Article of the Week | BYU Studies

Article of the Week

Jesus Christ before Caiaphas
March 19, 2018
Article of the Week
The Paradox of Silence in the Arts and Religion
Author Jon D. Green,

This article explores the meaning of silence in the arts and in religion. Jesus' silence before his judges stands as a testament of his divinity.

In view of the fact that the arts of modernism have forsaken the Divine as a valid source of certainty, the perceived silence of heaven has driven some modern artists, consciously or instinctively, to express this untenable breach between humanity and God in a silent scream, an image fraught with paradox and frustration.

The image of a scream sans sound in the major media of our century rivets our attention on a world both overwrought with the power to annihilate the human race and overcome by the presence of evil in the absence of God. It is almost as if our artists are unwittingly repeating Augustine's earnest but futile supplication, "Here are my ears, God speak to them!"

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Jesus' statement indicates that silence is not absolute, that the responsibility to hear and interpret lies within the listener.

The pivotal artists of our time in music, film, and painting, who have lived throughout the political and psychological eruptions of the past hundred years or so, have pushed the expressive capabilities of their mediums to the threshold of the abyss, reducing their voices to the mute horror of a silent scream in the face of a nonexistent God. The interpretations of silences in the scriptures stand in stark contrast to those images in the arts. Powerful silences in the scriptures and in religious contexts, by contrast, are used to convey another message: God is