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January 05, 2014


"Cut for images of Great Art of the Western World that may not be safe for your work and/or eyeballs, and for anatomical terminology."


"In such orthodox formulation, the penis of Christ, puissant in abstinence, would surpass in power the phallus of Dionysus."

Apropos of nothing, we are a most peculiar culture (our culture is eight years old most of its life), that we must be cautioned regarding the nudity of the infant Christ and the words that go with, when our computer screens are already protectively turned so that our families and work mates don't catch us out viewing porn, which drives some 15% of all internet traffic and has been, by some accounts, the Di(e)onysian force behind streaming technology, etc.

I guess it would be fascinating if this post got caught up in the work and home software filters protecting us.

One wonders that if Jesus was not a "man" in one sense, then the savings on diapers for the other sense when he was an infant must have been substantial.

And this:

"And it is perhaps in this sense that the old connotation of the phallus as an anti-death weapon is both adapted to the Christ context and radically converted."

Middle-aged, menopausal men (talk about weird adults!) usually point (it's impolite to point) to the new Vette or other high horse-powered convertible in the driveway as the "anti-death weapon", but we know better.

"How puissant", our significant others think to themselves, while arranging our crucifixion.

It would be refreshing to see Viagra and Cialis commercials touting a drug for one's anti-death weapon, while listing in small print the side effects, including Death.

It's a sight to behold those who refuse to raise the minimum wage constantly trying to raise the minimum wages of sin.

I kid. The mysteries of Christian symbolism in art are legion.

Interesting post. I'll put the Steinberg book on my reading list.

A quick question, Doc. Curious about your religious background if you don't mind. I seem to recall that you converted to (reform?) Judaism, so I'm wondering what your childhood religious upbringing was.

I'm also wondering if Steinberg's insight can also be attributed in part to the fact to the fact that he was born in Russia and then went to Germany, and then to England (English was his third language). (link)

My feeling is that we (or perhaps I should say 'Anglo-American culture' so as not to accuse anyone) have a particular problem with this kind of argument because of that Puritan strain that Europe got out of its system a lot earlier.

Fascinating stuff, thanks for posting this.

There is also the issue of the foreskin (iirc 11 churches claim to be in possession of the original). There is one theory that putting a loincloth on Christ during the crucifixion on Western paintings served less the purpose of hiding the 'dirty' parts but of hiding the fact that He was circumcised and therefore a Jew (and there has been one line of tradition from at least the 4th century onwards to deny that fact*). Painting him with a foreskin would have been a lie and thus unacceptable too. The loincloth was a way to circumwent that thorny issue.

*it was not the Nazis that came up with the idea that the biological father of Jesus was a Roman officer. There is a even a tomb attributed to the guy.

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