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Jesus's Penis part III

We are a little slow at Hermits, but a while back ago KB.com asked something about Jesus and his hotrod. Just in case people were wondering about mine. And, as is wont with boys, the discussion quickly degenrated into both a peeing contest and a conversation about masturbation. At this point, JTB, in all her new-mom-idity, or mommy-ness, chided the boys for how much attention they pay to their wonder-sticks and the joys it brings, and raised the discussion to amazingly new heights.

She did jest about the Holy Prepuce. Hopefully, my irreverence won’t be too unwarranted. Wikiwonderness repeats the story of Catherine of Siena’s mystical betrothal to Christ, where it is said her marriage was sealed with a ring made of Jesus’ foreskin. (They say that they need the source, but they also cite Holy Feast, Holy Fast as a work that explores her life. And they are quite close, I don’t remember which work, but Bynum does relate the story.)1 I don’t know, however, which is stranger. St. Catherine wandering around with a foreskin ring, or the Viennese woman who “experienced a vision in which she recieved the holy foreskin in her mouth and discovered that it tasted as sweet as honey.” (actually, he gets it from Bynum, as well, but he doesn’t cite her, except in the bibliography, where he has four of her works).2

The late Middle Ages and Renaissance were obsessed with the Incarnation (as understood in JTB’s theological disquisition) but expressed this in ways much more similar to the boys. Some mysteries are so great the only way to express them is through the profane, the argument would go.

One mainstay of this sort radical incarnation imagery is Mother Mary and/or Grandmother Anne pointing to, and sometimes caressing the Christ-child’s pudenda, as in this Hans Baldung 1511 portrayal of the Holy Family. These, though, of a cherubic Christ being coddled by saintly women, are quite well-known.

Less well known are the crucified Christ with erection paintings, As in this Lucas Cranach’s 1515-1518 painting of the Holy Trinity.

That we find this painting in complete poor taste is evidenced, possibly (do I make too much of it?) by the fact that if you want a reproduction of a Cranach Trinity painting, you have to settle for this undated one.

Museum der Bildenden Künste at Leipzig, Germany

Yet, I would venture to say that old Cranach still echoes the Christ with erection in this painting, as well. Though the heavenly throng, and Heavenly Father are virtually unchanged, the Holy Ghost rests on Christ’s lap, and stands in for his penis.

If the Madonna and naked child paintings unequivocally proclaim that God has taken human form, and every aspect of that—see, he has a penis. These paintings, while still making claims about his humanity, speak to something different. The virility and power of Christ. In his death, he is powerful. Though dead, he, like his member, will rise and in his rising he will give life to humans.

For another Jesus hung on wood.

If you want to know more about depictions of Jesus as sexed, and a good discussion of it to boot, see Leo Steinburg’s The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion.

1 It is indeed Bynum. Bynum, Caroline Walker. Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. California Berkley, 1987. 174-175.

2 Muir, Edward. Ritual in Early Modern Europe, 2nd. Cambridge, 2005, p. 167.



Is no one else going to say it? Fine.

That is one magnificent erection.

I can accept that I was the only one who had to say it. Fine, then.

well, i didn’t have to say it… i’m afraid that by publishing it i implied that.

i wonder, though, is my intro just too irreverent to get comments on this one? do i scare people off?

You wanted your heresy to entice others rain you with hellfire? Have you no wish for self-preservation?

Did I chide, really? Maybe I am getting maternal.

The mystical eroticism is certainly one strategy of getting past the difficulty of female inclusion in male incarnation via the “one flesh” of marriage. But it still puts women’s inclusion on a different footing than men’s and thus remains problematic, especially when marriage itself is so often clearly heirarchically interpreted.

But the emphasis on Christ’s virility in death is really fascinating. Very Christus Victor. I may have to mention this in my precepts this week as we discuss atonement theories.

JTB check out pages 298-325, chapter 5 of the 1995 Retrospect (the addendum to the original 1983 book). it’s entitled the ibiquitiy of the erection motif and on pages 315-217 discusses The Erection-Resurrection Equation; this is followed by a discussion of The Theology of Penile Erection. I’d go into it, but I gotta go to my grad-class.

at the same time as the erection art (or maybe a little earlier—when does that begin?) & expression of spirituality in sexual terms, mystics were also celebrating jesus’s motherly qualities. what to make of that?

erection images seem to be more northern european and start very late 15th century and seems to go to the mid-16th.

no, you didn’t really chide, but you should’ve.

i will now chide the boys… boys i chide you.

I have been chid!