizing the Psalms.74 Many diagrams in illustrated Bibles may have functioned the same way. For example, the diagrams of the biblical canon’s divisions in the Codex Amiatinus, a Vulgate pandect produced in Northumbria around 750, may have aided monastic readers in remembering the divisions of the canon and how Christian theology sees them fitting together.75
Illustrations in children’s Bibles provide more recent examples of the intentional didacticism of images and the responses illustrators seek to provoke in their young viewers. While most contemporary children’s Bibles, for example, downplay the violence of the Flood, many illustrated children’s Bibles from 18th- and 19th-century America emphasize the violent plight of those doomed and drowning.76 Gustave Doré’s 1866 illustration of wailing humans and drowning animals would instill young viewers with a theology of God’s might and a fear of the Lord (Figure 19).
His image even goes so far as to highlight the suffering of the children, with whom child viewers would more readily empathize. Given that biblical narratives do not overwhelmingly focus on children or children’s perspectives, this example suggests the challenge of illustrators to make the Bible more relevant to their young viewers—even as they may provoke questions about God’s own morality in modern viewers.
Visual Representations of Biblical Hermeneutics and Authority
Often, images in Bibles not only relate particular passages but also suggest how to read the Bible overall. We may call these visual representations of biblical hermeneutics. Among both Jews and Christians, these images provide metaphors for how the Bible functions and suggest the Bible’s authority and unity. Other images are specific to exegetical traditions of Jews and Christians.
From the 5th century onward, one major visual tradition in manuscripts of the Gospels is the inclusion of Eusebian canon tables (Figure 20). These tables were a cross-referencing system for readers to find parallel tellings of the same event from Jesus’s life in the Gospels. Each column contained a numbered list of sections from a given Gospel, and parallel tellings were arranged horizontally. This system, devised by Eusebius as a navigation aid, was also explicitly a hermeneutic device to argue for the harmony of the at times diverging accounts of the four evangelists. Visually, the canon tables were almost always arranged in an architectural format, with each vertical column separated by a column topped with arcades connecting it to the other columns. This widespread visual tradition, found as far apart as Ethiopia, Egypt, and Ireland, varies immensely by region. The architectural patterns may also allude to the Johannine metaphor of Christ as the door, to the symbolism of the Jerusalem Temple, often seen as having been replaced by the body of Christ represented by the manuscript’s text of the Gospels.77 Placed at the beginning of the manuscript, they also serve as a visual door for the reader as they read the Gospels.
The Psalter, another common form of Christian manuscript given the Psalms’ importance in Christian liturgy, is often accompanied by images that suggest hermeneutical keys for this complex poetry of ancient Israel. Jews as well as Christians interpreted the Psalms through the lens of the life of David, their purported author. Thus, in Christian manuscripts of the Psalms from both East and West, portraits of David appeared in the Psalms, often with harp and at times elaborated with scenes from David’s life, to assert him as the author (Figure 21); this visual tradition continued into early printed Bibles as well.78
Such images also suggest the musicality of the Psalms for the manuscripts’ readers, reminding the reader that these prayers are properly sung rather than only read. This choral hermeneutic appears elsewhere in varied ways, including extensive marginal illustrations of music-making in a major 11th-century Byzantine Psalter, a historiated initial of a choir singing from a book in a printed psalter from Strasbourg in 1498, and, more recently, The Saint John’s Bible’s insertion of oscillographs of Benedictine monks chanting the Psalms into the margins of every page of its Psalms volume.79
The tradition of author portraits (of David and the evangelists) in medieval Christian Bibles extends to figures who were deemed authoritative for translating, exegeting, and scribing the Bible. Three famous Latin manuscripts evince this tendency. The First Bible of Charles the Bald, created under royal patronage at the Carolingian court around 845, contains a full-page illustration of scenes from Jerome translating the Bible into Latin—a not inconsiderable visual argument for the authority of his translation when one considers the Carolingian court’s claim to inherit the glory of Rome and its patronage of Latin learning.80 In the previous century, the Codex Amiatinus’s famous full-page portrait of Ezra (Figure 22) parallels this pre-Christian priestly compiler of the Torah with Cassiodorus, the 6th-century Roman Christian whose writings and Psalms commentary greatly impacted Anglo-Saxon monasticism.81
Finally, the a full-page portrait of Eadwine the scribe (Figure 23) in the Anglo-Norman Eadwine Psalter (ca. 1150) parallels this Bible-copying monk with the evangelists who first wrote the Gospels down.82 These three examples suggest that not only evangelists but also translators, commentators, and scribes were part of the authoritative tradition of transmitting and interpreting Scripture.
In Jewish Bibles from the Sephardic world such as the Kennicott Bible (Spain, 1476), one common visual motif is the illustration of Temple implements (Figure 24). Interpreters have related these to the rabbinic idea that prayer and the study and practice of Torah have replaced Temple offerings since the destruction of the Second Temple.83 The depiction of Temple implements within the pages of a Bible suggests that the physical Torah itself was the new Temple, and its precepts were the new way to fulfill duties to God. They also suggest Jewish messianic hopes for the Temple’s rebuilding.
In early printed Bibles, such visual representations of biblical hermeneutics appear frequently in the title pages. In the Luther Bibles of the 16th century, one common motif is Lucas Cranach’s Law and Gospel image (Figure 25), a visual summation of Luther’s theology of salvation. Cranach’s image contrasts the Law on the left-hand side with the Gospel on the right, suggesting both two moral paths for the reader and a visual hermeneutic for relating Mosaic Law (Old Testament) with Christ’s new covenant (New Testament).84
Situating this Lutheran Merckbild (didactic image) on the title page suggested to the reader the theological hermeneutic under which the book as a whole was to be read.85 A Hebraic example is supplied by the title page to Daniel Bomberg’s 1517 first Rabbinic Bible, which enclosed the Hebrew title in a gate—a visual pun, since the Hebrew word sha’ar, “gate,” also refers to a book’s title page. Bomberg sought to represent his major printing of the Hebrew Bible with rabbinic and medieval Jewish commentary as the authentic gate to the Jewish Bible.86
Finally, another class of visual hermeneutics serves to argue for the factual accuracy of the Bible and ground its narratives in historical reality. This visual rhetoric of historicity suggests the Bible’s authority and truth in theological realms as well. Beginning in the second half of the 16th century, Netherlandish Protestant Bibles such as the Geneva Bible (1560) appeared with didactic maps made by cartographers. This tradition spread to England soon after, including in the earliest printings of the Authorized Version (1611). These maps depicted places, such as ancient Israel, and journeys, such as the exodus from Egypt to Canaan and the apostolic journeys of Paul. Whether or not they were factually accurate by the cartographic standards of the day, they also served as maps for biblical narrative, guides to mental pilgrimage. They also reconcile a great deal of ambiguous and at times contradictory information about biblical sites and journeys, communicating to their viewers the coherence and veracity of biblical stories set in those places.87 These maps were accompanied by other visual didactic aids, such as genealogical charts or diagrams of the Tabernacle and Temple.
