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.

When Presidents Speak Prophecy

Mount McKinley, now named Denali, is the tallest peak in North America and is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)
Mount McKinley, now named Denali, is the tallest peak in North America and is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)

What does it matter to the world if the President of the United States decrees a change to the name of North America’s highest mountain peak?  Perhaps it is merely a tempest in a teapot, ultimately signifying nothing of importance.  Or perhaps it is far more significant than we may imagine.

For 98 years Americans have referred to the highest mountain on the continent as Mount McKinley.  It is not the original name of the mountain.  Since time immemorial the Athabaskan people of Alaska have named it Denali, which means Great One in their language.  In 1896, a gold prospector in Alaska attached the name McKinley to the mountain, thus declaring support for William McKinley of Ohio, the man who would be elected as the twenty-fifth President of the United States later that year.  Since then a controversy has bubbled along regarding the name of the peak, with native Alaskans asserting the original name, and most other Americans who bothered to think about it going along with McKinley.  In 1975, the Alaska Legislature officially requested that the United States Government change the name.  The name of the national park over which the mountain presides was renamed Denali in 1980, but the mountain itself retained the name of McKinley.

Until now, that is.  The administration of President Barrack Obama has announced that the President will use the occasion of his visit to Alaska to bring an end to the dispute and rename the mountain Denali.  Alaskans and many others applaud the change, but others have denounced it, particularly the Congressional delegation from McKinley’s home state.  Ironically, the entire Alaskan Congressional delegation and most of the Ohio delegation are Republicans, a fact that renders meaningless any charges that this is a political decision by President Obama, a Democrat.  Yet it is political, as is everything that a sitting president does.  And it is also prophetic.

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Fox Byte 5775 #40: Balak

בָּלָק

General George S. Patton, Jr., one of America's greatest - and most flawed - military leaders.  (Photo:  US National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons)
General George S. Patton, Jr., one of America’s greatest – and most flawed – military leaders. (Photo: US National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons)

The great military leaders of World War II include nine who attained the highest rank awarded by the United States of America.  Those five-star leaders are Generals of the Army George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley; Fleet Admirals William D. Leahy, Ernest King, Chester W. Nimitz, and William Halsey, Jr.; and General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold.  Each man accomplished great things for his nation, and all deserved the honors bestowed on them, yet some students of history would say there is a name missing from the list.  Where is George S. Patton, Jr.?

Patton died too soon, losing his life as the result of an automobile accident in December 1945.  Had he lived he might eventually have become a five-star general.  Might, that is, had he been able to refrain from the controversy that followed him throughout his very public military career.  By the time World War II erupted he had proven his worth at home and abroad, including combat operations in Mexico and France.  Less than a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Patton commanded the only all-American force in Operation Torch, the Allied landings on North Africa in November 1942.  His Western Task Force conducted the longest amphibious operation in history, sailing from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to the shores of French Morocco.  From there he went on to a stunning series of battlefield successes in Tunisia, Sicily, France, and Germany.

Along with Patton’s skilled leadership came his shortcomings:  a volatile temper, and a tendency to speak indiscreetly.  Twice in Sicily he encountered soldiers suffering from battle fatigue; both times he slapped them and accused them of cowardice.  For that he was reprimanded and kept from a field command for nearly a year.  When he returned to combat in command of the Third Army, he engineered the breakout from the Normandy beachhead and raced across France at astonishing speed.  December 1944 witnessed his greatest battlefield accomplishment:  the relief of Bastogne at the height of the Battle of the Bulge.  Patton’s troops remained on the offensive thereafter, advancing across Germany and into Czechoslovakia.  After the war, as an occupation commander, he continued to generate controversy by retaining former Nazi Party members in positions of authority in the belief that they were best qualified to restore and run Germany’s shattered infrastructure.  While he had good reason, Patton chose to defend his decision by saying that membership in the Nazi Party in Germany was no different than membership in the Democratic or Republican parties in the United States.  His remarks came at the time when the heinous crimes of the Third Reich were becoming public knowledge.  As a result, he was relieved of command of Third Army and assigned to the less prestigious post he occupied at the time of his death.

As with all people it is impossible to separate Patton’s strengths from his weaknesses.  Patton could “read” an enemy, understanding not only his opponent’s capabilities, but also his state of mind.  That ability made him one of the greatest battlefield commanders of modern warfare.  What kept him from true greatness was his inability to control himself – or, more accurately, what came out of his mouth.  In that sense George Patton was very much like Balaam, a man who aspired to greatness, but whose inability to match his words with his deeds ensured that he would never attain it.

