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Bob Hook

I think the early Jewish and Christian artist took completely different paths to avoid the creation of false idols to worship. The Jewish artists were forbidden from depicting their god or even speaking his name. They did develop a religious culture based upon stories cultural stories from the Old Testament. They did not have a direct figure to worship but they were pointing you in the direction of their god. This all works in theory until you come upon the synagogue at Beth-Shean. Here you find the most prominent mosaic actually depicts the signs of the Zodiac. The corners are marked by four different woman figures used to depict the season. I think this may have been a transitional statement between Greco-Roman art and into the pure religious creations that appear later. Side Note: I found it interesting that the source for this was the Bible History Daily, obviously a Christian organization, and the story is titled, “Jewish Worship, Pagan Symbols. I thought this was another great example of propaganda by one religion against another.

The Christians took a little different approach. They avoided the graven images at first and before the time of Constantine the figure of Christ was rarely done. This changed over time and by 359 C.E. the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus depicts a figure interpreted to be Christ. However, it is a very youthful Christ based upon a representation of Apollo. Again we are in a transitional period but there also other references to previous gods. In this case, the young Christ is displayed as the ruler of heaven with his feet placed above Caelus, Roman god of the heavens. My point is that the Christians broke the rule little by little until they could depict Christ in all forms and situations without retribution from the church or Papal authorities. The Jewish religion has remained true to their initial vision and never speak of or depict their god.