Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè
We are considering using more art in our copy of the Gospel of John. I make a sketch that doesn’t speak of the currently popular idea of Trinity to let the sketch itself argue the issue. I suggest the room we have on the page for art show the grape vine growing up and weaving around the whole page from the single root of God’s love. It will remind scholars, laypeople, Roman Christians even heretics and pagans that one God is the whole of it, like a vine, like Jesus told his followers near the end of his earthly life. [John 15]
It’s for the artists, the abbot, the proof-reading master of the scribes and even the others of us scribes who ponder my sketch.
“Shouldn’t the vine be at the end of the gospel?” the master asks.
“Maybe it could be the beginning and the end.” I answer.
Brother August adds, “Maybe it should be on every page as a border.”
“But wouldn’t that make this gospel different from the others we have already completed?” argues the master.
“Maybe it is.” The abbot concludes, “But if we use the grapevine, each leaf should have three lobes, and each vine should have three bunches of grapes, and each bunch should have three grapes, so there will be no mistake. This is the gospel that defines the Trinity.”
“But, your Blessedness, Dear Abbot, leader, teacher, Father, friend, let me suggest that the gospel was here before the Trinity was contrived so many years ago. Why must our artwork speak of Trinity when the gospel didn’t mention it?”
The proof-reading monk explains, “You can’t just read John, and know what it means. The Councils of Nicaea, Chalcedon and even more of these convergences of scholars have had to interpret what it really says. It isn’t for the lay reader to know.”
I would argue, but the abbot can see where this is headed and he simply orders the pragmatic compromise.
“Dear Brother Lazarus, let it be known that those who sponsor the copying of these gospels are of this earth and of this time. We need to honor the boundaries already set by the Roman Christians in the work that we do here. It is what our sponsors expect.”
“And so be it.”
Now even Brother August is pleased with all these massive trinities of grapes.
He answers, “This is rote obedience, not art.”
(Continues Tuesday, September 7)