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Find Your Huddle: Bill Curry’s Encouragement for Us All

In his early career, Bill Curry played in Super Bowl I, III, and V for the Green Bay Packers and then the Baltimore Colts. Once he retired from playing, he served as an assistant coach with Green Bay, and then the head coach at Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, and Georgia State. He wrote a book with his friend George Plimpton back in 1977, and then alone he wrote Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle: Lessons from a Football Life in 2008. Due to popular demand and a desire to complete his personal story of inspiration and growth, the Press is republishing a Tenth Anniversary Edition of Ten Men with additional content.

Coach Curry happened to be passing through Macon this week (and I happened to be proofreading his manuscript last week), and so it all fell into place for him to be the next target of my interview series. The staff of MU Press emphasized to me what a charming and kind gentleman Bill Curry is, and I will tell you beforehand that they were spot on. He met me at the MU Press office with a warm smile and a gentle, firm handshake. I was star-struck but tried my best to conceal the shakiness in my voice. Once we got settled and I loosened up a bit talking about my studies, I lost the nervousness and spoke to him like I’d speak to someone who hadn’t played in and won the very first Super Bowl.

The Interview:

Elizabeth (E): What is the one thing that you hope readers will learn from your book?

Bill Curry (B): That we all need each other. As brutal as football is, in its raw, basic form, it is a life lesson that’s very difficult to learn anywhere else—at least for me. My high school coach Bill Badgett (there’s a whole chapter in the book about him) was famous with us for hammering into us that football is just life marked off in a hundred yards. We thought that was silly when we were fourteen years old, but now that I’m seventy-five years old, I know it’s true. Because you’re going to get knocked down again and again, and you’ve got two choices: you can get up, or you can lie there and wallow in self-pity. If your teammate gets knocked down, you can pick him or her up and dust them off, or you can ignore them. It’s the choice we face all our lives, with family, friends, strangers. We get to choose how we respond. And the way we respond to those basic kinds of questions really determines who we are. Nothing can deprive us of our right to choose how we respond. Until you learn to take responsibility for every aspect of your life, you will not be able to move to your maximum.

E: I was not expecting Ten Men to be such a philosophical book.

B: Once you step in the huddle, now you can’t be racist; you can’t be sexist, because there are women in the locker room. This Friday night a million-plus high school children in the United States will play football, and two thousand of those will be girls. All of these people are in a kind of a huddle, and the moms and dads are sitting in the stands. And somebody’s son or daughter scores a touchdown or a field goal. I saw something last week that the homecoming queen kicked the winning field goal, and I just think that’s great! So what do we do? We hug and embrace. We don’t stop to see what color somebody’s skin is, or what church they go to. We’re not together any other time of the week, and so we can’t lose that fundamental human touch, I think. Sport helps us to maintain those relationships. That’s why if some of the stuff in Ten Men seems philosophical, that’s what it’s about.

E: If you could go back in time and only play under the leadership of one of your coaches mentioned in your book, who would it be, and why?

B: Well, it would have to be a mixed bag. The one who changed my life the most was my college coach, Bobby Dodd. I was a very immature, very lackadaisical student, and I thrust myself into Georgia Tech for all the wrong reasons. I went there because Carolyn Newton was going to be at Agnes Scott, and Tech was the closest campus to Agnes Scott. That’s not a good reason to pick a school. I’m sitting next to National Merit Scholars on either side of me, and I was not that. And Coach Dodd loved us so much that he would not allow us to cut class. I did cut a class, and the next Wednesday morning I ran stadium stairs until I could not stand. I decided that chemistry at 8:00 in the morning was really a wonderful thing.

E: You learned really quickly.

B: I owe all of that to him and his system. He did that to us because he was an all-American at the University of Tennessee and never graduated. So he made sure that we were going to go to class and graduate. Most of us did. In terms of my football career, the guy that changed my life was Don Shula because he gave me one chance after another, even when it seems like I didn’t deserve it. And he allowed me to grow up in the NFL and I’m eternally indebted to him. And so, I love all my coaches, I appreciate all of them, I owe all of them, but those two are the ones that did the most to change my life. Then I took what I learned from them and tried to apply it to my own coaching.

E: Your wife Carolyn seems like an extraordinary woman. How has she influenced you over the years both on and off the field?