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Fox Byte 5775 #21: Ki Tisa (When You Take)

כִּיּ תִשָּׂא

The Battle of Waterloo: The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux
The Battle of Waterloo:  The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers
Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

At the distance of two hundred years the specter of Napoleon Bonaparte is no longer frightening.  Now he is nothing more than a historical figure often depicted as a comic caricature of the man who once ruled most of Europe.  In his lifetime he inspired admiration to the point of worship not only for his genius at the art of war, but for his genius at bringing responsible government out of the chaotic revolution of France.  Yet his ambition pushed him beyond the limits of himself and of France, and in time he lost everything.

We have a picture passed on through the years of a bitter Napoleon who blames everyone but himself for his setbacks.  That is the picture C.S. Lewis invokes in his description of Napoleon in hell in his classic work, The Great Divorce.  A similar picture appears in Waterloo, the 1970 movie about Napoleon’s final battle starring Rod Steiger as the Emperor.  In the midst of the battle, illness overcomes Napoleon and compels him to leave the field briefly.  During that time Marshal Michel Ney (played by Dan O’Herlihy), Napoleon’s trusted subordinate, orders the French cavalry to attack when he believes the enemy is retreating.  What he does not realize is that the Duke of Wellington (played by Christopher Plummer) has ordered his infantry to shift their position to the other side of the hill they occupied.  As the French cavalry charge, the British infantry form squares, a tactic designed for defense against cavalry.  In charge after charge, the French horsemen expend their lives to little effect, eventually crippling that arm of Napoleon’s force and contributing significantly to his ultimate defeat.  In the movie, Napoleon returns to the field just as Ney is leading the charge.  In rage and dismay he says,

What’s he doing?  What’s Ney doing?  What’s happening?  Can’t I leave the field for a minute?  What’s he doing there?  How can a man go forward with the cavalry without infantry support?  What’s the matter with you?

To the military mind this outburst is perfectly understandable.  Napoleon the general trained his men well and expected them to act not only with initiative, but also according to his commands and within the parameters of good order and discipline.  It is no surprise that he became angry at learning that a trusted and experienced subordinate acted impetuously, violating a cardinal principle of war and endangering the entire army.  It is the same reason our God becomes very angry when His people disregard the good order, discipline, and sound judgment He expects of them.

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How Names Matter

Eagle Scout Badge and Medal (Source:  SageVenture.com)
Eagle Scout Badge and Medal (Source: SageVenture.com)

In recent days I had the great honor and pleasure of delivering the keynote address to my nephew Daniel on the occasion of his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.  Those familiar with the Boy Scouts of America and with Scouting around the world understand that earning the highest rank in that organization is no small accomplishment.  In pursuing this goal to the end, Daniel, like his older brother Austin and his father, proved at an early age that he is worthy of honor and of great responsibility.  That is a large part of the message I gave to Daniel and to those gathered for the occasion.  I publish it here in hope that this message may be an encouragement and exhortation to others.


For Daniel Victor McCarn at His Eagle Court of Honor

February 27, 2015

Daniel, this day of recognition has been long in coming.  All of us rejoice with you that it has come at last.  We recognize you for your considerable accomplishments in attaining the rank of Eagle.  Those accomplishments are worthy of celebration and remembrance, but I will let others speak of them.  What I want to address with you is something greater than what you do.  I would like to consider who you are.

By way of introducing this subject I invite you to consider three men who have become legendary in the annals of Texas history.  Today the names of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barrett Travis exist in a space far removed from the reality these men occupied in their lifetimes.  We know them as the great heroes of the Alamo, men who stood bravely against overwhelming odds in the noble cause of freedom.  It is fitting to remember them at this time, the anniversary of the Siege of the Alamo which began on February 23, 1836, and ended thirteen days later on March 6 in the great battle that claimed the lives of these heroes.

Like barnacles on a ship, legends have encrusted the names of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  After 179 years it is hard to distinguish myth from truth.  Those who remember them at all remember them either as heroes or as villains, depending on the point of view.  There is enough of both in each man to justify each perception.  But who were they in reality?  When we strip away the layers of time and legend, what do we find?  We find flawed men like all of us whose ordinary lives played out in the crucible of extraordinary times.

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