Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joseph is Visited by an Angel

Title: Joseph is Visited by an Angel
Artist: Sadao Watanabe
Medium: Color stencil print
Size: 19.7 x 18.4 cm
Date: 1979
Location: Private collection.

Matthew 1:18-21: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary and Joseph had promised to get married. But before they started to live together, it became clear that she was going to have a baby. She became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph was a godly man. He did not want to put her to shame in public. So he planned to divorce her quietly. But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit. She is going to have a son. You must give him the name Jesus. That is because he will save his people from their sins."

The basic account of the virgin birth is from an earlier tradition than either of the Gospels that describe Jesus' infancy; neither Gospel is clearly dependent on the other. Members of Jesus' family remained in positions of prominence in early Christianity when this pre-Matthew tradition (shared with Luke) was circulating. But Matthew is less concerned to prove the virgin birth to his audience, which both accepted Jesus as Messiah and acknowledged the miraculous. Matthew is more interested in teaching, and an important lesson his narrative teaches is that Jesus' birth fulfills Scripture.

Sadao Watanabe (1913 – 1996), was born and grew up in Tokyo. He was a Japanese printmaker famous for his biblical prints rendered in the mingei (folk art) tradition of Japan. The artist specialized in depictions of scenes from the bible, shown in a naive-looking, sometimes humerous, Japanese-like style. As a youth Watanabe was influenced by a teacher to become a Christian and was baptized in 1930. When he became severely ill with tuberculosis, a disease that could easily kill in those days, Watanabe vowed to study the Bible and spread the Christian story through artwork if he should recover.

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