Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

On Art

Sacrifice of Isaac (Florence baptistery), by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455)

In 1401, under the patronage of the Arte di Calimala, a competition to decorate the east doors of the baptistery in Florence was announced. Of the seven Tuscan sculptors who entered the competition, the young Lorenzo Ghiberti, barely 20 years of age, emerged the victor. The subject of the doors was the story of the near sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22), and the theme was that of divine intervention. In this climactic scene, Abraham is poised to strike a fatal blow with his knife. Isaac is depicted as what some have called “the first truly Renaissance nude”—perfectly proportioned, energetic yet graceful. An angel’s gesture stops the sacrifice, and the viewer notices a ram caught in the thickets in the upper left-hand register. This text has long challenged communities of faith. Some Jewish interpretations, such as the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, posited that Isaac was 37 years old, and the near sacrifice was an act of faith of not one but two consenting adults, both Isaac and Abraham. Christian interpreters from the patristic period (if not earlier; cf. Hebrews 11:17) had interpreted the story typologically. Melito of Sardis, for example, wrote: “For as a ram he [Christ] was bound . . . And he carried the wood upon his shoulders. And he was led up to be slain like Isaac by his Father. But Christ suffered, whereas Isaac did not suffer” (cf. Frag. 9–11).

Books

Dust, by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Owuor's novel wrestles with Kenya's bitter remnants of colonialism. Yet it suggests that the future can be shaped by people who are willing to incorporate the past with honesty and integrity.

Books

Updike, by Adam Begley

Updike's religious explorations are what make his writing so interesting, and Adam Begley explores them well. But he devotes too much space to trying to link fictional settings and characters with Updike's real life.