Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Morning Madonna


José de Paez. (Mexican artist, 1720-1795) Nuestra Señora de Refugio 1780. He was known as a great artist of religious pieces with special preference on Marian devotions, and as one of the most prolific artists from New Spain.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Morning Madonna

Madonna and Child by Tytus Czyżewski (1882-1932), a Polish artist mainly based in Paris, designed this illustration based on  traditional Christmas woodcuts for his book of carols. The artist was a painter, poet, playwright, co-founder of the Polish Expressionist group the Formists.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Morning Madonna

Roberto Ferruzzi (Italian artist, 1854–1934) Madonna of the Streets 1887

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Morning Madonna


Marianne Stokes (Austrian-born English artist, 1855–1927) Madonna and Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Morning Madonna


Madonna and Child Nursing. Early Flemish School 16th century

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Morning Madonna


Vittore Carpaccio (Italian High Renaissance Painter, ca.1450-1525) Madonna and Child 1505

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Morning Madonna


Madonna and Child with Angel Musicians, Aragonese school of the mid-15th century

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Morning Madonna


Virgin and Child 1475-1500, a painting by Flemish Unknown Masters.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Morning Madonna

St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mt. Sinai 6C. Around Mary and Jesus are St. Theodor of Amasea, St. George, and 2 angels.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Morning Madonna


Bono da Ferrara or Bono Ferrarese (fl 1450-1452) Madonna and Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Morning Madonna

 Madonna and Child enthroned, 1217

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Morning Madonna


Pseudo Pier Francesco Fiorentino Madonna and Child 1460-80 Uffizi

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Morning Madonna

January Hermansz. van Biljert (Dutch artist, c 1597-1671) Madonna and Child 1635

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Painting a Portrait of The Madonna

Derick Baegert (c 1440–1515) Saint Luke Painting the Virgin Mary c 1485

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

SPRING - Time to Head Outdoors to Spin the Wool & to Fall in Love

Meeting of Saint Margaret and the Prefect Olibrius by Jean Fouquet. 1452 -60 for Étienne Chevalier.  A common image in medieval manuscripts is a woman spinning while standing, often the lady is depicted spinning wool amongst sheep.

A textile is a fibrous substance, such as wool, cotton, flax, or silk, that can be spun into yarn & woven or knitted into cloth.  Stone Age peoples wove nets, baskets, mats, & belts out of reeds, grasses, & strips of animal hides - and this eventually led to the creation of fabrics to substitute for the animal skins which often served as human clothing. Ancient textiles were made mostly of linen, cotton, wool, & silk. Spinning & weaving were mentioned in the Bible. 
From Exodus 35:25 Every skilled woman spun with her hands & brought ...... All the women who were skilled in sewing & spinning prepared blue, purple, & scarlet thread, & fine linen cloth... 
From Proverbs 31:19 In her hand she holds the distaff...Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. ... She extends her hands to the spinning staff, & her hands hold the spindle...

As civilizations developed, the people, the fibers, & the different methods tools invented for turning the fibers into cloth traveled to different parts of the world, & many ideas on making textiles were exchanged among various peoples. Spinning is the simple process of drawing out a twisting of a few fibers together into a continuous length, & winding them into a ball or onto a stick. There is archaeological evidence to suggest that spinning was practiced in Europe at least as early as 20,000 years ago. In the early days of spinning, the drawing out & twisting of the fibers was done by hand; later the winding stick itself was modified by the addition of a weight, or whorl, at its lower end (which gave increased momentum). Thus a modified winding stick became the spinning implement, or hand spindle.

Morning Madonna with Musical Angels


Konrad von Soest (German artist, 1394-1422) Madonna and Child with 6 Angels

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, April 9, 2018

SPRING -Time to Head Outdoors to Spin, Weave, & even gather Silkworm Cocoons to create a precious Textile.

Pamphila collecting cocoons of silk worms and spinning silk.  France, N. (Rouen)

A textile is a fibrous substance, such as wool, cotton, flax, or silk, that can be spun into yarn & woven or knitted into cloth.  Stone Age peoples wove nets, baskets, mats, & belts out of reeds, grasses, & strips of animal hides - and this eventually led to the creation of fabrics to substitute for the animal skins which often served as human clothing. Ancient textiles were made mostly of linen, cotton, wool, & silk. Spinning & weaving were mentioned in the Bible. 
From Exodus 35:25 Every skilled woman spun with her hands & brought ...... All the women who were skilled in sewing & spinning prepared blue, purple, & scarlet thread, & fine linen cloth... 
From Proverbs 31:19 In her hand she holds the distaff...Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. ... She extends her hands to the spinning staff, & her hands hold the spindle...

