Bible Review 14:4, August 1998

Restoration Project: The Hebrew Bible

We should produce a new critical edition of the Bible containing a better and more nearly original text.

By Ronald S. Hendel

Bible Review

Some years ago the Vatican announced plans to restore Michelangelo’s famous paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Some art critics were incensed that the conservators had the audacity to attempt to restore these hallowed biblical scenes, including the Creation and the Last Judgment. They argued that Michelangelo intended the paintings to be dark and shadowed, and that to strip off the dark outer layers was tantamount to blasphemy.

The Italian conservators replied that they were only removing dirt, candle wax and soot that had accumulated over the centuries—and were repairing previous crude attempts at restoration. They insisted exceptional care was taken not to disturb any of the original paintings. Theirs was an act of meticulous and loving restoration, not destruction. A BR article at the time agreed with the conservators. Jane and John Dillenberger concluded:

After seeing the restoration of Michelangelo’s monumental fresco, as close as he himself saw it as he worked, and after speaking to the restorers about their task, we are no longer dubious about the value of cleaning these beloved paintings. We rejoice that Michelangelo has been restored to us, as he was known to his contemporaries.a

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