the 2nd and 3rd centuries Greek sage and Jewish scribe,
pagan hierophant and Egyptian
priest, all contributed to the fabulous legend of Jesus.
The common promise was an afterlife, no longer just
but for all and sundry. In
the early 4th century, the worship of Christ became
a State sponsored cult
throughout the Roman Empire – and was particularly
successful in Egypt.Thereafter the iconography of the godman emerged from earlier art forms but reflected the dictates of governing elites.
Within 50 years of Constantine, Christ
gets an identical face!
4th century mosaic, one of the earliest known depictions of Christ.
4th century head of Emperor Constantine
I know that face...?
Those big, staring eyes,
that dimpled chin.
The 4th century mosaic floor from a villa at Hinton St. Mary, Dorset, England, now in British Museum.
The mosaic covered two rooms, with the smaller area depicting Bellerophon killing the Chimera. The larger room was possibly for dining, meaning guests not only walked on their Christian god, but also ate above him!
In truth, the villa's owner almost certainly chose designs that pleased him, both traditional pagan motifs and Christian fashions popularised by the imperial court.
Note that the Christ image faces away from the entrance porch – and is flanked by the pomegranates of Persephone!
Apollo (aka Helios, Phoebus),
sun-god on his daily ride across the sky.
Like Horus before him
and Christ after him, he was the Light of the World.
Apollo was also the god
of healing, so sick people prayed to him.
He was also, son of the
Big Guy – who in those days went by the name of Zeus!
Young, Antinous-like Christ (complete with exposed genitals) gets
his holy bath
6th century Arian baptistery, Ravenna
figure of Christ,
which had at first been youthful, becomes older from century
to century... as the age of Christianity itself progresses."
– Adolphe Didron, Christian
At the close of
the 8th century, Pope Hadrian I (772-795) confirmed the decrees
of the 6th Synod of Constantinople held almost a century
earlier and commanded that thereafter "the figure of a man
should take the
on the cross."
It took Christianity
eight centuries to develop the ubiquitous symbol of its suffering
years, its Christ on the cross had been a lamb.
But if a real flesh
and blood Jesus had actually been crucified,
why was his place on the cross so long usurped by a lamb?
Michelangelo Gets with the Program
Giving the finger
The hand of benediction from the god Sabazios – the Phrygian
"Zeus" (6th century BC).
Worship of the god merged into the cult of
Dionysus during the Hellenic period.
The ornate votive offering is covered in mystical symbols.
Early Christians were so taken by the awesome magic
of finger gestures that they expropriated the trick for them-selves.
It masquerades today as the "sign of the cross" or Holy Trinity.
Pope Pius X gives the finger – as does JC himself!
young, healthy and naked. (Hmm,
that won't do for a Christian empire... )
savior god, promising personal salvation was the
ultimate product of syncretismin the lands of the eastern
This God was a synthetic,
composite character, combining the characteristics of Serapis (a king
and judge), with Greek sage, a compassionate teacher of wisdom, a perfect
man (Antinous) and the Roman variant of the sun-god – Mithras.
winning ingredient of the Christians was to bring this
new god to life by setting him in a Jewish
together from plagiarized episodes of Old Testament scripture and well-worn pagan motifs from the mysteriy cults. To Emperor Constantine the
superstition was useful.
various 'biographies' (gospels) were never fully harmonized;
it took over three centuries of violence to
more or less agree the underpinning 'theology' but then – WHAT
A SUCCESS STORY!
over from Apollo as the Sun God in his fiery chariot
tomb mosaic, Rome
Apollo - 2nd century AD
JC, with augur's wand and legislator's scroll, raises Lazarus
Long before the fable of Jesus the dove symbolised the sacred feminine (Astarte, Tanit, et al). By the 1st century the goddess had been marginalised and now the dove stood for the "spirit of God."
his philosopher's toga
Socrates – 5th
century BC Athens
JC with short hair and beardless on engraved glass plate.
