Imagining Jesus (Again)

One of my favorite Bible studies to lead every year is the “Imagining Jesus” series, where we look at historical, theological, and entertainment (movies, music videos, cartoons, etc.) depictions of Jesus. The ultimate point is to help the participant realize that we “imagine” Jesus’ appearance, demeanor, and personality based on a number of our cultural influences and personal ideas (and perhaps reading the Gospels and New Testament more closely can help us expand our preconceptions). As a Baptist, I heavily emphasize reading the Bible rather than taking someone else’s word for it.

When we get to the end, people often ask me, “ok, ok, this is all good… but what did Jesus really look like?”. To answer, I usually turn back to this explanation from my beloved Dura Europos and how the closest conception we can get to what Jesus might have looked like actually comes from a depiction of Moses in the Synagogue there (or Abraham / Nehemiah in the second image here… there’s still debate there).

Good read during this Christmas Season, nonetheless!

“For all that may be done with modelling on ancient bones, I think the closest correspondence to what Jesus really looked like is found in the depiction of Moses on the walls of the 3rd Century synagogue of Dura-Europos since it shows how a Jewish sage was imagined in the Graeco-Roman world. Moses is imagined in undyed clothing, and in fact, his one mantle is a tallith since in the Dura image of Moses parting the Red Sea, one can see tassels (tzitzit) at the corners. At any rate, this image is far more correct as a basis for imagining the historical Jesus than the adaptations of the Byzantine Jesus that have become standard: he’s short-haired and with a slight beard, and he’s wearing a short tunic, with short sleeves, and a himation.”

Don’t mess with The Art Squad…

Two members of the art squad’s archaeological unit were on assignment in Brussels when they took a walk after work in the Sablon neighborhood that is known for its antiques shops. They spotted a marble statue in a shop that they suspected was from Italy, and confirmed their suspicions when they cross-referenced the work with a database of known stolen antiquities, the statement said.

Source: Off-duty Italy art cops find looted statue in Belgian shop – The Washington Post

One of my fav hippos from the Middle Kingdom

Poor little fella’s legs, though…

Each of the sculpted hippo’s legs was ritually broken in order to render it harmless in the afterlife. In ancient Egypt herds of hippos were a constant threat to farmers’ fields. The first pharaohs hunted hippos in the marshes and eventually drove them far south into Upper Egypt. Hippos became associated with chaos, and the hunt for hippos became a metaphor for how the pharaohs of ancient Egypt could conquer evil.

Source: Hippopotamus | Saint Louis Art Museum

Cowan’s Returns Zuni Pueblo Statue

The Cincinnati-based auction house Cowan’s has returned a hand carved wooden statue of the Zuni War God Ahayu:da to the Zuni Pueblo of New Mexico. The sacred 15-inch figure was removed years ago from a holy shrine before turning up in an Ohio estate and eventually being consigned to Cowan’s. The firm’s director of Native American, prehistoric and tribal art, Danica Farnand, recognised the figure as the Zuni War God and promptly initiated the repatriation process, which was completed in late August.

Source: Cowan’s auction house returns indigenous war god sculpture to a Zuni Pueblo | The Art Newspaper

The Role of Art During a Pandemic

“Art is how we express, how we feel our anxieties,” said Sally Tallant, the president and executive director of the Queens Museum. “It’s how we can touch on things that are difficult to touch in other ways. You can go to any museum and see thousands of artists trying to process grief. And [after the pandemic] we’re going to feel a collective grief. Art does so much good to people’s mental health.”

Source: Top curators weigh in on role of art during coronavirus, racial reckoning – ABC News

So true.