B: On the field, well, I was desperate for my father’s approval. He would come to my games and say nothing about my performance. So eventually I’d ask, “Dad, how’d I do?” and he’d say something like, “I don’t know, but that Newton girl is the greatest cheerleader I’ve ever seen in my life.” When I was a player on the field she was, not just for me, so involved with our team, with our players. She was emotionally and spiritually a part of the team, and the guys could sense that, and they’d appreciate it. Of course, I’d very much appreciate it. And from the standpoint of our relationship, she is blessed and cursed with absolute honesty. When I’d get into a funk, she’d say, “You’re not going to behave like this.” I’d try to go to bed, and she’d walk up to me and say, “You are not going to sleep angry. We are going to talk until we talk this out.” I really owe her everything. She’s…the best leader I’ve ever seen.

E: You’re going to make me start crying.

B: Well, when I was a kid, I went home and told my dad that I’m going to marry Carolyn, and he said, “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had.”

E: Why did you decide to get into public speaking?

B: I sort of got pushed into it. My greatest fear in life is public speaking, I don’t know why. When I was nineteen years old, a junior at Tech, I had a public speaking course. I could not stand up and do a five-minute autobiographical statement without my knees shaking and my chest quaking. The professor worked with me, but nothing seemed to help with the nervousness. One day I had my notes, and I just threw them in the garbage. I stood up in the class—and there were about five different wacky professors with particular speech patterns, and I had them down cold—and started doing [mimicking] those professors. And they went crazy, guys were falling out of their chairs laughing, and the professor loved it. Now what I do, is I stand up and tell stories, and I mimic people. It might be Vince Lombardi, or Bobby Dodd, it might be Carolyn, anybody. I got involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and there was a constant demand for someone to come speak to these groups. They’d give me a frame of reference, and I’d still be nervous, but I was serious about sharing my faith—I still am. It was excellent practice. Time went by, and it developed into a business. Now it’s a chance to encourage people. With all my heart, I try to encourage people to be the best they can be.

E: If there’s one thing you could change about the NFL and generally “the game” today, what would you change?

B: I would change whatever the training has been for the officials in being able to call tackling and penalties. They are incredibly inconsistent. I don’t know how you teach tackling now. The rule changes have taken the head out of the game to try and avoid concussions. So, you don’t go in and strike somebody in the chest with your face, which is what we did. You strike with your shoulder pad. The officiating is so inconsistent, and they call it so pathetically. They are making so many mistakes that players are confused. Whatever the league is doing to train the officials has got to get better. College officials are doing a better job than the NFL.

E: How has your time spent as a player affected your strategies as a coach regarding the issues of diversity?

B: Well, in the most drastic possible way. I reported to the Green Bay Packers and had never been in the huddle with an African American person, except for college All-Star games. Vince Lombardi’s greatest attribute was that he would not tolerate racism. So we had more African American players than anyone else in the league. There were teams that had none and bragged about it. There they had one or two and bragged about it. And we crushed them. But that’s not the reason he did it. It was a competitive advantage, but I don’t think that had anything to do with his thinking. His thinking was that we are not going to allow prejudice in this locker room, or in this huddle. Any racist demeanor was stomped out by the head coach. Everybody understood the respect factor. I still thought that those African American guys would listen to my southern accent and hurt me and send me home. I wouldn’t have blamed them. We were in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement—burning cities. But they did just the opposite. Especially Willie Davis. He took me aside and utterly changed my life. It was an unexpected, undeserved, unrewarded kindness from him. It gave me an example of what a great leader is. I’ll never be Willie Davis, but it made me a better person than what I would’ve been.

E: So as a coach, earlier on, perhaps, have you had to do the same kind of stomping out?

B: Every day. There was a conversation at every opportunity about how we are one team, we are together. Off the field you can go off and do what you want to do within our rules, socially. But when you step into that locker room, or cross that white line—we are together. And we are going to love and support one another in every single way that we can. If I had to stop a practice, if I heard a remark, we’d call everybody up and deal with it. We are going to treat each other as equals all the time. We had equally stringent rules about how we’d treat women, how’d we address women, how’d we speak to women. Our rules were simple. If you touched a woman improperly, you’d be gone from here so fast that no one would even remember your name ever. If you speak inappropriately to a woman, then you’re going to be spending a lot of time with me and learning about how you’re supposed to address a human being. We had workshops. Georgia State had a marvelous program. They would role-play a dating situation that would get out of hand. When you rehearse something, when you get in that situation and you’re at a fraternity party that next Saturday night and see something that could turn into a disaster, you’re probably going to act on it.

E: Football is this source of discipline, it changes these young men’s lives.

