April 9th 2022

“Mocking of Christ”, Giotto di Bondone, c.1501, Capella Scovegni (Arena Chapel) Padua.  

Only Luke Gospel records that Jesus was mocked and beaten in the court of Herod.  In fact, Luke’s account of the Passion has a number of differences from the others.   In Matthew, Mark and John, when Jesus is condemned to death, and before he is led out to be crucified,  he is scourged, the soldiers dress him in a purple robe and put a crown of thorns on his head.  But Luke has no mention of the scourging, the purple robe, or the crown of thorns.  In this scene, Jesus is arrayed in a what looks like cloth of gold. In Luke, and only in Luke, when Pilate heard that Jesus was a Galilean, “he sent him over to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at that time” (Lk 23:7). There Jesus is questioned but makes no response. Luke says that Herod and his soldiers  “treated him with contempt and mocked him, then arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate” (Lk 23:11).   The word translated as “gorgeous apparel” means “radiant”.  Certainly, it can’t have meant purple, so we are in Herod’s court, not Pilate’s. Giotto’s mastery of facial expressions is evident in the tormentor’s of  Jesus. The contrast with his meek expression adds great poignancy.  In Luke’s Gospel, neither Herod nor Pilate believe Jesus to be guilty and do not want to condemn him to death.  But of course, they do.  Their dilemma can be seen on the face of Herod in this image. He faces the viewer on the right, looking rather Roman.  There is much to ponder in this scene, not least how often their dilemma is ours.   


Edinburgh Catholic Chaplaincy

The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.

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