4D Adaptation and/as Transcodification/1
Session 4 – July 2, 15:30 – 17:30
Doubting Thomas: An Intermedial Journey through the Exegesis of John 20:24-29
The tradition of the interpretation of John 20:24-29 is dominated by a misunderstanding: even though absolutely no textual evidence exists for Thomas having actually touched Christ’s wounds, both the overwhelming majority of canonical scholarly exegesis up to the Reformation and, at least as importantly, the reception of the episode as reflected in the common understanding and popular culture to this day, stubbornly present a version in which Thomas “put[s his] hand into [Christ’s] side” (John 20:24). The diffusion of this interpretation has not been limited to verbal media, but has spawned a rich and varied iconographic production, making the defining gesture of the “Doubting Thomas” cultural icon, the penetration of Christ’s wound by the disciple’s fingers, one of the most intermedially productive moments in the history of Western culture.
In my paper I will focus on the analysis of a single moment of this long history, Caravaggio’s painting Doubting Thomas. My aim is to show how the peculiarities of this single text, which are of course inseparable from its medium, manage to throw light on the rationale behind the puzzling persistence and ubiquitousness of the misunderstanding of John’s text, revealing it as a clue to some fundamental preconditions of religious meaning-making which have exerted a powerful, but hitherto largely undetected, influence on the whole history of Christian tradition.