Egyptian signet Ring with Tutankhamun's Throne Name
Reign of Tutankhamun,
Circa 1336–1327 B.C.
© The Metropolitan Museum, New York
An eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But...
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.
‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
Reflection on the Egyptian Ring
There is a story told of a holy man who used to meditate every morning under a large tree on the banks of the river Ganges in India. One morning, after he had finished his meditation, the old man noticed a large scorpion floating helplessly on the strong current of the river. The scorpion had become caught in the tree’s strong roots that extended into the river bed. The more it struggled to free itself, the more entangled it became in the roots. The old man reached out to free the scorpion and, as soon as he touched it, the scorpion lifted its tail and stung him. Yet he reached out again to free it, until it was finally freed. A young man was passing and saw what was happening. He shouted out, ‘What is wrong with you? You must be mad. Why bother risking your life to save such an ugly and thankless creature?’ Speaking through his pain, the older man asked him, ‘Friend, because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why should I give up my own nature to save?’ He was determined to live out of his own best nature, even though his good actions were meeting with resistance that brought him pain.
That story from the Hindu tradition is not too dissimilar from the spirit of today’s Gospel reading, where Jesus calls on us to relate to other people not simply on the basis of how they relate to us. They may sting, but yet we should help… and move away from an ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth’-mentality.
Our ring is signet ring with Tutankhamun's Throne Name. We see a scorpion at the very middle. The ancient Egyptians knew the scorpion and its toxicity. Hence wearing a scorpion symbol on a ring would have functioned as protection and keeping people at a safe distance. The three sun disks would signify eternity. With this ring the pharaoh would have sealed important documents and contracts.
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Sorry, I don’t see anything Christian about this art nor the stories. Egyptian & Hindu stories are fine but again, not Christian. The Gospel of Matthew deserves better representation. My humble opinion…..
Thank you Susan,
We tend to look at different types of art, not just strictly overtly Christian Art. we also try to see the Christian aspect in non Christian Art.
I hope you will stay with us for more.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop David O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, who was found dead due to a gunshot wound in the suburb of Hacienda Heights on Saturday afternoon. The late Bishop O’Connell was born in Cork, Ireland, on 16 August 1953. Please also pray for the perpetrator of this crime.
Here is an article on the Bishop.
May he rest in peace.
… the nature of the scorpion to sting … and mine to love
my favourite homily.
I did not know it’s origin. Another fabulous post from Christian Art. Thank you again, Patrick
Even if it was not an scorpion, the reflection and story applies. Thanks Patrick
The scorpion analogy in your reflection is brilliant Patrick. I will ponder on how I can apply that to follow Christ’s way. Thanks.
It seems like the critter in the center of the ring is a dung beetle, which Egyptians highly venerate.
I thought it was a scorpion, but looking at it again it probably is more like a scarab.. I have never seen either in real life! …hence I got my animals wrong… 🙂
But if you had seen that correctly then maybe we would not have had that excellent reflection and great lesson.
Well, Deacon van der Vorst, you got the lesson right, the important part right, but not the pagan symbol.
I think your choice of art fits today’s Scripture very well. Jesus calls each of us to stop pushing our particular dung ball through life and to become something better through faith in his Father.
Psaume préféré en tout temps :
Psaume 22 le Seigneur est mon Berger.
These are extraordinary ideas to take on board today. First, the ring- so timeless. Then the story- so enlightening. I am always saying that one of the differences between us and animals are that they can only be instinctive. They do not make moral judgements, any trapped animal will attempt to attack its rescuer. Finally, the ultimate challenge of the Christian life- and what a challenge! Every day I have to love someone who wishes I would just disappear and who has spread terrible lies about me and my son. Yet, I am told I have to love this person, because this instruction from Jesus is very clear and unambiguous. We shouldn’t shy from it.
At first you could try to pray for that person! I am praying for you and your son.
I have prayed for her every day for three years. God’s time isn’t our time.
The story in ‘Les Miserables’ when Valjean steals the silver from the bishop is surely a good illustration of Jesus’ teaching. When the police bring the thief back to the bishop with the stolen loot the bishop says that he had given it to Valjean and that Valjean had forgotten the candlesticks. A very moving scene in the novel.
Yes I’d forgotten about that scene.
I am afraid I know the musical better than the novel! 🙂
Yes, it is a huge story. If I remember correctly the only person who comes to a tragic end is the policeman who can’t forgive.
That’s true. A magnificent novel full of great insights into the human condition. Javert, the policeman, cannot, in his mind, allow Valjean to be free even though he has shown him mercy and so the policeman ends up killing himself.