Thursday, March 17, 2011

Peter's Denial

Title: Peter's Denial
Artist: Carl Bloch
Medium: Oil on Copper Plate
Size: 104 x 84 cm
Date: 1865
Location: National History Museum, Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark.

John 18:15-18 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

John mentions "another disciple" who is known to the high priest and his household. It is not said whether Peter was unable to enter the room with the other disciple, or whether he chose to remain outside. The latter seems unlikely, given Peter's character, but the arrest has shaken him. He is now sifted, beginning with a question from the woman who attended the door. She asks, literally, "You also are not one of the disciples of this man, are you?" But, of course, there would be little other reason for a stranger to be there in the courtyard in the middle of a cold night. Furthermore, the fact that she says "you also" most likely indicates that she knows the other is a follower of Jesus. In this account, therefore, it seems to be Peter's association with the unnamed disciple that draws attention to his relation to Jesus. This other disciple shows no concern about her feelings regarding his discipleship, for he not only was admitted by her, but also came back to get Peter in. While Peter's attack with the sword may have made him fearful of being recognized, he is not in a position of legal difficulty, since there is no warrant for his arrest. Nor is there indication that he was physically threatened by this woman or the others. He has no such excuses for his denial. He who a few hours earlier had said he would die for Jesus now denies any association with him purely out of fear of what people would think.

Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 1834 – February 1890) was a Danish painter. He was born in Copenhagen and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi). His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy. After many of Bloch’s paintings that were coming out of Italy were seen by influential patrons back home, he was commissioned to paint 23 new paintings for the King's Praying Chamber in the newly restored Frederiksborg Castle Chapel, in Hillerød, Denmark. Those paintings have become very popular illustrations, so much so that for over 40 years the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made heavy use of the imagery in Bloch's paintings in its church buildings and printed media.

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