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Christ the Miracle Worker in Early Christian Art

By Lee M. Jefferson

Publication Year: 2014

Artistic representations were of significant value to early Christian communities. In Christ the Miracle Worker in Early Christian Art, Lee Jefferson argues that images provided visual representations of vital religious and theological truths crucial to the faithful and projected concepts beyond the limitations of the written and spoken word. Images of Christ performing miracles or healings functioned as advertisements for Christianity and illustrated the nature of Christ. Using these images of Christ, Jefferson examines the power of art, its role in fostering devotion, and the deep connection between art and its elucidation of pivotal theological claims.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This work would not have been possible without the support of many important people and institutions. The Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University and the administration of Centre College helped fund some of the research included in this study. Umberto Utro at the Vatican...


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-14

Early Christians were drawn to using images in religious settings, revealing a very human desire to include visual aspects in devotional environments. Clement of Alexandria, like other early church authors, discovered in his fellow Christians a pervasive desire to create images, and this desire forced him to...

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Healing, Miracle, and Magic in Non-Christian Sources

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pp. 15-54

After the beginning of the third century, early Christians were increasingly insistent on portraying Christ as a miracle worker. In the catacombs and on funerary monuments such as sarcophagi, Christ heals and performs miracles as mentioned in the Gospels. However, any viewer will begin to notice the unique...

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Healing and Miracles in Early Christian Writings

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pp. 55-86

Despite their religious differences, Christians and their non-Christian neighbors were united in the belief that religion could cure their physical maladies. The notion that a figure like Asclepius or Christ could restore one’s health was appealing. In healing cults and in Christianity, the image of the divine...

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Images of Christ Healing

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pp. 87-108

As Christians began to develop their visual language and realize the narrative and nonnarrative functions of art, the figure of Christ became a useful tool in promoting Christianity over other religions. Shortly after the beginning of Christian art, Christ as a healer became a primary theme. Early Christian images...

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Images of Christ Raising the Dead

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pp. 109-128

Though the third and fourth centuries saw a significant amount of growth in Christian theology, the visual language of Christianity was still developing. The imagery of the catacomb of Callistus marked the dawn of Christian art around the year 200 CE, and as late as the fourth-century catacomb at Via Latina,...

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The Nature Miracles of Christ

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pp. 129-144

Nearly a century after the birth of Christian art in the catacomb of Callistus, the pervasive theme in Christian relief sculpture was the image of Christ the Miracle Worker.1 On Christian sarcophagi now housed in museums in Rome and Arles, the earliest examples bear a date of the late third century, while most...

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The Staff of Jesus

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pp. 145-176

From its inception, Christian art captured Jesus performing miracles and healings with the peculiar inclusion of what has been called a scepter, a staff, or a wand. In catacomb paintings of the third and fourth centuries and the relief sculpture of the fourth and fifth centuries, Christ the Miracle Worker is rarely...

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pp. 177-182

The image of Christ the Miracle Worker burned brightest for several centuries, but early Christians would eventually adopt different themes as their focus in creating art and imagery. Just as the author of Luke–Acts shifts attention to the miracles of the saints in Acts following the miracle stories of Christ in...

Appendix of Images

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pp. 183-210


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pp. 211-230


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pp. 231-233

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781451479843
E-ISBN-10: 1451479840
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451477931
Print-ISBN-10: 1451477937

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014