Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 8, The Holy Spirit

In one sense, portraying the Holy Spirit in baptism icons is not a problem at all: the Spirit descended in the form of a dove. The iconographer does not need to try to get behind this simple assertion of the New Testament to ask “why

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: Part 7: The Son

Christ in icons of the baptism is identifiable just as he is in any painting or icon: his traditional bearded face, and a halo (nimbus) with a cross inscribed in it. Of course there are exceptions: the Arian baptistery in Ravenna featured a beardless Christ,

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 6, The Father

In this leisurely exploration of the image of the baptism of Christ, we finally turn to a description of the three persons of the Trinity. They are linked in the center of the image by the vertical beam of light, running down from the Father

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 5. Light

The feast of Christ’s baptism is called “the Feast of Light,” linking baptism with illumination in a tradition too ancient to trace. The apocryphal literature surrounding the New Testament is full of Jordan light imagery. The Gospel of the Ebionites reports that simultaneous with the

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 4. Angels and People

Angels are not mentioned in the scriptural account of the baptism, but they are almost always presented in the iconography. Perhaps they are included because the baptism is read together with the temptation in the wilderness, which followed it immediately, and after which the gospels

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 3. The Jordan River

The landscape in which the baptism of Christ is ususally portrayed is a rocky wilderness, with craggy mountain peaks in the background and cliff-like stony river banks on either side of the Jordan. While Jesus stands in the middle of the river itself, John is

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 2. John the Baptist

Pictures of the baptism of Christ are visually busy, filled with characters and details. Since it’s a baptism, it makes sense to start with a close look at John the Baptist. John is an important New Testament character, and Christian artists have assigned him his

Essay / Art

The Baptism of Christ: 1. The Earliest Images

The baptism of Christ is among the earliest New Testament scenes selected for depiction in Christian art. Günter Ristow mentions this in Die Taufe Christi (Recklinghausen: Verlag Aurel Bongers, 1965, 12). It is found in the catacombs, on early christian sarcophagi, and in the very

Essay / Theology

The Baptism of Christ: Worth Pondering

Christmas is past, and in a church calendar that tracks with the life of Jesus, the season of epiphany is here. In some parts of the Christian tradition, that means it’s time to think about the wise men, who actually got to Bethlehem far too

Essay / Misc.

Becoming a Christian

Little of the growth in my life comes from learning something new. Instead, it comes from learning—really learning—something old. Or it comes from getting inside something I’ve known about for a long time. It comes from re-examining, from walking over the territory yet again, hoping

Essay / Theology

The Ascension: Christ's Kind Absence

Preached at Redeemer Church on May 17, 2012. See a previous Ascension sermon here. John 16:7 – Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to

Essay / On This Day

Baptism of Aethelbert

Today (June 2) is the day King Aethelbert of Kent was baptized into the Christian faith by Augustine of Canterbury in the year 597. Bede tells us that Aethelbert “was the third English king to become High-King (Bretwalda) of all the provinces south of the