Abraham and the Three Angels

Genesis 18:1-15 tells the story of the three angels visiting  Abraham.  We begin with Marc Chagall’s representation and interpretation of that story in a Jewish tradition.

Abraham and the Three Angels CHAGALL (1960-1966)

See http://www.musees-nationaux-alpesmaritimes.fr/pages/page_id17998_u1l2.htm for the source of the photograph of the above painting.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Chagall for biographical information on Marc Chagall and a general description of his art.

Abraham and the Three Angels EECKHOUT (1656)

See http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/e/eeckhout/abraham.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a description.  Eeckhout is also a Dutch painter, a student of Rembrandt.  He has cast the Bible story in a scene contemporary to him.

For brief biographical information on Eeekhout and other paintings by him on biblical subjects, see http://www.biographybase.com/biography/van_den_Eeckhout_Gerbrand.html

This story of Abraham and the Three Angels is carried to the sublime height of Christian theological interpretation inTrinity by Alexander Rublev, the fifteenth-century Russian painter of icons in the  Christian orthodox tradition.

Trinity RUBLEV

See http://tars.rollins.edu/Foreign_Lang/Russian/trinity.html for the source of this photo of the painting and further information on it and Rublev.

In her book, The Case for God, Karen Armstrong describes the symbolism of this painting and its theological significance to the Russian Orthodox Church at pp. 117-118:

One of the most famous icons of all times is The Old Testament Trinity by the fifteenth-century Russian painter Alexander Rublev…based on the story of Abraham and the three strangers, whom Rublev depicts as angels, messengers of the unknowable God. Each represents one of the Trinitarian “persons”; they look interchangeable and can be identified only by their symbolically colored garments and the emblem behind each one. Abraham’s table has become an altar, and the elaborate meal he prepared has been reduced to the Eucharistic cup. The three angels sit in a circle, emblem of perfection and infinity, and the viewer is positioned on the empty side of the table. Immediately Rublev suggests that Christians can experience the truth of the Trinity in the Eucharistic liturgy, in communion with God and one another, and—recalling the Genesis story—in a life of compassion. The central angel representing the Son immediately attracts our attention, yet he does not return our gaze but looks toward the Father, the angel on his right. Instead of returning his regard, the Father directs his attention to the figure at the right of the painting, whose gaze is directed within. We are thus drawn into the perpetual circling motion described by Gregory of Nazianzus. This is not an overbearing deity, demanding exclusive loyalty and total attention to himself. We meet none of the prosopoi [persons] head-on; each refers us to the other in eternal personal dispossession. There is no selfhood in the Trinity. Instead there is silence and kenosis [emptying of self].

A similar view of the three men who visited Abraham, reinterpreted as two angels and the personage of God, is expressed in the below painting:

God and the Angels visit Abraham DE GELDER (1685)

See http://www.artbible.info/art/large/541.html for the source of the above photograph of the painting.  That site also describes some interesting background of the painting and the local Calvanistic objection to it as violating the second commandment.

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