It’s a mysterious book that in its day was believed to contain all human knowledge. But why did medieval people believe that the author sold his soul to the devil to be able to write it?
The “Devil’s Bible,” a behemoth volume weighing in at 165 pounds, believed to have been produced by a single monk over the course of decades in the 13th Century, is the focus of a documentary that was featured on the National Geographic Channel.
A complete Old Testament and New Testament, and a collection of a number of secular works besides, the Devil’s Bible is an encyclopedia of medieval knowledge. But it has also been haunted by dark speculation, including that its writing was guided by the devil’s hand.
It got its name “Devil’s Bible” from the illustration of the devil on page 290 (in the photo above). It is believed to be the only bible of its era that depicts Satan. There the devil is, looking more like a cartoon character in an ermine diaper, rather than evil incarnate.
What makes the Devil’s Bible such an object of fascination is the back story associated with it. According to the TV show, which I watched when it premiered, the legend about the Devil’s Bible was that it was written by a monk in a single night.
Compact with the devil
The story goes that such a feat was possible only because the monk had made a compact with the devil. The implication is that the devil himself wrote this bible, which is why his portrait adorns it.
However, if the devil inspired the book then there is nothing in it that appears to cast Satan in a good light, at least not that I can find by searching for information on the Web about the Devil’s Bible. (It is more properly known as Codex Gigas, or “Giant Book.”)