I think I’ve been a somewhat naive in the recent past. I believed it was OK to represent the Christianity Deity (Jesus) in two and/or three dimensions, just as long as you didn’t bow down and worship those created images/sculptures. So, not armed with a deeper understanding of the second commandant, I proceeded to execute a series of paintings using, basically, Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue as my source of inspiration. Months later, after further study, I’ve concluded that “Fools (me) rush in where angels fear to tread.” There’s a lot more to the second commandant than I initially read into it. Even with my visual rationalizations thrown in, I’m fearful of being in opposition to what God commands me/us not to depict. So, from here on out, I’ll certainly think twice before executing paintings using an image of Jesus.
Here is my artist’s reasoning (which parallels some Biblical scholars also) for considering not to represent Jesus in image form:behind my commitment:
I wouldn’t dream of visually representing Jehovah–who would? But Jesus, I reasoned, is different than His Father, Jehovah, and the Holy Spirit. Like us, Jesus became living flesh. That brought Him down to (nearly) my level I reasoned. That placed Him in the public domain. He now became fair game for mans’ feeble visual imitations–right? Well not exactly. Because the Bible teaches that Jesus and Jehovah are one. The Father is in the Son and vice versa. If we see the Son, we see the Father also (John 14:9). The “seeing” in scripture here is referencing the inner qualities of each¬ (to be derived through scripture study) not the external appearance. So if we aren’t necessarily concerned with external appearance, almost anything I would paint would not be a representative visual example of Jesus–right?
In fact, Jesus is nearly impossible to depict correctly! Why you ask? No one drew and/or painted a portrait of Him (Jesus) while He was living to my knowledge that exists today. And photography didn’t exist back then. So any of mans’ depictions, whether of two and/or three dimensions, are definitely not going to be spot-on. Far from it. Not even horseshoe close. So if an artist can’t represent (a likeness) of the Christian Deity, (namely Jesus here) because there isn’t a source from which to draw from (correctly), anything they do wouldn’t be an image/likeness of Jesus. (Remember this is my reasoning)
But the flip side is this: is to do anything less than an exact representation of Christ cheapen and degrade the Christian Deity. That’s a Catch–22 situation. It appears that you’re off the hook of accountability on one hand, and back on it on the other! An artist worth his salt certainly wouldn’t want to be guilty of creating deity knock-offs, now would he? In a sense, that would place The Deity (Jesus) on the shelf with all the other gods! How trite! And even if it were possible to render an exact, mirror image of Jesus’ face, it wouldn’t necessarily reflect the inward characteristics of Deity of which “in the image and likeness” thereof are supposedly referring to in the second commandant (and also in the initial creation of Adam and Eve being in the image and likeness of the Godhead). Saying that Jesus is in the image of His Father, Jehovah, can’t mean physical appearance because Jehovah is Spirit (only) and Jesus is body and Spirit. Therefore, it doesn’t seem possible for an artist to represent simultaneously the inner qualities of Jehovah being Spirit with the external appearance of His Son, Jesus. Again, it appears that the artist is free to image his own interpretation of deity with too much regard for the second commandant.
The second of the Ten Commandants says that this God who created the universe and everything in it, lets us humans know that He wishes not to be known through any human representation of Him. After all, God is Spirit and only became flesh (in Jesus) for a very short duration of time. God is the builder of the creation; not the creation itself. Builders are always superior to their creations. And in this case, what the builder is made of (only Spirit) isn’t what His man creation is made of exclusively (body and spirit equals soul). This builder seeks to remain anonymous–visually speaking only. Knowledge of Him is to be gleaned from His scriptures–period! All visualization of Him in any earthly manifestation must predominately remain in a person’s mind only and be reinforced through the reading, study, and the preaching of scripture.
Other artists throughout history (including most of the famous ones) have done depictions of Jesus in their work. As for me, I like to keep my soul intact by not continuing to lead others astray. Like the woman caught in adultery, who was told by Jesus to “Go. From now on sin no more,” I will make a concerted effort from this day forward to refrain from doing any more Jesus’ image paintings–regardless of my feeble attempts to disguise His (facial) identity through vagueness of detail. (About the only way I feel half-comfortable in labeling an image with the name Jesus is to obviously distort and exaggerate the image into hyperbola for damage effect–like distorting the face to emphasis the agony and suffering Jesus had to endure at crucifixion). In this case no one would remotely recognize Jesus as such, regardless of my affixing the name Jesus to it in the title. This distortion of the suffering Jesus is being represented here by the image of a bleeding, stripped, foreboding Easter Island Maori man.
I did construct a glass block Jesus (decades ago) and hung Him upon a wooden cross before I became more enlightened. I choose not to dismantle it because it’s not carved out of glass–the blocks are simply glued together. And I certainly don’t bow down and worship it. Still, I’ll cease to do any other sculptures of Jesus because I don’t want the possibility of being held accountable on judgment day for my creative compromising.