QUICK LINKS

  • w-facebook
  • Twitter Clean
  • YouTube - White Circle
  • Pinterest - White Circle
  • w-flickr

© 2019 by Richmond Catholic Theatre

                          a 501(c) 3 organization

Biblical References

Book of Leviticus

What is the significance of the Black Bottle Man ripping out the Book of Leviticus?

The Book of Leviticus, or the wayyiqra, meaning 'And He Called,' in the Hebrew Torah, focuses on the Levi tribe of Israel, and specifically its priests and priestly duties regarding divine worship. 

The account starts in the 2nd year after the Israelites left bonded in Egypt and were in the wilderness, where they would be for an additional 38 years. The Book of Exodus, the book before Leviticus, detailed the prescription for altars and worship given to God. This Book goes into much more specific detail of the different kinds of worship, serving as a manual for that liturgy. 

To understand the book properly one must bear in mind two basic reference points: the first being that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is infinitely holy, inaccessible to man (Ex. 19:21), and therefore completely transcendent; the second, that despite this he dwells in the midst of his people (Lev. 23:32, 26:12). Therefore he asks of them, not only reverence, love, and adoration, but a holiness of life which enables them to live as his true children forever in his presence (Lev. 11:44, 19:2). Worship and holiness of life are the two main concerns of Leviticus. 

External public worship of Yahweh, the only God and Lord of the universe, was of the incredibly important for Israel, especially worship sacrifices. There were many different kinds of worship sacrifices, and one of the most significant roles was in the atonement of personal sin, in order to restore right relationship with God, that which sin destroys. Thus, the objective of all sacrifices was to "engrave one the people's minds the notion of God's sublime holiness and man's unworthiness to enter his presence."

Thus, the Book of Leviticus is regarded as a book full of prescriptions for the people of Israel and continues to be adhered to in the present day by people of the Jewish faith. However, the Christian faith, especially the Roman Catholic Church, hold that Christ fulfilled all Old Testament law. 

The New Testament gives us the key that interprets the whole of the Old Testament. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who offers the perfect sacrifice, the perfect worship that fulfills all worship, fulfilling the original plan of creation and making it possible for the rest of us to do so as well. He accomplishes this end not by observing Levitical sacrifices with fastidious correctness, but by substituting himself as the sinless victim, the Paschal Lamb. As Cardinal Ratzinger beautifully says:

The Shepherd [of Israel] has become a Lamb. The vision of the lamb that appears in the story of Isaac, the lamb that gets entangled in the undergrowth and ransoms the son, has become a reality; the Lord became a Lamb; he allows himself to be bound and sacrificed, to deliver us.

In so doing he brings to an end the entire sacrificial system contained in Leviticus. He is the reality that the symbols of the Jewish religion point to. He is the agent in whose person and by whose action fallen human beings can resume their rightful place as royal priests who bring the world back to its original purpose, who help the universe achieve its own destiny. That is what is at stake!

The playwright, Craig Russell, chose the Book of Leviticus as the portion that the Black Bottle Man ripped out of the Bible to foreshadow the skin signs. From a director's perspective, we are focusing on that as well as well as to set up a kind of trap for Rembrandt and his family. The trap was that of relying upon themselves, when Christ has already won the war. 

Sources:

A. Fuentes, Catholic Answers Magazine, s.v. "Leviticus", last modified July 1, 1993, https://www.catholic.com/index.php/magazine/print-edition/leviticus.

The Theology of the Liturgy," in Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, ed. Monti Reid, O.S.B. (Farnborough: Saint Michael's Abbey Press, 2003), 24.

Kwasniewski, Peter. "Leviticus and the True Sacrifice." CatholicCulture.org, July 2009. Accessed January 2019. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9216.

Jesus Christ

Who is 'Jesus Lord' referred to by Billy?

Jesus Christ, also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is "Word of God made flesh, Who redeemed man by His Death on the Cross, and Whose Divine mission is continued by the ministry of the Church."

81. What is the meaning of the name “Jesus”?

430-435
452

Given by the angel at the time of the Annunciation, the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. The name expresses his identity and his mission “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Peter proclaimed that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12).

82. Why is Jesus called “Christ”?

436-440
453

“Christ” in Greek, “Messiah” in Hebrew, means the “anointed one”. Jesus is the Christ because he is consecrated by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit for his redeeming mission. He is the Messiah awaited by Israel, sent into the world by the Father. Jesus accepted the title of Messiah but he made the meaning of the term clear: “come down from heaven” (John3:13), crucified and then risen , he is the Suffering Servant “who gives his life as a ransom for the many” (Matthew 20:28). From the name Christ comes our name of Christian.

