1st Edition

Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World The Story of the World’s Most Famous Christian Painting

Edited By Markus Bockmuehl Copyright 2025
    216 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides an up-to-date introduction to the religious and artistic story behind The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. Created in the mid-nineteenth century, it is thought to be the most widely exhibited work of art in history and is arguably the most widely known Christian painting to this day. The subject matter provides a rich wealth of resources, touching on the extraordinary artistic renewal associated with the Oxford Movement, its religious and intellectual revolution in recovering early Christian tropes and motives of scriptural interpretation. The book also considers the painting’s impact on the religious and cultural life of the British Empire as its tour served not just spiritual edification but the promotion of imperial values. The contributions reflect on concerns of decolonization and illustrate religious art's ability to engage relevantly with contemporary concerns. Enabling a fresh encounter with the painting, this volume will be of interest to theologians, biblical scholars and historians.


    Sir Jonathan Phillips

    1 Introduction

    Markus Bockmuehl

    2 William Holman Hunt’s Religious and Historical Context

    Frances Knight

    3 Pre-Raphaelite Light: Hunt’s Vision of Salvation

    Ayla Lepine

    4 Christina Rossetti’s Christology

    Rebekah Lamb

    5 The Light of the World on Tour

    Ian W. Archer

    6 Revelation 3.20 in the Light of The Light of the World

    Jamie Davies   

    7 A Disturbing Painting

    Jeremy Begbie

    8 Postcolonialism and Ways of Seeing Light of the World

    Renie Chow Choy

    9 Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World and Iconography: ‘In Your Light We See Light’

    John Behr

    10 Seeing God Through Portrait Paintings of Displaced Women: An Aesthetics of Hospitality

    Hannah Rose Thomas

    11 The Light of the World and the Dynamics of Conversion

    Ben Quash


    Markus Bockmuehl is a Fellow of Keble College and Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford, UK.