BBC and Martin Luther

I was asked a few weeks’ ago to do some work on a project about Martin Luther. I am not sure the project is going ahead but here are some images.

I rather like Thomas More. He got a raw deal in the Hilary Mantel books, but there we are. I loved the books anyway and the TV adaptation!

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erasmus after Durer

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Luther himself-

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and some more erasmus

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History revision

I was just doing some GCSE revision preparation and thought I would post some screenshots and a link:

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Here is a picture of Keynes which was the basis for a front cover I did for a translation of his book

“the economic consequences of the peace”

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Jesus or ‘Isa?

Jesus is mentioned in the Koran 154 times in 19 stories, more than the Prophet himself. Mary or Miriam, his mother, dedicated to God from childhood and serving in the Temple in Jerusalem, is actually mentioned more in the Koran than in the Bible -she is spoken of 100 times. Of course, the Muslim narrative differs from the Christian while both maintain their sometimes conflicting  accounts are wholly correct.

In Islam, Jesus is the messenger of God and his servant, as is Mohammad. He is a sign (ayat) and a mercy from God.  Jesus’ principle message to both religions is one of truth- do not do one thing and be another, do not pretend to be religious with a great show of reverence when you are not inside. Honest humanity is exactly like honest architecture: when Pugin rages against the Georgian theatrics of Bath, he is saying the same thing: the facade should honestly reflect what is going on inside.

For Islam, Jesus/’Isa is “the son of Mary” (I count 22 times and she is the only woman mentioned by name in the Koran), as he is also described in Mark 6:3: οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τέκτων, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς Μαρίας, ἀδελφὸς δὲ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωσῆ καὶ Ἰούδα καὶ Σίμωνος; καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ ὧδε πρὸς ἡμᾶς; καὶ ἐσκανδαλίζοντο ἐν αὐτῷ. Of course, in Mark’s account, while it can be understood to be a reference to the Virgin birth, it might also suggest the locals were suspicious of Jesus’ true paternity, and the Talmud elaborates on this elsewhere. ‘Isa is also called the “word of God” Kalimat Minhu and “the spirit of God”. ‘Isa is an icon and an example of humility and poverty, owning nothing and giving up the world, an important message to a society dominated by consumption and obsessed with wealth. ‘Isa had three things- a robe, a bowl and a comb. He subsequently gave away the comb and the bowl- what do I need these for when others could use them?

‘Isa is the prophet of the end times, returning as the Messiah (Al Masih): this was foretold by the angels. He is described as Messiah 11 times in the Koran.

إِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلآئِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ مِّنْهُ اسْمُهُ الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَجِيهًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ

Differences and the Nativity

(Al Emran 45) The Koranic story differs from the Christian story in the absence of a stable, a manger and Joseph, but so much of the Christian infancy narrative is fairly loose, with contradictions between Matthew and Luke, a complete lack of any infancy narrative in John and Mark and some very picturesque details added from the Protoevangelium of James, (later reworked in Armenian and Syriac) to form the christmas crib scene popularised by St Francis of Assisi in 1223 and painted by everyone from Giotto onwards. The ox and the ass are also in icons of the nativity, together with a midwife who arrives a bit too late, but helps to bathe the baby. There is also the legend of Aphroditianus and the “Revelation of the magi” where the various visitors see the Christ-child in different forms, as a throned king, a warrior and a martyr. In the Revelation, there are 12 magi, one of whom comes from Shir or China. In the Arabic Infancy narrative, the magi take back with them the swaddling cloths which have mystical powers akin to the shroud of Turin and now on display in either Dubrovnik Cathedral or as the “Windel Jesu” in Aachen Cathedral. One tradition in the late middle ages sees the swaddling clothes made from Joseph’s underpants, rather coyly represented in a 1400 painting, now in Antwerp, by Joseph Malouel as a stocking.

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The site of the nativity is celebrated in the ruins of the church of the Kathisma of the theotokos, about 3 miles outside Bethlehem. This follows exactly the narrative of the Protoevangelium of James where even before the Holy family get to Bethlehem, Mary asks to get off the donkey and Joseph locates a cave in the middle of the desert. In the centre of the church is a rock where Mary rests before giving birth.

