Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Clean-Shaven Jesus?

If a newly-discovered 4th-century artifact found in Spain is anything to go by, yes.

The discovery of a glass plate depicting Christ that dates to the fourth century AD may lead to a new understanding of the history of Christianity in Spain.

“We were afraid to say what we believed at first, because it forces us to rethink the history of Christian Spain,” said Marcelo Castro, an archaeologist involved in the project that unearthed the plate from the ruins of the ancient city of C├ístulo in southern Spain.

The plate is a paten used to serve the bread of the eucharist. Coins and ceramic items found at the site appear to confirm that it coincided with the rule of Constantine, Rome’s first Christian emperor, who ruled from 306 to 337. Prior to Constantine, Christianity was persecuted and the figure of Christ was presented allegorically, often in the form of a fish.

The plate, which is on display in the archaeology museum in Linares in Andalusia, is one of the earliest representations of Christ after his followers emerged from clandestinity.

The plate, 81% of which has been recovered and reassembled, depicts Christ and the apostles Paul and Peter, according to Castro. Unlike later Christian iconography, the men are all clean-shaven and have short hair. They are also wearing togas, in keeping with the Roman influence on early Christian art.

The fact that the paten shows Jesus, Paul and Peter as clean-shaven means nothing, as Jesus has been portrayed many different ways, depending on the art style in fashion at the time the art was made, and also depending on the whim of the artist involved, or the patron who commissioned the work.

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