Miracles and Art

Authored by: Lee M. Jefferson

The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138857223
eBook ISBN: 9781315718835
Adobe ISBN:


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Miracles, particularly healing miracles involving Jesus from the gospels, were the most popular theme depicted in early Christian art. Their abundance also speaks to the importance of miracles in the patristic imagination. The Latin and Greek church authors all write and preach to some extent on miracles, so it seems natural they would appear in the Christian visual lexicon from the start. These images also mainly occurred in a funerary environment: art for the dead and relatives of the dead. Images of Jesus healing and raising the dead to life gave assurance to observers of the eternal life these groups promoted. By examining some of the visual evidence and explaining the historical context in which these images appeared, this chapter will argue that miracles promoted the power of Jesus in a pluralistic religious environment, and provided comfort to a people that desired such support. This chapter will illuminate this argument by detailing several prominent themes and motifs that appear in the visual evidence, such as Jesus healing the paralytic and Jesus raising Lazarus, concluding with a discussion of the instrument Jesus is consistently depicted with in the resurrection scenes.

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