Have you ever thought about the fact that the Gospel has been associated with art from the start? There is a legend that Dr. Luke, the writer of the third Gospel, was also an artist. As far as I know, that is only legend, but who knows?

And the great artists such as Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others did a booming business in paintings for churches — think of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in the Milan monastery’s dining room. I guess the monks did need something to watch during supper since there wasn’t any evening news — not that there is any now.

But churches were the primary customers of these artists. I have done considerable research on the Great Masters and, in several cases such as Rembrandt’s religious experience, one can see a change in their paintings. For instance, in Rembrandt’s two paintings of the raising of Lazarus — one before his religious experience and then one after — his depiction of Christ is quite different.

And then there are the beautiful stained glass windows in many churches. Europe is full of beautiful cathedrals and even village churches with magnificent picture windows.

I’ve mentioned before that these were teaching tools since most people couldn’t read. Yet even the untutored peasant could acquire a great deal of biblical knowledge simply by looking at the cathedral windows. Art has indeed been a handmaiden of the Gospel.

That leads me to a pastoral sabbatical years ago during which Pegeen and I toured the great museums of Europe. Renting a car, we trouped from Rome to Berlin, from Geneva to Amsterdam, and visited something like 30 museums in as many days, focusing on paintings that illustrate the Gospel story. But that pace can wear you out, and not only was our little carved raccoon on the front porch glad to see us when we returned home; we were ready to rest!

That sabbatical led to my thinking about writing a book on paintings that illustrate the Gospel story as well as gathering a small library of books on art. It also led to my becoming involved in oil painting, a hobby that has turned into something more than that with my paintings being in three galleries and my involvement in the Artist in Residence programs for several years in Boone and Blowing Rock. And nope, I haven’t tried to paint biblical scenes; I don’t think I could do justice to them.

I generally paint the beauty of God’s landscape scenes here in the Blue Ridge area and scenes from hiking trips that Pegeen and I have taken in our national parks. I think my favorite national park is Glacier National Park, with the Rocky Mountain National Park coming in a close second!

All that said, if you would like to see some of my oil paintings, do drop by the Edgewood Cottage, that little building with a statue of a man (Elliot Daingerfield) painting at his easel, in front of the Blowing Rock Art and History museum. I’ll be there next week (July 12-18) every day, and I’d love to chat with you.

And I must mention that each week there is a different artist(s) in the cottage with amazing art work. So maybe you should put Edgewood Cottage on your daily list of things to do. I’ve got to go, I’m working on a painting . . .

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Earl Davis’ column “Raccoon Theology” appears biweekly in The Blowing Rocket. Dr. Davis is an artist, earldavisfineart.com, and also pastor of the Middle Fork Baptist Church, Blowing Rock, next door to Tweetsie Railroad, with services in the sanctuary and on Facebook and YouTube, and can be contacted at earlcdavis@bellsouth.net

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