Editorial Foreword

Holy Scripture has become flesh and blood in this world. The bible remains after many years a perennial world best seller. It has been translated into more than 1,800 languages. It has been continuously studied and countless commentaries have been offered on it. However, one odd aspect of this phenomenon is that this book after, accompanying mankind for centuries, still exists as a plain text without a serious well-established tradition of illustration.

Why do the Word and the Image not follow one another hand-in-hand? Does this arise as a result of some ancient ban on depicting the Creator? Perhaps this was true once, but approximately 2,000 years have passed since the one born in Bethlehem lifted this prohibition by bringing down to earth the image of the unimaginable. One may be tempted to think that the river of time has forever washed away the ability to recreate the biblical events and the Holy Text must now remain just a series of words, arousing images only in our imagination.

Many artists (e.g., such as Albrecht Dürer, Gustave Doré, Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, et al.) have turned to the
Holy Bible as inspiration. These resulting works, however, always carried the clear imprint of these artists’ personal perceptions and styles.

Even the collective memory of peoples and religious communities have been unable to preserve their historical memory and bring together in a definitive way the Word and the Image. Further complicating this issue is the fact that many of the peoples that took part in the Biblical events, such as Chaldeans, Canaanites, Phoenicians are gone forever.

The People of the Book – the People of Israel – the only surviving successor and witness to these events, has had its outlook and culture irreversibly transformed over the millennia, since its Diaspora. Nonetheless, they also maintain their old ban on the depicting images.

The worldwide Church has traveled like a ship across the sea of time, and created its own canon of the Image. Primarily, it preserves icons. Of course, peoples’ local habits and cultures have entered this ship, thus leaving their own indelible imprint on this canon. It is only lately, with the advent of the science of archeology, that people have attempted to restore a stricter realism that mirrors biblical places and events.

Besides the biblical texts, the only other witness is the Holy Land itself, where much has remained frozen in time, or at least it did until the end of the 19th century.

Still it would not be completely correct to think that 20th century urbanization erased the last pictures of the Biblical events. Divine Providence has not allowed the chain of witnesses to be entirely broken and has given us tools to help us preserve our visual memory. This witness holds out against our technical civilization that mercilessly consumes our past. This witness is photography, which was invented at the very time immediately before civilization began to encroach upon the Holy Land.

Hebrew, the first language of the Bible, translates “photography” with the term “Tsilum - צילום”, comes from the root “Tselem - צלם”, meaning “Image.” This is what we find at the beginning of the Book of Genesis: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. This is how man, the custodian and the image of creation, was made.

The first edition of the New Illustrated Bible of Jerusalem, prepared by SACRALION Publishing House, includes 436 pictures as simple and unbiased witnesses of ancient times. Each of these pictures is a history in itself. These pictures are spread throughout the whole biblical text. They correspond exactly to the places in the text and though not artificially dramatic, they nonetheless manage to evoke a convincing feeling of the presence of biblical history.

- Here is a herd of camels drinking from a bowl at only an arm’s distance.

- Here is a grove near Hebron, where the patriarchs lived.

- Here are the caves near Jerusalem where they buried the prophets.

- The shepherds are herding sheep in the same valley where the young, red-haired David did the same before he became King.

- Fishermen are fishing on the Sea of Galilee at the same place where once a young rabbi from Nazareth boarded a fishing boat.

We enter this book
and it enters us, too. As always, God is revealed to us everywhere where eyes are capable of seeing, hearts are capable of feeling and minds are capable of comprehending.

The New Illustrated Bible of Jerusalem is intended as a reminder to mankind that biblical events do not only belong to the past. History continues and Holy Scripture continues to stir men and history, giving us visible clues of its effects in temples, churches, rituals and ceremonies. It is influencing our lives, spreading out from the Holy Land, the centre of the world, all across the universe. We are all of us both witnesses and participants in this history...