83. In what sense is Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God?

441-445
454

Jesus is the Son of God in a unique and perfect way. At the time of his Baptism and his Transfiguration, the voice of the Father designated Jesus as his “beloved Son”. In presenting himself as the Son who “knows the Father” (Matthew 11:27), Jesus affirmed his singular and eternal relationship with God his Father. He is “the Only Begotten Son of God” (1 John 4:9), the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the central figure of apostolic preaching. The apostles saw “his glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).

84. What is the meaning of the title “Lord”?

446-451 
455

In the Bible this title regularly designates God as Sovereign. Jesus ascribed this title to himself and revealed his divine sovereignty by his power over nature, over demons, over sin, and over death, above all by his own Resurrection. The first Christian creeds proclaimed that the power, the honor, and the glory that are due to God the Father also belong to Jesus: God “has given him the name which is above every other name” (Philippians 2:9). He is the Lord of the world and of history, the only One to whom we must completely submit our personal freedom.

Sources:

A. J. Maas, Catholic Answers Encyclopedia, s.v. "Jesus Christ God the Son, Messiah of Israel", https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/jesus-christ.

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. Accessed February 20, 
 2019, http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html.

Book of Revelation

What is the quotation in the Book of Revelation that Abraham claims makes the quotation in the Book of Leviticus obsolete? Why?

The quotation referenced in the Book of Leviticus was 19:28, "Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD."

Biblical scholars have noted that during the time of Leviticus, tattoos of the names of their masters were made upon slaves and pagan worshippers would often tattoo the name of a god to whom they considered themselves a slave. This prohibition against tattoos is also a prohibition against pagan worship.

There are two quotations in the Book of Revelation that fit the reference by Abraham in Black Bottle Man. The first of which is Revelation 7: 2-4 and the second of which is Revelation 22:4:

Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites. (Rev. 7:2-4)

They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Rev. 22:4)

In both of these passages, the marking is indicative of being chosen and in God's favor. This directly contradicts what the Preacher in Black Bottle Man tells Rembrandt and Abraham. Had Abraham and the Preacher been able to exchange bible verses about signs placed upon the body, it is reasonable to believe that Abraham would have cited the above verses in support of his position that markings on the skin do not result in the person's absolute damnation. 

Sources:

Revelation 7:2-4 (New Revised American Standard Version)

Revelation 22:4 (New Revised American Standard Version)

John Paul II. An Apostolic Letter Issued "Letter to Artists", To all who are passionately dedicated 
to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999.

John 1:1: "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

Why is the structure of Gail's hobo signs referred to by the Black Bottle Man as the Word?

The allusion created when naming Gail's hobo sign structure 'the Word' is to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. In the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of St John, he commences his book with

 

In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

This introduction calls the reader back to very first book of Holy Scripture, Genesis, a book that also begins with "In the beginning." In this way the gospel writer makes a claim about Jesus Christ, that he is the Logos or the ultimate intelligibility of reality -- a hellenistic philosophical ideal sought by Greeks -- and the personified preexistent Wisdom as the instrument of God's creative activity as well as the dynamic, creative word of God -- fulfilling the messianic prophecy sought by those of Jewish faith. Moreover, the sentence structure, a staircase parallelism, uses the verb 'was' in three different ways -- the first to mean existence, the second referring to relationship and the third predication. 

Thus, for context in the Black Bottle Man, the Gospel writer's introduction to the life of Christ 1. places Christ in Trinitarian relationship with God and the Holy Spirit from the very beginning of existence, 2. inextricably unifies the creative actions of the Creator at the beginning of existence with His created Son, the Word of God, and 3. Christ, as created by God and in the act of creating in communion with God and the Holy Spirit, is uniquely artistic. 

By naming Gail's creation 'the Word,' her work harkens back to the Creator.  In the conflict of the play, Gail and Rembrandt are faced with a dilemma/test as she creates this structure: to whom does the credit belong? Is this structure, something created from Gail's artistic vision and Rembrandt's telling of his eventful past, disseminating from her alone? Or is she crafting something from that which had already been created? This dilemma mirrors the final one -- whose effort is needed to defeat the devil? 

In the end, Gail and Rembrandt destroy her structure, 'giving up' instead of defeating the devil through her work.  That action results in the complete defeat of the devil because they submit themselves to Christ's Holy Will. Christ, through His Passion, Cross and Resurrection, has defeated sin, death and the devil. (Even within this victory, mankind maintains free will, allowing one (as in the case of Annie in Black Bottle Man) to sell one's soul to the devil.) Thus, in 'giving up,' they gave all glory and honor to God, instead of themselves, which was the snare in which the devil sought to capture Gail and Rembrandt.

Gail's work is born out of reflection on the Creator's work, calling to mind this passage from St Pope John Paul II's 1993 Letter to Artists,

None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.

Sources:

John 1:1-4 (New Revised American Standard Version)

John Paul II. An Apostolic Letter Issued "Letter to Artists", To all who are passionately dedicated 
to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999.