Friday, February 11, 2022

"Law and Gospel:" A new piece

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Yes, it's been a while since I graced this blog with my words. You had your break, but now the Curmudgeon is back – well, at least for now. This year's schedule is going to be grueling, so the words may come in at a slow trickle. What follows is a description of a new diptych, "Law and Gospel," which accompanied the piece when it was delivered to the client...

"Law and Gospel" Edward Riojas. 2021. Oil on wood.

This diptych attempts to convey, through symbolic reality, Law and Gospel. As Lutherans understand it, the two are so inseparable and so dependent on each other that it sometimes seems odd that “proper distinction” should ever enter into discussion. It is with the same spirit that this piece was created.

From its inception, shape and construction drove the piece. It was very intentional that the shapes of the panels echo the representation of the tablets of the Law which Moses carries. Moses is depicted as one who delivers the Law given by God, while Christ Jesus is depicted as THE perfect fulfillment of the same Law. The two literally hinge on each other.

In the left panel, Moses descends from the mountain. Behind him is the Shekinah – the cloud of Glory in which the Lord dwells. His presence is symbolized by the three rays emanating from an unseen source, for no one may see His face and live.

Unlike most depictions of Moses, two rays emanate from his shining face – not as the usual “horned” images of the prophet, but as a reflection of the Lord’s glory, Whom Moses has beheld. The two rays, however, have a horizontal trajectory and point to the giving of the Law to all mankind. The face of Moses was painted so that it is “uncomfortable” to look at it; His blue eyes seem to be etched with the sight of the Divine.

Moses, in his humility, does not dare touch the tablets, but holds them with the hem of his sleeves. The tablets are depicted in symbolic form, using a decidedly-Lutheran twist on the normal Hebrew interpretation. Typically, depictions of the tablets are boiled down – not to letters, but to numbers. Lutherans consider the first table to be comprised of three commandments, which tell us how we should live in relation to God, and the second table of seven commandments, which tell us how we should live in relation to our fellow man. The first table is placed on the right-hand side – the Hebraic ‘first page.’ Here it must be noted that, in its design, the crucified Jesus Christ is placed on the symbolic equivalent of the first table, confessing Him as God. Holy Scripture states that the tablets were written on front and back. Instead of simple Hebrew numbers, the opening words of each command are depicted, e.g., “You shall not murder,” etc., in Hebraic fashion. The last two commandments, as Lutherans count them, share the same opening words, giving a hint that the words must continue on the back of the tablet.

It is intentional, too, that Moses's garb prefigures a pastor’s chasuble and stole, which is adorned with pomegranates. The pomegranate’s double meaning has come down to us through the ages as symbolic of both the abundant blessings from the Lord and the Resurrection of the Lord, Who burst forth from the bonds of death, once for all.

In the right panel, Christ Jesus is depicted as the perfect Sacrifice which atones for the sins of the world and fulfills the Law’s perfect demands. His innocent blood pours down the cross. Blood and water pour from His pierced side, pointing to and confirming the waters of Holy Baptism into His death and resurrection. A skull and bones lie at the base of the cross, symbolizing not only Christ’s victory over death, but also alluding to the tomb of Adam, from whom sin was inherited.

Behind the crucified Christ, the outline of the temple can be seen. Sacrificial smoke and prayerful incense rise, but there is an end to both as Christ becomes THE sacrifice and as He becomes our only mediator through prayer. Even in death, Jesus displays His glory as a Person of the Holy Trinity through the symbolic use of the tri-radiant nimbus, echoing back to the Shekinah and the Giver of the Law.


Giclée prints of "Law and Gospel" are now available by contacting the artist.
Sizes/Prices of prints:
40" [wide] x 28.8" / $215
36" x 26" / $180
24" x 17.3" / $120
18" x 13" / $80
To order this print or any other that I offer, please email me at


  1. Thank you Ed. If you are able to disclose, what will the space be where this piece finds its home? How large is it?

    1. It is in a private home. It's approximately 50" wide by 38" tall, and half that when fully closed.