The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

May 18, 2014

NIU student researches 13th century Bible

DEKALB — As Jennifer Wegmann-Gabb researched a page from a 13th century Paris Bible, she asked “who’s that girl?”

The problem is the “girl” she was inquiring about - a figure in an enlarged “O’’ at the start of a passage - is identified as a man. Namely the figure in the historiated letter is identified as King Solomon, a figure known for his wisdom, wealth and writings.

However, Wegmann-Gabb concluded, the figure is really Ecclesia, a female form representing the church.

After spending months researching the leaf from the 13th century Bible, Northern Illinois University student Wegmann-Gabb hopes the university will change the way the leaf is described to accurately identify the figure in the “O.”

Wegmann-Gabb, 33, of Woodstock, found the Bible leaf during an art history class she took as part of her bachelor of art history degree program. Her affinity for medieval history led her to study the Bible.

“When we’re talking medieval universities, it’s religious,” Wegmann-Gabb said. “The primary textbook is the Old and New Testament.”

The Bible leaf came to NIU as part of a collection of leaves the university purchased in 2004. It is part of a special collection at Founders Memorial Library very little is known about. It is reviewed by waves of students studying medieval history, the history of the book and other subjects.

Those familiar with the modern Bible might not recognize the passage that starts on the leaf at NIU. Not only is it written in Latin, it’s from the book of Ecclesiasticus, not contained in the modern Protestant Bible. After Wegmann-Gabb identified the text, she questioned why the accompanying materials would peg King Solomon as the figure in the historiated letter.

“It’s all about wisdom on life, God and the afterlife, the role of the church,” Wegmann-Gabb said. “After learning what the book was about I started to wonder why they would use King Solomon when it’s not about him.”

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