This interpretation by Professor Robert Kiely of major scenes from the Gospels, using the paintings of great Italian painters as interpretations, shows how art can be some of our best theology.From the introduction:
The beauty of Italian Medieval and Renaissance painting would not be reason enough to choose it as a guide to the New Testament unless there were sufficient and varied depictions of the major incidents in the narrative. No two scenes preoccupied donors and artists more than the Nativity and the Crucifixion, but from the Baptism to the Resurrection, there is an extraordinary number of great works based on the life of Jesus from which to choose.... I am not a theologian, but I am a Christian who believes that all forms of reflection on the life of Christ are contributions to theology. I agree with Macgregor that "Christian art is theology in visual form." (Macgregor, 45) I am neither a literal nor radical reader of Scripture. I do not attempt to dissect the Gospels for historical evidence, probability, or consistency. I know that there are puzzles and gaps, but I believe that wisdom and dimensions of truth can be found in all of them. The Gospels are composed of several literary genres, some of which are more nearly "historical" than others. There are inconsistencies among the four Gospels; John is different from Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Miracles are a challenge to understanding and credibility. But I believe that Jesus can be approached, recalled, and engaged with a rare combination of passion, curiosity, invention, depth, sensitivity, and immediacy by artists.
The plan is this: to go through major sections of the Gospels, taken together, pausing with the Italian painters to consider Jesus, how he looks, how he stands or sits, how he interacts with other figures and the viewer, how his actions and teachings are interpreted and translated by artists more concerned with design than analysis into forms without words. Chapters are devoted to The Infancy, The Teacher, The Messiah, The Passion, and The Resurrection. Comments by theologians are not excluded from my text, but they are not privileged. Poetry and music more often come to mind. But painters and their paintings are the guides--beguiling, challenging, consoling, instructive--displaying their colors, skill, and perspective while beckoning the viewer back to scripture and to the Jesus "who accepted to be seen."