Versions of Cranach’s Seal

As an update to the post on tweaks to this blog, let me show you some different versions of Cranach’s Seal, as we try to interpret what it means.  (I thought it is an image of redemption; Tom Hering suggested it was alchemical symbolism, so I’ve asked Dr. Montgomery; it could also be some kind of conventional heraldry symbolism–someone who knows something about heraldry, please chime in.)    Special thanks to Abby for alerting me to the final version here, which is the most expressive, detailed, and dragon-like.  Should we use that one for our logo, or is it too disturbing?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://takethestand.net Andrew DeLoach

    Use it!

  • http://takethestand.net Andrew DeLoach

    Use it!

  • Abby

    I like the colorful one!

  • Abby

    I like the colorful one!

  • Abby

    Rev. 12:1-17 “And the *great dragon* was thrown down, that *ancient serpent* who is called the *devil* and *Satan* the *deceiver* of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, . . . *the accuser* of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb.” Rev. 20:2 “And he seized the *dragon*, that *ancient serpent*, who is the *devil* and *Satan*, and bound him for a thousand yesrs . . .”

    I still see the art as a depiction of Satan the dragon. Here’s another favorite picture of mine of the *dragon*–http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/article_images/St%20Michael%20Archangel,%20by%20Guido%20Reni.jpg

  • Abby

    Rev. 12:1-17 “And the *great dragon* was thrown down, that *ancient serpent* who is called the *devil* and *Satan* the *deceiver* of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, . . . *the accuser* of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb.” Rev. 20:2 “And he seized the *dragon*, that *ancient serpent*, who is the *devil* and *Satan*, and bound him for a thousand yesrs . . .”

    I still see the art as a depiction of Satan the dragon. Here’s another favorite picture of mine of the *dragon*–http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/article_images/St%20Michael%20Archangel,%20by%20Guido%20Reni.jpg

  • Carl Vehse

    The information from a Polish Art Museum website linked here indicates a difference in the serpent design from prior to 1537, when Cranach used bat wings, to that afterwards, when he used bird (eagle?) wings in his symbol.

  • Carl Vehse

    The information from a Polish Art Museum website linked here indicates a difference in the serpent design from prior to 1537, when Cranach used bat wings, to that afterwards, when he used bird (eagle?) wings in his symbol.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I really hope you can incorporate the detailed winged dragon – as the kids used to say – its pretty sweet, man!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I really hope you can incorporate the detailed winged dragon – as the kids used to say – its pretty sweet, man!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I found this footnote in a scholarly article on some alleged alchemical symbolism in Cranach’s painting of the Judgment of Paris. It actually gives more evidence for my own reading of the symbol: Cranach’s family name was “Sunder,” a variant of “sin.” And the actual heraldic quest shows the dragon impaled on a crown of thorns (which the scholarly author doesn’t quite seem to understand!):

    Cranach’s artist’s signet, the winged serpent with a ruby
    ring in its mouth, was granted to him as his coat of arms by
    Elector Frederick the Wise, on Jan. 6, 1508. It has been suspected
    that the winged serpent might have astrological significance,
    that as a symbol of Sin it might be a canting device for
    the alleged family name Sunder (Cranach is derived from his
    hometown, Kronach), that it might be a symbol of speeding time
    referring to the Latin form Chronus, with which Cranach occasionally
    signed his work. Schade, Cranach, p. 403, n. 38, ill. p.
    27; Koepplin and Falk, Cranach I, p. 20, n. 20. It can be added
    that the winged serpent can be a symbol of speed, indicating
    Cranach’s fame as celerrimusp ictor. According to the Bestiary, in
    Arabia there were winged serpents, the fastest of all creatures;
    such a serpent was called laculus, a name that might have been
    seen as a cryptogram for Lucas. Finally, there might have been
    an alchemical symbolism involved too: the black Dragon that
    carries the gold ring with the red stone. The crest of Cranach’s
    coat of arms, incidentally, shows the serpent writhing on a wreath
    of thorns, possibly indicating the thorny way to perfection. It
    would be interesting to know whether the day chosen for the
    granting of these arms, Jan. 6, i.e., Epiphany or Dreikonigstag,
    held any deeper meaning. In German tradition the arms attributed
    to the Drei Konige-the Three Wise Men-were a black
    man, a starry field, and a silver half-moon, all three being alchemical
    symbols for nigredo and albedo, quite appropriate for
    the gold-bearing Magi searching for the King of Kings and the
    True Light.

    http://www.metmuseum.org/publications/journals/1/pdf/1512772.pdf.bannered.pdf

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I found this footnote in a scholarly article on some alleged alchemical symbolism in Cranach’s painting of the Judgment of Paris. It actually gives more evidence for my own reading of the symbol: Cranach’s family name was “Sunder,” a variant of “sin.” And the actual heraldic quest shows the dragon impaled on a crown of thorns (which the scholarly author doesn’t quite seem to understand!):

