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    • #5779
      jlchamberlain
      Keymaster

      The Second Commandment warns against the creation of images that could be used as false idols. “Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship.’ (Exodus 20:3-6) How does art in early Jewish and Christian art reflect or circumvent this?

    • #7236
      Kaitlyn
      Participant

      The early Jewish and Christian art definitely has some difference from the other civilizations art we have seen so far. In comparison to previous cultures, for the most part early Jewish and Christian art doesn’t represent images of false idols, and they don’t depict multiple gods, instead they only mention one, Christ, and he is not actually shown in these pieces of art work. I found that there is an exception; the “ZODIAC MOSAIC AT THE BEIT ALPHA SYNAGOGUE” shows Helios, a Greco-Roman sun god, but I think that is one of the only times another god is shown. There are images of saints, for instance “THE ORATORY OF GALLA PLACIDIA” or the madonna with child, but I don’t believe those were created with the intention of worship so they wouldn’t be considered graven images. So overall no figure was being represented as a god in any of the Jewish or Christian artwork, they were not being intended for worship as we have seen in other cultures.

      • #7249
        Laura Barber
        Participant

        Re: Kaitlyn
        I made very similar points. I definitely agree that even though there are many religious depictions of saints, they don’t seem to have been made with the intention of worship. They merely accompany the image of God.

      • #7377
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Kaitlyn – I agree with you that even though we see other images of individuals or even the Sun-God, these were probably not created with intentions of worship. Rather, I think they were created as inspiration or examples of what people should strive to be like in context of morals and ethics.

    • #7248
      Laura Barber
      Participant

      Much of the work in Christian and Jewish art includes churches or synagogues, meaning that the places themselves don’t necessarily depict “false idols,’ but are instead dedicated to them in service of God. There are many instances where depictions of saints and other beings could be perceived as “false idols.’ For example, the Oratory of Galla Placidia is dedicated to St. Lawrence, and he is depicted on the church walls. Most of the Jewish and Christian churches instead used biblical scenes to decorate the buildings. The Beit Alpha Synagogue portrays Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac, and the Baptistery of Dura-Europas uses symbols of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace to reference the religion’s teachings. Although some of these could be viewed as false idolization, the images are nearly all in reference to God, and thus do not seem to have been made for the purpose of worshiping another.

      • #7271
        Miranda Jackovich
        Participant

        To Laura Barber
        I agree with your thoughts on how the images could be viewed as false idols but are referenced to God. Do you think that the reason they didn’t create an image of God himself was to keep from possibly misrepresenting him? And/or due to the fact they had to hide their beliefs because it was illegal early on? Great ideas!

      • #7290
        Bob Hook
        Participant

        Laura, I agree with your point about how early Christian and Jewish art utilized scenes and stories found in the old testament in their art and buildings. It is as if you can dance around the image of God and create images that point you to god but you just can’t show the likeness of God. By not defining what god looks like you keep a great deal of flexibility in the system. He/She can take on any shape, ethnicity, physicality or even non-physical form. I still find the discussion of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit all very confusing.

    • #7256
      Jess
      Participant

      When it comes to Christian and Jewish art, I think that it is easy to see that they are not trying to create a “false idol” rather they are trying to create a place of worship. Instead of creating false idols they have created scenes in their churches, such as the Rotunda Church of St. George where they used mosaic tiling to create pictures of different scenes, people, or items that have meaning to their religion. The Christian Catacombs is another great piece of Christian art that is also a mosaic tile showing the Good Shepard. They use their buildings as a place to worship God rather than filling it with “false idols.” Their buildings also have great meaning, the Cave of the Patriarchs is a great example of how the idea of “false idols” could be thought of by others. The building is thought to be the resting place of historical biblical people, and unless you are familiar with their stories and the role that they played in these religions, you may think that they are creating a building dedicated to only those people and that they are idling them and not their god.

      • #7322
        Lucas Warthen
        Participant

        Hey Jess,

        I hadn’t even noticed the idea of creating scenes rather than depictions of figures. I think it’s really important that you point that out. Scenes in Christian religion is what brings about their beliefs – there are many stories that can be depicted in scenes, about the acts of God, without showing Him directly. These scenes show His power and presence without having Him physically be there, unlike in the older religions. Again, I hadn’t even thought about it like that but that is really cool that you noticed that!

      • #7362
        Gabe
        Participant

        I agree that is seem like especially the early Christian artwork is mostly concerned with telling the story of the early church figures. This is interesting because it ends up being more historical and literal than Greek or Roman mythological art. I’m curious if this lead to our current cultures emphasis on ‘the facts’ (although are we going the other direction these days?) Or did this disposition already exist back in the Greek times with their historians? Interesting haha.