B: It does. They want so badly to be in the huddle, and for us we use it to teach these young men social graces. The guy who can handle it is the head coach. And if he doesn’t have brutal rules about it, then you’re going to have trouble with it every day.

E: What advice do you have for me and my peers about to enter the workforce?

B: Are we talking young ladies, now?

E: We can be.

B: Establish from the very beginning that you’re there to do a job. You aren’t there to be an ornament or to be made light of. Don’t put up with any nonsense. Make your principles clear and don’t allow any garbage.

We shared a few more unrelated stories up until he had to get going to another event. We took a picture together, and he let me hold his Super Bowl I Championship ring (I should’ve taken a photo!). It was huge and heavier than I expected. It didn’t even say “Super Bowl” because that term had only been applied to the game retroactively.

He was such a down-to-earth man, well-spoken and intellectual, much like in his book. He is not what most would expect out of a person who’s been involved in such a brutal game for over fifty years.

Like in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, each chapter of Bill Curry’s book builds off the other and gives you practical insight into how to evolve in the face of adversity and hardship. He helps you discover how to continue your life’s education after college or high school by illustrating the lessons he’s learned up to his seventy-fifth year.

Hopefully, you’ll find your own huddle in which you’ll experience mutual respect and love. Your team (family, friends, even strangers) is there in the huddle to push you to be your best. However, you’ve got to open your eyes and recognize it. Simply put in his own words, “With all my heart, I try to encourage people to be the best they can be.” That’s exactly what he does, and that’s exactly what we’ve all got to do.

The revised Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle will is available for preorder now, with a publishing date of  November 1, 2018.

The Birth of English Poet, Playwright, and Actor William Shakespeare

Historians believe William Shakespeare was born on this day, April 23, in 1564—the same day he died in 1616.

Shakespeare was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on April 26, 1564. At age 18, he married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Sometime later, Shakespeare set off to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet (1594–1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596–1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600–01), Othello (1604–05), King Lear (1605–06), and Macbeth (1605–1606).

Shakespeare became a member of the popular theater company named “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” who later became the “King’s Men.” The group was responsible for building and operating the famous Globe Theater in 1599. Though widely known for his literature, Shakespeare was also a sound businessman, ultimately becoming a major shareholder in the troupe. His investments earned him enough to buy a large house in Stratford in 1597, where he retired in 1610 and wrote his last plays including The Tempest (1611) and The Winter’s Tale (1610–11). Despite his prolific work ethic, no formal collections of his works were published until after his death. In 1623, two members of Shakespeare’s troupe collected the plays and printed what is now called the First Folio.

Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life. —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), Letters and Social Aims


Shakespeare titles in stock

Shakespeare’s Philosopher King

Shakespeare’s Philosopher King: Reading the Tragedy of King Lear
By author: Guy Story Brown


Shakespeare’s History:Introduction to the Interpretation of THE FIRST PART OF KING HENRY THE SIXTH and the English Histories
By author: Guy Story Brown


Shakespeare’s Prince: The Interpretation of the Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth
By author: Guy Story Brown

Celebrate National Poetry Month

April 2016 Marks the 20th Anniversary of National Poetry Month

“If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.” – Thomas Hardy

Join us as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. Since its induction, National Poetry Month has grown to become one of the largest celebrations of literature nationwide, supported by avid poetry enthusiasts, schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets alike.

The Academy of American Poets first established National Poetry Month in 1996. Since its conception, the Academy of American Poets has enlisted a variety of government agencies and officials as well as educational leaders, publishers, sponsors, poets, and arts organizations. National Poetry Month has become a trademark of the Academy of American Poets.

 “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” – Aristotle

So grab your favorite collection of poems and quote a line to your spouse or wrestle the kids down and read a poem aloud to them. Let’s revel in the joy of poetry this April.

Here are some suggestions—each title below received The Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry awarded by Mercer University Press.

Going Farther into the Woods than the Woods Go
By: Seaborn Jones

“The shadow of the sun crosses the desert.
The oasis is covered with land mines.
The mirages are on fire.
A veil of smoke covers the moon.”


The House Began to Pitch
By: Kelly Whiddon



Swift Hour
By: Megan Sexton


“Glory to the half rest, to the breath between
the third and fourth beats,
the dwindling arrow of the decrescendo,
to the sunrise over Malibu, and its sleeping starlets,
the empty horizon,
the city’s great thought still looming,
to parked cars, the cold engine seconds before ignition
dreaming of the road
unwound and endless,….”