    Cranach’s artist’s signet, the winged serpent with a ruby
    ring in its mouth, was granted to him as his coat of arms by
    Elector Frederick the Wise, on Jan. 6, 1508. It has been suspected
    that the winged serpent might have astrological significance,
    that as a symbol of Sin it might be a canting device for
    the alleged family name Sunder (Cranach is derived from his
    hometown, Kronach), that it might be a symbol of speeding time
    referring to the Latin form Chronus, with which Cranach occasionally
    signed his work. Schade, Cranach, p. 403, n. 38, ill. p.
    27; Koepplin and Falk, Cranach I, p. 20, n. 20. It can be added
    that the winged serpent can be a symbol of speed, indicating
    Cranach’s fame as celerrimusp ictor. According to the Bestiary, in
    Arabia there were winged serpents, the fastest of all creatures;
    such a serpent was called laculus, a name that might have been
    seen as a cryptogram for Lucas. Finally, there might have been
    an alchemical symbolism involved too: the black Dragon that
    carries the gold ring with the red stone. The crest of Cranach’s
    coat of arms, incidentally, shows the serpent writhing on a wreath
    of thorns, possibly indicating the thorny way to perfection. It
    would be interesting to know whether the day chosen for the
    granting of these arms, Jan. 6, i.e., Epiphany or Dreikonigstag,
    held any deeper meaning. In German tradition the arms attributed
    to the Drei Konige-the Three Wise Men-were a black
    man, a starry field, and a silver half-moon, all three being alchemical
    symbols for nigredo and albedo, quite appropriate for
    the gold-bearing Magi searching for the King of Kings and the
    True Light.

    http://www.metmuseum.org/publications/journals/1/pdf/1512772.pdf.bannered.pdf

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I just heard from John Warwick Montgomery, who is traveling but who said that he would dig into this when he returns to his rather amazing library (which I have had the privilege of seeing). Anyway, here is what he said: ” As you know from my Cross and Crucible, a spiritual alchemy and corresponding heraldic devices were employed in Reformation circles to represent the gospel of transformative salvation by grace through faith.”

    So both of our interpretations might be right! The alchemical symbols were used to express the SPIRITUAL transformation of the Gospel! And Cranach would not have been alone in doing that! Rather, it was commonplace “in Reformation circles.”

    I’ve got to get “Cross and the Crucible.” (Wouldn’t you know that as we get into this arcane but very interesting discussion that Dr. Montgomery would have written a book about all of this?)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I just heard from John Warwick Montgomery, who is traveling but who said that he would dig into this when he returns to his rather amazing library (which I have had the privilege of seeing). Anyway, here is what he said: ” As you know from my Cross and Crucible, a spiritual alchemy and corresponding heraldic devices were employed in Reformation circles to represent the gospel of transformative salvation by grace through faith.”

    So both of our interpretations might be right! The alchemical symbols were used to express the SPIRITUAL transformation of the Gospel! And Cranach would not have been alone in doing that! Rather, it was commonplace “in Reformation circles.”

    I’ve got to get “Cross and the Crucible.” (Wouldn’t you know that as we get into this arcane but very interesting discussion that Dr. Montgomery would have written a book about all of this?)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD
  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD
  • Tom Hering

    Very exciting. Great contributions from everybody toward solving the mystery. And holy cow, Todd. How do you do it?

    I’m eager to hear from Dr. Montgomery in the (hopefully) near future. I’ve read his Principalities and Powers. Now I’ll have to ask the public library to get me a copy of Cross and Crucible.

  • Tom Hering

    Very exciting. Great contributions from everybody toward solving the mystery. And holy cow, Todd. How do you do it?

    I’m eager to hear from Dr. Montgomery in the (hopefully) near future. I’ve read his Principalities and Powers. Now I’ll have to ask the public library to get me a copy of Cross and Crucible.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@9), in this case, I realized that, instead of searching Google Images for [Cranach dragon], I might also see what cropped up under [Cranach serpent], since it seems the words are used similarly. And I found new monograms I hadn’t seen before!

    You should have seen how many paintings of Cranach’s I’ve searched through — though not for this particular comment thread — looking for ones that are high-resolution enough to enable zooming in on the monogram to where it’s not just an inchoate squiggle (though, sometimes, upon zooming in, it remains an inchoate squiggle).

    Of the three presented here, I’m actually more a fan of the middle one, since I think it is most graphically pleasing. The top one looks like a grub or worm (wyrm?) and gives the wrong impression. The bottom one, well, kind of reminds me of something you’d more likely encounter on the back of a leather motorcycle jacket. It’s a bit too … bad-a**? The only problem with the middle one is that it’s too abstract. The ring is less than obvious, and the crown pretty much imperceptible. Which means it’s more of a contentless glyph than a symbolism-packed monogram.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@9), in this case, I realized that, instead of searching Google Images for [Cranach dragon], I might also see what cropped up under [Cranach serpent], since it seems the words are used similarly. And I found new monograms I hadn’t seen before!

    You should have seen how many paintings of Cranach’s I’ve searched through — though not for this particular comment thread — looking for ones that are high-resolution enough to enable zooming in on the monogram to where it’s not just an inchoate squiggle (though, sometimes, upon zooming in, it remains an inchoate squiggle).

