P. Solomon Raj

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Christus bei den Flüchtlingen von BangladeshP. Solomon Raj: 
Images in the Bible and
How the Church in India had made Use of
the Cultural Iconographic Symbols in it's
Communication of the Gospel

Introduction:  "The Bible is really a Book of Pictures."

The Bible is really a book of pictures. The word image is an important word in the Biblical context. God had interacted with humans as it were and revealed himself in images. It is otherwise impossible for humans to touch even the fringe of divinity or the periphery of the ultimate reality. God the ultimate reality or Sat as the Hindus call it is beyond ordinary comprehension. Or a personal God whom the Bible reveals and whom we call God the father is an immeasurable reality which can not be talked about unless in images and pictures. Even the word father is only an approximation but it is a useful image because we can think of several attributes of the God Sat with the help of this image of the father.

Jesus Christ speaks about the perceiving eye and the discerning ear. This is what is needed to even reach near the reality and that can only be done in images and approximations.

So the God of the Bible used images to have an encounter with humans. The Bible speaks about the Icon. God made man in his own image and Christ is called the image of God. In both these places the Greek word used is Icon, Icone. Christ Jesus is the reflection or visual manifestation of the invisible incomprehensible god and he came within the reach of humankind through the incarnate Christ.

We some times so read the Bible that we see the concepts in abstract and we do not see it in pictures. In that sense an illiterate person is more at an advantage because he can not for example see the word like `love' as an abstract concept but he only sees a loving father or a loving mother or a tolerant master or a forgiving landlord etc. It is all in visual pictures to him. The Biblium Pauporum the poor man's Bible of Europe of the middle ages was a picture book before Gutenberg galaxy arrived with the printed page of words.

The Image-content of the Bible -- some Examples

The earliest books of the Bible start with word pictures. For example the book of Genesis starts in its opening pages with the image of a tree. Whenever as an artist I try to make the picture of a tree the whole range of trees in the Bible appear to my mid with all their symbolism ad meaning right through from tree of knowledge to the tree of life in the Book f Revelation. This later tree yields twelve crops a year and its leaves are for the healing of nations. Trees which were asked to be kings of the forest, the mustard tree sprouting from a small seed to grow big enough to give shelter to birds, the barren tree on road to Jerusalem, the tree that the master waits to see its fruit the next year, and so on and so on about the trees. And the vine is a very- familiar image to the Bible readers. The prophets used images to covey their messages. Because of their very nature only pictures, parables could convey the prophetic messages, approximations are near guesses. The lion has roared, says Amos, and who will not hear? This is a strong prophetic imagery. Lord, your message like fire is burning deep within me (my bones), says Jeremiah (21,9)

Fire is a strong image in the Bible. The Pentecost story we see only in our minds in the form of tongues of fire.

And the Lord's teachings were in parables and word pictures and powerful images. Who forgets the wonderful image of the two house builders? The rain descends, the floods rise and the wind blows and beats upon the house, and the one built on the rock stands and the one built on the sand falls, and great is its fall. The root meaning of the words parable and symbol are the same - they are images, word pictures. The birds of the air and the flowers of the field. the small leaven that leveneth the whole lump, the sower and the seed, the camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle, all these are pictures, images. Once a Hindu artist friend of some experience came to see me in my ashram. He looked at some of the art works hanging on the walls and said, “Dr. Raj you have a whole wealth of art images with you from the Bible and many will recognize your imagery and you are fortunate. The Bible is a gallery of icons.“

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Copyright & Impressum  Dr. P. Solomon Raj, 1999;  Web-Design:  Gerhard Ruediger  10.10.2004