While celebrating the Virgin-birth, Islam does not say that this also means Jesus is divine. this is where the two traditions start to divide and indeed where the controversy arose a few weeks’ ago in Glasgow. Again, while calling Jesus “Word of God” Islam is not attributing Divinity to him.

In both Islam and Orthodoxy, choosing to do what is right, Mary is seen as the perfect model of what our life can be. In this, Orthodoxy avoids the pitfalls of Augustinian original sin and therefore of the “Immaculate conception” and shares with Islam in presenting Mary as a role-model not only for women but for everyone. She is a symbol of purity, obedience and dignity. In Islam, Mary is alone, giving birth to ‘Isa under a date-tree in the desert and as in the biblical narrative, she suffers gossip because of the scandal of giving birth without an identifiable father.

Miracles

There are miracles attributed to ‘Isa that do not appear in the canonical Gospels, but they are certainly found in the Apocryphal texts, that he talked from his cradle, that he brought clay birds to life, cured the blind, lepers and that he raised the dead- in the case of the Koran, one of the sons of Noah. One of the big debates that tends to pop up is completely mistaken- that the miracles point to Jesus’ divinity. In fact, throughout the New Testament, Jesus routinely attributes the miraculous to God- as indeed the early teaching in Acts 2:22 attests: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you…”

Crucifixion

Where things really start to get complex is in the death of Jesus. For the Christian, this takes place on a cross at the age of 33. For the Muslim, it takes place in serenity surrounded by angels at the age of 120. The Koran even acknowledges the Christian claim (4: 157) and explains that this was a deception. Some accounts talk about a replacement for Christ, a rescue operation that leads Judas to be arrested and killed rather than Jesus.

In this, Islam is paralleled by the 3rd Century Gospel of Basilides and the Apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas:

“God, who had decreed the issue, reserved Judas for the cross, in order that he might suffer that horrible death to which he had sold another. He did not suffer Judas to die under the scourges, notwithstanding that the soldiers scourged him so grievously that his body rained blood.

“So they led him to Mount Calvary, where they used to hang malefactors, and there they crucified him naked, for the greater ignominy. Judas truly did nothing else but cry out: God, why have you forsaken me, seeing the malefactor has escaped and I die unjustly? Truly I say that the voice, the face, and the person of Judas were so like to Jesus, that his disciples and believers entirely believed that he was Jesus; wherefore some departed from the doctrine of Jesus, believing that Jesus had been a false prophet, and that by the art of magic he had done the miracles which he did: for Jesus had said that he should not die till near the end of the world; for that at that time he should be taken away from the world.”

But the Gospel of Barnabas was probably a 16th century forgery.

The crucifixion story is not very reliable

Pauline Theology (beginning in 1 Cor 15) is dominated by the crucifixion, so the Islamic account appears to challenge the core belief in Christianity. I was listening to someone talking about the crucifixion event the other day, however, and was astonished by his claim that the account of the crucifixion is one of the most accurate testimonies to an actual execution in the ancient world. Well, yes and no. What the New Testament account does is to spin the story with enough graphic detail that the vital legal questions remain unasked and unanswered. It seems to me that it is not at all clear why Jesus merited a death sentence under Roman law at all. There is a hint that the apostles were armed in the Garden of Gethsemane and if Jerusalem were under lock-down, then maybe a case can be made against them, but not really against Jesus. There is no evidence that he was armed. Beyond that, while there might just be a case for the Jewish authorities to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy, again there is no good reason in the narrative why that does not happen and why instead Jesus is handed over to the Roman authorities.

Despite this, and perhaps most importantly in a defence of the historical reliability of the Gospel testimony, it is improbable that the crucifixion event would ever have been invented. Why would any group want to glorify a sadistic and shameful execution especially when the incarnation narrative, which was already emerging, provided quiet sufficient evidence of an intervention in history by God?

If we move to the Reformation and the emphasis placed by the reformers on the Atonement, then the crucifixion swings even more mightily centre-stage. More than that, the ever-present image of Jesus as a shepherd merges into an image of Jesus both as Paschal lamb and as scapegoat – one event, the crucifixion combining the festivals of both Passover and Yom Kippur.