    Of the three presented here, I’m actually more a fan of the middle one, since I think it is most graphically pleasing. The top one looks like a grub or worm (wyrm?) and gives the wrong impression. The bottom one, well, kind of reminds me of something you’d more likely encounter on the back of a leather motorcycle jacket. It’s a bit too … bad-a**? The only problem with the middle one is that it’s too abstract. The ring is less than obvious, and the crown pretty much imperceptible. Which means it’s more of a contentless glyph than a symbolism-packed monogram.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Carl Vehse, in the post about the blog tweaks, has found another interpretation:

    A Wilanow Palace Museum site explains the Cranach symbol:

    The signature and the style of the painting suggest that it was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. From 1508, the artist usually signed his works with a monogram and the symbol of a winged serpent; until 1537 the serpent has bat’s wings, which are then replaced by lowered bird’s (probably eagle’s) wings. This emblem suggests an excellent knowledge of the humanist pictorial symbolism. The symbol was probably modelled on the basilisk, which had been used by guilds since the 13th century as the symbol of painters (the earliest attested use is on a seal of the guild of painters in the city of Erfurt). A winged serpent was the attribute of Kronos: a clear allusion to Cranach’s surname in its (incorrect) Latinate form of “Lucas Chronus” as used by the painter (the correct Latin would be “Lucas Cronaciensis”). Kronos or Chronos, the Greek god of Time, was identified with the Roman god Saturn. In the perfected version of his sign, Cranach clearly gave the serpent bat’s wings. The serpent wears a crown and in its mouth it holds a ring, the symbol of just reward. Cranach’s symbolic sign can also be read as a metaphor of painterly excellence, which is justly rewarded by Time (Chronos).

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Carl Vehse, in the post about the blog tweaks, has found another interpretation:

    A Wilanow Palace Museum site explains the Cranach symbol:

    The signature and the style of the painting suggest that it was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. From 1508, the artist usually signed his works with a monogram and the symbol of a winged serpent; until 1537 the serpent has bat’s wings, which are then replaced by lowered bird’s (probably eagle’s) wings. This emblem suggests an excellent knowledge of the humanist pictorial symbolism. The symbol was probably modelled on the basilisk, which had been used by guilds since the 13th century as the symbol of painters (the earliest attested use is on a seal of the guild of painters in the city of Erfurt). A winged serpent was the attribute of Kronos: a clear allusion to Cranach’s surname in its (incorrect) Latinate form of “Lucas Chronus” as used by the painter (the correct Latin would be “Lucas Cronaciensis”). Kronos or Chronos, the Greek god of Time, was identified with the Roman god Saturn. In the perfected version of his sign, Cranach clearly gave the serpent bat’s wings. The serpent wears a crown and in its mouth it holds a ring, the symbol of just reward. Cranach’s symbolic sign can also be read as a metaphor of painterly excellence, which is justly rewarded by Time (Chronos).

  • http://newepistles.com Kevin Sam

    In my ethnic heritage, a dragon is good luck but in Christian culture, it`s symbolic of the devil. My first impression of this particular depiction was neutral because the dragon was not obvious.

  • http://newepistles.com Kevin Sam

    In my ethnic heritage, a dragon is good luck but in Christian culture, it`s symbolic of the devil. My first impression of this particular depiction was neutral because the dragon was not obvious.

  • Grace

    Satan was first defined in Genesis 3 as a “serpent”

    3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

    4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

    5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3

    [ Yes they would die according to aging, but would they die spiritually, meaning would they die and not be given the chance to repent of their sins? ]

    Satan being the deceiver, tempted Eve, giving her the idea she could become a god, knowing good and evil. The truth was, she would know she was naked, she had sinned, but she would never be a god, anymore than Satan would become the god over God ALMIGHTY. Satan had deceived himself as the most beautiful creation God had created as an angel, he then went on to believe he could exalt himself, and deceive Eve, which he did and conquer God Almighty and His creation, but Satan failed. Satan deceives, but he has no power over God Almighty.

    All through Scripture we can read about the “serpent” and “dragon” he is none other than Satan.

    I can’t imagine, no matter who would confer such a ‘Seal’ upon my work, no matter what that might be, that I would use a serpent/dragon as a symbol, as it defines Satan.

    If one chooses to stylize themselves, upon a crest which they stamp their work, as a “serpent” which is nothing short of satanic, I consider their choice to define their work.

    Lucas Cranach did not only portray so called Christian art, but also indulged in painting pagan art. One need only look upon his work, to see his titillating sexual expression of a man who used art, to voice his thoughts, no matter how far from the Word of God they strayed.

    Using the ‘serpent’ as Cranach used his seal to sign his work is obvious. He was not under law to use it, he used it willingly.

    One can argue the point of ‘apothecary’ – or that of medicine or pharmaceutical, but in the venue of Martin Luther and Lucas Cranach, those vocations are not part of the Gospel of Christ. The link below will give you a better definition of the god in which this serpent derives such attention.

