William Henry


Featured ... is an illumination from a 12 th century English bible housed at the Bodleian Library Oxford. When most look at it they see David playing his lyre and triumphantly dancing before the Ark of the Covenant as it is being carried into Jerusalem with great pomp and ceremony.

Careful consideration of this illumination reveals that there is something more here. Attached to the right side of the Ark is a stylized pillar. Attached to the left side is a winged ‘worm’ or serpent. Together they represent the serpent and the Tree of Knowledge.

I’m plenty curious about why these extra ‘devices’ are present. Nowhere in scripture is a pillar and serpent explicitly linked with the Ark of the Covenant. Jewish art never shows a pillar on top of the Ark. Nor does it associate it with a serpent. Yet, here they are plain as day.

This is not an isolated incident. In the illumination from the famed 12 th century Winchester Bible shown here an unknown artist called ‘the Master of the Leaping Figure’ portrayed Yahweh, the god of the Israelites, similar to the serpent that accompanies the Ark in David’s celebration scene. Yahweh’s head curls around the base of a pillar.

His body is that of a serpent.

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