A Fancy Frenchman’s Jewish Jesus

James Tissot Detail from a self-portrait, 1898
James Tissot
Detail from a self-portrait, 1898

Followers of The Barking Fox may have noticed the frequent appearance of illustrations by the French artist Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), better known in English as James Tissot.  His works quickly came to my attention from the beginning of this blog as I began to look for pictures to enhance the impact of each post.  Several qualities make Tissot’s work ideal for this purpose:  a large selection of material (several hundred paintings on biblical themes); accurate depictions of the subject matter which reflect Tissot’s extensive research and personal experience in the Holy Land; the artist’s ability to capture the genuine humanness of his ancient subjects; and, perhaps most important for a blog, the fact that most of his work is in the public domain.

As a suitable close to an eventful year of blogging, it is my pleasure to share an article about the life of James Tissot written by Erik Ross, an American-born Catholic priest who teaches at a Dominican school of theology in Krakow, Poland.  The article contrasts Tissot’s Catholic faith with his painstakingly accurate depiction of Jesus (Yeshua) as the first-century Jew.   Oddly enough it appeared in The Times of Israel, a Jewish Israeli publication.  Here it is reproduced in a Hebrew Roots blog for the enjoyment and edification of everyone.


A Fancy Frenchman’s Jewish Jesus

Erik Ross
Originally published in The Times of Israel, December 28, 2015

He was born in 1836 in Nantes to a rich cloth merchant and his wife. Jacques (“James”) Tissot had Catholic parents and was a good Catholic boy.  He became a good painter and not such a good boy.

Yet, though he took his time, Tissot finally handed over his brushes to God.  And in the latter years of his life, Tissot showed the mysteries of Christianity in a way no one has duplicated since.

Acting on an instinct that is second nature to Catholics — and perhaps anathema to Jews — he tried to paint the face of God.

The young Tissot wanted to live by art, but the real money was in vanity.  There was no Paris Hilton in 1860s Paris, but there were plenty of gold­flake beauties.  Tissot painted their selfies.

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© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2013-2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fox Byte 5775 #44: D’varim (Words)

דְּבָרִים

"The King and Queen inspecting the tarts", by Sir John Tenniel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).
The King and Queen inspecting the tarts”, by Sir John Tenniel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

One wonders whether Lewis Carroll required chemical substances to help him create the absurd worlds of his literature.  Readers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and audiences of the screen and stage adaptations thereof often conclude that the author – whose real name was Charles Dodgson – must have been on opium or some other sort of mind-altering substance fashionable in Victorian England.  If we are to believe the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and other authoritative sources, there is no truth in such allegations.  How, then, could a rational man come up with such outrageous fiction, creating characters and situations that defy logic and even sanity?  Most likely Carroll would have explained in the same way C.S. Lewis explained how he could create the diabolical correspondence of the demon Screwtape a generation later:

Some have paid me an undeserved compliment by supposing that my Letters were the ripe fruit of many years’ study in moral and ascetic theology.  They forgot that there is an equally reliable, though less creditable, way of learning how temptation works. “My heart”—I need no other’s—“showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly.”  (C.S. Lewis, 1961.  The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast.  New York:  MacMillan.)

What Professor Lewis tells us is that all humans have the capacity to imagine evil, and to act upon it once it is imagined.  Evil is abnormal; the opposite of good and right and true.  If our hearts are inclined toward evil, they are also inclined toward everything else that is contrary to good and right and true – things which are unsuitable, wrong, and illogical.  That is why Carroll can depict an absurd criminal trial with such success.  The King and Queen of Hearts sit as judges to determine the guilt or innocence of the Knave, who stands accused of having stolen the Queen’s tarts.  As judge, the King has trouble getting beyond his instructions to the jury to consider the verdict before any evidence has been given.  As witnesses, the Mad Hatter and the Knave say nothing of substance, and throughout the trial no one seems to care that the stolen tarts are there in the courtroom, presumably having been returned by the thief.  The trial ends with a mockery of due process of law as the Queen says, “Sentence first—verdict afterwards”, and then pronounces summary judgment on Alice:  “Off with her head!”

The sad thing about this trial is that it is not far removed from reality.  For much, perhaps most, of history unjust judges have made people’s lives miserable and shorter than they should be.  This is true even for judges among the people of God, which is why in promising to restore His nation of Israel, YHVH delivers this glowing promise:

“Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city.”  Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness.  (Isaiah 1:26-27 NASB)

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