As civilizations developed, the people, the fibers, & the various methods & tools invented for turning the fibers into cloth traveled to different parts of the world & were exchanged among various cultures. Spinning is the simple process of drawing out a twisting of a few fibers together into a continuous length, & winding them into a ball or onto a stick. There is archaeological evidence to suggest that spinning was practiced in Europe at least as early as 20,000 years ago. In the early days of spinning, the drawing out & twisting of the fibers was done by hand; later the winding stick itself was modified by the addition of a weight, or whorl, at its lower end (which gave increased momentum). Thus a modified winding stick became the spinning implement, or hand spindle.

A Spinning Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, Hungarian (active 1420-1430) The Virgin using a drop spindle. The circular device on the right is a yarn swift.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Mankind Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.

With the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641) at the court of Charles I in 1632, British portraiture took a turn toward the baroque that changed the course of British & colonial American painting in the 17-18C. The Elizabethan style had almost been completely replaced in England by the 1670s quickly giving way to a more volumetric style. In the British American colonies, this transition was copied through imported engravings after Peter Lely (1617–1680) & Godfrey Kneller (1648–1723).
Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723) The Harvey Family

Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, Italian (active 1500-1520 in Milan). Virgin and Child with Sts Elizabeth, John and Michael.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Mankind Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.

With the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641) at the court of Charles I in 1632, British portraiture took a turn toward the baroque that changed the course of British & colonial American painting in the 17-18C. The Elizabethan style had almost been completely replaced in England by the 1670s quickly giving way to a more volumetric style. In the British American colonies, this transition was copied through imported engravings after Peter Lely (1617–1680) & Godfrey Kneller (1648–1723).
1695 Self-portrait with family, Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705)  Late 1690s This artist's family portrait, attributed to Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705), is placed in an explosion of garden components - fountains, urns, statuary, a long, formal walk, clipped hedges, & more.  Seems more French than Dutch, & the art is dissimilar to Musscher's other works from the period.

Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, Hungarian (active around 1520). Saint Anne with the Virgin and the Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Friday, April 6, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Mankind Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.

With the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641) at the court of Charles I in 1632, British portraiture took a turn toward the baroque that changed the course of British & colonial American painting in the 17-18C. The Elizabethan style had almost been completely replaced in England by the 1670s quickly giving way to a more volumetric style. In the British American colonies, this transition was copied through imported engravings after Peter Lely (1617–1680) & Godfrey Kneller (1648–1723).
1679 Jan van Kessel (I654-1708)  Portrait of a Family in a Garden

Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, German (active in 1420s in the Lower Rhineland). The Holy Family with Angels

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Mankind Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.

With the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641) at the court of Charles I in 1632, British portraiture took a turn toward the baroque that changed the course of British & colonial American painting in the 17-18C. The Elizabethan style had almost been completely replaced in England by the 1670s quickly giving way to a more volumetric style. In the British American colonies, this transition was copied through imported engravings after Peter Lely (1617–1680) & Godfrey Kneller (1648–1723).
1694 Jan Weenix (1639-1719) Agneta Block & her family at their summer home Vijverhof or Flora Batavia, with her cultivated pineapple. In this painting, the design & flowers & fruits of the garden are depicted as symbols of the owner's wealth & culture as traditionally were the house, the clothes, or the art collection.

Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, Italian (active 1320s in Rome and Avignon). Virgin and Child Enthroned

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Mankind Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.

With the arrival of Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641) at the court of Charles I in 1632, British portraiture took a turn toward the baroque that changed the course of British & colonial American painting in the 17-18C. The Elizabethan style had almost been completely replaced in England by the 1670s quickly giving way to a more volumetric style. In the British American colonies, this transition was copied through imported engravings after Peter Lely (1617–1680) & Godfrey Kneller (1648–1723).
1696 Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705) The Neufville family. Here music, clothes, & the garden display the family's culture.

Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, German (active 1440s in the Middle Rhineland). Darmstadt Altarpiece Virgin and Child Enthroned

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

17C Portraits - Families Head Outside as Man Becomes "the Interpreter of Nature"

The Renaissance, from the 14-17C, marked a turning point in portraiture. Renaissance artists began to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the dominant religious art of medieval painters. Partly out of interest in the natural world & partly out of nostalgia for classical Greece & Rome, portraits became valued as symbolic & allegorical objects & as depictions of earthly success & status. The period in Europe was the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages & modern history. The relationship between man & nature was evolving as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) promoted man as "the minister & interpreter of nature." Portraits began to depict the wealthy & the middle class in natural landscapes & in more formal garden settings, where man was obviously controlling the nature around him.   As time passed, the Renaissance garden & grounds became as much as symbol of the owner's wealth & culture as his house, his clothes, or his art collection.
 1648 Frans Hals (1623-1625) Family in Landscape

Morning Madonna

Giovanni Battista Salvi, called Sassaoferrato, (Italian artist, 1605-1685) Madonna and Child 1650

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Empty Tomb

Resurrection of Christ and the Women at the Tomb Fra Angelico, 1441


1308-11 Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)  (Italian artist, 1255-1319) The Holy Women at the Sepulchre


Christ Appears as a Pilgrim by Fra Angelico, 1441

Sunday, April 1, 2018

What is the Historical Evidence that Jesus Christ Lived & Died?

Today some claim that Jesus is just an idea, rather than a real historical figure, but there is a good deal of written evidence for his existence 2,000 years ago

From The Guardian.com By Dr Simon Gathercole, Reader in New Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge.

How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?
The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established &widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish & Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, & he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

What do Christian writings tell us?
The value of this evidence is that it is both early & detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, & scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, & provide descriptions that comport with the culture & geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish savior figure in a time & place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.

What did non-Christian authors say about Jesus?
As far as we know, the first author outside the church to mention Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD93. He has two references to Jesus. One of these is controversial because it is thought to be corrupted by Christian scribes (probably turning Josephus’s negative account into a more positive one), but the other is not suspicious – a reference to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”.

About 20 years after Josephus we have the Roman politicians Pliny & Tacitus, who held some of the highest offices of state at the beginning of the second century AD. From Tacitus we learn that Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect in charge of Judaea (AD26-36) & Tiberius was emperor (AD14-37) – reports that fit with the timeframe of the gospels. Pliny contributes the information that, where he was governor in northern Turkey, Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Neither of them liked Christians – Pliny writes of their “pig-headed obstinacy” & Tacitus calls their religion a destructive superstition.


Did ancient writers discuss the existence of Jesus?
Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. In the earliest literature of the Jewish Rabbis, Jesus was denounced as the illegitimate child of Mary & a sorcerer. Among pagans, the satirist Lucian & philosopher Celsus dismissed Jesus as a scoundrel, but we know of no one in the ancient world who questioned whether Jesus lived.

How controversial is the existence of Jesus now?

In a recent book, the French philosopher Michel Onfray talks of Jesus as a mere hypothesis, his existence as an idea rather than as a historical figure. About 10 years ago, The Jesus Project was set up in the US; one of its main questions for discussion was that of whether or not Jesus existed. Some authors have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth was doubly non-existent, contending that both Jesus & Nazareth are Christian inventions. It is worth noting, though, that the two mainstream historians who have written most against these hypersceptical arguments are atheists: Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) & Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina). They have issued stinging criticisms of the “Jesus-myth” approach, branding it pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, a recent survey discovered that 40% of adults in England did not believe that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Is there any archaeological evidence for Jesus?
Part of the popular confusion around the historicity of Jesus may be caused by peculiar archaeological arguments raised in relation to him. Recently there have been claims that Jesus was a great-grandson of Cleopatra, complete with ancient coins allegedly showing Jesus wearing his crown of thorns. In some circles, there is still interest in the Shroud of Turin, supposedly Jesus’s burial shroud. Pope Benedict XVI stated that it was something that “no human artistry was capable of producing” & an “icon of Holy Saturday.” It is hard to find historians who regard this material as serious archaeological data, however. The documents produced by Christian, Jewish & Roman writers form the most significant evidence.

These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived & died. The more interesting question – which goes beyond history & objective fact – is whether Jesus died & lived.  Life everlasting & unconditional love & total forgiveness are powerful concepts - belief, which enables them, is even stronger.

Benjamin West 1728-1820 on Easter

Benjamin West (American artist, 1738-1820) The Women at the Sepulchre (The Angel at the Tomb of Christ) 1805


Benjamin West (American artist, 1738-1820) Detail from The Women at the Sepulchre (The Angel at the Tomb of Christ) 1805.

I love the fierce turn that West took with this painting. Life everlasting & unconditional love & total forgiveness were powerful concepts - nothing to be trifled with. West had grown a lot, since he left Pennsylvania for England.