Edinburgh City Council is backing an arts exhibition costing around £100,000 to mark 400 years of the King James Bible – including burning a sculpted head of Jesus.
Atheist artist, David Mach, will make the head out of matches and then set light to it before putting the burned remains on display in the City Art Centre, Edinburgh.
It is part of a large-scale exhibition to mark 400 years of the King James Bible, for which Edinburgh City Council has contributed £17,500.
The whole exhibition will cost £97,500 – but most of that is expected to be paid for by admission fees and retail sales.
The Christian Institute called the stunt “appalling”, saying it will cause unnecessary upset and offence to many Christians. But the artist says it is “beautiful and good”.
Spokesman Mike Judge said: “This is typical of everything Christians have come to expect from local authorities’ attitudes to Christianity.
“Can you imagine them doing this to an image of Mohammed? No, nor can I.”
The exhibit, due to open in July and run until October, will also include cinematic displays inspired by Bible stories and sculptures of the crucifixion made out of coat hangers.
Artist David Mach defended the Jesus head burning, saying he will also burn a head representing the Devil.
He said: “We don’t really need to ask anyone’s permission, we can just burn them outside. I think it’s fair enough to burn the head of Jesus if you’re going to do the same with the devil.”
He added: “I think it will be beautiful and good. Everything I’ve done is considered and respectful. It’s not a religious attack, even though I’m not religious.”
He will also depict heaven and hell by showing photographic collages of people throwing themselves from a burning Eiffel Tower and a girl holding a knife to the throat of Disney character, Bambi.
There was uproar in Glasgow in 2009 when a taxpayer-funded exhibition displayed a Bible and invited visitors to scrawl all over it if they thought it had ‘written out’ homosexuals.
Later that year, a 200-year-old Bible that had been deep fried in batter was sold as a piece of art by a taxpayer-funded gallery in Glasgow.