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12G Representations of Jesus (First 300 Years)

Art and Architecture

April Williams

on 6 October 2014

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Transcript of 12G Representations of Jesus (First 300 Years)

Representations of Jesus
(First 300 Years)
We have little evidence from this period
The First 300 years
Reason 1
Christians were few in number

Reason 2
Early Christianity, like Judaism, did not produce portraits of people or God


Number of Christians


200 AD – 218,00 Christians
0.4% of the Empire

300 AD – 6.3 Million Christians
10% of the Empire

40 AD – 1,000 Christians 0.0017% of the Empire

There were about 60 million people in the Roman Empire

In 40 AD there were about 1,000 Christians

By 350 AD they were a majority in the Empire

Assuming a steady growth of 3.4% per year gives this model

Exodus 20
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3 Do not have any other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Why Not?

Romans 10:9 “Confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord”

The Earliest Portrayal of Christ

For this I have been born, and for this I have been born into
the world that I may bear witness to the truth.
Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.
Says to him Pilate, "what is truth?"
And this having said again, he went out
to the Jews and says to them;
I not any fault find in him.

When the New Testament first circulates

First half of the second century
Perhaps the oldest fragment of the New Testament found so far

Rylands Papyrus John 18:37-38

Chi-rho monogram from Roman Catacomb
c. 250 AD
Combining letters to make new symbols

Christian tagging?


of the living
A picture which stands for a word which encodes a creed
What symbols?
What words?

I = Jesus
X = Christ
O = God’s
Y = Son
C = Savior

What does it mean? What does it resemble?
Hebrews 6:19: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

So where was all this 'Art'?
Some of our best examples of early Christian art come from the
cemeteries of Rome used mainly by Jews and Christians

(Pagan Romans cremated their dead)


As we go through see what you can recognize
San Callistus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ3IPc1bUuI

The tombs of the wealthy were sealed with marble slabs (those of the poor with tiles)

Wealthy graves where sealed with
slabs the poor with
Why are they all broken?
Fragments kept in Roman Churches
Catacomb grave slab Santa Maria in Trastevere

A collection of the common symbols found in the catacombs
The oldest picture of the Crucifixion (early 200s AD?)

Grafitto from a barracks on the Palatine Hill in Rome

worships his God
Why were crosses and crucifixes not used as Christian symbols before 300 AD?
Where else might we find Christian Art?
House churches-
Dura Europos ( Merchant town in Turkey on the boarder)
Underground Churches
What can you recognize?
Christians would at times celebrate Mass in the catacombs where they buried their loved ones and those who died for the faith. This made present the reality that when we come together at Mass, the Church(living and in the sleep of death) is united to Christ; the family is always present.
Side Note
Many Churches even a thousand years later are build with a CRIPT underneath the main church in similar fashion to the catacomb chapels and in large old churches people are still buried in the walls and under the church.
The Christians at Dura converted the ground floor of an ordinary Roman-style house, built round a courtyard, into a place of worship. They knocked two rooms into one to make a
large assembly room
, and set aside another room as a
Murals 232-252 AD – Baptistery of Dura Europos, Syria
Christ as the Good Shepherd carrying a sheep
What do you see?
Adam and Eve
See anything?
Jesus as healer
Jesus and Peter
Catacomb of St Peter and Marcellinus – about 250 AD
So what does art teach us about the first Christians?
Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead

The halo suggests a date after 300 AD

Datus, Bonosa, parents, for their son Datus, well-deserving,
who lived 20 years In Peace

Jews did not favor portraits – because God is impossible to visualize
Christianity was steadily more inclined to use pictures – because God became flesh in Jesus
Words then monograms were first used
Then symbolic images like the Fish, Anchor and the Good Shepherd
Narrative images showing Jesus as healer and miracle worker and tying Jesus to OT stories
Christian churches were in houses and catacombs
Crosses and crucifixes where uncommon

What have we seen?
Entrance to the catacombs disguised by houses
Full transcript