Absalom Leaf from the Morgan Picture Bible

Leaf from the Morgan Picture Bible, circa 1250 C.E., Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

When it was created the Morgan Picture Bible contained more than 380 paintings from the Hebrew Bible from the story of Creation to the reign of King David. Over the years, as the Bible changed hands, inscriptions were added to the margins, in Latin around 1300, and in Persian and Judeo-Persian in the 1600s. In 1608, Cardinal Bernard Maciejowski, Bishop of Cracow, Poland gave the Bible to Shah Abbas I of Persia as part of a diplomatic mission on behalf of Pope Clement VIII. Abbas I ordered that another set of explanations should be added to the images, this time in Persian.

The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York now owns the book, which is missing a number of folios including this leaf in the Getty Museum's collection. All of the missing leaves come from the part of the book that tells the story of Absalom's defiance of his father, King David. Scholars have suggested that Shah Abbas did not approve of that story and may have had the leaves cut out. Because these leaves were removed during the time of Shah Abbas, the later Judeo-Persian inscriptions are not found on them.

Absalom-MorganBible

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

The set of Biblical books shared by Jews and Christians. A more neutral alternative to "Old Testament."

Short written texts, generally inscribed on stone or clay and frequently recording an event or dedicating an object.

Short written texts, generally inscribed on stone or clay and frequently recording an event or dedicating an object.

A program of good works—or the calling to such a program—performed by a person or organization.

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