The context and content of such images evolved significantly in the 19th century, when the rise of historical criticism, the documentary hypothesis, and historical Jesus research threatened the historical reliability of both the Old and New Testaments. In response, Bible publishers in Europe and America began inserting not only the maps and diagrams known from previous centuries but images of the Holy Land and its (real or imaged) biblical-era archaeological remains to suggest the ground on which Abraham, Moses, and Jesus walked.88 In the Harper & Brothers Publishers’ Illuminated Bible, for example, such images appeared on almost every page (Figure 26).
Jewish Bible publishers responded, most famously German printer Ludwig Philipsson in his massive Bible created between 1839 and 1854.89 In numerous images of biblical plants, animals, and landscapes accompanying the text, Philipsson visually combatted Protestant higher criticism and presented the history of ancient Jews as factual and tangible. All these examples differed from the use of Palestinian backdrops for illustrations of biblical narrative, which would come later; rather, these were drawings of the land and its features, without any biblical stories placed within. These images suggest to the reader that the events in the stories did indeed take place, reassuring them of the Bible’s historical reliability.
The Complexities of Word–Image Relationships and Ornament
Decorated Bibles evince a staggering diversity and complexity of relationships between word and image, which constitute a major field of study for medieval manuscript scholars. Minor marginalia and nonrepresentational images are often written off as mere decoration, beautification, or artistic doodling with little meaning. However, there is typically more than meets the eye.
Calligraphy: Word as Image
Medieval manuscripts are famous for blurring the lines between word and image in highly creative ways. At times words are images, or images are words, and letters serve as signifier, symbol, and physical presence on the page.90
The creative interplay of word and image is well known in the elaborate initials of medieval manuscripts where initial letters of verses or sections are given extensive visual treatment.91 These may be decorated with flora, animals, or nonfigural patterns; they may also be historiated, with scenes and persons painted in the letter. In Christian manuscripts containing the Song of Songs, many initials contain the couple of the poem, allegorized variously as Christ and the Church, as Mary and Jesus (Figure 27), and even as Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.92 The initials are not mere decoration; they suggest the range of complex allegorical exegesis of the Song.
In another example, a densely illustrated 11th-century Byzantine lectionary, the words of the Gospel lections are interspersed with historiated initials of biblical persons and miniatures of biblical scenes. Their arrangement suggests the dialogues between these characters in the text, which in turn becomes the word proclaimed orally from the lectionary in the Christian liturgy.93
Perhaps the most famous example of letters as images is the Chi-Rho page from the Book of Kells, a full-page image of the opening Greek letters of the word Christ.94 Here the letters are stylized and shaped to fit a visual pattern, and the shapes of the letters are drowned in highly intricate circular geometric patterns. This page stands out as an elaborate example of word–image interplay known from other insular manuscripts, as well as more general interplay in Christian art where the name of Christ and its monogram frequently appear as images. This page suggests the Johannine idea of Christ as the Word Incarnate, here physically present on the fleshly parchment page. Its many intricacies, including images of animals and human heads, draw the viewer in and encourage them to look more closely.
Jewish traditions display a similar blurring of word and image in exegetically fruitful ways. In the first millennium, both manuscript evidence and rabbinic writings testify to the visual layout of particular texts in the Torah scroll in what might called scribal midrash. The layout of the Song of the Sea, or Shirat haYam (Exod. 15), for example, is written in what the Talmuds describe as a “brick on half-brick and half-brick on brick” layout, describing the visual form of the words on the parchment in architectural terms.95 The rabbis comment that a kingdom built on such a foundation will last—that is, God’s kingship as proclaimed in the text of the Song of the Sea. A second way in which word and image blur in Jewish Bibles is in the use of micrography, or masorah figurata, in which the words of the masorah (grammatical and scribal comments on the text of the Tanakh found in codices but not the liturgical Torah scroll) are arranged to form elaborate patterns and images (Figure 28).
This imagery, found in Jewish Bibles all over the medieval diaspora, range from figural images to vegetal and geometric patterns. Many recent studies suggest complex interpretive relationships between the main text on the page, the Masoretic notes making up the micrography, and the image created by the micrography.96 Even nonfigural iconography of geometric patterns can be meaningful: Weber suggests that the use of architectural micrography around the titles of individual biblical books within Ashkenazi codices serves as a visual “fence around the Torah,” echoing a famous rabbinic dictum (m. Avot 1:1) concerning the importance of carefully keeping the precepts of God’s teaching.
The Functions of Ornament
Just as the binary of words and images is often inapplicable to illustrated Bibles, so the classical art-historical binary between ornament (often seen as “merely” decorative or only useful for navigating the book) and representation is often less useful. At times, the same image can be at once ornament, representation, meditative device, and theological message.
Two recent studies exemplify this among Christian manuscripts. The Lindisfarne Gospels (Figure 29), one of the most elaborately decorated early medieval Anglo-Saxon Gospels, contains a number of carpet pages of geometry and pattern. Rather than being merely dividers between each Gospel, it has been suggested that they would evoke a meditative response in the viewer and maker, a kind of visual absorption that slows the mind and facilitates the kind of slow pondering of texts favored in monastic lectio divina.97 In another example, visual representations of textiles in two Ottonian Gospel books evoke a similar meditative response. In addition, their placement before each Gospel also suggests a potent New Testament metaphor of spiritual insight as removing a veil before one’s eyes: Moses could not see God’s face, but the Christian can in beholding Christ.98 In both cases, the full-page decorations are at once nonillustrative decoration, meditative device, and theologically meaningful symbol.
Carpet pages appear in Jewish Bibles as well. The Leningrad Codex (Egypt, 1008 ce), the basis for modern scholarly editions of the Hebrew Bible, contains several carpet pages at the end of the manuscript interspersing biblical verses and Masoretic notes and treatises in full-page geometric and symbolic forms.99 Some of these forms, such as the Seal of Solomon, later known as the Star of David, were apotropaic symbols known from contemporary mosques.100 To read each carpet page’s Hebrew text, the viewer must either move themselves around the book or move the book. This bodily and visual choreography suggests the rabbinic dictum in the Mishnah: “turn it [Torah] over, and again turn it over, for all is therein” (m. Avot 5:21).101 Again, form informs content, and the act of viewing ornament suggests postures of reading and valences of meaning.
