We all have our projects to help pass the time during lockdown. For some it's knitting, or doing jigsaws, or playing video games—whatever lights your candle, it's all good. My as-it-were jigsaw is translating Vida's 1535 Latin epic about the life of Christ, The Christiad, into English, line by line. That link takes you to the blog I've made for this busy-work. I'm enjoying it, although (as with jigsaws and crosswords and the like) part of the enjoyment is the knowledge that it's quite useless. There are several translations of Vida into English already; the poem itself is, by critical consensus, dull and inert, more interesting for its influence on later literature (Milton drew on it extensively for Paradise Lost for instance) than itself. 16th- and 17th-century epic is not my period, so I'm not doing this in order to be generative in any scholarly sense. But taking it a line at a time, working out the meaning and then chosing the right English word to express that, like choosing the right jigsaw piece to fit at a particular place in the larger puzzle, is absorbing and satisfying to me. It might look tedious and baffling to you, but that's alright. You can do you, and leave me to my abstruse pleasures.
It's Easter, though, and one consequence of spending time with Vida is that it has taken me back to the New Testament—also very interesting. Vida's poem is of necessity a reading, or interpretation, of the evangelists' account. The choices he makes, the little suppressions and additions, say a lot about his own theological assumptions and the shape of his belief. Today is Easter Saturday, and I've got to Christ hearing that Lazarus is sick, and resolving to go visit him. Vida's Lazarus is a very rich man, a mover-and-shaker, although I don't believe that's how the gospels portray him.
Hic subito, non læta ferens, gravis impulit aures 
nuntius, atque animum rumore momordit amaro.
Lazarus haud procul hinc Bethanes regna tenebat,
dives opum, clarus genus alto a sanguine regum.
Nam pater ingentes Syriæ frenaverat oras,
vique sibi captas quondam subiecerat urbis. 
Nemo illo hospitibus facilis magis: omnibus illa
noctes atque dies domus ultro oblata patebat.
Huc etiam persæpe ipsum succedere Christum
haud piguit creberque domus indulsit amicae
hospitio, atque deum posita se nube retexit. 
Hunc igitur postquam morientem accepit, et acri
vix morbo correptum, auras haurire supremas
et quasi jam leti portas luctarier ante,
demisit lacrymas, sociisque hæc edidit ore:
“Cedamus. Leto actutum revocandus amicus 
in lucem, modo me summus pater audiat ipse,
atque suas velit hic, ut sæpe, ostendere vires.”
Hæc ait, et gressum Bethanae tendit ad urbem.
Prosequitur comitum manus ingens atque videndi
innumeri studio socios se protinus addunt. 
Then suddenly all happiness was hushed: a grave So: this morning, posting this, I was very struck in particular by the throwaway reference in line 110. If I knew my theology and traditions of Biblical interpretation better I'm sure I'd know the answer; as it was I could only ask the question:
messenger came, hurting their hearts with sharp news.
It was Lazarus, ruler of nearby Bethany:
a very wealthy man, and of royal bloodline
(his father had quelled rebellion on Syria’s coast
and conquered many cities there by force). 
No one was more hospitable to guests: all
were welcome to his house, both night and day,
and Christ himself was often a visitor
relaxing in that friendly home, able there
to set-aside the cloud that hid his godhood. 
So when he heard that this man was dying, cruel
disease wasting him—that he was breathing his last
and struggling at the very gates of death—
he shed tears, and spoke to his disciples:
“we have to go. Our friend must be recalled 
into the light, if the supreme Father will hear my words,
once more will use this man to show his strength.”
He spoke, and then went straight to Bethany.
A crowd followed him, eager to see the man live
and many more joined with them on the way. 
More striking is line 110. What do you think Vida means when he says that, in Lazarus's house (and by implication not elsewhere) Christ ‘set aside’ the ‘cloud’ (nūbēs) that hid his godhood? To me it suggests that Christ generally went around disguising that he was divine, something that would otherwise have been unmissably obvious to everyone and which he was obliged actively to occlude. But isn't that the very opposite of what the gospels imply? Aren't Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all about Jesus travelling far and wide to spread the good news of his divinity?Is this a significant point of discussion amongst Christians? Is it, for instance, commonly accepted that Christ went about veiling his otherwise-too-obvious godhood from people? I just don't know.
My reading of this line, for what it's worth: this, as the old deconstructivist jargon has it, is the problematic of Vida's poem. Christ in the gospels is a simple man, a carpenter's son. He spends his time with ordinary people, not with kings and princes. The authorities think him merely a rabble rouser and criminal; unable to see that he is divine they execute him as a low criminal. The message he brings is not for an elite, but for everyone; it is, in both senses of the word, common. It is one of the creative paradoxes of the gospels that this low-born ordinary man is also the king of kings, literally God come to earth.
I think that the Christiad simply finds it hard to believe that God could walk among us and nobody notice. Surely it must have been obvious! And yet, the NT makes manifest, not only wasn't it obvious to most people, even some of Christ's closest followers doubted it. Perhaps, Vida intimates—and he doesn't go much beyond hinting at this, in his poem—that was because, on most occasions, Christ deliberately hid his divinity from mortal eyes. Why? Well the ways of God are ineffable, so who knows. I mean, it seems to me a radically point-missing piece of post-hoc rationalisation, and rather demeaning than anything else (as if Christ is Cyclops from the X-Men, veiling his uncontrollable eye-beams behind a specially constructed visor). But what do I know?
At any rate: happy Easter everyone! Lockdown notwithstanding.