The Gnostics

Just as there have been Christians who have questioned the Virgin Birth (the Bishop of York, for instance in the not-so-distant past), so too, quite demonstrably, there have been Christians throughout history who have questioned the reality of the crucifixion or the centrality of that event. It is not such a shocking claim.

Islam is certainly not alone in denying that the crucifixion was real. The Gnostics had already done this. Here is the relevant paragraph from the Nag Hammadi scriptures-

It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height over all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance.

Modern literature

The idea that Jesus survived the crucifixion is brilliantly done in the Kazenzakis book, “The Last Temptation” and in the film – I remember the scene where St Paul confronts Jesus and says he invented Christ, “I don’t care whether you’re Jesus or not. The resurrected Jesus will save the world…I created the truth out of what people needed. If I have to crucify you to save the world then I’ll crucify you and if I have to resurrect you, then I’ll do that too, whether you like it or not…. My Jesus is much more important and more powerful.”

The same story of survival, incidentally, is also told in “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” (Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln) and its sequel, “The Messaianic legacy”, even “the Passover plot” by Hugh Schonfield (a Glasgow academic and one of the original Dead sea scrolls’ academics, slightly given to the sensational and less glamorous than Geza Vermes but who authored a very competent reworking of the gospels  “The Authentic New Testament”) -it lies behind the dreadful “Da Vinci Code” stuff. It is implicit in the Philip Pullman novella “The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ” which in turn, I think, is a fantasy based on the idea, already suggested by Leonardo’s twin Jesus painted in the Last supper, that Thomas, the twin (Didymus)  was the brother of Jesus and took his place on the cross, a theological version of the 2006 film “The Prestige” with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. I was asked to look at the Pullmann book a couple of years’ ago to see what could be done to turn it into a film. A tough call but in the end, Pullmann got cold feet and pulled out of the project.

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And finally there is  the AntiChrist, المسيح الدجّال Dajjal, the one-eyed opposite to everything ever preached by Jesus. This cyclopedic travesty of goodness will rule with brute force, atheism and deceit. Muslims and Christians agree that Jesus will descend and defeat the anti-Christ. What Islam does that Christianity does not is to provide specifics- ‘Isa returns in eastern Damascus to confront injustice, his hands resting on the shoulders of two angels, and his hair dripping with oil. When he tosses his head, the beads of oil will fly off like pearls. He will destroy the cross and kill the pig. When the Dajjal sees ‘Isa, he will dissolve “like salt in water”.

Ratcliffe Chapel

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In the late 1950s, Ratcliffe College, my former school, decided to build a new chapel to replace the 1867 chapel financed by Ambrose Phillips and the Earl of Shrewsbury, and designed by Pugin who was the architect for the original building in 1844, his son Edward and the men who patented the Hansom cab (JA & CF Hansom). Pugin was the chief and largely uncredited architect of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster. Because he was a Catholic, his name was largely overlooked and Barry got the credit. But since 1847, it has been on a throne (built by John Webb) designed by a Catholic architect that the monarch has delivered the “Gracious address”.

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The new chapel, imagined in the “modern trend with basic Byzantine feeling” by Ernest Norris took two years to erect and was completed in 1960. Much of the interior was embellished with painted ironwork decorations done by Gervase and Aloysius Duffy, and with windows by Jonah Jones. The sculptures were done by Jones himself and Fr O’Malley, with two of the statues- of St Chad and St Richard modelled directly on headmasters Emery and Leetham in the style of Eric Gill, one of whose statues remains in the school. Fr Claude Leetham had a habit of rubbing his nose, and in the days when the statues were parked in the cloisters waiting to be put on-site, the boys paraded past St Richard and rubbed its nose, leaving a small mark which persists. (This story passed on by a boy who was there at the time and went on to be a priest in my day at the school). It remains a fairly impressive space, constructed of concrete, clad in brick and with a dome over a chunky clerestory. Vertical windows in the transepts make it, nevertheless, a very airy building.

ratcliffe-statueThe original chapel was deconsecrated in 1962 and used for teaching and dormitory space.

