The measurements of the earth

God as architect of the universe - Bible moralisée, France, 1250
This image from 1250 shows God the architect measuring the creation with a pair of compasses or more properly dividers. Such images are not unfamiliar: they just show the creation of the universe, right?
Well, there is bit more to it than that.

First of all, who is the figure holding the dividers? It’s a man: not God the Father, but God the Son – Jesus. The creation he holds shows the earth (in the centre) tohu bohu, the mysterious phrase from Genesis 1:2 translated formless and void. The drawing reminds me of pictures from cellular biology.
According to Margaret Barker, Genesis can be read as a two stage creation. God (Elohim, the spirits) creates the universe, but then the earth is formed by the greatest of the sons of El: Yahweh. And Jesus is Yahweh. This was the understanding of the early Church. The letter to The Hebrews plainly states: In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
Nor was this new theology. For instance in Proverbs 8 we read: The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works

Secondly, why the dividers? Is Jesus measuring the earth? In the world-view of the bible, to know the measurements is to know the mysteries. Paul writes, May we comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height (Ephesians 3:18). Mysteries are revealed. The measurements of the Ark were given to Noah by God, and those of the temple. After the temple of Solomon was destroyed, a mysterious figure appears to the prophet Ezekiel giving him the exact measurements of the temple:

Behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand.
Ezekiel 40:3

A similar figure appears to Zechariah and has a lot in common with the description of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:18.
Similar figures may be seen in the Queen Mary Psalter and the Holkham Bible Picture Book (both 14th century), a Norwich Cathedral roof boss (Image 331) (15th century), and in stained glass in the south transept of York Minster.
Now we come to Blake’s famous engraving from his 1794 book Europe: a Prophecy
William Blake: The Ancient of Days (1794)
This work is normally titled Ancient of Days but is in fact untitled. Blake said that the image appeared to him. He called the figure Urizen and saw the act of delineating the creation as the chaining of the imagination by reason. In this view, the whole creation was a mistake, and we were better off as unembodied spirits. There are resonances with the Freemasons (whose symbol includes a pair of dividers). Blake’s work has transcended his own negative interpretation, and now stands as a potent symbol of creation.
The naming of the work as the Ancient of Days is an interesting one. In the West, this term is now understood to mean God The Father (following Aquinas), but in the Eastern rite he is identified as God The Son. As John said, in the Beginning was The Word, the creative Word of God, and through him all things were made. All manifestations of God on earth (including The Ancient of Days) are manifestations of God The Son, for no-one has seen the Father except the Son.


~ by scalambra on December 30, 2012.

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