Page 87 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

Basic HTML Version

were a bloodthirsty, cruel people, and the God of Israel was a
harsh and cruel God. There is no doubt that at the door of these
artists — many of them moved by the understandable desire to
contrast the New Testament with what they considered the “Old
Testament,” and to emphasize the conception of Jesus, gentle,
kind and mild, as against the God of the Jews, warlike, cruel and
violent — lies much of the misunderstanding of the Bible, the
nature of Judaism itself and the conception of the God of Israel.
True it is that the world of antiquity was a world of war and
violence; true it is that
The Holy Scriptures
contain accounts of
battles fought and won and lost; true, too, that violence and
cruelty are found within its pages. But, the Bible reflects the world
in which it was written. Those incidents are but passing moments
in the great sweep of creative genius, inspiring vision and ethical
grandeur that make up the largest portion of the Bible.
Szyk has sought to replace the erroneous, false and harmful
conceptions of the Bible’s scenes and characters with what he
believes are the true values of Judaism and the true emphasis of
The Holy Scriptures.
Again, his approach is through human
beings, and especially Jewish human beings. Szyk is not par-
ticularly impressed with the usual stereotype found in Bible art —
the thin, emaciated looking individual who is supposed to be the
saintly type. He is not impressed by other worldly qualities in the
accepted canons of biblical art. These, he holds, are not Jewish
traits. Judaism, though deeply concerned with what lies beyond
the grave, yet prefers to grapple with the here and now, with the
things of life; for God made the here and now, and this world is
His stage for the unfoldment of His divine purpose. Szyk thinks
that even the rich man may be a saint, even people who have
homes and food and clothing can live the good life. Judaism does
not renounce life, because life is too holy and too good. Judaism
believes that life must be sanctified, it must be lifted up to high
purpose, it must be glorified. Judaism is a life-centered religion.
I t rejects after-world centered religion, all too easily misused by
the powerful and aristocratic rulers of society, as a spiritual weapon
with which to suppress the common people of the world, to allay
their hunger for the goods of this world by promising them “pie
in the sky bye and bye,” while they themselves enjoy greedily
and selfishly what ou'ght to be shared with others.
Szyk, in these Bible pictures, uses living Jewish types as his
models. They are real people, of this world, worldly, yet within
their flesh they glow with the light of the spirit. These biblical