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Throughout Christian history, Scripture has been the source of inspiration for many works of art, architecture, and music. As a result, the creative world can be a simple and enjoyable way to start exploring the Bible.

Whether we think of stained glass and sculpture, music and movies, or paintings and plays, Scripture has been ‘translated’ into art forms in countless creative ways. Within the Catholic tradition that includes the stunning ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and the beloved Christmas carol, Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful), to name just a few.

Experiencing biblical art is a unique way of appreciating the mysteries of the faith. As the Catechism of the Church puts its: ‘the true and the beautiful belong together, for God is the source of beauty and also the source of truth. Art, which is dedicated to the beautiful, is therefore a special path to the whole and to God.’ (The Catechism, 2500-2503; 2513). This is because what cannot be said in words or expressed in thought can be brought to light in art instead.

‘the true and the beautiful belong together, for God is the source of beauty and also the source of truth. Art, which is dedicated to the beautiful, is therefore a special path to the whole and to God.’

The Catechism, 2500-2503; 2513

The Bible itself describes how the message of God can be shared through a range of creative activities. Several books of Scripture, such as the Song of Songs, the Psalms and Lamentations were designed to be sung. The great Temple of Jerusalem was decorated with beautiful wood carvings, golden statues of angels and an embroidered curtain (1 Kings chapter 6; 2 Chronicles chapter 3). And the prophets often performed what they had to say in dramatic mime (Isaiah chapter 3; Ezekiel 12:1-7; Acts 21:10-12).

So how you choose to get creative is really up to you. It might involve visiting an art gallery or listening to some biblically-themed music. It could mean doing something really hands-on, like making a nativity scene with the kids or starting a biblical photography project. Or it might just mean sitting out in the garden with a novel based on Scripture. Pick the artistic activity that’s right for you.

Case Study The Poulters break out the Popcorn

We spoke with teachers Mark and Kathryn Poulter about starting a regular Bible movie night with the family, breaking out the popcorn for a series of biblical blockbusters.

Dad Mark said: ‘After a chat with the children, we picked four films that we liked the look of, starting off with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.’ While some of the children weren’t so keen on this musical, the whole family enjoyed Risen, the story of the Roman soldier at the cross of Christ.

So would they recommend a Bible-themed movie night? Mum Kathryn said: ‘It was definitely a worthwhile experience. It’s just been a great way of spending time together and I think now we’ll try and do it more often.’

 

Here are some creative ways you might get to grips with Scripture:

Start with a prayer

God of all creation,
show me the wonders of the world,
that I may marvel at your beauty
and behold your sacred gaze.
Inspire me through the Scriptures
to see the truth in all of your art.
Amen.

If you love talking about books over a glass of wine, why not get your friends together for a regular Bible Book Club? Take it one biblical book at a time – and draw on Bible Society’s bite-sized guides, which include great tips, useful notes and discussion questions. You might also consider some of the great biblical fiction that’s out there – check out Amazon’s list of best-sellers.

The Bible’s epic tales have been brought to life in many memorable movies. Like Mark and Kathryn, why not curl up on the sofa with snacks and the cat for a weekly film night? We suggest:

  1. The Ten Commandments
  2. The Passion of the Christ
  3. The Prince of Egypt
  4. Jesus Christ Superstar
  5. Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat
  6. One Night with the King
  7. The Greatest Story Ever Told
  8. Exodus: Gods and Kings
  9. The Nativity Story
  10. Risen

 

The Bible doesn’t have to involve lots of text; you can also experience the Scriptures in visual form. Read the handmade Illustrated Bible by Dino Mazzoli or get creative with Colour the Gospel, a range of Catholic colouring books for adults that are based on Scripture.

‘Passion’ plays that dramatically recreate the Easter story are a British tradition that stretches back centuries. You too can join in the drama by attending or taking part in a production. The Wintershall Estate in Surrey organises the UK’s largest events at both Christmas and Easter but over 100 take place across the country. Alternatively, why not be part of a growing trend and experience (or start!) a ‘live advent calendar’?

Inspiring biblical art exists in churches right across the country. Why not pray or reflect on relevant passages from Scripture as you visit? Suggestions include:

  1. The famous 14 Stations of the Cross at St Mary’s the Hidden Gem, Manchester
  2. The many beautiful biblical mosaics at Sacred Heart church, Droitwich
  3. The selection of biblical paintings found at St George’s, Hove
  4. The amazing reproduction of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at English Martyrs church, Worthing
  5. The full set of Rosary scenes featured at Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Dominic’s, London
  6. The Jesse Tree stained glass window at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle
  7. The modern-day Last Supper painting featuring parishioners at St Paul’s, Tintagel
  8. The west window of Erdington Abbey, Birmingham, which depicts no less than 24 scenes from the New Testament.
  9. The huge statues of the twelve apostles found in the nave of the Brompton Oratory, London
  10. Lo & Behold is a virtual art gallery of biblical images found in Catholic churches across the UK. Each image has a short commentary on the biblical story and will signpost you to where you can see the work of art in person, as well as the relevant passage from Scripture.

Many classical composers brought the Bible to life in their creative work. Many Cathedrals around the country have choirs that include biblically-based music in their performances. Alternatively, you can find all of the suggestions below on YouTube. Read along with the English translation as you listen.

  1. The Creation oratorio by Joseph Haydn, based on the book of Genesis
  2. The Canticum Canticorum cycle of motets by Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina, based on the Song of Songs
  3. The St Matthew Passion oratorio by J S Bach, based on Matthew’s gospel
  4. Christ on the Mount of Olives by Ludwig Van Beethoven, based on Luke’s account of the last night of Jesus
  5. The Biblical Songs cycle (Opus 99) by Antonin Dvorak, based on the Psalms
  6. The Apostles oratorio by Edward Elgar, telling the story of the apostles in the gospel texts
  7. George Frideric Handel’s English language oratorio, Messiah, which covers much of the Old and New Testament
  8. The setting of the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat song by Franz Schubert
  9. The Juditha Triumphans oratorio by Vivaldi, based on the Catholic book of Judith
  10. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s setting of the Stabat Mater, which tells the story of the Virgin Mary at the cross.

Contemporary music from Bernadette Farrell
If you would like to listen to some more contemporary music then Bernadette Farrell is a leading Catholic hymn writer and her hymns and worship are all based on the Scriptures

And why not check out the Christian musicians Matt Redman and Jo Boyce.

For centuries painters have transferred the stories of the Bible onto canvas. The National Gallery in London holds the most number of western biblical paintings in the UK, including works by world famous artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Titian. The gallery even offers a Life of Christ audio tour, guiding you around various works that depict various gospel scenes. You can also explore all the paintings online.

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