Ratcliffe’s association with great architecture extends also to the prep-school- the current in-house prep-school has just been built by a distant Pugin relative and the original at Grace Dieu manor is described by ES Purcell as “the beautiful parish church (which) underwent restoration at Pugin’s hands, the first of the old parishes to be restored upon Catholic lines with return stalls and a rood screen.”

But when the school was handed to lay-staff and the Rosminian Priests largely withdrew, a number of items went missing. This following the destruction of the baldacchino by the last Rosminian Headmaster, Fr Keith Tomlinson, who always seemed to me to be a philistine, albeit a slightly camp one, with a remit in my day simply to beat boys. I know he made alot of children miserable. No doubt he was Ratcliffe’s own John Smyth. He is probably best forgotten. Nil nisi bonum and all that, but there we are!

The Baldacchino was quite remarkable in many ways. It provided a focus to the design, which had been compromised when the then Bishop of Nottingham, Ellis, himself an Old Ratcliffian, ruled that the planned central altar “versus populum” was non-canonical, only months’ before Vatican 2 recommended exactly that sort of arrangement and which was, of course, followed in Liverpool cathedral. Ellis, though, was old fashioned and my own parish in lincolnshire continued to have services in Latin and “ad orientem” until the early 70s, some 10 years after the end of the council.

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The Baldacchino (which is in this photograph and -somewhere there is a drawing I did which will resurface again sometime- I keep coming across it and will post here the next time  I do!) was an interesting modern take on a traditional architectural feature in the Latin Rite going back at least to San Apollinaire in Ravenna in the 9th Century, though we know that Constantine gifted a silver baldacchino to the Basilica of St John in Laterano. By 1600, it was considered a mandatory item, sometimes replaced by a cloth tester, promulgated by the Counter reformation in 1600 and indeed there is a good example in stone by AW Pugin in Grace Dieu.

Ratcliffe’s Baldacchino was also supported by 4 lightweight columns crafted from spitfire metal in the old Coventry factory where the planes were manufactured during the war. Today, Steve Clark has been overseeing the restoration of a spitfire for the school. Again, a link lost. The design on the baldacchino was based on an obscure verse “On Baptism” by Tertullian – “we are little fish who cleave to the great fish Jesus Christ”, this all as much a play on the Greek Christian acrostic ΙΧΘΥC as on the trade of the early apostles. One little fish was actually named on the painting- he was a boy who had just been baptised in the school. On every level, therefore, this was heritage stuff and it was, I understand, dumped in skips by Tomlinson. Simply appalling vandalism.

puginOpposite the lady chapel, and under the organ pipes were two alcoves. On these had been hung a giant rug designed and woven by AW Pugin. This, even in the 1960s, should not have been cut in two and should have been housed in the V&A! Today, I believe it was unceremoniously stripped from the church and transported to the Rosminian motherhouse in Stressa. (Maybe the rather splendid gold-plated silver pontifical chalice, which I persuaded the then Headmaster Fr Anthony Baxter to use on the school feast-day, went the same way?) and I wonder if an export-licence was either sort or acquired before British heritage of this quality and import was taken to Italy? The Pugin rug, as valuable as any of its sister-pieces found in the Palace of Westminster, was used on the sanctuary for services from the 19th Century through to the 1960s. It was a bigger version of the rug routinely used by a Bishop in the Orthodox Church. Norman St John Stevas, also an old boy of the school, and the person who devised the committee system used in Parliament, at least, would have been apoplectic. Thank God he died in ignorance.

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Silence is Golden

The Anglican Church will learn, I hope, the harsh lesson the Catholic Church has finally begun to understand, that to interfere too much in the daily minutiae of political debate is to produce a contradictory, confused and ultimately meaningless flood of well-intentioned platitudes. There comes a time when what is said is simply ignored or rejected. The present Pope is indeed experiencing this- He is not necessarily saying the wrong things- he is simply reaping the whirlwind set in motion by his predecessors and his world-wide congregation has tired or what he is talking about.

It is really better to keep quiet.

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Today, Archbishop Justin Welby condemns the government for reneging on a decision never taken, namely to accept 3000 children as refugees to the UK. Of course, I warmly encourage our councils and our country to open their arms to these children and to refugees of all ages, but I recognise that there must always be a difference between what we want to do and the way we allocate the resources we have available.

