In the beginning, Phillip Patterson decided to write out every word in the Bible.
On empty pages, 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 wake. Now, as he copies the last words of the last book, Mr. Patterson sees all that he has created.
And it is good.
"I hadn't counted on the fact that it would end up being beautiful," Mr. Patterson said. "Or that it would be so exhilarating. And so long."
Mr. Patterson, 63, might seem like an unlikely scribe for the King James version of the Bible. The retired interior designer is neither monkish nor zealous. 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 leans on walls and furniture to get around his apartment.
But he has always been curious.
One day in 2007, his longtime partner, Mohammad, mentioned that Islam has a tradition of writing out the Quran. Mr. Patterson replied that the Bible was too long. Mohammad said, well then, Mr. Patterson should do it.
"The next day I started researching pens and pencils and paper and never looked back," he said.
Mr. Patterson began copying the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, in 2007. He works at a wooden desk by his bed, near neatly shelved pages of his completed volumes. Fingers on his left hand track the words on a small hardcover Bible while he methodically writes with his right hand.
The Bible's exact word count depends on who is doing the tallying, but multiple sources put the King James version at around 788,000 words. Mr. Patterson used to work up to 14 hours a day on the project, though he averages around six to eight hours now that his stamina has ebbed.
"Every day as I write, I discover something new and it expands my mind more and more," he said. "Not so I can become more of a religious person, but so that I can become more of a whole person."
Mr. Patterson will finish up the final lines of the Book of Revelation during a ceremony today at his church, St. Peter's Presbyterian.