Endings: New Questions, New Directions
This article has suggested some of the ways in which decorated and illustrated Bibles make meaning. It has also summarized some of the art-historical theory that can help scholars ask good questions of this rich body of work. Images in decorated and illustrated Bibles interact with a wide range of contexts: the texts they accompany; textual commentaries paralleling visual exegesis; social, religious, and theological issues of the day; and the role of images in teaching religious ideas and practices. Just as scholars of religion increasingly foreground the materiality of bodies and objects as sites of religious meaning-making, so scholars of the Bible find that the abstract idea of “the Bible” is never separable from its particular embodiment in a scroll, codex, or digital screen—often with images.
Review of the Literature
As should be clear by now, the study of decorated and illustrated Bibles is a patchwork of different disciplinary threads and perspectives. Medieval manuscripts, for example, tend to be the preserve of art historians, who often focus their attention on the most complex and “deluxe” examples of any given time and place. Early printed Bibles, especially the Luther Bibles, tend to be discussed more by historians of the Reformation. In surveying this material, large discrepancies in how different periods were covered also became clear. The Book of Kells, for example, is well studied, but printed Bibles after the 16th century remain relatively ignored. For the scholar of religion seeking a roadmap through disciplines not their own, some comments might be helpful.
For much of the 20th century, art-historical studies of medieval manuscripts tended to focus on formal and stylistic analysis, cataloging large corpuses, discerning patronage and contexts of production, and questions of influence.102 In early medieval and Byzantine manuscript studies, a dominant paradigm was drawing family trees of model/copy relationships, including reconstructing lost late antique models (often Jewish) for extant manuscripts.103 In the latter decades of the 20th century, the focus on genealogies and influence waned.104 Yet the work of extensively cataloging major manuscript collections continues, and has been a necessary foundation for more specialized and theory-oriented work.
The past four decades have seen an explosion in conceptual approaches and interdisciplinary methods in art history. Much of this research questions older art-historical distinctions and hierarchies. No single research project summarizes this work, but some lines of questioning stand out. For example, W. J. T. Mitchell’s theoretical work of the 1980s and 1990s challenging the division between word and image has led to a large body of work on medieval manuscripts looking at the interplay between the two, and cases where the binary does not even apply.105 A parallel to such research agenda questions older art-historical distinctions between ornament and figural images, including the idea that ornament on objects (such as Norse swords or Islamic architecture) was merely decoration and not functional or meaning-making.106 In both art history and religious studies, the lens of materiality has invigorated a line of inquiry relating to the bodies and embodiment of those objects and the sensory experience of using them; and, for scholars of the Bible, a new group of scholars known as the Society for Comparative Research on Iconic and Performative Texts has created a venue for the study of the material, ritual, and iconic roles of sacred texts across a wide variety of religions.107 Another line of inquiry focuses on the functions of images and responses of viewers, with an awareness that images typically had many different audiences.108 Finally, Mary Carruthers’s studies on mnemonic devices and memory techniques in medieval writing and art has led to more nuanced understandings of the mnemonic and didactic potentials of images.109 Alongside these new methods, older lines of inquiry continue, though refined and updated—such as the study of iconography.110 The easy availability of thousands of manuscripts in digital form also promises to open the study of medieval illustrated Bibles to a larger scholarly audience.
The study of printed Bibles, especially after 1600, remains quite open for new work on understudied material. (The space devoted in this article to such material relative to medieval manuscripts is disproportionate to the quantity of scholarship.) As of this writing there is no book-length study of the Bible in comic books and graphic novels. Only four have been written on children’s Bibles, although hundreds of these Bibles have been published and new ones continue to be released. While the study of medieval manuscripts remains the preserve of art historians, perhaps it is the literature on children’s Bibles and graphic novel Bibles that suggests where the study of decorated Bibles will go. The literature on these remains an eclectic blend of scholars working in popular culture, religious education, comparative literature, and biblical reception, each of which contributes a distinct take on the material. Indeed, the methodological refinements and theoretical orientations of scholars of art offer great possibility for scholars of religion and the Bible.
Although many medieval biblical manuscripts are available online (see below), well-illustrated catalogs of major exhibitions still contain great value for their scholarly commentary and essays:
- Brown, Michelle P., ed. In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2006.
- Cohen, Evelyn M., Sharon Liberman Mintz, and Emile G. L. Schrijver, eds. A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 2009.
- Del Barco, Javier, Esperanza Alfonso, M. Teresa Ortega Monasterio, and Arturo Prats. Biblias de Sefarad: Bibles of Sepharad. Madrid, Spain: Biblioteca Nacional de España, 2012.
- McKendrick, Scot, and Kathleen Doyle. The Art of the Bible: Illuminated Manuscripts from the Medieval World. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2016.
- Piazzoni, Ambrogio M., and Francesca Manzari, eds. The Bible from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance: Writing and Images from the Vatican Library. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2017.
- Reeve, John, ed. Sacred: Books of the Three Faiths—Judaism, Christianity, Islam. London: British Library, 2007.
- Tahan, Ilana. Hebrew Manuscripts: The Power of Script and Image. London: British Library, 2007.
Two online exhibitions also supply a well-illustrated overview of some major decorated Bibles in the age of print:
- The First Four Centuries of Printed Bible Illustration. Exhibit at the Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, January 28–May 18, 2013, Dallas, Texas..
- The Word Embodied: Scripture as Creative Inspiration in Twentieth-Century Book Arts. Exhibit at the Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, March 1–June 15, 2019, Dallas, Texas.
Primary sources also include textual sources relevant to biblical manuscripts in their medieval settings. Typically, these are quoted as they are discussed in scholarship, but some anthologies have been compiled, mainly for teaching purposes.
- Davis-Weyer, Caecilia. Early Medieval Art 300–1150: Sources and Documents. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986.
- Frisch, Teresa G. Gothic Art, 1140–c. 1450: Sources and Documents. Rev. ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.
- Mango, Cyril. The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312–1453: Sources and Documents. Rev. ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986.
- Mann, Vivian B. Jewish Texts on the Visual Arts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
- Hamel, Christopher de. The Book: A History of the Bible. London: Phaidon Press, 2001.
- Stern, David. The Jewish Bible: A Material History. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017.
- Cahn, Walter. Romanesque Bible Illumination. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982.
- Diebold, William. Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.
- Gutmann, Joseph. Hebrew Manuscript Painting. New York: George Braziller, 1978.
