In my first book A Matter of Principle, 2nd edition, 2003, I said: “I would urge all churches and Christians to remove every picture of Jesus Christ that they now have hanging in their homes, chapels and other church-owned structures…whether that picture be black, coloured or white.” (p.88)
I said this because of the damage (psychological, ethnic and spiritual) that such artistic impressions can cause. Most if not all such have no factual basis in history!
Now this Lenten period I go stronger and will argue that all artistic impressions of Jesus on the cross, at the point of death, with loin cloth on, are contrary to Scripture and Roman tradition!
Let’s probe this radical idea a bit by checking Jn. 19.23 in a few versions.
23Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: (KJV)
23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. (NKJV)
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. (NIV)
23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. (NASB)
The NIV is off track terribly with its “with the undergarment remaining” because the Greek suggests that this item of clothing was also taken by the soldiers.
The mystery is solved somewhat by the NASB. In the original Greek, the first clothing word in v.23 is himatia (outer garments), the second clothing word is chitōna (inner garment, worn next to the skin). The full phrase is, contrary to the NIV, and/also his chitona, so the soldiers took our Lord’s outer garments and as well his inner garment thus leaving him naked on the cross.
Christian artists and sculptors would not depict Jesus as naked on the cross but the Romans could not care less about his reputation or dignity.
Our Lord’s passion was not only brutally painful but blatantly undignified and he died that kind of death in our place.
Rev. Clinton Chisholm is a retired Jamaica Baptist Union Pastor and lecturer in New Testament Greek.