Live @ the Library features world-renowned St. John’s Bible

OLIVIA WILLIAMS – Features Writer

Live @ the Library welcomed Tim Ternes from St. John’s University on Friday, April 11. Ternes has been the director of the St. John’s Bible for the past ten years.

Samford proudly holds the Heritage edition of the St. John’s Bible, one of only 299 copies made in the state of Alabama. Lori and Jeff Northrup generously donated this seven-volume edition.

Kim Herndon, dean of the Samford Library, said, “This is so important because it was the first commissioned handwritten Bible in 500 years. The opportunity to experience the Word in this fashion is phenomenal.”

Another aspect that makes this Bible phenomenal is the intricate and powerful artwork. Herndon said, “All of the artwork in it is hand done, so no two reproductions are the same.”

The St. John’s Bible contains 1,127 pages which include 160 artworks “designed to invite you into the Scriptures,” Ternes said.

The man behind the St. John’s Bible is Donald Jackson. As a boy, Jackson had two goals: to work for the Queen of England and to handwrite scripture. Jackson, now 75, has accomplished both of those things. He was the official scribe and calligrapher for Queen Elizabeth II for many years.

In 1981 Donald Jackson visited St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., for the first time. Ternes explained that the beauty of the campus and the abbey at St. John’s amazed Jackson. By 1995, his friends were urging him to carry out his lifelong dream of handwritten scripture. Ternes explained that Jackson proposed the idea of “marking the millennium” to St. John’s Abbey that year. In 1998, after receiving approval from 180 Christian monks, he began planning.

The St. John’s Bible was produced over 15 years by Jackson and a team of 23 committed, talented individuals. Rough drafts were produced until the handwriting and artwork was perfect. Ternes said that some of the artwork seen in the book was done 160 times until it was just right.

Only nine mistakes were made while handwriting the manuscript. These mistakes were thoughtfully and strategically corrected. The pages of the St. John’s Bible are calfskin, which provided an ideal texture for writing and drawing. The translation chosen was the New Revised Standard Version – a standard for many large churches and approved by the Catholic Church.

Ternes insisted that this Bible “is worthless until it is shared.” Herndon encourages anyone that wants to view the Heritage edition to come by the library.

“If there are classes, if there’s a group that wants to come see it, if they let us know, we can work with them and get it out. The donors want it to be experienced.” The St. John’s Bible has a shelf life of 1,500 to 2,000 years and is a book unlike any other. “The legacy is what you chose to do with it,” Ternes said.

For more information on the Heritage Edition of the St. John’s Bible, please contact Dean of the Samford Library Kim Herndon at

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