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OTG: The Blessed Book of Beasts

By Thomas Van (bio - articles - email) | Aug 30, 2014

There is a long-standing Judeo-Christian tradition of using animals to teach moral and spiritual lessons. Jesus used sparrows to illustrate God’s care for his creatures, and the book of Proverbs describes certain animals as wise. The saints John Chrysostom and Francis de Sales often used animals, both fantastic and real, as rhetorical devices in their sermons and writings.

This rhetorical tradition found its most systematic expression in the medieval bestiary. While today this mode of conveying spiritual truths is less popular, one author seeks to bring it back, having written the first bestiary to appear in quite some time. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, Jonathan Scott has partnered with Eastern Christian Publications to publish The Blessed Book of Beasts. Writes Scott in the book’s introduction:

The beginning of this book happened about twenty years ago, when I was browsing through an old library, and stumbled across a book from the Middle Ages called a Bestiary. It was a book about some of the animals in the Bible, designed to convey mysterious truths about Christian virtue, and lead the reader towards devotion of God. I was hooked.

I noticed a Bestiary had not been written in a very long time. I also observed that a Bestiary had never been written to include all of the animals named in the Bible. So this is what I set out to do. In all, I found one-hundred and one animals named in the various translations of the Bible. This includes the famous Bible animals, the not-so-famous ones, and even the animals named only once in the Old Testament catalogues of beasts.

Designed to appeal to children, Scott’s book accompanies each beast with a verse from the Bible, a beautiful seventeenth-century engraving, and a lesson in verse about virtue and goodness. The book is divided into three volumes according to the categorization of beasts in the Creation account. Overall, The Blessed Book of Beasts is quite attractive and nicely put together, and should serve its edifying purpose well. It is available for purchase from Eastern Christian Publications either as a single book or in its separate volumes.

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