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Rembrandt the Etcher: Mission and Commission as Factors in New Testament Interpretation

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image of Biblical Interpretation

This study examines the content and context of production of Rembrandt's etching Christ Preaching. After an exposition of the etching's key features, consideration is given to the place of the etching in Rembrandt's life and work. Particular attention is paid to Rembrandt's own religious outlook, to the level of his awareness as to the artistic and theological traditions within which he stood, and to the impact upon his work of the dynamics of commissioning and selling the results of his efforts. The study suggests a possible religious dimension to his choice of an etching for this particular image. The significance of the exploration of this "biblical" etching by Rembrandt for the contemporary task of the interpretation of the Gospels is then drawn out in a series of nine points: the relationship between single texts and the "big picture" of Jesus which an interpreter carries; the impact of a variety of interpretative frameworks within which interpreters work; acknowledgement of the inevitability of working with a "canon within the canon"; attention to the specific communities within which one interprets; recognition of a present interest at work; respect for the rhetorical strategies which are operative in the interpretation (as well as the text being interpreted); the need to examine the reasons for the choice of medium through which an interpretation of a text is conveyed; acknowledgement that interpretations are sometimes affected by factors beyond the control of those who fashion them; and consideration of the place of fiction in biblical interpretation.

Affiliations: 1: University College of Ripara and York St. john and University of Sheffield


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