- Marsden, Richard, and E. Ann Matter, eds. The New Cambridge History of the Bible. Vol. 2: From 600 to 1450. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Pächt, Otto. Book Illumination in the Middle Ages: An Introduction. London: Harvey Miller, 1986.
- Tsamakda, Vasiliki, ed. A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.
- Clifton, James, and Walter S. Melion, eds. Scripture for the Eyes: Bible Illustration in Netherlandish Prints of the Sixteenth Century. New York: Museum of Biblical Art, 2009.
- Pelikan, Jaroslav, Valerie R. Hotchkiss, and David Price. The Reformation of the Bible/The Bible of the Reformation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
- Gutjahr, Paul C. An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.
- Gutjahr, Paul C., ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
- Avrin, Leila. “The Art of the Hebrew Book in the Twentieth Century.” In A Sign and a Witness: 2,000 Years of Hebrew Books and Illuminated Manuscripts. Edited by Leonard Singer Gold, 125–139. New York and Oxford: New York Public Library and Oxford University Press, 1988.
- Nelsen, R. Arvid. The Word Embodied: Scripture as Creative Inspiration in Twentieth-Century Book Arts. Dallas, TX: Bridwell Library, 2018.
- Vick, Susan, and Marc Michael Epstein. “Illuminating the Present: Contemporary Jewish Illumination.” In Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts. Edited by Marc Michael Epstein, 229–254. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
- Coates, Andrew T. “The Bible and Graphic Novels and Comic Books.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America. Edited by Paul C. Gutjahr, 451–467. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
- Crumb, R. The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.
- Waldman, J. T. Megillat Esther. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2005.
- Bottigheimer, Ruth B. The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
- Dalton, Russell W. Children’s Bibles in America: A Reception History of the Story of Noah’s Ark in US Children’s Bibles. Scriptural Traces 5. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015.
Medieval Biblical Manuscripts
Printed Bibles from the Early Modern Era to the Present
Bibles in Lettering and Book Arts in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Comic Books and Graphic Novels
Illustrated Childrens’ Bibles
Links to Digital Materials
Thousands of medieval manuscripts are now freely available online. Some useful databases include the following:
Specifically for Hebrew manuscripts, see:
To find illustrations of particular narratives or characters in Bibles, two major iconographic databases are also helpful: the Index of Medieval Art at Princeton University and the Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception also has many articles on the reception of particular biblical symbols, books, stories, and characters.
1. Michelle Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms (Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum and British Library, 1994).
2. See a similar discussion of terminology in Ruth B. Bottigheimer, The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 3–13.
5. See Natasha F. H. O’Hear, Contrasting Images of the Book of Revelation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Art, Oxford Theological Monographs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); and Nigel Morgan, “Latin and Vernacular Apocalypses,” in The New Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 2, From 600 to 1450, ed. E. Ann Matter and Richard Marsden (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 404–426,; and Richard K. Emmerson, Apocalypse Illuminated: The Visual Exegesis of Revelation in Medieval Illustrated Manuscripts (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2018).
6. Elisabeth Yota and Saskia Dirkse, “The Lectionary,” in Tsamakda, ed. Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, 287–299; and John Lowden, The Jaharis Gospel Lectionary: The Story of a Byzantine Book (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009).
7. For some surveys of the way children’s Bibles drastically change the text, see Bottigheimer, Bible for Children; Penny Schine Gold, Making the Bible Modern: Children’s Bibles and Jewish Education in Twentieth-Century America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 96–116; and Russell W. Dalton, Children’s Bibles in America: A Reception History of the Story of Noah’s Ark in US Children’s Bibles, Scriptural Traces 5 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 16–29.
8. Judith F. Dolkart, ed., James Tissot: The Life of Christ (New York, NY: Brooklyn Museum, 2009).
9. Rebecca Barnhouse and Benjamin C. Withers, The Old English Hexateuch: Aspects and Approaches (Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 2000); and Catherine E. Karkov, Text and Picture in Anglo-Saxon England: Narrative Strategies in the Junius 11 Manuscript (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
10. Bonnie Noble, Lucas Cranach the Elder: Art and Devotion of the German Reformation (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2009), 27–66.
11. On the earliest extant Christian illustrated Bibles, see Dorothy Verkerk, “Early Christian Illuminated Manuscripts,” in The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art, ed. Robin M. Jensen and Mark D. Ellison (New York: Routledge, 2018), 254–272; and John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration,” in Imaging the Early Medieval Bible, ed. John Williams, Penn State Series in the History of the Book (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1999), 9–60.
12. Larry Hurtado, “The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: The Earliest Visual Reference to the Crucified Jesus?,” in New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World, ed. Thomas J. Kraus and Tobias Nicklas (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 207–226.
13. Rachel Milstein, “Hebrew Book Illumination in the Fatimid Era,” in L’Égypte fatimide: Son art et son histoire; actes du colloque organisé à Paris les 28,29 et 30 mai 1998, ed. Marianne Barrucand (Paris: Univiversité de Paris–Sorbonne, 1999), 429–440; Elvira Martín-Contreras, “Exploring Hebrew Carpet Pages through their Texts,” Sefarad 80 (2020): 7–24
14. Kathleen Maxwell, “Illustrated Byzantine Gospel Books,” in Tsamakda, ed. A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, 270–286; and Georgi Parpulov, “Psalters and Books of Hours (Horologia),” in Tsamakda, ed. A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, 300–309.
15. Dorothy Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible Illumination and the Ashburnham Pentateuch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Dorothy Shepard, “The Latin Gospelbook, c. 600–1200,” in Matter and Marsden, ed. The New Cambridge History of the Bible, 338–362; and John Lowden, “Illustrated Octateuch Manuscripts: A Byzantine Phenomenon,” in The Old Testament in Byzantium, ed. Paul Magdalino and Robert S. Nelson (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2014), 107–152.
16. In both cases, decoration persisted even without illustration: Leslie Brubaker and John Haldon, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680–850: A History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 428–431; David J. Davis, Seeing Faith, Printing Pictures: Religious Identity during the English Reformation (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 143–212; and Ian Green, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 68–71. On iconoclasm in Christian art more broadly, see Robin M. Jensen, The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 45–74.
17. Gordon Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611–2011 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 92–105; and Joan Taylor, “John Speed’s ‘Canaan’ and British Travel to Palestine: A Journey with Maps,” in The King James Version at 400: Assessing Its Genius as Bible Translation and Its Literary Influence, ed. David G. Burke, John F. Kutsko, and Philip H. Towner (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2013), 103–121.
