N.Y. man writes out entire Bible
PHILMONT, N.Y. — In the beginning, Phillip Patterson decided to copy by hand every word in the Bible.
He wrote of Adam, an ark, locusts, loaves, fishes and the resurrection in his neat, looping cursive. Four years of work begat more than 2,400 pages and left a multitude of pens in its aftermath. Now, as he copies the last words of the last book, Patterson sees all that he has accomplished.
And it is good.
“I hadn't counted on the fact that it would end up being beautiful,” Patterson said. “Or that it would be so exhilarating. And so long.”
Patterson, 63, might seem like an unlikely scribe for the King James version of the Bible. Tall with a hearty laugh, the retired interior designer is not monkish. He goes to church but has never been particularly religious. Health issues — including AIDS and anemia — have sent him to the hospital and slowed the work. He relies on two canes and will lean on walls and furniture to get around his apartment.
But he has always been curious.
Patterson began copying the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, in 2007. Work on this “prototype” allowed him to figure out technique, layout and technical details like the type of paper (19-by-13-inch watercolor) and writing instruments (felt-tip pens). He tackled the complete King James Bible in 2009.
The Bible's exact word count depends on who is doing the tallying, but multiple sources put the King James version at about 788,000 words or more. Patterson used to work up to 14 hours a day on the project, though he averages around six to eight hours a day now that his stamina has ebbed. The countless hours of transcription has led him to conclude that the Bible is more sublime than just a bunch of stories from thousands of years ago.