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The Bible Through Artists' Eyes  

2012-07-05 02:15:40|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The Bible Through Artists’ Eyes

John Wesley believed that Christian truth can best be revealed in a method represented by what became known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: scripture, Christian tradition, reason, and experience.  Christians have a rich tradition available in the form of art which interprets Christian scripture, as revealed through the eyes of painters.  When we can see through the eyes of another, our world view and experiences can be expanded and enriched, hence “The Bible Through Artists’ Eyes.”  An advantage of this approach, it seems, is that it opens the doors to more universal aspects of our particular belief systems or creeds.  I don’t think that dilutes the Gospel message, but rather, it is consistent with it: Jesus invited and included all in the celebration of the Kingdom that “is at hand,” and he excluded none except those who would not participate in its essence of loving and caring for all.  As I see it, the latter simply excluded themselves.  Jesus actively opposed anything that would exclude any child of God or would judge a person’s sacred worth.  But, above all, he invited all to join the cellebration by bearing good fruits of love.   [Without suggesting that it approves of my position theologically, see http://www.northave.org/MGManual/Arts/Arts1.htm for an excellent discussion of the advantage of seeing the Bible through all the arts.  As I interpret the statement there, consitent with my own view, it would seem to reject the duality of spirit and matter.]

On one occasion, Jesus was told of others doing good but not in his name.  He said not to worry about that:  “Good fruits don’t fall from a bad tree.  By their fruits you will know them.”  What better expression of such good fruits than through the eyes of Vincent Van Gogh?

The Bible Through Artists Eyes - tuotuofly - 墨·色

The Good Samaritan VINCENT VAN GOGH

Source: http://www.abcgallery.com/V/vangogh/vangogh56.html.  What interests me most about this painting is that the outcast, the Samaritan, is aiding the Jewish man who was badly beaten and left at the side of the road, whereas the Jewish leaders are retreating into the background.  It demonstrates in the concrete what it means to be a good neighbor.

As practiced, much of Christianity, as well as other religions, has been premised upon a notion of “right belief.”  Unfortunately, therefore, too much religious history has been divisive.  On April 26, 2007, Jimmy Carter was interviewed by Krista Tippet of NPR’s Speaking of Faith.  She asked him if he could explain why the end of the Cold War did not bring peace but an eruption of violence around the world.  His answer was: fundamentalism.  “[T]hey assume that they have a rare or unique relationship with God Almighty, whatever god they define, and their beliefs, therefore, are ordained by God. And since their beliefs are God’s beliefs, they are infallible. They cannot make a mistake or acknowledge a mistake. Anyone who disagrees with them, by definition, is wrong because ‘the disagreement is with me and with God.”

Right belief was not Jesus’ message, however.  In Matthew 25, Jesus says all those who loved their neighbor in tangible ways, fed the hungry, comforted those who were hurting or visited those in prison are welcomed “into the Kingdom to receive your just reward”.  In that passage, the reward of the kingdom was available to everyone who bore good fruits, regardless of religion, orientation, nation or clan. One aspect of this story that interests me is that those who bore good fruits were surprised at their reward as those who did not bear good fruits were surprised at their punishment.  Whether this statement is intended by its author or Jesus, who is quoted, to be taken literally or metaphorically, it seems there might be some in the latter group who “knew they were saved” but did not bear good fruit.

Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians (whether Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, self-proclaimed agnostics, atheists, or whoever you are) are welcome to my site.   Please share your own experiences of the divine, of the ineffable, of accountability, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In February, 2010, I wrote  for children, which you are welcome to adapt as you see fit, use and share.

See the Kahn Academy resource page for an exceptional resource of Art History videos by well-qualified academicians at http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/.  Although its focus is more general than the purpose of this site, it includes much art, art history and analysis of art on biblical subjects.  You will note that Kahn Academy is a free service in the best Ben Franklin public service tradition which was originally focused on math but now includes advanced math, economic, scientific, historical and artistic resources.  For more on the background and uniqueness of Sal Kahn and his Kahn Academy, see

Wishing you the blessings of peace and love,

Robert Wheeler

Thanks a lot for the blog. I am a photographer and I am pre-producing a series of the 14 stations of the cross. And having so much Christian art in one single place is a blessing for me. Thanks

Thank you, Henrique. That is an interesting project! I hope that, the mediums being similar, this blog gives you some ideas and encouragement. Please share your photography with us when you are ready. Rob

Hello Rob,
thank you for this Blog, i was searching for christianart for quite a while and here i found a lot, and of good essence. This Blog brought me to enjoy and wonder how God has inspired many through his word over the time.

I am looking for a Painting (actually a picture of A5 size) for our church buletin of christian fellowship. For ex. i thought a painting/picture of the early church or first christian fellowship/congregation. Would you be able to suggest a good one for this?

Thank you and may God bless you in building this blog further, so that it would be a blessing for many!

Yohan

Thank you so much for this reply. I don’t know of one off the top of my head, but it is a valued project. There is not a lot of art of the early church that I am aware of, but I will look. It strikes me that a good painting interpreting that early fellowship ought to be quite meaningful for a fellowship today. Rob

Yohan, (When I pronounce that name phonetically, it sounds to me like the German pronunciation of Johann, as in Sebastien Bach. Any meaningful connection with that name?) I am wondering what church you are trying to represent with this representative icon. What distinguishes it from other Christian churches? If I can get something that represents the core of your church’s orientation, what might distinguish it from Catholic or other Protestant churches, that would help me find a possible representative painting or other work of art. In that regard, for instance, if it were Pentacostal, for instance, there are a number of representations of the descension of the spirit upon the disciples at Pentacost.

Thank you very much for your promt reply. My name has as far as i know nothing to do with the German version of John:) I also asked my parents the background of the name, well it was not given according to hebrew tradition. I belong to a refromed evengelical church in Indonesia. The bulletin which i mentioned earlier is being published twice a year. For this edition we’ve chosen “christian fellowship” as the theme. There are articles of worldview, doctrine, affection, testimony, biography (Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones) and a Book resension. So for the cover i thought it would be great o have a well interpreted painting of the first christian congregation, which should give us an idea of how it was at the beginning to follow and grow in Christ in fellowship. I also did think of Petacost, the only thing is whether it will be clear enough. I think the relevant period might be after the ressurection till the death of apostle john. So far these are my thoughts about it. Thanks a lot again!

Thanks, this helps. I would imagine that what has become known to Christians as the Old Testament has special significance to you. Let me see what I can find. That should make a good post when done. Rob

I’ve really enjoyed looking through your blog tonight, and plan to keep visiting until I see it all… I am moved Thank you for taking the time, thought and effort to gather this for us… I feel like I am learning a lot just by looking…

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