    “The rod of Asclepius (sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius), also known as the asklepian, is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. The name of the symbol derives from its early and widespread association with Asclepius, the son of Apollo, who was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. His attributes, the snake and the staff, sometimes depicted separately in antiquity, are combined in this symbol. Hippocrates himself was a worshipper of Asclepius.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_of_Asclepius

    Read the rest of this paper, you might be surprised how far afield our country has strayed from whom healing originates, it most certainly isn’t the false god of Asciepius -

  • Grace

    Satan was first defined in Genesis 3 as a “serpent”

    3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

    4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

    5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3

    [ Yes they would die according to aging, but would they die spiritually, meaning would they die and not be given the chance to repent of their sins? ]

    Satan being the deceiver, tempted Eve, giving her the idea she could become a god, knowing good and evil. The truth was, she would know she was naked, she had sinned, but she would never be a god, anymore than Satan would become the god over God ALMIGHTY. Satan had deceived himself as the most beautiful creation God had created as an angel, he then went on to believe he could exalt himself, and deceive Eve, which he did and conquer God Almighty and His creation, but Satan failed. Satan deceives, but he has no power over God Almighty.

    All through Scripture we can read about the “serpent” and “dragon” he is none other than Satan.

    I can’t imagine, no matter who would confer such a ‘Seal’ upon my work, no matter what that might be, that I would use a serpent/dragon as a symbol, as it defines Satan.

    If one chooses to stylize themselves, upon a crest which they stamp their work, as a “serpent” which is nothing short of satanic, I consider their choice to define their work.

    Lucas Cranach did not only portray so called Christian art, but also indulged in painting pagan art. One need only look upon his work, to see his titillating sexual expression of a man who used art, to voice his thoughts, no matter how far from the Word of God they strayed.

    Using the ‘serpent’ as Cranach used his seal to sign his work is obvious. He was not under law to use it, he used it willingly.

    One can argue the point of ‘apothecary’ – or that of medicine or pharmaceutical, but in the venue of Martin Luther and Lucas Cranach, those vocations are not part of the Gospel of Christ. The link below will give you a better definition of the god in which this serpent derives such attention.

    “The rod of Asclepius (sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius), also known as the asklepian, is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. The name of the symbol derives from its early and widespread association with Asclepius, the son of Apollo, who was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. His attributes, the snake and the staff, sometimes depicted separately in antiquity, are combined in this symbol. Hippocrates himself was a worshipper of Asclepius.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_of_Asclepius

    Read the rest of this paper, you might be surprised how far afield our country has strayed from whom healing originates, it most certainly isn’t the false god of Asciepius -

  • Tom Hering

    The bronze serpent made by Moses pointed to Christ. And Christ commanded us to be as wise/cunning as a snake/serpent. Imagery representing both the Savior and the saved. Approved by Our Lord Himself. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    The bronze serpent made by Moses pointed to Christ. And Christ commanded us to be as wise/cunning as a snake/serpent. Imagery representing both the Savior and the saved. Approved by Our Lord Himself. :-)

  • Grace

    Tom – 14

    “The bronze serpent made by Moses pointed to Christ. And Christ commanded us to be as wise/cunning as a snake/serpent. Imagery representing both the Savior and the saved. Approved by Our Lord HimselfThe bronze serpent made by Moses pointed to Christ. And Christ commanded us to be as wise/cunning as a snake/serpent. Imagery representing both the Savior and the saved. Approved by Our Lord Himself”

    Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
    Matthew 10:16

    The passage above is a good one – however it doesn’t mean that we use a ‘serpent’ as the mark of a Christian, or that the ‘serpent’ is the mark of our LORD and Savior, using it to define His Deity, being part of the Godhead.

    The passage you speak of in Numbers came from the LORD, we have not been commanded to make a snake of brass, nor have we been told to look upon it to be saved or healed.

    6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

    7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

    8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

    9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. Numbers 21

    “The children of Israel were wearied by a long march round the land of Edom. They speak discontentedly of what God had done for them, and distrustfully of what he would do. What will they be pleased with, whom manna will not please? Let not the contempt which some cast on the word of God, make us value it less. It is the bread of life, substantial bread, and will nourish those who by faith feed upon it, to eternal life, whoever may call it light bread. We see the righteous judgment God brought upon them for murmuring. He sent fiery serpents among them, which bit or stung many to death. It is to be feared that they would not have owned the sin, if they had not felt the smart; but they relent under the rod. And God made a wonderful provision for their relief. The Jews themselves say it was not the sight of the brazen serpent that cured; but in looking up to it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them. There was much gospel in this. Our Saviour declared, John 3:14,15,. that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whatsoever believeth in him, should not perish. Compare their disease and ours. Sin bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Compare the application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and we, if we believe, shall not perish. It is by faith that we look unto Jesus, Hebrews 12:2. Whosoever looked, however desperate his case, or feeble his sight, or distant his place, was certainly and perfectly cured. The Lord can relieve us from dangers and distresses, by means which human reason never would have devised. Oh that the venom of the old serpent, inflaming men’s passions, and causing them to commit sins which end in their eternal destruction, were as sensibly felt, and the danger as plainly seen, as the Israelites felt pain from the bite of the fiery serpents, and feared the death which followed! Then none would shut their eyes to Christ, or turn from his gospel. Then a crucified Saviour would be so valued, that all things else would be accounted loss for him; then, without delay, and with earnestness and simplicity, all would apply to him in the appointed way, crying, Lord, save us; we perish! Nor would any abuse the freeness of Christ’s salvation, while they reckoned the price which it cost him.” Matthew Henry

  • Grace

    Tom – 14

    “The bronze serpent made by Moses pointed to Christ. And Christ commanded us to be as wise/cunning as a snake/serpent. Imagery representing both the Savior and the saved. Approved by Our Lord HimselfThe bronze serpent made by Moses pointed to Christ. And Christ commanded us to be as wise/cunning as a snake/serpent. Imagery representing both the Savior and the saved. Approved by Our Lord Himself”

    Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
    Matthew 10:16

    The passage above is a good one – however it doesn’t mean that we use a ‘serpent’ as the mark of a Christian, or that the ‘serpent’ is the mark of our LORD and Savior, using it to define His Deity, being part of the Godhead.

