Monday, May 05, 2008

Drawing a Samaritan Leper!

Bible Pictures
Don't worry, I'm not going to give a highly detailed description of the effects of Leprosy! (not in this post anyway).

I'm in the middle in illustrating Luke 17:11-19, (the healing of the 'Ten Lepers').
In my over zealous attempt to do some background research for this story, I asked myself a question, which on reflection was a dumb one. It was this;
"How did Jesus know that the leper who returned to thank Him was a Samaritan?" Did the Samaritans wear different clothes? Did he, as a Samaritan, have different facial features from the other nine Jewish men who were with him?

off I went to find the answers to these questions forgetting one very important thing.......that the Lord Jesus knew everything about everyone He met, as the story of the 'Woman at the well' clearly shows. However, from a Bible illustrators point of view, knowing if the Samaritans wore different clothes or had different facial features are still helpful things to know.

In my reading, I've not found anything that would suggest that the Samaritans wore clothing that was much different from that of the average Jewish person, or that they looked very different either, although I did come across an interesting anthropological study of the Samaritan people that showed that they are the tallest people in Syria, and that they have the genes for blond hair and blue eyes! None of this is relevant though as this was a comparatively recent study. Can anyone shed anymore light on this?

I decided that the most useful information that I could pass on to Bible artists, in connection to this story, would be the requirements of the Jewish law regarding lepers, taken from Lev 13:45.
Firstly they were required to rent (tear) their clothes. I believe that it was the upper part of the garment that was torn as this could be easily seen.

Secondly, They were to have their heads uncovered, and the hair left unkept and uncut. (These first two requirements were also two of the signs of being in mourning. see 'Raising Lazarus' post).

Thirdly, they had to cover their top lip. I've read a couple of interpretations on this. One is that it meant growing a moustache, as the Hebrews used to shave their top lip. I have tried to confirm this information but can't find any other references to it. The second one is that they covered their lip by placing a hand over their mouths. The thought behind this is that it stopped them from breathing on others. Again, If anyone can add anything to this it would be helpful. (See comments for new information on this).
Finally, in addition to the above, they were to shout "Unclean!" "Unclean!" This was apparently enough to scare off any unsuspecting passers by.

P.S. By the way, the photo above isn't of a Samaritan leper! It's just an interesting face I found somewhere.


Paul Green said... confirms your observations on Samaritans being the tallest race in Syria, having blonde hair and blue eyes among their race (although they also had brown hair types as well)and having long, thin hands.
The blonde hair and blue eyes information is a surprise to me.

Bible artist said...

Yes. This might be a good argument for those who support the idea of a blond haired blue eyed Jesus-!!
(just kidding!)

I would be interested to know more about the possibility that Hebrews shaved their top lips though. This was mentiond in a Bible commentary but I've been unable to confirm it from any other source.
I have noticed that some Bible artists, although not many, do keep to this.

I thought the answer to this question might lie behind the reasons why the Amish communities in America practice the same tradition, but apparently the reason is purely that they associate moustaches with the military!

Paul Green said...

As far as I can tell cutting of the beard was forbidden to Jews in the Old Testament. Any trimming or cutting was seen as a sign of paganism. So I have no idea where the idea of cutting the moustache would be allowed.

Paul Green said...

I might add the moustache is considered part of the beard.

Bible artist said...

O.k. The official line on this from is that the leper had to cover themselves with their cloak, up to and including the moustache area, (like a mourner).
This is taken from Rashi's commentary on Leviticus chapter 13.

So this would be a third sign of mourning, like the ripped clothes and uncovered head mentioned earlier.

Horseman said...

I find the information about the Samaritans interesting. Is that photo a Samaritan?

Remind us Graham of who these people were and how they relate to the Jews. And please inform us about the source of the information about the Samaritans. I seem to have seen on TV that these people still exist today in Israel, but they number only a few hundred thousand.

I love photos like this. It makes me feel as though I am seeing a face from thousands of years ago.

I remember in the movie "The Gospel of John" the scene about the woman at the well. When she mentions that she sees that Jesus is a Jew, she was looking at the fringes on his robe. This implied to me that the Samaritans did not do this. I do not know what the makers of the movie based that scene on. Maybe it was not accurate. But they claimed to have put a lot of research in the movie. Then again, this same movie had the prayer shawls with the black stripes - which you have already indicated is not accurate for the time.

Bible artist said...

Yes, the guy in the photo, although not a Samaritan to my knowledge, does have a great face!

Yes the Samaritans still do exist, but the population is more in the 100's than 1,000's. I believe it went as low as 146 at one point, but has now risen to over 500.

A very brief history:
The Samaritans have a long and interesting history in the land of Israel. You can read about their origins way back in 2 Kings. They were originally brought into the land by the Assyrians who had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE. The Assyrians kicked out all the locals and replaced them with colonists from 4 different areas. These new colonists, (later known as Samaritans), brought their own gods with them, so there was appointed a priest to teach the Samaritans how they should worship the God of Israel. This led to a mixture of religious practices, (Syncretism).
About 200 years later, (and after the nation of Israel had suffered another conquering by the Babylonians), the Samaritans were close to an alliance with the returning Jews, but Nehemiah was opposed to this as he wanted to rid Judaism of all foreign and heathen influences. After this it was all downhill! A long history of hatred followed which led to the Samaritans building their own Temple!

The Samaritans, unlike the Jews, only believe in the first five books written by Moses, (the Pentateuch), and the very ancient copy which they own is of great interest to scholars.

I did say this was a brief history!

Paul Green said...

I love the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman. Not only does it demonstrate lack of racial prejudice it also shows respect for the woman. I find Jesus' breaking of social barriers regarding his treatment of women in the gospels uplifting.

Bible artist said...

Yes, even though High priests and Nobles desired to know the identity of Jesus, He revealed this information only to the Samaritan woman at the well.

There was no love lost between the Jews and Samaritans. This made them the perfect object lesson for the Lord Jesus when He wanted to teach the Jews what 'Loving your neighbor' really meant!

Jesus paintings said...

I love this illustration and that face that is so typical true. But is this really the best picture to symbolize a Samaritan. Thank you for this lovely visit to your site.