To show ■ m]y the human form was heretical; to attempt 1« portray the in-, isible div mil- ft * as blasphemous.
Certainly, Mtiludni lowjird visual rvprcHentatiunsof Jes-us C hrim dii-fered according to different views nt the n,i:are and function of an ima^' itself that ht whether the ini-iLx purports l*.■ represent die actual essence m being of its model, or whether it has -^onic other kind o- fune-tion (for exampleh didactic or merely commemorative) Put another way, the problem also lay ■.-■¡th the way .1 viewer received the image. For insLant:eh a viewer miyht eipect to encountet some kind of living reality in iv. image or merely lo see the imatieas .1 superficial record of external appearance that functioned as a memory aid or inspiraiional deviee. \ll nf lliest possible perspectives had precedents in the art of the surround ing culture, including funerary porlraits, images of (he lmhK. and the official portraits of the emperor,
And so Mil1 complex problem o: the relationship between representa tinn .iml reality. and between ex.!ernal fnrm .ir.J trannCertdent (ruth-, comes to 1 he fore. Added to I lus is Lir. even more basic problem: what model would serve for a portrait of the I icarnate I iivinel )nc—c.>nt thf»i should lvjr-.niiu resemblance to his actual appearance while on earth? On what basis could any such image be a recognizable or verifiable Like ness? Should such a likeness be based on authenticated portraits' from life" or upon icx.tual descriptions that preside enuugh detail .is.i for recreation of his physical appearance? Lacking either of these, how would one construct .I "Inn1" image? Final!)', what nort of appearance would ancient viewer* expect the Incarnate Divine One to possess or project?
Some early Christian documents contain references to Jesus' plain, even unattractive features. Justin Martyr, in his dialogue wiih Trypho the Jew, acknowledges that Christ was reported rli he inglorious, obscure, and uf ordinary mortal appearance. But, 111 his second coming, Justin says, he will appear in his full radiant ¡¡lory According to Origens philcjicjpher critic ( VKu-. fesus had been repot ted to be nnat-Iractive, and this ran counter To what (¡tic would .Huppone for the Jncar nate One • especially to the mind of a f rreek, used to thinking that the gods ought to be supremely beautiful). To this point, tiiigen quotes CeUus as surmising:
ii ikt ji divmf spi n 1 mhaIji 1 He K itly (11 f ksus), i l ihlisl Ltr r ULtily hnvt buL-n diliifLLn[ from ihjl of other bein^£h in res-pitt ofprindeui or brainy-. or Hn:ng(h, ut wkt. ■ ■ 1 inljirmivfne», v* ¡>er$U;isiviini££. I .■.■ it is irnpcHsihlt-1 mi Tie, 1n whom wis imparted. &nmc divine quality beyond other beings, ¿houJd not differ troni others; wherta!- this prison did nut differ in ^Tiy rvi.^vt r'rflm anLVthtr,hu1 was, js tht> report, litt i.and 111 favored, and ipno-Me (fJjgrrinri >.
Oligen, on the defensive, admits that there were some recorded accounts of Jesus' appearance as <:ill-favored" but not actually "ignoble'' and certainly not "little." And, as a way of justifying the supposed lack of beauty En the Savior, Origen cites a passage from Isaiah (Tsa 53:2); "He has no form or majesty* and we beheld him, and he had no form nor beauty; but his form was without honor and inferior to that of the sons of men"5 Going further, Origen points out (in a self-contradictory way) that Gel-sus had overlooked a key line ill the Psalms (Ps 43:2) that addresses the Mighty One as "the most handsome of men" Generations later, John Ghrysostorn cited tills psalm in order to assert that Christ was extraordinarily ha lid so me. From that time, reports of Icsus" un attractiveness seem to have been forgot ten.'1.
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