    The passage you speak of in Numbers came from the LORD, we have not been commanded to make a snake of brass, nor have we been told to look upon it to be saved or healed.

    6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

    7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

    8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

    9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. Numbers 21

    “The children of Israel were wearied by a long march round the land of Edom. They speak discontentedly of what God had done for them, and distrustfully of what he would do. What will they be pleased with, whom manna will not please? Let not the contempt which some cast on the word of God, make us value it less. It is the bread of life, substantial bread, and will nourish those who by faith feed upon it, to eternal life, whoever may call it light bread. We see the righteous judgment God brought upon them for murmuring. He sent fiery serpents among them, which bit or stung many to death. It is to be feared that they would not have owned the sin, if they had not felt the smart; but they relent under the rod. And God made a wonderful provision for their relief. The Jews themselves say it was not the sight of the brazen serpent that cured; but in looking up to it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them. There was much gospel in this. Our Saviour declared, John 3:14,15,. that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whatsoever believeth in him, should not perish. Compare their disease and ours. Sin bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Compare the application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and we, if we believe, shall not perish. It is by faith that we look unto Jesus, Hebrews 12:2. Whosoever looked, however desperate his case, or feeble his sight, or distant his place, was certainly and perfectly cured. The Lord can relieve us from dangers and distresses, by means which human reason never would have devised. Oh that the venom of the old serpent, inflaming men’s passions, and causing them to commit sins which end in their eternal destruction, were as sensibly felt, and the danger as plainly seen, as the Israelites felt pain from the bite of the fiery serpents, and feared the death which followed! Then none would shut their eyes to Christ, or turn from his gospel. Then a crucified Saviour would be so valued, that all things else would be accounted loss for him; then, without delay, and with earnestness and simplicity, all would apply to him in the appointed way, crying, Lord, save us; we perish! Nor would any abuse the freeness of Christ’s salvation, while they reckoned the price which it cost him.” Matthew Henry

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, if I used a serpent to represent Christ or a Christian, what would happen as a result?

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, if I used a serpent to represent Christ or a Christian, what would happen as a result?

  • Grace

    Tom – “Grace, if I used a serpent to represent Christ or a Christian, what would happen as a result?”

    I wouldn’t tempt the LORD to find out, I look to the Cross, His death, resurrection.

  • Grace

    Tom – “Grace, if I used a serpent to represent Christ or a Christian, what would happen as a result?”

    I wouldn’t tempt the LORD to find out, I look to the Cross, His death, resurrection.

  • Grace

    Tom would you replace the Cross on a church with a snake?

  • Grace

    Tom would you replace the Cross on a church with a snake?

  • Tom Hering

    “I wouldn’t tempt the LORD to find out …”

    What evidence can you offer, from Scripture, that I’d be tempting Our Lord? Your implication, of course, is that I’d be tempting Him to punish me. But for what, exactly? Representing Him with an image of evil? Are serpents inherently evil? I’ve already shown that as symbols in Scripture they sometimes represent the Holy.

    “… would you replace the Cross on a church with a snake?”

    No. No one would know what it means. Most people have a hard enough time knowing what the Cross means. :-)

    You do express an uneasiness, Grace, that I think we all feel toward certain images. But I’d argue this is a result of culture, not anything spiritual. For example, I have three black cats in my home (you’re probably not surprised to hear that ;-) ). Why? Because black cats are the hardest to find homes for, according to most shelters. Partly, people don’t feel they’re as cute as more colorful cats. And partly, many people are – unbelievably – superstitious. Yet across the pond in the U.K., black cats are considered symbols of good luck. They even adorn greeting cards that wish others well. Culture, you see?

  • Tom Hering

    “I wouldn’t tempt the LORD to find out …”

    What evidence can you offer, from Scripture, that I’d be tempting Our Lord? Your implication, of course, is that I’d be tempting Him to punish me. But for what, exactly? Representing Him with an image of evil? Are serpents inherently evil? I’ve already shown that as symbols in Scripture they sometimes represent the Holy.

    “… would you replace the Cross on a church with a snake?”

    No. No one would know what it means. Most people have a hard enough time knowing what the Cross means. :-)

    You do express an uneasiness, Grace, that I think we all feel toward certain images. But I’d argue this is a result of culture, not anything spiritual. For example, I have three black cats in my home (you’re probably not surprised to hear that ;-) ). Why? Because black cats are the hardest to find homes for, according to most shelters. Partly, people don’t feel they’re as cute as more colorful cats. And partly, many people are – unbelievably – superstitious. Yet across the pond in the U.K., black cats are considered symbols of good luck. They even adorn greeting cards that wish others well. Culture, you see?

