Harvey, John: The Bible as Visual Culture
Review: John Harvey, The Bible as Visual Culture; When Text Becomes Image, The Bible in the Modern World 52 (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press), 2013, xii + 200pp, £50/$80 hardcover.
by Thomas Brauer
John Harvey, Professor of Art at Aberystwyth University, Wales, has provided a book of ten chapters, plus introduction and end-matter (rich with figures and plates), with a unique purpose: to ‘explore what happens to the biblical text when it is converted into visual culture….’ As a book which ‘contributes to the interdisciplinary study of the Bible and its visual culture’, it is intended to join the hermeneutical methodologies of biblical studies with those of the study of visual culture and to inform practitioners of both how either methodology might be of benefit to the other by acknowledging their distinctions while emphasizing their overlap in ‘aims, functions, and methodologies’. Harvey identifies that
…the traffic of academic interest between the study of the Bible and the study of visual culture is presently and principally travelling from the former to the latter. In this respect, the book endeavours to foster a more balanced reciprocation of ideas and criticism between biblical- and art-orientated scholarship by emphasizing approaches to ‘reading’ Scripture visually, informed by art-historical and visual-cultural methodologies… The intention is to enable biblical scholars to see images, and art scholars to read the Bible, more closely. (13)