Simon the Cyrene

Jesus and Simon Cyrene

Acrylic on canvas, 16″x20″, 2012

Print available:

8″ x 10″ print on standard card stock. Upgraded papers and framing options are also available on the order page.

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I painted this picture for an Easter art display at our church called “No Greater Love”. I did quite a bit of research because I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. While we don’t know whether Simon the Cyrene was black, biblical scholars agree that he was from the area of Libya in northern Africa. The possibility certainly exists that he was darker skinned than others in the crowd that day.

While many traditional paintings of Simon of Cyrene depict an elderly saint-like man, I imagine him to be large and strong. The Roman soldiers picked him out of the crowd when Jesus was too weak to continue carrying the cross on his own. It makes sense to me that they would choose a man who looked like he could complete the task, so they wouldn’t have to repeat the process.

Then comes the matter of the cross itself. Was Jesus carrying the full cross, or the cross beam? Again, we don’t know, but most historians seem to agree that the protocol of the time was to carry the cross beam, which is in contrast to most artwork of Jesus carrying the cross.

Lastly, did Simon pick up the cross and carry it wholesale, or was Jesus still carrying it too? We know for a fact that Jesus did carry his own cross, and the Gospel of John doesn’t mention Simon of Cyrene. Yet we also know from the other three gospels that Simon’s intervention was needed. It seems quite possible that Jesus was so physically exhausted that he could no longer go on, and therefore Simon picked up the cross and carried it the rest of the way. On the other hand, as many traditional paintings depict, perhaps Simon bore the cross simultaneously behind Jesus.

Since we don’t know definitively, I decided to skirt the issue and show the moment that Simon intervened; prior to him actually bearing the cross.

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