>> >Or the artists could have taken their cue from Luke.
>> Or, perhaps, Luke was the first visualizer ("painter") of that scene.
>> Ulrich Schmid,
>I agree, Ulrich, if you mean that Luke said the Holy Spirit had the "bodily
>form of a dove," and therefore must have seen or imagined (visualized) it in
>that way. Along the same line, some of our earliest art, though rarely
>mentioned in books on history of art, consists of the constellations people
>"saw" in the sky. They imagined (visualized) that a line connected one star
>with another, and came up with all kinds of pictures.
A lot of details in christian art are puzzling visualizings of biblical
narratives. Some 12 years ago saw a barock painting in the abbey of
Ottobeuren depicting the scene of the risen Lord appearing to Mary (John
20.11-18). Jesus stood there leaning on a spade. It took me some minutes to
realize that this was a reference to John 20.15 where it is said that Mary
at first didn't recognize Jesus "thinking he was the gardener".
>On Luke, many little details about him are fascinating. I don't know if
>anyone discusses any more whether the events in the New Testment are
>historically true. One argument against it might be the degree to which the
>NT seems to recycle the OT, and therefore to be a literary invention. The
>parallels, for example, between Peter and Aaron. Each is involved in a major
>failure of faith yet holds the highest religious office, possibly to remind
>us that everyone falls short of God's expectations and no better person was
>available for that office.
>On the other hand, some of the tiny details in the NT are exceedingly
>naturalistic, as if no author (or only a very clever author) could have
>invented them. Luke, for example, has Mary saying that God made a covenant
>with Abraham. This is incorrect. The covenant was with Isaac. Would Luke,
>as the only Gentile Evangelist, be less familiar than the others with the Old
>Testament, and more likely to make this "error"?
In this case the "error" most likely is on your side, since the covenant
indeed was made with Abraham (cf. Gen 15).
The crucial thing about detecting "errors" in adaptions or depictions of
biblical narratives always is to exactly know what the sources might have
been that caused the "error". E.g., the famous paintings or sculptures
depicting Moses with a horn on his head (cf. Michelangelo's Moses) refers
to an erroneous rendering of the Hebrew text in the Vulgate (Ex 34.30). A
modern reader of either the Hebrew text or the LXX (Greek translation) or
any modern translation would hardly realize what went wrong safe for a
footnote added to the texts pointing to the Vulgate. Moreover, some NT
adaptions/citations of OT material have been influenced from other jewish
sources not belonging to the OT canon as we now have it. E.g., Paul's
citation in 1.Cor 2.9 probably goes back to the Apocalypsis Eliae
(according to Origen), not belonging to the OT canon as we now have it and
now longer extant. This sort of apocryphal "information" is especially
relevant for studying painted scenes from the life of St. Mary (primary
source: Protevangelium Jacobi, extant in various recensensions).
In short: When dealing with alleged "errors" in biblical narratives or art
monuments depicting biblical scenes one always has to reckon with the
possibility that they go back to some sort of "information".
>One reason Luke's "error" struck me as a little slice of life rather than a
>literary invention is that it's so small. Most modern readers pass over it
>without noticing. One possibility, though, is that the human attention span
>has been deteriorating over the centuries. Maybe people read more closely in
>the past, and would have been more likely to notice.
>I thought of this because some of my students are evangelical Christians who
>take the Bible very seriously and read it over and over. They seem to have
>instant recall for even the smallest details and nothing seems to escape
>them. This strikes me as an old-fashioned way of reading that has somehow
>gotten preserved in some sectors of society. I imagine (visualize) it as the
>way the Bible was originally read, or was orignally intended to be read.
It is hard to tell how many people in past times had been fully aware of
all the details in biblical naratives. Sure, scholars in the ancient church
(e.g., Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Ambrosius, Jerome, Augustine) as well as
in later times (e.g., Bede, Hrabanus) payed attention to most every small
detail and assembeled a lot of information related to the biblical
narratives. But I would suggest that the ordinary priest, not to mention
the "lay" people, was not that well informed. Only from the reformation
period and, even more important, the pietist movement onwards the detailed
perception of the biblical text has gained more ground within a wider
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies