AN ISSUES BOOK REVIEW
Multitudes: The Gospel of Matthew
with paintings by Steffi Geiser Rubin
(San Francisco: Jews for Jesus, 1998) 71 pp.

If you’re Jewish, you may experience a moment of cognitive dissonance when you first see the cover of Multitudes. And that may continue as you look inside.

The book is an illustrated version of the Gospel of Matthew, a book from the New Testament, which most Jewish people assume is a “Christian” (goyish) collection of writings. But as those Jewish punims stare back at you from the cover, and as you read the text with words like tzedekah and Shabbat and listen to Yeshua (Jesus) quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, you may begin to scratch your head.

 Sign of Jonah

  • Hebrew text in the painting: Then Jonah prayed to Adonai his God from the belly of the fish (Jonah 2:2)
  • Artist’s Note: Asked for a sign from heaven, Yeshua answers obliquely, “You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times!” (Matthew 16:3). The overcast, red sky Yeshua references dominates the left side of this painting. Speaking in parables, He declares that the only sign that this wicked generation will see is the sign of Jonah (verse 4). The painting shows the reluctant ancient prophet encased in the abdomen of the fish. As Jonah waited three days to be released, the Son of Man will be in the bowels of the earth for three days, until His promised resurrection.

Jewish artist Steffi Geiser Rubin’s twenty paintings, commissioned especially for this project, dramatically portray the Jewish world of Yeshua’s time. Rubin’s paintings use vibrant colors in a style that is representational (recognizable), yet somewhat abstract, adorned with hand-lettered Hebrew calligraphy from the Scriptures.

Matthew, a Jew who left his job as a tax collector to follow Jesus, was an eyewitness to the life of the one who claimed to be the Jewish Messiah. In his Gospel, Matthew documents many of the Messianic prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus claimed to fulfill.

BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES

  • Hebrew text in the painting: Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Adonai  (Psalm 118:26)
  • Artist’s Note: Yeshua scans the crowds in Jerusalem, searching for faith. Longing to gather Jerusalem’s children, He expresses grief and disappointment, leaving them with the promise: “I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai—blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39). The illustration imagines the day when that cry of welcome from Psalm 118:26 resounds from within the walls of the ancient city, filling the air, and inviting Yeshua to enter through its ancient gates.

ONE WILL BE LEFT

  • Hebrew text in the painting: The rising sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light (Isaiah 13:10b)
  • Artist’s Note: Matthew’s proclamations of the end times unleash a series of apocalyptic images. Buildings razed to the ground, with not one stone standing upon another. Nations at war. Abominations. The painting depicts the darkened sky, a backdrop for the text from Isaiah 13:10. In the foreground a man working in a wheat field looks up in disbelief. “As it was in the days of Noah, two men will be working outdoors; one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:40). The expression on the man’s face unveils both shock and regret.

Multitudes is an ongoing project that includes a traveling exhibition, the fine art book and related materials. To learn more, and to see if there will be an exhibition in your area, please visit www.themultitudes.com.
-reviewed by Matt Sieger