Marc Chagall’s images have always been special to me, especially because of the artist’s affinity to biblical themes. I also shared, up to a point in my life, Chagall’s secular Judaism.
When I came to accept Christ as Lord, at first I thought I had left Judaism behind. After several years as a Christian, however, I now recognize an essential truth: what we call Christianity is merely fulfilled Judaism. And that Christians who think that the Hebrew Scriptures are, somehow, not part of their faith, are quite mistaken.
What brought this to mind was an article in the Wall Street Journal back in April on Chagall’s fascination with our fellow Jew, Yeshua of Nazareth. Greek translation: Jesus.
The article, appropriately titled “A Jewish Artist Haunted By the Face of Jesus” includes this discussion of an unusual Christian group and the author’s appearance before the group to discuss the artist:
The topic of Chagall usually elicits a strong Jewish response — reproductions of his works are ubiquitous in Jewish homes, images that seem to evoke shtetl life. But these people were members of an unusual local Christian congregation who referred to Jesus as Yeshua and who blew the shofar whenever a new family joined their church. They gave me an illustration that merged Jewish and Christian iconography. An explanation on the back presented some surprising symbology. The Torah scrolls were said to represent Jesus.
As a Jew who is a Christian, this is hardly a surprise. What it is, is simply a restatement of the opening of John’s gospel. John 1:1 reads:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Torah is considered by believing Jews to be the Word; dictated by God to Moses at Sinai. No exegesis, just the literal word of God as written down by Moses.
To me, the Gospel of John is hard evidence of the very Jewish nature of what came to be called Christianity. John was a Jew, wrote as a Jew, and thought as a Jew. The Book of Revelation should attest to the transcendental nature of John’s faith. As does the very first line of his gospel.
The Word is God; the Word is Torah. The Word is Jesus.