Last year, about this time, the Archbishop made an extraordinary statement that it was not racist to complain about migration. I thought he was utterly wrong then and I still think so now, but his pronouncement today seems to be completely contradictory. The only logical conclusion is that, in the absence of a credible opposition in the House of Commons, the Archbishop has taken it on himself to play the role so resolutely abandoned by Jeremy Corbyn. Sadly, this is not the office to which the Archbishop has been appointed.

This is what he said last year:

He said that to be anxious about “one of the greatest movements of people in human history” was “very reasonable”. He added: “There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.” This was noted to echo the claim that “it is not racist to impose limits on immigration”

At the time, there was a good deal written about the difference between a refugee and a migrant, though in fact that distinction is a legal one, requires a lengthy process, and is rarely established at the border.

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But this is what he said this year, today:

“Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children.

“Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. Jesus commands us to care for the most vulnerable among us.”

“I very much hope that the Government will reconsider this decision, and work with church groups and others to find a sustainable and compassionate solution that allows those most in need to find sanctuary in our country.”

I agree with the sentiments he expresses but his own U-turn is astonishing. Ironically, the Coventry Telegraph headlines its article on this subject: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises U-turn on child refugees scheme. Something here about the pot and the kettle!

Leave the talking to someone else.

There is an opportunity to question the Government’s decision, my Lord Archbishop, but not with this dodgy track-record. It is simply unbelievable and it cheapens the debate.

Tidying up the Lear and comments on Lucy Worsley

 

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I am just finishing the final sequences of a youtube treatment of the Lear Suite by DAVID WATSON. It should be ready in the next few days for posting!

Meanwhile, here is a recent review of Episode 2 of “British History’s Biggest Fibs”:

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television. This column is the most read television column in the entire English speaking world. It’s true. Friendly Russian hackers have leaked the news from a Moldovan website and it’s important this information is shared with you. Yes, it’s ‘fake news’ season. The whole world is gazing, like Alice, into a topsy-turvy looking glass of the make believe. Orwell’s ‘doublespeak’ is topping the book charts again and nothing, it seems, is believable. It is nothing new according to British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley (BBC4). Worsley’s entertaining and informative revision of some the biggest myths of British history is a timely reminder that there’s nothing new about ‘fake news’ – the state, our state, has been up to it for centuries. This week’s topic was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when Britons cheered the arrival of a new king and queen, William and Mary, from over the channel in what is now the Netherlands. But as Worsley reminds us, that’s a great big lie – it was, in fact, an armed invasion incited by a band of English traitors and an example of ‘fake new’, seventeenth century style. Worsley is a refreshing change to history programming, which in recent years has been overly dumbed down and ruined by soft focus re-enactments and mockumentary dramatisations. That’s not to say Worsley isn’t beyond a bit self-parody and fancy-dress herself, but she is a reminder that an expert, talking engagingly and enthusiastically can be entertaining enough.

Read more at: http://www.bostonstandard.co.uk/whats-on/arts/tv-column-british-history-s-biggest-fibs-with-lucy-worsley-brexit-bill-debate-this-week-1-7806160

Even more Edward Lear!

Lear wrote some many limericks that there is really no end to the number of crazy drawings possible. Here are a couple of pictures for the new film that are loose versions of what we are also trying to animate for the “Following Lear” project – when it gets properly or fully financed! In the meantime..

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Oh and here is one I did yesterday with a picture of Stirling castle in the background. Sometimes, I rather miss the days when I was at St Andrews… Scotland is such a glorious country in all respects!

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Episode 2 British History’s Biggest Fibs!

THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION

I have just watched episode 2! Although I did numerous graphics for the show, I have never really watched any of the episodes from beginning to end, and what bits I had seen were often radically changed in the edit. This episode seemed to me to be very slick indeed and I was thrilled at the way my sequences were blended into the story. I was particularly pleased that the nosebleed sequence worked so well! So congratulations to Edmund Moriarty, the Director of this episode, for doing such a brilliant job and making the process of working such a pleasure!

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This should be up on iplayer tomorrow!