Illuminating the Word

Academics // June 21, 2016

Years ago, in the Medieval Ages, ancient biblical manuscripts contained detailed illuminations –colorful drawings that filled the pages and supplemented the text. As time has passed, fewer and fewer illuminated manuscripts are being published with exception of children’s Bible storybooks. Fortunately, the lack of detailed illustrations has not slowed down spiritual growth of Christians everywhere. Freed-Hardeman students, in particular, are excited about journaling in their Bibles.  

Addie Harrison, junior, began illustrating her Bible early 2015. Harrison loves to draw pictures and verses representing passages in the margins of her journaling Bible. She claims that taking the time to do so allows her to really meditate on the message. She said, “During the time it takes, I am meditating about how I can better myself because of my newest discovery in God’s word.  The Word is living, which means each phase of my life the Message here will mean something different to me. I can apply His promises in a different way with a different light.” Since she first began journaling in her Bible, she has found that it makes her more eager to be in the Word. These drawings allow Harrison to truly connect with God and His Word.  

Tyler Williams does what he calls “verse trailing.”  This allows him to connect relating verses. When Williams is studying a certain topic, it allows him to focus on that one thing and easily find other verses that can help him learn what God says about that subject. If William is struggling with something, he can just find one verse related to that subject, and that verse leads to another, and then another. This allows him to meditate on and learn more about whatever topic is on his mind that day. 

Savannah Webb, junior, started doodling in her Bible back in high school.  Webb explained that doing so helps her to pay closer attention in her studies.  Seeing colors on the pages aids her in memory. In fact, Webb uses these colors to make connections between the Old and New Testaments and the fulfillment of prophecies. “Doodling in my Bible motivates me to read more for some reason because I get to be creative in doing so,” says Webb. 

Dr. Doug Burleson, a professor at Freed-Hardeman, invited his students to annotate and draw in their Bibles- explaining that it is a simple way to engage in God’s Word. One of the students that took this to heart is Robert Murphy. Murphy began illustrating his Bible late September of 2015 as result of Dr. Burleson’s suggestion. Once he began, Murphy found that he enjoyed doing so and bought himself a journaling Bible with larger margins for his notes and illustrations. Murphy claims that engaging his creative side while analyzing the text helps him in his studies. “While I don’t let this take the place of actual Bible study, I find it more profitable than merely reading through my Bible and skimming over the words,” he says. According to Murphy, illustrating the Word results in a more thorough understanding of the Bible and leads one to ask questions that he or she might never have thought of. Murphy described himself as a visual person. Making his own illustrations helps him to visualize abstract concepts, specifically metaphors used in Old Testament poetry. Murphy clarified that illustrating your Bible should not replace in-depth Bible study. However, he highly recommends it to those who are simply reading the text. 

It is obvious that each of these individuals is extremely creative. Are creativity and artistic ability must-have characteristics when illustrating a Bible? Absolutely not! The purpose of drawing pictures within the Word is to engage with scripture and grow closer to God, and anyone can do that. While some use watercolor paints or gel crayons, others simply use a pencil or a pen. Illustrating the Word doesn’t take a certain type of person with the right supplies and kind of Bible. Any reader can engage in the Word of God through illustrating. The images drawn don’t have to appear as though they are the work of an artist. All that matters is that the illustrations mean something to the reader and that they help the reader connect with God and His Word. Hebrews chapter four says that the word of God is alive and active. God wants His people to be the same way – alive and active, living by His Word. Illustrating the Bible is a way to do that because it allows a reader to wrap himself or herself in the light that is God’s Word and be consumed by it.