The Color of All Things: 99 Love Poems
By: Philip Lee Williams



Carnival Life
By: Lesley Dauer


“A charlatan,
her confidence
man – they run
the games
of chance.
She gaffs;
he scams.
They delude,
make each
other dupes.
This is subterfuge,
their tortured


P.S. check out the other amazing poetry in stock MUP Poetry

Cherry Blossom Festival

International Cherry Blossom Festival

Macon, Georgia — March 17–April 3, 2016

Spring is now here, as the days are getting longer and warmer. The birds are chirping and the bees are buzzing and dancing until they find a blossom on which to land. Along with the season of rebirth comes the 24th Annual International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia.

Each March, Macon becomes a pink, cotton-spun paradise when 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees bloom in all their glory. For ten days, festival-lovers are treated to one of the most extravagant displays of springtime color in the nation as they visit the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World.

law school with cherry blossoms-M


The story begins when William A. Fickling Sr., a local realtor, discovered the first Yoshino cherry tree in Macon while strolling about in his backyard. The year was 1949. Thanks to Fickling’s propagating efforts, thousands of trees have since been planted around Macon. The idea of a Cherry Blossom Festival didn’t take root until one day at a company picnic Fickling spoke to a woman named Carolyn Crayton after admiring the Yoshino’s unique beauty. While discussing the trees, Carolyn came up with an idea.

“I shared with him a dream of mine, one where the entire town was bursting with thousands of the graceful pink cherry trees. I asked if he would donate trees to plant in my neighborhood of Wesleyan Woods, and he generously agreed, helping my dream become a reality,” said the future festival founder.

To start the project, Fickling agreed to donate the trees if Crayton would organize the planting. In a community wide effort, families, companies, and volunteers began planting what would eventually add up to 500 Yoshino cherry trees by 1973. Macon was now blossoming pink every March.

As executive director of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, Crayton proposed officially launching a Cherry Blossom Festival in celebration of the beauty of the trees and also to honor Fickling for his contributions.

In 1982, the International Cherry Blossom Festival was born, which was built on three basic principles—love, beauty, and international friendship.

Since it’s grassroots beginnings, the festival has become one of the Top 20 Events in the South, Top 50 Events in the US, and Top 100 Events in North America. The festival has since expanded from thirty events over three days to a month-long celebration featuring hundreds of events entertaining people of all ages and backgrounds.

In 2014, Mercer University Press published a history of the festival entitled The Pinkest Party on Earth: Macon, Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival written by Ed Grisamore, award-winning author and then columnist for The Macon Telegraph.

The Pinkest Party on Earth: Macon Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival
By author: Ed Grisamore

The 34th Annual International Cherry Blossom Festival is now underway. For additional information, visit their website or contact the Festival Headquarters at 478-330-7050.

Book lovers should mark their calendar for the Cherry Blossom Authors Luncheon on Tuesday, March 29, at 11:30 am at the Idle Hour Country Club. Treat yourself to a lovely Southern lunch and hear three fine Southern authors speak and sign books.

The Earliest Spring of Your Life?

Spring will arrive early this year, due to a quirky leap year in 2016. Have you noticed that the equinox used to happen on March 21st? This year, depending on your time zone in the northern hemisphere, Spring will begin on either the 19th or the 20th of March.

As it turns out, that extra day in February has consequences beyond making it hard to plan a birthday party. But let’s backtrack to the year 2000. The year 2000 marked the first time in four centuries a year divisible by 100 didn’t skip the leap year. In other words, a February 29 did occur in 2000 and it was the first century year with a leap day since Galileo was peering into a vertically angled telescope.

Now we won’t get into the nitty gritty of our Gregorian Calendar, but basically in our calendar system if a year is divisible by 400, only then will it be a leap year.

The consequence of that little move will affect us during this next month. Because 2000 was an unorthodox year for us, solstices and equinoxes began to occur earlier and earlier. The usual century leap year prevented the calendar from jumping back.

In case you haven’t noticed, Spring began on March 21 when you were little, but it’s been falling on the 20th for some years now. This year, the first day of Spring will fall on the 19th of March for most US time zones.

This means 2016 will have the earliest Spring since 1896! Later this century, Spring will begin on the 19th of March every year. Then, the next glitch won’t occur until February 29, 4000.

How does it feel to experience history?

Oh, and don’t forget to “Spring” forward this Sunday, March 13th, at 2:00 am—as most of the US changes the clock an hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time.

