Saturday, June 29, 2013

Glass Art: Jeremiah 17:5-10

For her final project in my Old Testament course OTS 513, VTS seminarian and glass-artist Teresa F. Terry produced an exegesis and glass artwork interpreting Jeremiah 16:5-10. Her creation is the largest work she has done thus far, a 24” x 19” glass panel. It is made up of a variety of glass sheets and handmade elements, particularly glass rods and glass frit. There are two base layers of simple clear glass and one layer of Reactive Irid Ice.Click any of the images below to enlarge them.
In the image below, the artwork is illuminated from behind from natural window light. On the table are some of the Hebrew words that influenced Teresa as she created the glass. The blessed tree (Jer 17:8) occupies the left part of the pane. To the right, the scorching sun in the upper corner bears down on the cursed bush in the stony wastes of the wilderness (Jer 17:6). Teresa imagines the withering shrub having very shallow roots and lacking any green leafs. The images of Jer 17 parallel the wisdom motifs of Psalm 1, but in Jeremiah reverberate strongly with the “two ways” of the Sinai covenant (e.g., Deut 30:15) and the covenant’s blessings and curses (see Deut 28).
The image below is a detail shot of the strong root system of the blessed tree (Jer 17:8). Teresa writes, “This tree had very deep roots, signifying a great foundation and source of strength. These roots were seeking and finding the nurturing water of life.”
The angle shot in the close-up image below reveals the detail and 3-D quality of the healthy root system of the blessed tree. The effect is created with variously colored rods of glass and glass frit, which Teresa manipulated in the flame of a torch.
The image below hones in on the marvelous fruitfulness of the blessed tree. Teresa writes of “a tree of fullness, always green, always bearing fruit even in the heat and uncertain conditions of the wilderness.”  She used glass frit to “paint” the foliage of the tree, which was fused to the work in the second, final firing schedule.
The detail image below shows the scorching sun in the upper right of the artwork. It is made with silver foil incorporated right into the molten glass layers. The sun burns over a “land of salt without inhabitant” (Jer 17:6), again an image in dialog with the gripping language and Sinai theology of Deuteronomy (Deut 29:23).
Below, in the final detail image, you can see the sun area of the artwork viewed from the rear. This angle reveals well the three-dimensional, multi-layered quality of the artwork. The foundation layers of the work were fired and fused together in the kiln in a complex process of varying the heat intensity over 12 hours. The final 3-D appearance of the work required a second firing schedule that took over 18 hours.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Office Adventures…



Monday, June 17, 2013

The Cosmic Tree in Zechariah 4 and Tolkien’s Silmarillion

In my seminar on apocalypticism last term (OTS 690), my student John Adams did a wonderful project on the archetype of the World Tree in Zechariah and J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional world of The Silmarillion. In Zechariah’s vision of ch. 4, two messianic olive clusters—one priestly, one Davidic—supply fuel for God’s central Cosmic Pole, an archetypal Menorah-Tree transfigured into a channel of God’s very presence. Just as the Menorah is alight with fiery lamps (Zech 4:2), so in the Silmarillion there are two cosmic trees (Telperion and Laurelin) that supply light to Valinor, the paradisicacal city of the preternatural servants of God.



As in Zechariah so in Tolkien, the light of Cosmic Trees is witness, power, and grace. They are central anchors around which the elves of Valinor organize their lives. The trees’ light is so desirable, the elf Feanor crafts jewels to shine with its living power, jewels called the Silmarils. The power of the Tree archetype to channel divine blessing is a key part of the theology of Zechariah 4. In particular, Zech 4:12 should not be read as God receiving a one-way stream of oil/fuel from a royal and priestly source. Rather, the image is one of interconnectivity: the priest and king “fuel” the cosmic pole, but the latter is actually their true source of life and power (cf. Ezekiel 31:4 CEB). Trees symbolize connectedness, a huge theme in the Holiness theology of Zechariah and Ezekiel.  In Holiness Theology, a tiered, supple web/matrix of interconnectivity provides for God’s active presence in the world and the possibility of restoration and re-creation.

Friday, June 14, 2013

“What Would Jesus Drink” An Interview with Randall Heskett

Earlier this month Peter Enns posted a lovely interview with Randall Heskett about Randall’s new book, Divine Vintage. Divine Vintage is a book about the Bible and wine, more specifically the function of wine in the Bible and the kinds of wine people in the ancient world would have drunk.This book treats the origins of wine, how it spread through the ancient world and how the Bible describes this. To check it out, click here. Enjoy! IMG_9454

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Benjamin Hart: Art Based on Third Isaiah (Isaiah 65:19-23, 61:1-11, and 63:2-6)



​My student Benjamin Hart, a Middler VTS seminarian, is both an accomplished artist / printmaker and an excellent student of Hebrew and Hebrew Bible. Among the courses he took with me this past semester was my seminar in Apocalyptic Literature. This very special work of art (chalk) emerged as his final project for the seminar (click the image above to enlarge it). It captures many apocalyptic themes, including the dualism between the forces of darkness (left plate) and the forces of light (right plate). The inspiration for the artwork was the apocalyptic imagery in Third Isaiah, particularly Isaiah 65:19-23, 61:1-11, and 63:2-6. Benjamin explains as follows:

​Isaiah 65:19-23 is a promise of hope. [In God’s reign, people] will build houses and keep them, plant and harvest. It says that the numbers of their days shall be like that of trees. Here in this passage is the hope for a new, perfected life. No longer will their lives be captivity and living in a foreign land. This message also speaks to me now. We can hope for the fulfillment of God’s already begun redemption of the world. This world wasn’t meant to be broken and sinful, just as the Israelites weren’t meant for captivity in Babylon. I hope for a time when God’s re-creation of the world is complete.

In the drawing, this idea can be seen in the two worlds in juxtaposition beside on another. Between the worlds stands God, the bridge from one reality to the other. The world on the left is the present time. This is a world of decay and ashes and bent people [detail image immediately below.] On the right is the promised world to come, with life and light, tall people and a new shining city.


​Benjamin continues: The second passage that I took for inspiration is Isaiah 61:1-11. Here a single voice is speaking about the spirit of the Lord being upon him. He comes with a mission to declare this new age. There will be “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise rather than the spirit of despair” [Isa 61:3]. This can be seen in my drawing in the comparison of the two foregrounds and cities. The one on the left is ashes and death while the one on the right is a “crown of beauty.”


Tall oaks rise around the people on the right, mirroring later in the same passage where the writer says “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” [Isa 61:3].


Benjamin also explains the divine figure in the center of the artwork: the “divine warrior” of the ancient Near Eastern combat-with-chaos mythic-poetry, which is so prevalent in apocalyptic. He writes: ​The final passage that I took inspiration from was Isaiah 63:2-6. This is a very apocalyptic image in which the Lord’s robes are splattered with the blood of the nations. This talks about the “Day of Vengeance” and the year for the Lord to redeem. In my drawing, this figure of the Lord stands between the two worlds, in the liminal space. The Lord is the bridge between this present reality and the future, promised, reality. It is through the Lord’s work that this future is possible.