Ephraim Radner opened the Marc Chagall and the Bible devotional series with a contemplative lecture
Last Thursday on June 15, Wycliffe College launched the Marc Chagall and the Bible devotional series, a series of reflective lectures for the public that aims to explore deeper the symbols and meanings of Chagall’s works in the exhibition.
It was a delightful evening attended by around 40 art enthusiasts from various walks of life. Dr. Ephraim Radner, Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College, opened the series with a contemplative lecture on Chagall’s lithograph, The Angel and the Sword, an image in only black and grey that Radner admittedly described as “rather inconspicuous" among the multi-coloured works showcased in the gallery. However, he suggested that the story that the image illustrated – an armed Cherubim’s guarding the entrance to Paradise with a sword after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden – was a fascinating text to both Jews and Christians.
Surveying interpretations from both the Christian and Jewish rabbinic traditions, he invited the audience into an exploration of Chagall's visual interpretation and scriptural tensions in this story from the Book of Genesis. Drawing attention to the simple use of colour in this image, and justaposing the richly coloured works which Chagall had later revisited on the same theme, Radner pointed out the stark contrast between Paradise and “normal life" and the distance between the two being “a kind of memory, wistful, perhaps uncertain, that marks a threshold into our shared existence.”
This first evening of the devotional series was concluded with a thoughtful note of hope. “The angel at the gates of Paradise does not so much keep us out from goodness; she sends us into the goodness of creation, realistically, but truly."
For anyone who is interested in attending subsequent events of the devotional series, the next event will take place this Thursday. June 22, as Dr. Annette Brownlee – Professor of Pastoral Theology at Wycliffe College – invites us into a reflection on Chagall’s etching, The Anointing of Saul, and the notion of human leadership, human frailty, and God’s relationship to both.