For Those of You Who Want a Little More Background…
The numbers of days in a year aren’t even, but you knew that already. Our calendar system adds one day every fourth year to accommodate this fact. But, because Earth spins a little less than 365 ¼ times per year, we must rid the calendar of that extra once-every-four-year day, and that’s what will happen again in the year 4000.

Women’s History

Mercer University Press Celebrates Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month first gained a national stage in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28, both authorizing and requesting that the President proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as Women’s History Week. Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as Women’s History Week. The National Women’s History Project petitioned for the month of March to be dedicated to Women’s History. Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to dedicate March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.

adapted from the government website:

Check out the fascinating women highlighted in the books listed below. Click links for more information on each book and author. All titles in stock.


Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1834-1907
By Carolyn Newton Curry


Fresh Water from Old Wells: A Memoir
By Cindy Henry McMahon

The Second Bud: Deserting the City for a Farm Winery
By Martha M. Ezzard


A Titanic Love Story: Ida and Isidor Straus
By author: June Hall McCash


A Light on Peachtree: A History of the Atlanta Woman’s Club
By author: Anne B. Jones


Life in Dixie during the War
By Mary A. H. Gay; edited by J. H. Segars


The Power of Woman: The Life and Writings of Sarah Moore Grimke (1792-1873)
By Pamela Durso

The Life and Letters of Emily Chubbuck Judson: Volume 1; Biographies and Timelines
(7 volumes in all)
Edited by George H. Tooze

Happy Birthday Abe!

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday February 12

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of America’s most admired presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was born into a poor family in Kentucky.
Lincoln was the tallest president at 6′ 4 with record physical strength. He was a formidable wrestler in Illinois. Lincoln went on to become infamous for his dry humor and wit. After frustrating defeat after another Lincoln reportedly wrote to a general “if you are not using the army I should like to borrow it for awhile.” Lincoln was also an avid animal lover throughout his lifetime once saying “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

He attended school for only one year, but even as a child Abraham was a voracious reader constantly striving to improve is mind. As an adult, he lived in Illinois bouncing from job to job before entering politics. Many people are unaware of the fact that Lincoln didn’t begin his journey in politics. Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, was also a postmaster, surveyor and shopkeeper. After this small chapter in his life Lincoln went on to pursue politics.

Before the presidency Lincoln served in the Illinois legislature from 1834 to 1836, and then became an attorney. In 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd; and had four sons. Lincoln returned to politics during the 1850s, when disagreements over slavery began to escalate. Lincoln proposed a restriction of slavery to the states where it existed. As president on January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.


For Civil War Enthusiasts….

Upcoming Civil War titles:

A Just and Holy Cause?

Cracking the Solid South:The Life of John Fletcher Hanson, Father of Georgia Tech

Summon Only the Brave!: Commanders, Soldiers, and Chaplains at Gettysburg

Confederate Sharpshooter Major William E. Simmons: Through the War with the 16th Georgia Infantry and 3rd Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters

Mercer University Press Authors Featured at AJC-Decatur Book Festival – August 29-31, 2014

Mercer University Press authors featured or moderators at Decatur Book Festival this weekend, August 29-31, 2014,

Great prices on all titles brought to the show, so stop by our booth 409/411 and stock up on some wonderful new and backlist books.

Robert Jenkins, Steve Davis, and Daniel Cone

Raymond L. Atkins

Jackie K. Cooper

Cliff Graubart

Megan Sexton

Martha M. Ezzard

Carolyn Newton Curry

Rembrandt as Christian Artist

Biblical RembrandtToday, on Rembrandt’s birthday (1606), John I Durham joins us for a word about Rembrandt’s faith and it’s role in his art. Find out more in John’s Biblical Rembrandt: Human Painter in a Landscape of Faith.


Rembrandt Van Rijn: A Believer?

That Rembrandt was a believer is an undoubted fact of his life; that he was not a practicing member of any Church is also a fact of his life. Rembrandt grew up in a Protestant (Dutch Reformed) home in Leiden, a town famous for science and, in some circles, for its hospitality (in 1608 and much of the decade following) to some of the Pilgrim fathers. His father Harmen’s upbringing was Roman Catholic, but by the time of his marriage to Rembrandt’s mother Cornelia, Harmen had joined the Dutch Reformed Church. Cornelia (Neeltje) was brought up Roman Catholic, but by the time she and Harmen were married (on October 8, 1589) in the Dutch Reform Pieterskerk in Leiden, she too had obviously left Catholicism for Protestantism.