Linares (ancient Castulo), Spain
Notice that Jesus has his foot on the head of a fallen pagan god.
Propaganda in stone in the battle with the old gods!
over as teacher
4th century – Sarcophagus
of Junius Bassus (Rome, 359 AD)
Socrates – 5th century BC Athens.
Baptism of boyish 6th century Christ (Ivory,
Egypt or Syria – British Museum)
Note: The River
Jordan is personified (lower right).
century Antinous, with Cross in one hand – and
the grapes of Dionysus in the other!
from Antinoopolis, Egypt.
Staatliche Museen, Berlin)
takes inspiration from a human sacrifice (Antinous)
Coptic Christ, Egypt
– note the grapes of Dionysus!
Clothed – but
is that a family resemblance to Antinous ?!
as Good Shepherd, wields his cross as a shepherd's crook
5th century mosaic,
tomb of Galla Placidia, Ravenna
A relaxed, well-fed JC stands, rather than hangs, from his cross.
5th century carved wooden panel, door of Santa Sabina, Rome.
Note that Jesus and the thieves stand in the orans pose, arms outstretched with palms up, a pose associated with prayer – and paganism.
clean shaven young man, as Greek philosopher, moving
in polite society, sporting Apollo's sun
6th century mosaic
soldier – this time carrying his cross like
a lance, strutting about as a Roman conqueror
mosaic, Archiepiscopal Chapel, Ravenna
philosopher's toga for monk's habit, grows a rabbi's
beard, gets older.
Mt Sinai Monastery
JC joins a frieze of Sun and Moon gods, held aloft by angels. One of the family?
Church of Quintanilla de las Viñas (Burgos), Visigothic Spain.
older and weary but not yet hung on a cross.
Egypt (Coptic, Louvre)
Gold solidus issued in 692 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian II bears the image of a monkish Christ.
In the West
beardless but now with distorted proportions, gets nailed
to his cross.
7th century, Athlone, Ireland
becomes a Frankish warrior, complete with Woden's headdress,
weapons and long penis!
JC loses his humanity, becomes solemn, stylised
hung up to die (but keeps his clothes on)
9th century, Chludoff
bearded yet still young, is the Christus Triumphans – on
his cross but alive and without suffering.
Ireland (Monastery of Monasterboice)
JC – older,
uglier – just like the Church
Sinai Monastery ("Pantocrator") Daphni, Greece
JC – mean,
sinister – just like the Church
century, Russia (fresco)
naked and limp on his cross
15th century manuscript
Jesus becomes a Borgia!
Melone paints Jesus on The Walk
Altobello Melone paints Cesare Borgia,
son of Pope Alexander VI and thoroughly nasty piece of
The familiar image of Jesus Christ – modelled
on the notorious Renaissance prince, in turns archbishop, cardinal, warlord and
murderer. Dead at 31. At one point Cesare hired the services
of Leonardo da Vinci (see Shroud).
in agony – Just
like Christian Europe
Netherlands (David Gerard)
JC – On
his knees, beaten, suffering – looks promising ...
17th century, Spain
better – a tortured man for a tortured society ...
Sources: William Dalrymple, From
the Holy Mountain (Flamingo. 1998) Michael Walsh, A Dictionary of Devotions (Burns & Oates, 1993)
Ian Wilson, Holy Faces, Secret Places (Doubleday, 1991)
Dom Robert Le Gall, Symbols of Catholicism (Editions Assouline, 1997)
Webb & Bower, The Illustrated Gospel of St John (1985)
Robin Keeley, Jesus 2000 (Lion, 1989)
R. E. Witt, Isis in the Ancient World (John Hopkins UP, 1971)
Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods (Free Press, 1999)
Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (Penguin, 1993)
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
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organisation, authority and membership preceded
rather than followed the justifying doctrine. As
the organisation and its needs changed so has the ‘Testament
of God’ adapted accordingly. Dogma – The
Word in all its Savage Glory