18. Eva Frojmovic and Marc Michael Epstein, “No Graven Image: Permitted Depictions, Forbidden Depictions, and Creative Solutions,” in Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. Marc Michael Epstein (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 89–104; and selected medieval textual sources on figural images in Jewish manuscripts can be found in Vivian B. Mann, ed., Jewish Texts on the Visual Arts (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 25–28, 109–111.
19. Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Pictorial Messages in Mediaeval Illuminated Hebrew Books: Some Methodological Considerations,” in Jewish Manuscript Cultures: New Perspectives, ed. Irina Wandrey (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017), 443–467. Jonathan J. G. Alexander’s, Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994) contains many examples of contracts between patrons and the scribes and illuminators who worked for them.
20. Some stories of the complex and at times tense process of collaboration on this Bible can be found in Christopher Calderhead, Illuminating the Word: The Making of The Saint John’s Bible, 2nd ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015).
21. Gerald E. Bentley, Thomas Macklin (1752–1800), Picture-Publisher and Patron: Creator of the Macklin Bible (1791–1800) (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2016), 113–172; more broadly, see Henry J. S. Howard, “The English Illustrated Bible in the Eighteenth Century,” (PhD diss., University of Oxford, 2004).
22. See, e.g., J. Cheryl Exum, Art as Biblical Commentary: Visual Criticism from Hagar the Wife of Abraham to Mary the Mother of Jesus, LHBOTS 676 (London: Bloomsbury, 2019); and Martin O’Kane, Painting the Text: The Artist as Biblical Interpreter (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007).
23. Thomas F. Mathews and Alice Taylor, The Armenian Gospels of Gladzor: The Life of Christ Illuminated (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), plate 57; and Donald Jackson and Saint John’s University, The Saint John’s Bible: Gospels and Acts (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005).
24. Rubén R. Dupertuis, “Translating the Bible into Pictures,” in Text, Image, and Otherness in Children’s Bibles: What Is in the Picture?, ed. Caroline Vander Stichele and Hugh S. Pyper, Semeia Studies 56 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2012), 271–289; and Isaac M. Alderman and Christina L. Alderman, “Graphically Depicted: Biblical Texts in Comic Form,” ARTS 22, no. 4 (2011): 22–36.
25. Choon-Leong Seow, Job 1–21: Interpretation and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013); and Samuel Terrien, The Iconography of Job Through the Centuries: Artists as Biblical Interpreters (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1996).
26. Stella Papadaki-Oekland, Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts of the Book of Job: A Preliminary Study of the Miniature Illustrations—Its Origin and Development (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2009); and Justine M. Andrews, “The Book of Job,” in Tsamakda, ed. A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, 236–245.
27. Walter S. Melion, “Bible Illustration in the Sixteenth-Century Low Countries,” in Scripture for the Eyes: Bible Illustration in Netherlandish Prints of the Sixteenth Century, ed. James Clifton and Walter S. Melion (New York: Museum of Biblical Art, 2009), 17–19.
28. Lisa Bessette, “The Visualization of the Contents of the Psalms in the Early Middle Ages,” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2005), 143–239.
29. Koert van der Horst, William Noel, and Wilhelmina C. M. Wüsterfeld, eds., The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art: Picturing the Psalms of David (Westrenen, The Netherlands: HES, 1996); William Noel, “Medieval Charades and the Visual Syntax of the Utrecht Psalter,” in Studies in the Illustration of the Psalter, ed. Brendan Cassidy and Rosemary Muir Wright (Stamford, CT: Shaun Tyas, 2001), 34–41; and Lucy Freeman Sandler, “The Images of Words in English Gothic Psalters,” in Cassidy and Wright, Studies in the Illustration of the Psalter, 67–86.
30. Christopher G. Hughes, “Art and Exegesis,” in A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, ed. Conrad Rudolph (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 173–192, ch8.
31. For a survey, see Elka Deitsch, Sharon Liberman Mintz, and Gabriel M. Goldstein, “Esther Imagined: The Art and History of Decorated Megillot,” in A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books, ed. Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, and Emile G. L. Schrijver (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 2009), 226–289. Many of these are currently being catalogued online at the Hebrew University’s Index of Jewish Art.
32. Dagmara Budzioch, “Midrashic Tales in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Illustrated Esther Scrolls,” Kwartalnik Historii Żydów [Jewish History Quarterly] 263, no. 3 (2017): 405–422; and see also examples in David Stern, Chosen: Philadelphia’s Great Hebraica, ed. Judith M. Guston (Philadelphia: Rosenbach Museum & Library, 2007), 62–69.
33. J. T. Waldman, Megillat Esther (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2005); and see Matt Reingold, “Jewish Sexualities in J. T. Waldman’s Megillat Esther,” in Visualizing Jewish Narrative: Jewish Comics and Graphic Novels, ed. Derek Parker Royal (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 41–54.
34. Thérèse Metzger, “The Iconography of the Hebrew Psalter from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century,” in The Visual Dimension: Aspects of Jewish Art, ed. Clare Moore (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993), 47–81; for context, see Alan Cooper, “Some Aspects of Traditional Jewish Psalms Interpretation,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, ed. William P. Brown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 253–269.
35. Verkerk, “Early Christian Illuminated Manuscripts,”
36. Archer St. Clair, “A New Moses: Typological Iconography in the Moutier-Grandval Bible Illustrations of Exodus,” Gesta 26 (1987): 19–28.
37. John Lowden, The Making of the Bibles Moralisées, 2 vols. (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2000); Christopher G. Hughes, “Typology and Its Uses in the Moralized Bible,” in Mind’s Eye: Art and Theological Argument in the Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey F. Hamburger and Anne-Marie Bouché (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 133–150; and Gerald B. Guest, “Authorizing the Toledo Moralized Bible: Exegesis and the Gothic Matrix,” Word & Image 18 (2002): 231–251.
38. James H. Marrow, “Inventing the Passion in the Late Middle Ages,” in The Passion Story: From Visual Representation to Social Drama, ed. Marcia Ann Kupfer and James H. Marrow (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2008), 23–53.
39. Paul Edward Dutton and Herbert L. Kessler, The Poetry and Paintings of the First Bible of Charles the Bald (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998).
40. Celia Chazelle, “Violence and the Virtuous Ruler in the Utrecht Psalter,” in The Illuminated Psalter: Studies in the Content, Purpose and Placement of Its Images, ed. F. O. Büttner (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004), 337–348.
