Not just a pretty picture.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art


Four or five years ago, when the volunteers and I first started archiving the study tips on the website, one reader (my sister, so I had to pay attention) insisted that the web pages needed graphics. I started including pictures from old Bibles whenever one seemed to be related to scriptures on a particular page.

What I discovered is that the illustrations in these Bibles aren’t just pretty pictures – they are commentaries. The artist had to decide what’s interesting, what’s important, how the people in the story reacted to their situation, and, in short, why this story is worth illustrating. I’m calling this study “Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art,” and I hope it will enable us to better appreciate and learn from the religious art that we see in churches, Bibles, and museums.

Most of the images and comments are being added to related, existing web pages, and you may be interested enough in the pictures to read more on each page. Some of the images, however, don't fit on any of the 300+ pages already on the website. This particular page will contain the really random steps in our walk — the readings and images that fit on no existing web page. Click on each image to see a larger version. In the original study, two or three readings in a row were occasionally related. If you want to read the study in order, start with the first step and follow the links.

Random Walk, Step 1
Step 10: Joshua 10:1-14, War against Gibeon


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Step 10: Joshua 10:1-14, War against Gibeon (3/13/15)

Joshua and the children of Israel entered Canaan determined to defeat everyone and take over the land. The Gibeonites, fearful for their lives, tricked Israel into making an alliance with them (Joshua 9). The other Canaanites took offense at that and attacked Gibeon. Gibeon sent messages to Joshua, who in turn led the Israelites to defeat the other Canaanites and rescue his allies.

I’m not at all sure who’s who in this battle scene from Gustave Doré, which is called “War Against Gibeon.” If the main army in the foreground is against Gibeon, then they must be King Adoni-zedek and his allies prior to the attack. If the smoking rubble in the center is supposed to be Gibeon, when did that happen? And I’m not at all convinced that any of the armies involved had cavalry troops. Overall I find this illustration to be dramatic but confusing. When you see this kind of drama in religious art, you need to ask yourself whether the drama comes from the scripture or from the mind of the artist. (Of course, the opposite is also true. Sometimes the artist completely misses the drama, as we saw in Step 7, the illustration of Jesus and Peter apparently walking on the beach on a sunny afternoon.)

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 War Against Gibeon. Click to enlarge.
"War Against Gibeon" by Gustave Doré, from the Gartin family Bible,
now in the private collection of Regina L. Hunter.



Copyright 2015, 2016 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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