Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arrest of Jesus

Title: Arrest of Jesus

Artist: Unknown

Medium: Tempera on parchment

Size: tbd.

Date: 17th-century

Location: British Library, London.

Mark 14:50-52 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

This miniature shows the capture of Jesus by two soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. His serene expression and crossed wrists eloquently convey his resignation to what must happen, and contrast with the threatening stance of the man with a sword. Jesus is depicted alone, as described in the gospel account "everyone deserted him”.

The young man mentioned in 14:51-52 is an enigma. Scholars lack a consensus as to why Mark would record this odd incident at all. One argument is that the passage reiterates that in the face of adversity even the disciples were so eager to abandon Jesus that one of them was willing to run away naked. Consider, however, that he escapes leaving his linen cloth (sindon in Greek) which is mentioned twice, and later the dead Jesus is wrapped only in a linen cloth (another sindon), which also mentioned twice (15:46), only to “escape” death.

This illustration is from a lavishly illustrated 17th-century manuscript written in a small elegant script with decorative borders and devices. At the time this was produced, Ethiopia was undergoing a religious and artistic revival. The volume is a faithful copy of a 15th-century manuscript, and was probably commissioned by Emperor Iyasu (ruled 1682-1706) for the church of Debra Berhan Selassie, which remains one of Ethiopia's most well-known churches.

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