Thursday, November 22, 2012


Early Christian Art

Yesterday, I finished reading Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art (Yale UP, 2007), which documents a Kimball Art Museum exhibit of the same name. Three common motifs among early adherents of the Jesus movement/Christianity were the Good Shepherd, the Chi-Rho, and the Ichthys. The third image on the right below actually appeared in the exhibit.

Curiously, the book also includes a chapter on "Jewish Art and Biblical Exegesis in the Greco-Roman World". The most common "Jewish" motif was a seven-branched lamp stand a.k.a. menorah, which, according to Dr. M. D. Magee, was originally a Zoroastrian cultic object. In at least two ancient examples (Beth Alpha and Hammath Tiberias B "synagogues") in the book the menorah was paired with a Zodiac, which is of ancient Babylonian origin. Of course, the Star of David appears nowhere in the book as it only became associated with Judaism in modern times.

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