  • Abby

    I like the new header! I love the colors! And the image is more distinguishable from the other one. Maybe after we find out the meaning of the “dragon” everyone will feel better. It doesn’t look “creepy” to me. (But I’m a lover of Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia–and most generally all Christian fantasy.) Why would Cranach use this logo? He certainly wouldn’t use it as an identifying marker for himself that would present any antithesis to Christ. And since he did use the image as a marker for himself, I think it should be part of the “name.” We may never know the true meaning unless he left a written description somewhere.

    Tom, you did a great job!

  • Abby

    I like the new header! I love the colors! And the image is more distinguishable from the other one. Maybe after we find out the meaning of the “dragon” everyone will feel better. It doesn’t look “creepy” to me. (But I’m a lover of Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia–and most generally all Christian fantasy.) Why would Cranach use this logo? He certainly wouldn’t use it as an identifying marker for himself that would present any antithesis to Christ. And since he did use the image as a marker for himself, I think it should be part of the “name.” We may never know the true meaning unless he left a written description somewhere.

    Tom, you did a great job!

  • Tom Hering

    Thank you, Abby. Let’s remember to give the lion’s share of thanks to Redeemed Ramblings (John), who goaded all the changes in the first place. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    Thank you, Abby. Let’s remember to give the lion’s share of thanks to Redeemed Ramblings (John), who goaded all the changes in the first place. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    Many thanks should go to Stewart (Bulldog) too – the man who keeps this site simple, in accord with his design philosophy.

  • Tom Hering

    Many thanks should go to Stewart (Bulldog) too – the man who keeps this site simple, in accord with his design philosophy.

  • Carl Vehse

    You want interpretation of the winged serpent? You got interpretation –

    From “The Judgment of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder: Nature, Allegory, and Alchemy” (Helmut Nickel, Curator of Arms and Armor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 16, 1982. pp.117-129):

    Lucas Cranach, who from 1520 was the owner of an apothecary shop in Wittenberg, must have been interested in the Elixir of Life, and presumably had alchemical knowledge of his own. [see footnote 21]

    21. Cranach’s artist’s signet, the winged serpent with a ruby ring in its mouth, was granted to him as his coat of arms by Elector Frederick the Wise, on Jan. 6, 1508. It has been suspected that the winged serpent might have astrological significance, that as a symbol of Sin it might be a canting device for the alleged family name Sunder (Cranach is derived from his hometown, Kronach), that it might be a symbol of speeding time referring to the Latin form Chronus, with which Cranach occasionally signed his work. Schade, Cranach, p. 403, n. 38, ill. p. 27; Koepplin and Falk, Cranach I, p. 20, n. 20. It can be added that the winged serpent can be a symbol of speed, indicating Cranach’s fame as celerrimus pictor. According to the Bestiary, in Arabia there were winged serpents, the fastest of all creatures; such a serpent was called laculus, a name that might have been seen as a cryptogram for Lucas. Finally, there might have been an alchemical symbolism involved too: the black Dragon that carries the gold ring with the red stone. The crest of Cranach’s coat of arms, incidentally, shows the serpent writhing on a wreath of thorns, possibly indicating the thorny way to perfection. It would be interesting to know whether the day chosen for the granting of these arms, Jan. 6, i.e., Epiphany or Dreikonigstag, held any deeper meaning. In German tradition the arms attributed to the Drei Konige-the Three Wise Men-were a black man, a starry field, and a silver half-moon, all three being alchemical symbols for nigredo and albedo, quite appropriate for the gold-bearing Magi searching for the King of Kings and the True Light.

    Dr. Edeltraud Wiessner, director of the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Wittenberg, has kindly supplied the following information about Cranach’s ownership of the Wittenberg pharmacy. Cranach bought it for 2,000 gulden from its founder, Martin Polich von Mellerstadt, who was also rector of the university. The purchase was presumably an investment, since Cranach was not an apothecary himself. He had the shop managed by professionals, Basilius Axt and later Caspar Pfreundt, who married Cranach’s youngest daughter, Anna, Dec. 13, 1550. The pharmacy, incidentally, was for centuries the only one in Wittenberg and therefore had no special name; in the mid-19th century it became the Adler-Apotheke and since 1945 has been called the Cranach-Apotheke.

    Ref: Werner Schade, Die Malerfamilie Cranach (Dresden, 1974) (American ed.: Cranach: A Family of Master Painters [New York, 1980]); Dieter Koepplin and Tilman Falk, Lukas Cranach; Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, exh. cat., 2 vols. (Stuttgart/Basel: Kunstmuseum Basel, 1974)

  • Carl Vehse

    You want interpretation of the winged serpent? You got interpretation –

    From “The Judgment of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder: Nature, Allegory, and Alchemy” (Helmut Nickel, Curator of Arms and Armor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 16, 1982. pp.117-129):

    Lucas Cranach, who from 1520 was the owner of an apothecary shop in Wittenberg, must have been interested in the Elixir of Life, and presumably had alchemical knowledge of his own. [see footnote 21]

