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portraits of christ I

to the
four gospels

critical minds
contemplative hearts


with Fr. Vincent Pizzuto, PhD


Father Vincent Pizzuto, PhD is Professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Mysticism in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco. He received his doctorate in New Testament Exegesis from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (2003) and has since published and presented internationally in the areas of New Testament christology, ecological discipleship, marriage equality, inter-religious dialogue, Christian mysticism and contemplative Christian spirituality. In 2018 he published his second book, Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life with Liturgical Press; translated in Spanish, Contemplar a Cristo: Los Evangelios y la vida interior, (Desclée de Brouwer) in January 2022. As an Episcopal priest Fr. Vincent serves as Vicar of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church and Retreat House in Inverness, California. Working for the advancement of contemplative Christianity, he has reinvigorated the mission and ministry of St. Columba’s through the introduction of contemplative eucharistic liturgies, public lectures, online courses, directed retreats, thought provoking sermons, an online blog and a weekly online study of his book through the Meditation Chapel.


Literary Brushstrokes

Imagine viewing a museum exhibition of hundreds of portraits of Christ down through the ages. Jesus is depicted variously as a humble shepherd, a Byzantine Emperor, or even a slain Lamb. Although Jesus was, in fact, none of these in any historical sense, each of the museum portraits would nevertheless communicate something truthful about his identity as the "Good Shepherd," "Christ the King," or the "Lamb of God."

What then, if we were to read the four gospels much like these portraits, each consisting of unique "literary brushstrokes" that communicate something truthful about Jesus even if, at times, at the expense of historical detail?  Were Jesus' last words from the Cross, "My God, why have you forsaken me!" as Mark and Matthew tell us? Or did he cry out, "Into your hands I commend my spirit!" as Luke indicates. It could not have been both. When we misread the gospels as objective history, these discrepancies become unnecessarily problematic. But when we interpret them as literary portraits of Christ -- history told through the theological lens of each Evangelist -- apparent contradictions are appreciated as artistic 'brushstrokes' intended to reveal the deepest truths about Jesus of Nazareth which history alone could never convey.

Especially designed for contemplatives, this first series of classes begins a rich, meditative, and intellectually stimulating exploration of the four gospels and the tools that help us to interpret them in ways that ground the life and practice of contemplative Christians today.


To learn to read the gospels as theological "Portraits of Christ," whose literary "brushstrokes" reveal Christ in unique ways

To examine not only the stories in the gospels but also the story of  the gospels themselves, how they came to be written, and what this teaches us about how to interpret them

To distinguish the two senses of scripture -- the Literal (i.e., literary or plain sense) and the Mystical (i.e., the spiritual sense), and how each informs the other

To foster, for contemplatives, the capacity for a more prayerful rumination and "Lectio Divina" on the gospels


  • Seven pre-recorded online zoom presentations by Fr. Vincent, originally recorded in Spring 2022 with participants to facilitate their own self-paced study of the material

  • Media-rich "Captivate Lectures" that also can be watched repeatedly at your own pace


  • Full access to educational tools, including: charts, graphs, maps, timelines, summaries, published articles, videos, presenter notes, personal journals, prompts for Lectio Divina, and  worksheets all designed to engage participants in learning how to interpret the gospels with critical minds and pray them with contemplative hearts​


Cost: $150 

Generous scholarships available.

course materials

Zoom link and password protected materials will be available here to registered participants.


I wish to take the course but have limited financial resources. What should I do?

Scholarships are available for those in need of financial assistance in order to ensure that no one is turned away from our programming for lack of funds. If you are in need of financial assistance, please contact our administrator, Anna Haight, who will work with you confidentially to provide the assistance you need. Anna may be emailed here.

How do I contribute to the Scholarship Fund?

The St. Columba’s Scholarship Fund is an essential way we ensure that no one is turned away from our programing due to lack of funds. For those who are able to afford an additional amount toward our Scholarship fund, simply indicate the amount of your contribution in the PayPal form. All monies donated to our Scholarship fund are put into a restricted account to be used only for the purposes of providing those in need with access to our programming. While our workshops do incur a cost on our staff and facilities, Fr. Vincent does not accept any financial stipends for his contributions which allows us to offer rich and meaningful content while providing revenue in support of our mission and ministry.


I am unfamiliar with the Bible. May I still take this course?

Yes!  Anyone who is interested and willing to put in a bit of effort will learn much. The course is designed to move at a gradual meditative pace with many opportunities for self-paced study throughout the week between the live Zoom presentations. 

What materials do I need to take the course?

Participants should have access to a critical English translation of the Bible. Access to the New Revised Standard Version can be found at Bible Gateway free of charge. Ideally, however, a printed copy of the Bible will be better. Since we are studying the Bible in English, it helps for various participants to have different versions of the Bible as this can illuminate how nuances in translation effect meaning. To that end, Fr. Vincent recommends the purchase any one of the following three versions. Please click on the underlined price for each version to link directly to that edition.


The New Revised Standard Version (Oxford Annotated Edition)  Soft Cover: $16; Hard Cover: $34

Benefits: Among the most critical modern English translation produced by the National Council of Churches. This is the version used on Sundays in the Episcopal Church as well as many mainline Protestant churches.

The New Jerusalem Bible (Study Edition)  Hardcover: $73

Benefits: This is the version Fr. Vincent will teach from throughout the series. However, some may not consider this correspondence a ‘benefit’ because having alternative translations helps us to see potential variations in meaning.

The New American Bible (Anselm Academic Study Edition)  Paperback: $36

Benefits: This is the version used on Sundays in the Roman Catholic Church.

Other Materials Needed:

A Notebook: For those who wish to print and collate the materials presented during the course, we recommend a three-ring binder. Computer or other device with WiFi and Zoom access.

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