A masterpiece in Stuttgart's, Staatsgalerie, Rembrandt's "Apostle Paul in Prison."
Standing there in the imposing building, one cannot help, but conclude that
Rembrandt must have researched the life and work and doctrine of Paul very
thoroughly to produce such a unique character study of the Apostle in Prison.

  The Apostle Paul in Prison, Rembrandt (c.1627); Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
   (click on painting to see larger image)

What struck me first were those eyes. They are remarkable...

They clearly see beyond prison walls. With a twinkle in them, they are fixed on the realities of yet unseen eternal things, contemplating ways and words and means to convey such stupendous immortal truths revealed to him for those mortals whose sights are hemmed in by the narrow walls of day to day battles of the here and now. Conviction is written all over his confident, tranquil expression. He knows who holds his future, and the future of mankind. But how will he put into human language what his spirit has grasped? How will he pass on to his fellow-travellers outside prison walls what behind them has enlightened his heart through the study of the Scriptures? How will he condense into some brief epistle what he has experienced on the way to Damascus and in Arabia's desert? These weighty and vital matters seem to preoccupy his lofty flights of thoughts.

And yet, he is perfectly at ease in his gloomy cell. He indeed does not look like a prisoner of Caesar. No worry about his personal fate can be detected, a rather carefree, relaxed attitude permeates the confines of his earthly abode. Leisurely, one foot, being freed from the bondage of its shoe, rests upon it, as done by someone feeling right at home, without fear or apprehension. Here is someone who obviously is in charge, and not being charged. A man at peace with his destiny. A man of purpose at work. Persecution and Prison are merely incidental.

Here, sitting on the simple bedstead, cramped and uncomfortable, though his posture never gives the impression for this to be just so, is the Champion of Christian liberty through divine grace, still busy in discharging his heavenly commission on earth. The surrounding cannot impede the driving force of the great purpose of his life, for all things must work together for good to them that love God.

And there he is, redeeming the remaining time to fulfill the passion of his heart to present to the Christ of God a Church without spot and wrinkle. He is intense and ponderous in putting on the finishing touches to this very objective. He is so enthralled that nothing seems to distract him, any ambiance is good enough as long as the message can be caught on paper and rushed to his friends to meet their needs of freedom, faith and charity.

In Paul's bearing Rembrandt caught - in Rembrandt-fashion - the sovereignty of his divine calling. The portrait exudes the benign, but firm authority of the chief steward of the mysteries of God. Truly Pauline, his noble personality unobtrusively, but definitely and pleasantly, fills the prison cell, all other things and facts recede into the background as being less important. There is, however, no air of „pomp and circumstance," there is no trace of self-importance or bigotry, let alone of self-pity, but there is authoritative modesty coupled with an almost lighthearted, victorious smile on his weather-beaten face that knows in Whom faith and trust have been placed. Here is someone who is not set to please, but to win men to his cause, here is an approved soldier of Christ who rightly divides the word of truth, come what - and who - may. He is under, and responsible to, God Himself, not to any earthling, and may he wield as much temporary power as he wishes.

It is intriguing to note that Paul's sufferings and hardships are in no way highlighted or even hinted at, but rather his divine destiny, to be a light unto the Gentiles. Against the backdrop of the invading daylight and the prominence of the Scriptures on his lap, this is forcefully emphasized. Paul's motto is thus beautifully and purposefully portrayed: „For me to live is Christ."

Even in prison: Paul, the scholar, surrounded by his beloved, life-giving Scriptures, eager to transpose and apply the Old Testament prophecies to the New Testament realities. Paul, the aged, who has learned to cope with every situation and condition as long as Christ is glorified. Paul, the pragmatist, who is quite happy to enjoy the warming benefits of a cloak and the rays of the sun, filtered through prison bars, though, they are. Paul, the sound, well balanced Servant of Christ. Right to the end.

Head slightly bent forward, retrospectively hand to chin, , prospectively hand on the book, Rembrandt just about enables us to read Paul's profound thoughts in the process of being penned down:

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. This is now a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. However, for this cause I have obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering as a pattern to all of those who will come to believe on him, finding life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Stuttgart, Germany

Stellvertretende Buße - Herbert Ros
Ist es möglich, daß die Kinder des Lichts Buße für die Untaten der Kinder der Finsternis tun können, und das auch noch nachträglich und auf die Vergangenheit bezogen? Hat die Finsternis auf diese Weise Anrecht auf die Gemeinschaft mit dem Licht? Sollen die Kinder des Lichts für die Schuld der Kinder der Finsternis bezahlen? Was sagt die Schrift?

See Rembrandt's Life of Christ in The Words Gallery



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