Northern Renaissance painting illustrates a great parting of the ways
Christianity and Judaism, two of the world’s major religions, shared the same foundation—ancient Judaism. The two religions, however, eventually split in a series of partings, becoming two separate entities.
There is one painting that dramatically illustrates the split of early Christianity and Judaism: Robert Campin’s Marriage of the Virgin. In his article “Parsing ‘The Parting’ Painting,” which appears in the July/August 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Theodore Feder examines the telltale symbols present throughout the Northern Renaissance painting. As Feder explains, “It is the one—and only—painting in the entire history of art that fully delineates the actual physical parting of the ways between the Church and Synagogue.”
Campin, also known as the Master of Flémalle, painted the Marriage of the Virgin around 1420. The painting depicts the marriage of Mary and Joseph. They are being married in front of the portal of the Church, constructed in the Gothic style. The Church is built around a preexisting building, the Jerusalem Temple, which is constructed in the Romanesque style. Feder explains this significance: “The painting in question purports to show how the physical edifice of the Church literally encompassed the physical edifice of the Synagogue while sharing its foundations … Throughout there is an unusual recognition of the debt Christianity owes to Judaism, even if its posture is one of supersession.”
While the two religions are still one in the painting, the scene shows the nascence of Christianity and foreshadows the split of early Christianity and Judaism.
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To learn more about the different symbols alluding to the gradual split of early Christianity and Judaism in Robert Campin’s Marriage of the Virgin, read “Parsing ‘The Parting’ Painting” by Theodore Feder in the July/August 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 18, 2014.
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