    21. Cranach’s artist’s signet, the winged serpent with a ruby ring in its mouth, was granted to him as his coat of arms by Elector Frederick the Wise, on Jan. 6, 1508. It has been suspected that the winged serpent might have astrological significance, that as a symbol of Sin it might be a canting device for the alleged family name Sunder (Cranach is derived from his hometown, Kronach), that it might be a symbol of speeding time referring to the Latin form Chronus, with which Cranach occasionally signed his work. Schade, Cranach, p. 403, n. 38, ill. p. 27; Koepplin and Falk, Cranach I, p. 20, n. 20. It can be added that the winged serpent can be a symbol of speed, indicating Cranach’s fame as celerrimus pictor. According to the Bestiary, in Arabia there were winged serpents, the fastest of all creatures; such a serpent was called laculus, a name that might have been seen as a cryptogram for Lucas. Finally, there might have been an alchemical symbolism involved too: the black Dragon that carries the gold ring with the red stone. The crest of Cranach’s coat of arms, incidentally, shows the serpent writhing on a wreath of thorns, possibly indicating the thorny way to perfection. It would be interesting to know whether the day chosen for the granting of these arms, Jan. 6, i.e., Epiphany or Dreikonigstag, held any deeper meaning. In German tradition the arms attributed to the Drei Konige-the Three Wise Men-were a black man, a starry field, and a silver half-moon, all three being alchemical symbols for nigredo and albedo, quite appropriate for the gold-bearing Magi searching for the King of Kings and the True Light.

    Dr. Edeltraud Wiessner, director of the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Wittenberg, has kindly supplied the following information about Cranach’s ownership of the Wittenberg pharmacy. Cranach bought it for 2,000 gulden from its founder, Martin Polich von Mellerstadt, who was also rector of the university. The purchase was presumably an investment, since Cranach was not an apothecary himself. He had the shop managed by professionals, Basilius Axt and later Caspar Pfreundt, who married Cranach’s youngest daughter, Anna, Dec. 13, 1550. The pharmacy, incidentally, was for centuries the only one in Wittenberg and therefore had no special name; in the mid-19th century it became the Adler-Apotheke and since 1945 has been called the Cranach-Apotheke.

    Ref: Werner Schade, Die Malerfamilie Cranach (Dresden, 1974) (American ed.: Cranach: A Family of Master Painters [New York, 1980]); Dieter Koepplin and Tilman Falk, Lukas Cranach; Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, exh. cat., 2 vols. (Stuttgart/Basel: Kunstmuseum Basel, 1974)

  • Carl Vehse

    More about Lucas Cranach from Helmut Nickel’s 1982 paper in the Metropolitan Museum Journal:

    Among the great German painters of the sixteenth century Lucas Cranach takes a special, and rather controversial, place. Though his humanist friends at the university of Wittenberg, Christoph Scheurl and Philipp Melanchthon, stated emphatically that he would be surpassed only by Albrecht Dürer, and even in spite of the high opinion Dürer himself had for Cranach [1], he has been treated with condescension and even scorn by art historians more often than not. Significantly this was done for the very same reasons that incited Dürer’s and Scheurl’s admiration, namely his charm, his indomitable productivity, and his amazing working speed. Thus he was put down as a facile painter of charming but superficial qualities, best known for a well-run workshop turning out series of credible portraits and of pretty, frivolous nudes under classical pretexts. These classical themes-usually suspected to be a rather transparent cover for a sixteenth-century version of pinup pictures-included Venus, Lucretia, sleeping nymphs, the Three Graces, and the Judgment of Paris.

    1. …Durer’s opinion was recorded, 1538, by the humanist Johann Stigel in his eulogy for Cranach’s son Hans (whose untimely death in 1537 is thought to have been the reason for the change in Cranach’s artist’s signet, the folding of the wings of his winged serpent): “Audio Albertum Durerum te (Lukas Cranach) omnibus nostrae aetatis pictoribus laude venustatis ac facilitatis praetulisse….”

  • Carl Vehse

    More about Lucas Cranach from Helmut Nickel’s 1982 paper in the Metropolitan Museum Journal:

    Among the great German painters of the sixteenth century Lucas Cranach takes a special, and rather controversial, place. Though his humanist friends at the university of Wittenberg, Christoph Scheurl and Philipp Melanchthon, stated emphatically that he would be surpassed only by Albrecht Dürer, and even in spite of the high opinion Dürer himself had for Cranach [1], he has been treated with condescension and even scorn by art historians more often than not. Significantly this was done for the very same reasons that incited Dürer’s and Scheurl’s admiration, namely his charm, his indomitable productivity, and his amazing working speed. Thus he was put down as a facile painter of charming but superficial qualities, best known for a well-run workshop turning out series of credible portraits and of pretty, frivolous nudes under classical pretexts. These classical themes-usually suspected to be a rather transparent cover for a sixteenth-century version of pinup pictures-included Venus, Lucretia, sleeping nymphs, the Three Graces, and the Judgment of Paris.

    1. …Durer’s opinion was recorded, 1538, by the humanist Johann Stigel in his eulogy for Cranach’s son Hans (whose untimely death in 1537 is thought to have been the reason for the change in Cranach’s artist’s signet, the folding of the wings of his winged serpent): “Audio Albertum Durerum te (Lukas Cranach) omnibus nostrae aetatis pictoribus laude venustatis ac facilitatis praetulisse….”

