Wisdom Books, the fifth of seven volumes of The Saint John’s Bible to be released, includes some of the Old Testament’s literary masterpieces, such as the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs. Also in this volume is the much-loved book of Job and two Old Testament works including the Wisdom of Solomon, which was originally written in Greek, as well as Sirach, which comes to us from the Greek tradition. Wisdom Books continues the work of earlier volumes, with a script created by calligrapher Donald Jackson specifically for this project. Artists familiar to many readers, Thomas Ingmire, Suzanne Moore, Chris Tomlin, and Sally Mae Joseph, are joined by new contributing artist Diane M. von Arx to bring light—that is, illumination—to the text. These images are not to be missed. There are over fifteen large illuminations, among them the spectacular frontispiece for Ecclesiastes and another titled Creative Wisdom. Additionally, to recognize the team of calligraphers that have bonded during six years of work and to capitalize on the aphoristic nature of these books, there is a special emphasis on text treatments. As you spend time with Wisdom Books, you will find yourself treasuring both the words and the images in your heart.
The Wisdom books exemplify the practical spirituality of the people of Israel. Using story, poetry, and aphorisms, the books collect practical wisdom to help guide people in how to live—faithful to God, with praise and thankfulness, walking in ways that are upright. The profoundly moving story of Job asks how a good person can suffer if God is just. The Song of Solomon, long read as an allegorical love poem between God and the chosen people of Israel, or as Christ and the church, takes us beyond the commands of the prophets and lessons of history. It steps back from Israel’s struggle to be faithful to the Lord and concentrates on the loving relationship between the Lord and the Beloved. Sirach and Proverbs, along with Psalms, are quoted throughout the Rule of St. Benedict. Like the Rule, their pages are filled with wisdom for how to live a godly life. The Saint John’s Bible volume Wisdom Books draws out these themes—wisdom as a female figure, use of Proverbs in the Rule of St. Benedict, and God’s love for us. If we today want to live wisely, we would do well to look to this beautifully illuminated collection of ancient texts.
- Donald Jackson