In 1631, in his twenty-fifth year, Rembrandt painted an elderly woman reading a great heavy Bible—though he may have intended to depict a biblical figure (Anna from Luke 2:36–38 has often been named.) I believe he was thinking of his mother, whom he had no doubt often seen with the Bible open on her lap. The painting was done with obvious affection; Neeltje would have been around sixty-three when the work was created.

Though we have no firm record of Rembrandt’s birth, the date customarily listed is July 15, 1606, from a reference in a history of Leiden by the city’s mayor, J. J. Orlers. By that date, his parents had been married for around twenty-seven years; Rembrandt was the ninth of ten children born to Harmen and Neeltje. Three of the ten died at birth, two before Rembrandt’s arrival, the third when he was three years old.

That Rembrandt was drawn to the Bible as a source for his art is an inevitable result of his family life, his instruction at Leiden’s Calvinist “Latin School” from the ages of seven to fourteen, and above all from his guidance at the hand and eye of Pieter Lastman, the great “history painter” in Amsterdam. Yet if no piece of this evidence was available to us, we would be forced to remember Rembrandt as very much the painter of the Bible by the predominance in his drawings and in his etchings and in his paintings of biblical persons, biblical themes, and especially of biblical moments. No serious study of the life and work of Rembrandt known to me fails to take note of this fact, not least because so large a percentage of the legacy he has left to us, around one-third by general estimate, is devoted to the Bible. “An old Bible” is listed among Rembrandt’s possession in the bankruptcy inventory of 1656, and following his death on October 5, 1669, the only book among his possessions “in the inner chamber” was a Bible. That he lived with the Bible right through his life cannot be contested; thus what can be said about the Bible in Rembrandt’s belief?

To put it in simplest terms, Rembrandt’s belief, his faith, came not from any connection with a church, and not from any appropriation of a doctrinal system. He was friendly with a considerable array of religious persons, both humble and grand: Protestants, of course, even Mennonite Protestants, but also Catholic and Jewish figures. He was commissioned to paint their portraits, to illustrate some of their publications, and to create works decorating their homes and meeting places (but never their places of worship: Protestants and Jews objected to images in their places of worship, and Roman Catholics felt that Rembrandt’s works were not religious enough, and even sometimes sacrilegious).

Rembrandt’s believing was therefore a biblical believing. The Bible was for him a real book more than it was a holy book. Its heroes and heroines were real people, people who made real mistakes and were sorry for it, not saints above temptation and reproach and criticism. To model Jesus, he picked a Jew; to represent Judas, he depicted a painfully regretful traitor who had torn out his hair in distress; to help us know religious hypocrisy and pomp, he painted Temple officials far more interested in the coins Judas had thrown down than in a man in deep grief.

Rembrandt’s Tobit is both unjustly irritated at his good wife and fumblingly blind. Rembrandt’s Balaam is so caught up in his own self-defensive fury that he overlooks the fact that he is having a conversation with a she-ass. Rembrandt’s prodigal son is caught up in the healing hug of a father whose love is rooted in caring instead of in self-justification and judgment. Rembrandt’s Mary at the Tomb on Easter morning is so human that, in spite of all she had witnessed, she assumes the risen Christ must be a gardener.

I think Rembrandt began his biblical works as works of illustration, attempts to picture what the words of the Bible’s text suggested. Before the passing of many years, however, Rembrandt began interpreting the words of that text, giving us an exegesis of what he felt the words may mean. And in his maturity as a biblical artist, Rembrandt created what must be called works of confession, moving statements of his own belief, in particular the famous “Hundred Guilder Print,” an astonishing summary of the entire nineteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. It is a sermon on an etching plate that presents Jesus healing theological, psychological, and physical sickness and dealing at the same time with legalism, the pride of self-importance, and the reality of indifference. And not even the “rich young man” or the proverbial camel of Matthew 19 are left out!

I have been looking at Rembrandt looking me into looking for many years now; yet as I keep on looking, I find myself seeing more and more, because Rembrandt, it turns out, teaches the Bible without prejudice, and gives us human genius mixed with divine love.


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Happy Fourth of July from MUP!

It’s time for fireworks and grilling out and nothing goes better with the festivities like in-depth academic examinations of literature, American history, Christianity, Kierkegaard, African-American history, politics, and theology. The mental stimulation just makes the cole slaw taste sooooo much better.


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