In the mind of Martin Luther, images were first and foremost adiaphora and, as such, neither good nor bad. However, Luther spoke out firmly against the worship of images, as did other reformers. Based on his own anthropology, he countered the misuse of images by suggesting correct ways of using them, on the basis that man could only discover true faith through the mediation of images. For many years, researchers emphasized Luther’s negative attitude to images as a medium and highlighted the shift from a pre-Reformation culture of piety to the reformatory emphasis on the Scriptures. However, more recent examinations of liturgical practices and the link between art and politics, involving innovative methods, as well as some degree of imagination, have not only traced the development of a specific visual culture in Lutheranism but also highlighted their identity-creating function in denominational conflicts. What follows is an overview of the major image and media categories as portraits, allegories, altarpieces and epitaphs which influenced the visual culture of the Reformation. Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472–1553) and his youngest son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–1586) were at the very center of this activity, together with their productive Wittenberg workshop. From the very beginning of the Reformation right through to the 1580s, both liaised with Luther, Melanchthon, and other Wittenberg reformers, respectively accompanying and decisively shaping the development of Protestantism with their pictures. What is more and of equal importance, the influence of their work is reflected in the popularity of their style in Protestant territories throughout the Empire during the 16th century.
Elke Anna Werner
Myths frequently intersect Greek religion, but Greek myth is neither coterminous with ancient ritual nor merely an appendix to it. The ancient poets and writers who took up the tasks of narrating, explaining, and expanding it did so with considerations which went far beyond the strictly religious. In antiquity myths were a repertoire of narratives which took place in a story-world located in a distant past which stretched from the beginnings of the universe to several generations after the return of the Heraclids to the Peloponnese. This repertoire featured episodes, events, genealogies, gods, and heroes that were shared across the Greek world, but within this common cultural paradigm there was broad tolerance for continual invention and improvisation: contingent local concerns fueled constant creation and manipulation of these stories. This apparent contradiction between a common canon and the mass of mutually contradictory variants and versions that it comprised is paralleled by the way that these myths could be simultaneously held up as paramount expressions of Hellenic culture while intersecting in significant ways with the traditions of the Greeks’ neighbors. Myths were used among ancient Greek communities in broadly etiological ways: they explained why the world of the present was as it was. Myths existed to explain landscape features, political structures, regional alliances, ethic affiliations, cultic rituals, and theological principles. Myths could also be used in rationalistic modes to offer up a historicist vision of the past and in allegorical modes to illustrate philosophical paradigms. Greek myth remains a rich and varied body of stories with an intricate reception history. Nonetheless, what we know of it in antiquity is limited by the patterns of its survival. For the most part, preservation was through written sources (extant poetic and prose literature, documents from epigraphy, and papyri) and material evidence (statuary, votives, vase painting, wall painting, coins, and decorative objects). Although the context of these sources can offer radically different perspectives on myths, the viewpoint is most typically that of the elites.
Yudit Kornberg Greenberg
Erotic representations of the divine occupy a pivotal place in religious myths, poetry, liturgy, and theology. Reading eros as a category of religious love highlights its ubiquitous presence in sacred literary sources; moreover, it renders the nexus of erotic love and the divine critical to comprehending religiosity as an immanent and embodied phenomenon, rather than as an abstract idea. As an embodied phenomenon, religious love is subject to an investigation of topics such as gender and sexuality, and its multiple cultural meanings and contexts. Western philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, (Pseudo-)Dionysius, and the Neoplatonist renaissance thinker Leone Ebreo, delineate a hierarchy or a “ladder of love” differentiating lesser and higher subjects and objects of love from love of the particular, to the universal, cosmic, and divine. An interrelated distinction is ascertained between “desire” as a state of lack often seen as a lower state, and “love” as the higher state, in which fulfillment and joy of the union with the object of one’s love is achieved. Love and desire as marked yet interrelated emotions are contextualized in religious phenomena cross-culturally, most obviously in theistic frameworks in which a personal and intimate relationship with the divine is an ideal. Poetry and autobiography are the most common genre of depicting the intimate and passionate encounter of human and divine. Despite the prominence of male voices in the sources, the contributions of medieval Christian and Muslim women mystics to this literature are significant. Key base-texts from which mystics and philosophers are inspired and draw upon to elucidate their own personal experience of yearning for the divine, include the biblical Song of Songs, Bhagavata Purana (Book 10), and the Gitagovinda. Although the yearning for the divine, associated with an emotional, embodied state and therefore seen as problematic from a rational perspective, this yearning is also a cherished state, even for rationalists such as the medieval Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides. The significance of erotic love for the divine is confirmed, not only by Sufi and Hindu bhakti poets such as Rumi and Jayadeva, but also by philosophers such as Ibn Arabi and Rupa-Goswami. The idiom of erotic desire and love for God is particularly poignant and integral not only in poetry but also in theology, as exemplified in Hindu bhakti and Christian theology. Exploring the meanings of erotic love in religious poetry, theology, liturgy, and the history of religion more broadly offers a rich scholarly and personal medium for contemplating the reality of human and divine nature.