41. William Noel and Daniel Weiss, eds., The Book of Kings: Art, War & The Morgan Library’s Medieval Picture Bible (Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2002); Gerald B. Guest, “Between Saul and David: Picturing Rule in the Morgan Library Old Testament,” in Between the Picture and the Word: Manuscript Studies from the Index of Christian Art, ed. Colum Hourihane and John Plummer (Princeton, NJ: Index of Christian Art), 72–80.
42. Tatiana C. String, Art and Communication in the Reign of Henry VIII (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008), 87–98; Green, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England, 70–71; and David H. Price, “Hans Holbein the Younger and Reformation Bible Production,” Church History 86 (2017): 1034–1039.
43. Kathleen Corrigan, Visual Polemics in the Ninth Century Byzantine Psalters (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992); and Emma Maayan-Fanar, “Silenus among the Jews? Anti-Jewish Polemics in Ninth-Century Byzantine Marginal Psalters,” in Between Judaism and Christianity: Art Historical Essays in Honor of Elisheva (Elisabeth) Revel-Neher, ed. Elisabeth Revel-Neher, Katrin Kogman-Appel, and Mati Meyer (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009), 259–278. More broadly, see Kathleen Corrigan, “Early Medieval Psalter Illustration in Byzantium and the West,” in Horst, Noel, and Wüsterfeld, ed. The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art, 85–103.
44. Sara Lipton, Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisée (Oakland: University of California Press, 1999).
45. Emily Baldwin Goetsch, “Extra-Apocalyptic Iconography in the Tenth-Century Beatus Commentaries on the Apocalypse as Indicators of Christian-Muslim Relations in Medieval Iberia,” (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2014),; Otto Karl Werckmeister, “The Islamic Rider in the Beatus of Girona,” Gesta 36 (1997): 101–106; and John Williams, “Purpose and Imagery in the Apocalypse Commentary of Beatus of Liébana,” in The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, ed. Richard K. Emmerson and Bernard McGinn (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 217–233.
46. Robert W. Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk: Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 169–175; Stephan Füssel, The Book of Books: The Luther Bible of 1534, A Cultural-Historical Introduction (Cologne, Germany: Täschen, 2003); and O’Hear, Contrasting Images of the Book of Revelation, 175–195.
47. Dalia-Ruth Halperin, “The Three Riders: The Apocalypse in the Figured Micrography of BL Add 21160,” Journal of Jewish Studies 69 (2018): 340–373; Sara Offenberg, “Jacob the Knight in Ezekiel’s Chariot: Imagined Identity in a Micrography Decoration of an Ashkenazic Bible,” AJS Review 40 (2016): 1–16; and Marc Michael Epstein, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1997), 23. For recent theory, see Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Jewish Art and Cultural Exchange: Theoretical Perspectives,” Medieval Encounters 17 (2011): 1–26.
48. Lucy-Anne Hunt, “Illustrating the Gospels in Arabic: Byzantine and Arab Christian Miniatures in Two Manuscripts of the Early Mamluk Period in Cambridge,” in The Bible in Arab Christianity, ed. David Thomas (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007), 315–349; and Lucy-Anne Hunt, “A Christian Arab Gospel Book: Cairo, Coptic Museum MS Bibl. 90 in Its Mamluk Context,” Mamlūk Studies Review 13 (2009): 105–132.
49. Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Calligraphy and Decoration in the Farhi Codex (Sassoon Coll. MS 368, Mallorca, 1366–83),” in Sephardic Book Art of the 15th Century, ed. Luis U. Afonso and Tiago Moita (London: Harvey Miller, 2020), 13–36.
50. Nigel Morgan, “Patrons and Their Devotions in the Historiated Initials and Full-Page Miniatures of 13th-Century English Psalters,” in Büttner, ed. The Illuminated Psalter, 309–322.
51. Michael Camille, Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
52. Renana Bartal, “Bridal Mysticism and Eucharistic Devotion: The Marriage of the Lamb in an Illustrated Apocalypse from Fourteenth-Century England,” Viator 42 (2011): 227–246; and Renana Bartal, Gender, Piety, and Production in Fourteenth-Century English Apocalypse Manuscripts (New York: Routledge, 2016), 16–58.
53. Sarah C. Schaefer, “‘From the Smallest Fragment’: The Archaeology of the Doré Bible,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 13 (2014); and Dolkart, James Tissot. See also Steven W. Holloway, “Assur Is King of Persia: Illustrations of the Book of Esther in Some Nineteenth-Century Sources,” Journal of Religion & Society 11 (2009): 1–15.
54. Dalia Manor, “Biblical Zionism in Bezalel Art,” Israel Studies 6 (2001): 58; Hildegard Frübis, “Ephraim Moses Lilien: The Figure of the ‘Beautiful Jewess,’ the Orient, the Bible, and Zionism,” in Orientalism, Gender, and the Jews: Literary and Artistic Transformations of European National Discourses, ed. Ulrike Brunotte, Anna-Dorothea Ludewig, and Axel Stähler (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014), 82–97; and Lynne M. Swarts, “Cultural Zionism, Gender and Orientalism: Ephraim Moses Lilien’s Bibelplan and Its Biblical Heroines,” in The Bible Retold by Jewish Artists, Writers, Composers and Filmmakers, ed. Helen Leneman and Barry Dov Walfish (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), 186–211.
55. Jonathan Homrighausen, Illuminating Justice: The Ethical Imagination of The Saint John’s Bible (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2018); and see also Michael Patella, Word and Image: The Hermeneutics of The Saint John’s Bible (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013).
56. Holly Morse, Encountering Eve’s Afterlives: A New Reception Critical Approach to Genesis 2–4 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 151–179.
57. Sara M. Koenig, Bathsheba Survives (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2018), 58–65; and Harvey Stahl, “Bathsheba and the Kings: The Beatus Initial in the Psalter of Saint Louis (Paris, BNF, Ms Lat. 10525),” in Büttner, ed. The Illuminated Psalter, 427–434.
59. Jonathan L. Friedmann, “Who Was Naamah? Insights from Robert Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 31 (2019): 167–176; Zanne Domoney-Lyttle, “Graphic Assault: Reading Sexual Assault and Rape Narratives in Biblical Comics,” The Bible & Critical Theory 15 (2019): 49–65; and Zanne Domoney-Lyttle, “Thinking Outside the Panel: Rewriting Rebekah in R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis,” Open Theology 6 (2020): 557–571.
60. Barbara E. Lacey, From Sacred to Secular: Visual Images in Early American Publications (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007), 81–82, more broadly 80–98.
61. Angela C. Rasmussen, “The Book of Ruth for Children,” (PhD diss., Catholic University of America, 2017), 319–322, more broadly 293–340; and see also Russell W. Dalton, “Emerging Trends in American Children’s Bibles, 1990–2015,” in The Bible in American Life, ed. Philip Goff, Arthur Farnsley, and Peter Thuesen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 233–235.
