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Islamic Images of Isa/Jesus in the Chester Beatty Manuscript Collection: Visual Art as Framework for Comparative Christology

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Abstract Textual analysis has served as a paradigmatic approach to comparative theology for some time while analysis through artistic and visual media has received less attention. Most approaches to comparative theology rely on textual comparison of sacred texts. However, visual art is also a compelling way to engage in comparative theology and specifically comparative Christology. To demonstrate the power of visual art as a tool for comparative theology, I draw upon two recently published sixteenth-century Islamic images of Isa/Jesus from the Chester Beatty manuscript collection to illustrate how artwork can structure the work of comparative Christology by providing an entry point into Islam’s aesthetic tradition and relevant sacred texts. Paul Ricoeur’s theory of textual interpretation provides a theoretical framework, and I draw upon and extend his theory to describe the way visual art can initiate the interpretive process and move us through explanation toward understanding of another religious tradition, which in turn has the potential to transform theological reflection and generate theological insight.

Affiliations: 1: Emmanuel Christian Seminary

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