1 The series "Son of God" premiered on BBC One on April 1, 2001. The image was released to the press on March 27 of that year.
2 There are also silences about the body of Jesus in the current quest for its historical truth. John Dominic Crossan's marvelous chapter title, "In the Beginning Is the Body," covers a text chiefly about healing miracles and patronage. Certainly it doesn't begin with Jesus' body (see Crossan 1995: 75-101). Geza Vermes, in his much longer The Changing Faces ofJesus (2000), not only avoids the physical face, but deals with other aspects of Jesus' bodily life either by dismissing them as fabulous or by treating them as lived scriptural citations. Jesus' circumcision is another "amusing snippet of a semilegendary nature" (p. 229) and his celibacy refers to interpretations of what is required for prophetic life, as exemplified by Philo on Moses (p. 273). History too can hide the body - or ignore it because of uncertain evidence.
3 We are beginning to get some provocative theological writing on Jesus' body as a sexed body, though much of it is discounted as "feminist" or "queer" theology (see, for example, Goss 1992: 69-72 and 81-5; and Heyward 1999: 123-7).
4 Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Second Week, perhaps especially paragraphs - and - (as in Ignatius 1963: 218-20 and 226-7).
5 See Steinberg (1996). Steinberg is himself nervous that his topic will seem scandalous (see pp. 24, 36, 41).
6 A related example is the famous metal loincloth added by later hands to Michelangelo's statue of the risen Christ in the Roman church of S. Maria sopra Minerva. The loincloth has disappeared and reappeared during subsequent ecclesiastical regimes - a sort of thermometer for official sensitivities.
7 See the examples in Trexler (1993: 113-15); and Perez (1992: 211-14 and 219).
8 I keep speaking of Catholic art because I have lived in it. I suspect that the same is true for other Christian traditions only with significant qualifications. The eastern churches are constrained both by their iconoclastic prohibitions on statuary and by different iconographic emphases. Protestant traditions have long regarded Catholic art - and perhaps especially Catholic representations of Jesus' body - as idolatrous or morbid.
9 There is an old spiritual precept, "Follow the naked Christ naked." It has many allegorical and liturgical applications (e.g., in baptismal rites), but it has also been applied more literally in asceti-cal and penitential practices. For the desert monks, both demons and great saints arrive in the nude.
10 In this way too, Christians might reply to one of Nietzsche's most pointed criticisms, namely, that any true god would appear as naked because unashamed. "But such a god [as Dionysus] has nothing to do with all this venerable lumber and pomp. 'Keep that,' he would say, 'for yourself and your like and for anyone else who needs it! I - have no reason to cover my nakedness.'" (see Nietzsche 1973: [No. 295] 201).
11 There are tantalizing bits of evidence outside the canonical Gospels, especially in "Gnostic" gospels or other texts that emphasize secret initiation by Christ. But it is perhaps more interesting to recall that speculation about Jesus' "orientation" did not begin with Stonewall. It runs in English literature back beyond the first appearances of the word "homosexuality."
12 Compare Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae part 3 question 15 article 2: "And in this way, the flesh of Christ, by the desire of the sensitive appetite, naturally had appetite for food and drink and sleep, and other things for which there can be appetite according to right reason." The roundabout phrasing shows the problem about attributing anything like our sexual desires to Christ. Christ would have had sexual "appetite" only according to right reason, that is, for the sake of procreation in a monogamous and permanent union of a man and a woman. If he had copulated in such a union, he would have indeed experienced sexual pleasure (compare Summa part 1 question 98 article 2 reply to objection 3, on hypothetical sexual pleasure in Eden). Since Jesus was not married, it would have been irrational for him to suffer sexual desires. Thomas is not at all hesitant to affirm that Jesus had genitals. He argues elsewhere in the Summa that it was appropriate for the Lord to be circumcised partly in order to show "the truth of his human flesh" (Summa 3.37.1).
13 John Paul II, Ordinatio sacerdotalis [Apostolic Letter on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone, May 22, 1994], together with Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responsum ad dubium [Concerning the Teaching Contained in Ordinatio sacerdotalis, October 28, 1995], and the accompanying, clarifying letter from then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) on the same date.
14 Barton's impulses are recounted and analyzed in Moore (2001: 105-7).
15 Worry over the effeminacy of Christ in Protestant portraiture has yielded much to recent study See, for example, McDannell (1995: 180); Morgan (1998: 111-23); and Moore (2001: 107-17).
16 Robert Neville shows how our (erotic) views on Jesus viewing us can be taken up into the larger language of friendship (see Neville 2001: 199-223, especially 214-17).
17 The tradition is introduced in Moore (2001: 96-9).
18 Not coincidentally, the remark follows a quotation from the Pseudo-Dionysius.
19 Julian of Norwich (1978): 128 ("everything around the cross was ugly to me"), 129 (blood), 136-7 (blood), 141 ("his freshness, his ruddiness, his vitality and his beauty" which, with death, now changes), and so on.
20 See famously Nygren (1957), as summarized, for example, in a chart (p. 210). Elsewhere in the book Nygren simply says that eros is the "principal adversary" of Christianity (p. 53). Nygren must be wrong not least because his teaching would deny the incarnation.
21 For help with how to begin examining our supposed familiarity with this language, see Kripal (2001: 15-23).
22 Rediscoveries sometimes happen at surprising sites, say, in Hans Urs von Balthasar (see Loughlin 1999b).
Was this article helpful?