62. John Fea, The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 258–259.
63. Jaqueline S. du Toit, “Esther, Pious and Brave: Reading Children’s Bibles as Commentary on Twentieth-Century Afrikaner Culture,” in The Five Scrolls, ed. Athalya Brenner-Idan, Gale A. Yee, and Archie C. C. Lee, Texts @ Contexts (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 210–220; and Jeremy Punt, “The Other in South African Children’s Bibles: Politics and (Biblical) Systems of Othering,” in Stichele and Pyper, ed. Text, Image, and Otherness in Children’s Bibles, 73–97.
64. Bottigheimer, The Bible for Children, 70–90.
65. Benjamin Lindquist, “Mutable Materiality: Illustrations in Kenneth Taylor’s Children’s Bibles,” Material Religion 10 (2014): 316–344.
66. Celia M. Chazelle, “Pictures, Books, and the Illiterate: Pope Gregory I’s Letters to Serenus of Marseilles,” Word & Image 6 (1990): 138–153.
68. Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible Illumination and the Ashburnham Pentateuch.
69. Carol A. Farr, The Book of Kells: Its Function and Audience (London: British Library, 1997).
70. Michelle Brown, “Images to Be Read and Words to Be Seen: The Iconic Role of the Early Medieval Book,” in Iconic Books and Texts, ed. James W. Watts (Sheffield, England: Equinox, 2013), 93–118; and John Lowden, “The Word Made Visible: The Exterior of the Early Christian Book as Visual Argument,” in The Early Christian Book, ed. William E. Klingshirn and Linda Safran (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2007), 13–47.
71. Kathleen M. Openshaw, “Weapons in the Daily Battle: Images of the Conquest of Evil in the Early Medieval Psalter,” Art Bulletin 75 (1993): 17–38. See images at Special Collections, Library of St. John’s College, University of Cambridge.
72. Adelaide Bennett, “The Transformation of the Gothic Psalter in Thirteenth-Century France,” in Büttner, ed. The Illuminated Psalter, 211–222.
73. Glenn Peers, “Process and Meaning: Penitence, Prayer, and Pedagogy in Vat. Gr. 752,” in A Book of Psalms from Eleventh-Century Byzantium: The Complex of Texts and Images in Vat. Gr. 752, ed. Barbara Crostini and Glenn Peers, Studi e Testi 504 (Vatican City, Italy: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2016), 437–466.
74. Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 281.
75. Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400–1200 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 231–237; and Celia Chazelle, “Christ and the Vision of God: The Biblical Diagrams of the Codex Amiatinus,” in Hamburger and Bouché, ed. Mind’s Eye, 84–111.
76. Dalton, Children’s Bibles in America, 46–66; and Emma England, “‘The Water’s Round My Shoulders, and I’m—Glug! Glug! Glug!’: God’s Destruction of Humanity in the Flood Story for Children,” in Stichele and Pyper, ed. Text, Image, and Otherness in Children’s Bibles, 213–239.
77. Alessandro Bausi, Bruno Reudenbach, and Hanna Wimmer, eds., Canones: The Art of Harmony: The Canon Tables of the Four Gospels (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2020); Heather Pulliam, “Painting by Numbers: The Art of the Canon Tables,” in The Lindisfarne Gospels: New Perspectives, ed. Richard Gameson (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017), 112–133; and Heidi C. Gearhart, “From Divine Word to Human Hand: Negotiating Sacred Text in a Medieval Gospel Book,” Word & Image 32 (2016): 430–458. More broadly, see Shepard, “The Latin Gospelbook, c. 600–1200”; and Maxwell, “Illustrated Byzantine Gospel Books,”
78. Corrigan, “Early Medieval Psalter Illustration”; Parpulov, “Psalters and Books of Hours (Horologia)”; and August den Hollander, “Illustrations in Early Printed Latin Bibles in the Low Countries (1477–1553),” in Shaping the Bible in the Reformation: Books, Scholars and Their Readers in the Sixteenth Century, ed. Bruce Gordon and Matthew McLean (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 44–45.
79. Maja Kominko, “Make Music with Understanding: Music, Musicians, and Choristers in the Miniatures of Vat. Gr. 752,” in Crostini and Peers, ed. A Book of Psalms from Eleventh-Century Byzantium, 467–492; Mary Kay Duggan, “The Psalter on the Way to the Reformation: The Fifteenth-Century Printed Psalter in the North,” in The Place of the Psalms in the Intellectual Culture of the Middle Ages, ed. Nancy van Deusen (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), 153–189; Donald Jackson and Saint John’s University, The Saint John’s Bible: Psalms (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005); and Calderhead, Illuminating the Word, 202–209.
80. Dutton and Kessler, The Poetry and Paintings of the First Bible of Charles the Bald.
81. Celia Chazelle, The Codex Amiatinus and Its “Sister” Bibles: Scripture, Liturgy, and Art in the Milieu of the Venerable Bede (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2019), 319–336.
82. Catherine Karkov, “The Scribe Looks Back: Anglo-Saxon England and the Eadwine Psalter,” in The Long Twelfth-Century View of the Anglo-Saxon Past, ed. Martin Brett and David A. Woodman (London: Routledge, 2015), 289–306; Thomas A. Heslop, “Eadwine and His Portrait,” in The Eadwine Psalter: Text, Image, and Monastic Culture in Twelfth-Century Canterbury, ed. Margaret T. Gibson, T. A. Heslop, and Richard William Pfaff (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1992), 178–185.
83. Joseph Gutmann, Hebrew Manuscript Painting (New York: George Braziller, 1978), 50–57; Gabrielle Sed-Rajna, “The Image as Exegetical Tool: Paintings in Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts of the Bible,” in The Bible as Book: The Manuscript Tradition, ed. John Sharpe and Kimberly van Kampen (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 1998), 215–228; and Eva Frojmovic, “Messianic Politics in Re-Christianized Spain: Images of the Sanctuary in Hebrew Bible Manuscripts,” in Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002), 91–128.
84. Andrew Pettegree, “Law and the Gospel’: The Evolution of an Evangelical Pictorial Theme in the Bibles of the Reformation,” in Sharpe and van Kampen, ed. The Bible as Book, 123–136; and Noble, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 27–53.
85. For another detailed analysis of this dynamic, see Melion, “Bible Illustration in the Sixteenth-Century Low Countries,” 25–37.