  • Grace

    Tom – 19

    “Because black cats are the hardest to find homes for, according to most shelters. Partly, people don’t feel they’re as cute as more colorful cats. And partly, many people are – unbelievably – superstitious. Yet across the pond in the U.K., black cats are considered symbols of good luck. They even adorn greeting cards that wish others well. Culture, you see?”

    “Superstition” has nothing to do with it. Black cats are not, according to Scripture representative of Satan,— but the “serpent” is clearly Satan, the Devil, and dragon.

    9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

    10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

    11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

    12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Revelation 12

    serpents definition Strongs Greek

    ophis -of’-is – a snake, figuratively, (as a type of sly cunning) an artful malicious person, especially Satan:–serpent.

    And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. John 19:19

    Cross – definition Strongs Greek – stauros – stow-ros’

    a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial; by implication, the atonement of Christ:–cross

  • Grace

    Tom – 19

    “Because black cats are the hardest to find homes for, according to most shelters. Partly, people don’t feel they’re as cute as more colorful cats. And partly, many people are – unbelievably – superstitious. Yet across the pond in the U.K., black cats are considered symbols of good luck. They even adorn greeting cards that wish others well. Culture, you see?”

    “Superstition” has nothing to do with it. Black cats are not, according to Scripture representative of Satan,— but the “serpent” is clearly Satan, the Devil, and dragon.

    9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

    10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

    11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

    12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Revelation 12

    serpents definition Strongs Greek

    ophis -of’-is – a snake, figuratively, (as a type of sly cunning) an artful malicious person, especially Satan:–serpent.

    And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. John 19:19

    Cross – definition Strongs Greek – stauros – stow-ros’

    a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial; by implication, the atonement of Christ:–cross

  • Abby

    I think I’m missing it. Are there several possible interpretations presented in the description you posted, Carl? Or is it one convluted description?

  • Abby

    I think I’m missing it. Are there several possible interpretations presented in the description you posted, Carl? Or is it one convluted description?

  • Grace

    Tom – 19

    “No. No one would know what it means. Most people have a hard enough time knowing what the Cross means.”

    I meant to use your statement above in post 25, regarding the “Cross” – I doubt anyone who is a Believert has a “hard time knowing what the Cross means”

  • Grace

    Tom – 19

    “No. No one would know what it means. Most people have a hard enough time knowing what the Cross means.”

    I meant to use your statement above in post 25, regarding the “Cross” – I doubt anyone who is a Believert has a “hard time knowing what the Cross means”

  • Carl Vehse

    BTW, Helmut Nickel has some good discussion of Alchemy (pp. 123-126), pointing out the colors of the three stages in “making gold” – the colors of Cranach’s symbol – black, white, and red.

  • Carl Vehse

    BTW, Helmut Nickel has some good discussion of Alchemy (pp. 123-126), pointing out the colors of the three stages in “making gold” – the colors of Cranach’s symbol – black, white, and red.

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, all symbols – including Scriptural symbols – have multiple meanings. So, background and context are critical to understanding them, just like everything else in the Bible. The same symbol can even communicate completely opposite meanings. For example, fire can be symbolic of both eternal torment (suffering in Hell) and the redemption of Creation (renewed heavens and Earth).

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, all symbols – including Scriptural symbols – have multiple meanings. So, background and context are critical to understanding them, just like everything else in the Bible. The same symbol can even communicate completely opposite meanings. For example, fire can be symbolic of both eternal torment (suffering in Hell) and the redemption of Creation (renewed heavens and Earth).

  • Carl Vehse

    I just noticed that my reference to Helmut Nickel’s paper is the same as Gene Veith gave in his Comment 6.

    Nickel’s interpretation is probably more than was on Frederick’s mind when he bestowed the emblem on Cranach. Also, since Cranach did not acquire the apothecary shop until 1520, it’s doubtful any alchemy inferences were included in selecting the symbol.

  • Carl Vehse

    I just noticed that my reference to Helmut Nickel’s paper is the same as Gene Veith gave in his Comment 6.

    Nickel’s interpretation is probably more than was on Frederick’s mind when he bestowed the emblem on Cranach. Also, since Cranach did not acquire the apothecary shop until 1520, it’s doubtful any alchemy inferences were included in selecting the symbol.

  • Tom Hering

    It’s possible that Frederick had alchemists and astrologers in his court, as did other princes of his time (not to mention Nancy Reagan :-) ). I haven’t yet been able to find anything that confirms this possibility. Keep in mind that alchemy and astrology were different philosophies back then than they are today. (They were, nonetheless, controversial back then too.)

  • Tom Hering

    It’s possible that Frederick had alchemists and astrologers in his court, as did other princes of his time (not to mention Nancy Reagan :-) ). I haven’t yet been able to find anything that confirms this possibility. Keep in mind that alchemy and astrology were different philosophies back then than they are today. (They were, nonetheless, controversial back then too.)

  • Carl Vehse

    What I would like to know is whether Cranach got to suggest what he wanted for his seal or whether Elector Frederick (or his department of knighthood seals) decided, based on what they knew about Cranach over the the four years he was the court painter.

  • Carl Vehse

    What I would like to know is whether Cranach got to suggest what he wanted for his seal or whether Elector Frederick (or his department of knighthood seals) decided, based on what they knew about Cranach over the the four years he was the court painter.


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