contemporary visual representations of Jesus portray him as sexless, pained, anaemic, etc. I was amazed to read this article which describes how Jesus was portrayed in Europe (German, Dutch artists) in the 16th Century. Basically, images of Jesus were created were Jesus was sexually aroused on the cross! (the erection was usually hidden under some cloth - but the mountain peak under the loin cloth was unmistakable). In those days, sexuality was apparently seen as a very human trait, something Jesus would have experienced. Showing Jesus with an erection was seen as a celebration of his humanity. Basically, these paintings have been hidden away for centuries - they would be seen as an embarrassment by "the church" today perhaps. It's wierd the way Jesus is portrayed as sexless today, and yet contemporary Christian churches are utterly obsessed with sex (and have completely forgotten about Jesus' real mission - which was social justice). Our Jesus, ourselves The article is a bit long, here is the relevant part: THERE IS... a long-lost body of work that casts the image of Jesus in a much different light ? one that?s far more relevant for our time. Speaking to us more eloquently than Gibson?s blood, nails, and cat-o?-nine tails are the paintings by 16th-century Dutch and German artists that show the crucified or suffering Jesus with an erection. The most noted and sexually explicit of these are Maerten van Heemskerck?s series Man of Sorrows (16th-century shorthand for the image of the suffering Jesus) from 1525 to 1550; Marcus Gheeraerts?s Christ As Victor over Life and Death from 1560, and Ludwig Krug?s woodcut Man of Sorrows from 1520. Each of these features an aroused Jesus in the throes of his Passion. In their time, these paintings were fully accepted as religious art and understood to be theologically appropriate. By the 19th century, however, they had become artistic and religious embarrassments. It was only in 1983, with the publication of Leo Steinberg?s superb The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion (University of Chicago Press), that they resurfaced. Looking at these paintings and woodcuts today, it is impossible not to be shocked. There is little doubt that the images are erotic. Although Jesus? genitals are always covered with a cloth, there is no question that his penis is erect and that the artist intends to portray a sexual image. In other paintings and statues of the day, Jesus? genitals are indicated by extravagantly folded cloth coverings; in still others, his hands or fingers are pointing to, even manipulating, his genitals. These paintings of the suffering Jesus capture the multiple meanings of the word "passion." As startling as these images may be to our modern sensibilities ? more shocking, certainly, than anything found in Gibson?s Passion ? they made complete sense at the time of their creation. As opposed to Gibson?s bloody exercise in body demolition, these works of art celebrated Jesus? humanness. In theological terms, this is called the mystery of the Incarnation. How better to demonstrate Jesus? manhood than by ostentatiously displaying his, well, manhood. But these paintings also spoke to a larger matter ? one too often overlooked today, so enmeshed are we in commercialized sexuality and cultural prudery. These painting tell us that sexuality is sacred and holy. By rendering Jesus as a man who was born without shame (i.e., original sin) and who publicly exhibited sexual arousal, the artists were celebrating all human sexuality. Now, here?s the message: there is nothing shameful about sex ? look, even Jesus can be aroused. That 16th-century artists use the imagery of sexual excitement to depict Jesus? humanity, while the dominant 20th-century image of Jesus is one of pain and suffering, shows how far we have come from understanding what it means to be human. While it could never be argued that 16th-century Europe was a paragon of sexual liberation ? sodomites were burned at the stake, and women were sexual chattel ? these paintings reveal ideas about sexuality that are more advanced, in some ways, than the ones we embrace now. Too often today, sex and the body are ultimately viewed as shameful and in need of regulation. We see this in nearly all aspects of an increasingly repressive culture ? in more censorship (see "Indecent Proposal," in this section), in attacks on sex education in schools, in lack of funding for HIV/AIDS-prevention programs. But nowhere is this modern repressiveness better seen than in the battle against same-sex marriage. No one believes that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is going to stop them from having sex, or living together in happy relationships. What same-sex-marriage opponents do believe is that this is the last symbolic stand they can take against the social acceptance of homosexuality ? one of the last bastions of regulated sexuality. THINK OF HOW different our lives would be if these 16th-century images were accepted as part of our contemporary religious and secular life. Imagine if they were hanging in churches and cathedrals and reproduced in prayer books as simply one more aspect of a devout Christian?s spiritual life. Would we have the same sort of culture of sexual shame? Would children ? having been brought up with images of a sexualized Jesus in a religious context ? believe that sex was a "dirty" impediment to spiritual life? Would we have the same negative attitudes toward nudity and sexual desire that we have now? And when young Christian women and men ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?", would their answers differ from those of today?