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Library Events

The St. John's Bible: Jews, Christians, and Why Art Matters

Oct 19

7:00 PM
Dominican Center 218

On Thursday, October 19, Marc Epstein will present “The St. Johns’ Bible: Jews, Christians, and Why Art Matters” at 7 pm in DC 218.

“The St. John's Bible: Jews, Christians, and Why Art Matters”

The idea that Jews were people of the word, prohibited by the Second Commandment from involvement with the visual, whereas Christians were fully engaged with art as a religious practice has been repeated often enough to have been believed by even the some of the greatest expositors of both Judaism and Christianity. But true as it is that Christians routinely incorporated art into the liturgy, Jews also did so as well, creating their own art that existed in an interesting (and never entirely comfortable) relationship with Christian art. Although this fact is not well-known to most people, it is indisputably well-known to Donald Jackson, the creator of the magnificent St. John’s Bible—a new, postmodern illuminated Bible for the twenty-first century, which will be discussed by art historian and scholar of religious visual and material culture, Professor Marc Michael Epstein of Vassar College. Epstein will reveal how, throughout his great work, Jackson is adept at adopting, adapting and repurposing themes and images from the Hebrew bible and, in some cases, from Jewish visual culture. Epstein will explore these themes and images along with the political and theological issues involved in the creation of the St. John’s Bible, and of the medieval Jewish and Christian models that laid the groundwork for Jackson’s work.

Marc EpsteinMarc Michael Epstein, Professor on the Mattie M. Paschall (1899) & Norman Davis Chair in Religion and Visual Culture at Vassar College was Vassar’s first Director of Jewish Studies. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His 2011 book, "The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination" (Yale University Press) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of the year. His “Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Manuscript Illumination,“ was the winner of the National Jewish Book Award in 2015—a magisterial large-format survey of the genre with over 300 illustrations in brilliant digital color. (Princeton, 2015). During the 80s, Epstein was  Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby's Judaica department, and continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world.

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