Bible Review 12:4, August 1996


By Hershel Shanks

Bible Review

Jesus: Darling of the Media

Jesus made the cover of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News this past Easter. Also the Washington Post religion page and doubtless hundreds of other papers throughout the country.

Clearly Time won the contest for the best cover. Newsweek and U.S. News each chose details from Italian Renaissance paintings that ended up looking a little silly (Newsweek: a floating Jesus with eyes as if in a trance) or stupid (U.S. News: a blessing Jesus with a weak chin, unfocused eyes and slightly twisted lips, as if he’s trying to say something but can’t quite get it out).

Time, both inside and out, commissioned pictures that aptly illustrated the text. On the cover was a moving portrait of a traditional Jesus, with shoulder-length hair, powerful, contemplative eyes; and strong nose and nostrils. The portrait was split vertically, however. On the left side, it too looked like a Renaissance portrait, with brush marks clearly visible in the hair, a halo, the entire image cracked with age. On the right side, the same portrait was replaced with a real photograph, with real skin, pores and all. The head was backlit; the halo was gone.

The Time cover effectively contrasted the two kinds of portraits: The Christ of faith and the Jesus of history; the divine and the human.

Yet even this could not capture Christian theology in all its fullness. For Christ was both at the same time—fully human and fully divine.

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