My guess about the Bosch figure would be the legendary 'Fisher King'. There are various good translations (I think Penguin do one) of the Grail romances which include him. He is described as having been wounded in the thigh (a euphemism, needless to say) which rendered the land of which he was king barren and desolate. Hence, I would assume, the lack of robes. Jessie Weston may have more to say on this topic in 'From Ritual to Romance' but my copy is at the other end of the country!
The Fisher King is due to be healed at the coming of a Messiah-figure in the legend. Various versions seem to exist of this. I suspect this would account for his presence in the nativity scene described.
>From : [log in to unmask]
To : [log in to unmask]
Date : 21 December 2000 09:02:43
Subject : The Jewish messiah (was Millenialism and the Antichrist)
In a message dated 12/20/00 9:21:04 PM Eastern Standard Time,
>[log in to unmask] writes:
>> 2) where Gow holds that the identification of the Antichrist with the one
>> who many Jews would accept as their Christ as opposed to Jesus Christ was a
>> Medieval, largely anti-semitic invention (pp. 2-3). I guess he has never
>> read Scripture (John 5:43; Mt 24:24; 2 Thes 2:1ff.) or St. Chrysostom, St.
>> Augustine, St. Cyrill, who are hardly described as medievals.
>Messianic expectations originate in the OT, which of course lays the
>foundation for the Christian claim that Christ is the fulfullment of the OT
>prophecies. Emphasis is often put on the point that Jews don't believe Christ
>was divine, and don't believe he was the messiah. But it's not always made
>clear that this is essentially a mistaken identity argument. It's perfectly
>possible to be a devout Jew and believe that the messiah, as predicted, will
> appear in due time (but Christ was not that messiah). Some (not all) of the
>Lubavicher Hasidim believe that their rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, was the
>messiah. Although this may sound odd from a Christian perspective, the OT
>doesn't require that the messiah be superhuman or an incarnation of God. He
>might be just a great leader, another King David. Whether he'll appear in the
>near future or far future is left a mystery, at least in the OT. A subsidiary
>point is that Jews are not alone in understandings of Christ that are
>non-trinitarian or deviant from a catholic perspective. In Islam, Christ is
>regarded as one of the prophets, not divine. Unitarians too regard him as
>human, not divine, and not a member of a trinity.
>In any case, I agree with you, Br. Alexis, on the point that the idea of a
>messiah for the Jews was not invented during the middle ages or by
>antisemites. It's from the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. Certainly,
>though, anyone can play with this idea in an adversarial manner by filtering
>it through the mistaken identity argument, as in “my messiah is the right
>messiah and your messiah is the wrong messiah, and--furthermore--your messiah
>is actually satan.“ Anatole France wrote a novel somewhat along this line, in
>which God turns out to be wicked and the devil is mankind's true friend.
>To see what was actually done with these ideas at any particular time, we'd
>have to look to artifacts and documents. A Hieronymus Bosch painting of the
>nativity includes not only the three magi but also a sceptre-carrying figure
>who wears a jeweled crown and a loincloth and has a bandage on his leg. The
>art historian Lotte Brand Philips feels that this is the Jewish messiah, and
>points to a story in the Babylonian Talmud that says the messiah will appear
>as a leper (hence the bandage). It's an interesting reading, though I still
>don't understand what he's doing in a painting of the nativity. As in the
>story of Saint Martin and the beggar, the messiah-as-leper seems designed to
>test the faith of those who encounter him. But it's also an example of what I
>mean by possible Christianizing elements in the Talmud. For the Jewish
>messiah to come from even more humble circumstances than the Christian
>messiah (who was born in a stable) is a relatively new idea. I see no
>precedent for it in the OT, where the messiah sounds more as if he'll be a
>great king or leader, a David.
Director, 1509 Society
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