86. David Stern, The Jewish Bible: A Material History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017), 142–147. A parallel analysis of the title pages of two 1670s Yiddish Bibles can be found in Abigail E. Gillman, A History of German Jewish Bible Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 18–23.
87. See, e.g., Catherine Delano Smith, “Maps as Art and Science: Maps in Sixteenth Century Bibles,” Imago Mundi 42 (1990): 65–83; Zur Shalev, “Sacred Geography, Antiquarianism and Visual Erudition: Benito Arias Montano and the Maps in the Antwerp Polyglot Bible,” Imago Mundi 55 (2003): 56–80; Clifton and Melion, ed., Scripture for the Eyes, 42–50, 116; Justine Walden, “Global Calvinism: The Maps in the English Geneva Bible,” in Gordon and McLean, ed. Shaping the Bible in the Reformation, 187–215; and Taylor, “John Speed’s ‘Canaan’ and British Travel to Palestine.”
88. Paul C. Gutjahr, An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 60–76; and Michaela Giebelhausen, Painting the Bible: Representation and Belief in Mid-Victorian Britain (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), 134–141.
89. Gillman, A History of German Jewish Bible Translation, 145–196.
90. This area of scholarship is major; for some examples, see Cynthia Hahn, “Letter and Spirit: The Power of the Letter, the Enlivement of the Word in Medieval Art,” in Visible Writings: Cultures, Forms, Readings, ed. Marija Dalbello and Mary Shaw (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 55–76; and Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Script as Image (Paris: Leuven, 2014).
92. Diane J. Reilly, “Picturing the Monastic Drama: Romanesque Bible Illustrations of the Song of Songs,” Word & Image 17 (2001): 389–400; and Ruth Bartal, “Medieval Images of ‘Sacred Love’: Jewish and Christian Perceptions,” Assaph: Studies in Art History 2 (1996): 93–110.
93. Mary-Lyon Dolezal, “Illuminating the Liturgical Word: Text and Image in a Decorated Lectionary (Mount Athos, Dionysiou Monastery, Cod. 587),” Word & Image 12 (1996): 23–60; and more broadly, see Yota and Dirkse, “The Lectionary.”
94. Suzanne Lewis, “Sacred Calligraphy: The Chi Rho Page in the Book of Kells,” Traditio 36 (1980): 139–159; and Ben C. Tilghman, “The Shape of the Word: Extralinguistic Meaning in Insular Display Lettering,” Word & Image 27 (2011): 292–308; and more broadly, see Bernard Meehan, The Book of Kells (London: Thames & Hudson, 1994).
95. Paul Sanders, “The Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript: Remnant of a Proto-Masoretic Model Scroll of the Torah,” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 14 (2014): 1–25; Javier del Barco, “Shirat Ha-Yam and Page Layout in Late Medieval Sephardic Bibles,” in Sephardic Book Art of the 15th Century, ed. Luis U. Afonso and Tiago Moita (London: Harvey Miller, 2017), 107–120; Yosef Ofer, The Masora on Scripture and Its Methods (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), 76–82; more broadly, see James S. Diamond, Scribal Secrets: Extraordinary Texts in the Torah and Their Implications, ed. Robert Goldenberg and Gary A. Rendsburg (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2019).
96. Annette Weber, “‘The Masorah Is a Fence to the Torah’ Monumental Letters and Micrography in Medieval Ashkenazi Bibles,” Ars Judaica: The Bar Ilan Journal of Jewish Art 11 (2015): 7–30; Halperin, “The Three Riders”; and Offenberg, “Jacob the Knight in Ezekiel’s Chariot.”
97. Benjamin C. Tilghman, “Pattern, Process, and the Creation of Meaning in the Lindisfarne Gospels,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 24 (2017): 3–28; and more broadly, Michelle P. Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality and the Scribe (London: British Library, 2003).
98. Anna Bücheler, “Clothing Sacred Scripture: Textile Pages in Two Medieval Gospel Books (Trier Dombibliothek Ms. 138 and 139),” in Clothing Sacred Scriptures: Book Art and Book Religion in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Cultures, ed. David Ganz and Barbara Schellewald (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018), 123–38; and Anna Bücheler, Ornament as Argument: Textile Pages and Textile Metaphors in Early Medieval Manuscripts (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2019).
99. David Noel Freedman, Astrid B. Beck, and James A. Sanders, The Leningrad Codex: A Facsimile Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).
100. Milstein, “Hebrew Book Illumination in the Fatimid Era.”
101. Susan Lynn Schmidt, “The Carpet Illuminations of Codex Leningrad National Library of Russia Ms. Evr. I B 19a,” (PhD diss., University of the Holy Land, 2019).
103. Ioli Kalavrezou and Courtney Tomaselli, “The Study of Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts since Kurt Weitzmann: Art Historical Methods and Approaches,” in Tsamakda, ed. A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts; Mary-Lyon Dolezal, “Manuscript Studies in the Twentieth Century: Kurt Weitzmann Reconsidered,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 22 (1998): 216–263; and Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Bible Illumination and the Jewish Tradition,” in Williams, ed. Imaging the Early Medieval Bible, 61–96.
104. See essays in, e.g., Williams, ed., Imaging the Early Medieval Bible; and John Lowden and Alixe Bovey, eds., Under the Influence: The Concept of Influence and the Study of Illuminated Manuscripts (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007).
105. Hamburger, Script as Image; Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey F. Hamburger, eds., Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2016); and Michelle P. Brown, Ildar H. Garipzanov, and Benjamin C. Tilghman, eds., Graphic Devices and the Early Decorated Book (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2017).
106. Oleg Grabar, The Mediation of Ornament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992); and Ittai Weinryb, “Living Matter: Materiality, Maker, and Ornament in the Middle Ages,” Gesta 52 (2013): 113–132.
107. Birgit Meyer, David Morgan, Crispin Paine, and S. Brent Plate, “The Origin and Mission of Material Religion,” Religion 40 (2010): 207–211; and e.g., James W. Watts, ed., Iconic Books and Texts, Comparative Research on Iconic and Performative Texts (Bristol, CT: Equinox, 2013), and later books in the series.
108. Key works include Alfred Gell, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); and David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).
109. Carruthers, The Book of Memory; and Carruthers, The Craft of Thought. For a brief summary, see Mary Carruthers, “Memory, Imagination, and the Interpretation of Scripture in the Middle Ages,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible, ed. Michael Lieb, Emma Mason, and Jonathan Roberts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 214–234.
110. Colum Hourihane, ed., The Routledge Companion to Medieval Iconography (London: Routledge, 2016). Much good work in this area can be found in the volumes produced by the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University.