Crucifixion (top) and Brazen Serpent (bottom)

Designer: George Hedgeland

Chapel, Jesus College, Oxford


Photographer: Colin Price (2016)

I am grateful to the Rev. Mr Colin Bennetts, Chaplain of Jesus College, Oxford, and the Rev. Mr Dennis Whitley, the former Chaplain, for providing me with the date of this stained glass (1977).— George P. Landow

The Book of Numbers relates that after the Lord sent a plague of serpents to punish the Jews for their lack of faith, Moses interceded with God and was instructed: “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). Although Hedgeland’s depiction of the brazen serpent is a standard type, his choice of this particular part of the gospels as an antitype is not, since the expected antitype — fulfillment of the type — is the Crucifixion. In John 3:14 Christ proclaims "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wildemess, even so must the Son of man be lifted up," these words taught Christians to see the brazen serpent as a divinely authenticated type of the Crucifixion. Commentators also emphasize that it is an image of saving faith. According to the usual reading of this type, the brazen serpent in the wilderness, which God gave to the people when they repented of their lack of faith, teaches man that he can be saved only by faith in Christ crucified. —

Related material

  • The brazen serpent & the risen Christ, Norwich Cathedral (1854)
  • Biblical types — an introduction
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