    • #7259
      Lucas Warthen
      Participant

      With early Jewish and Christian art, there is a drastic difference that we see as compared to pieces we have looked at in the past. A major thing is the lack of sculptures – many sculptures from other eras were dedicated to gods or deities, so it makes sense that there are much less in this era. This is in part due to the fact that the Christian god isn’t ever seen, only Jesus is. In some places (not seen in any of our wings) there are sculptures of Mary, Jesus, and more, but none of God. This goes with their beliefs of him being an unseen and fearful god. In paintings, mosiacs, and the like, again there are no depictions of God himself, but instead images of those impacted by his miracles / actions. The fact that none of the Christian / Jewish art is dedicated to any gods / God himself is what makes it in line with their second commandment.

      • #7294
        ckocsis
        Participant

        Lucas- Somehow I’ve never noticed that there weren’t any depictions of God himself, you’d think that would have been hard to miss. Thank you for pointing that out! That’s very interesting. I wonder when and why people started to depict God himself.

      • #7326
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Lucas, it’s really interesting that there’s usually no actual depictions of the Christian God when so many other religions show theirs. It does make them stand out more because their God (at least in the beginning) doesn’t have a face.

      • #7335
        rdnelson4
        Participant

        I agree. I think the biggest way Jewish and Christian artists tried to follow the second commandment was to not create sculptures. You also make a good point that there is not description of God, other than a “great light’ or “thunderous voice,’ so God’s personhood is generally not depicted in any sort of form.

    • #7270
      Miranda Jackovich
      Participant

      One thing to bring into the discussion is that before Constantine’s ruling those who were practicing Judaism and Christianity had to hide their beliefs because it was illegal in Rome. ‘Arch of the Covenant and Menorahs’ in the Jewish Catacombs in Rome was a hiding place that they could practice and bury their dead in secret. The lack of specialization within the freso suggests that the piece was done by an amateur but regardless represents the desire to create a place of worship. It’s also important to tie in what we have learned this semester about transitioning cultures. The Romans are an extension of Etruscan and Greek culture as is Judaism and Christianity. ‘The Zodiac Mosaic’ at the Beit Alpha Synagogue blends two beliefs that is a transition of Judaism before it blossomed into a new artform, culture, and religion. Art is interpreted in many different ways and can hold multiple meanings. One individual could see the imagery as false idols, while another could see it as a representation of their beliefs. In this circumstance the imagery didn’t depict any one thing as a God leaving wiggle room for an individual to worship before either religion could unify to practice their beliefs out of hiding.

    • #7274
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      Personally, I feel that the Jews did a better job of keeping to this command than the Christians did. In the various Jewish Catacombs we see little to no depictions creatures or forms that would be used for worship within other religions. When they made art, they depicted the instruments that were used for worship in the temple, such as the menorah. While there are some depictions of animals and the occasional person, they are not painted in a way that would bring attention to them. The viewers of these works would never think that the people or the animals would have been an object of worship. The Christians, on the other had, depicted a plethora of people, and animals. And while it could be argued that they did not intend to worship these images, I still think that there was a stronger reverence and concern for the second commandment seen in Jewish art than in early Christian art.

    • #7276
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      RE: Lucus

      I hadn’t thought of it that way. Really great points! God isn’t ever depicted in this art. Perhaps this is because the people at this time would have easily mistaken a statue for God, rather than simply a picture of him. The other religions at this time would bow down to images as if their gods were actually present in the stone. Yet the God of the Jews and Christians set himself apart by not being limited to human description. Interesting!

    • #7277
      Lacey Miller
      Participant

      The Second Commandment warns against the creation of images that could be used as false idols. “Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship.’ (Exodus 20:3-6) How does art in early Jewish and Christian art reflect or circumvent this?

      It appears they did pretty well to adhere to this idea. With the examples in the wing, I’m hard pressed to find a representation of their God. SYNAGOGUE AT DURA-EUROPOS does illustrate stories of the bible (I think they are in the bible), but there aren’t any second commandment rules being broken. ZODIAC MOSAIC AT THE BEIT ALPHA SYNAGOGUE shows the hand of God, but I think that’s acceptable. It seems that much of their art was for storytelling rituals and reminders to be “moral”, which I suppose could be looked at as a means to serve God even more so. It all honestly kind of gives me the creeps. It very much supports self-suppression in the name of maintaining control.

    • #7278
      Lacey Miller
      Participant

      Laura-
      Totally agree that some of the other humans could be interpreted as idols. SO much of these images were meant for storytelling though, so I suppose with a back story, that interpretation would be eliminated or at least reduced.

    • #7287
      Bob Hook
      Participant

      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.

    • #7295
      Kaitlyn
      Participant

      Lacey, I think you have a really interesting view on the matter. I really like you point that art was a reminder to be “moral”. I kind of get the message “God is always watching” from a lot of the pieces.

    • #7300
      Valene
      Participant

      Originally all images of holy people or references to Christian images was considered taboo. Jewish law forbade the use of images. According to the early Christian Sculpture article in our weekly readings “The early Christian dislike of images revived in the Byzantine Empire, and early in the eighth century the Emperor Leo III gave orders that all sculpture and all pictures in which figures appeared were to be removed from Christian churches, and plaster was to be spread over the mosaics. For over a century this rule was in force in the Byzantine Empire, and ‘iconoclasts’ smashed many carvings and destroyed many pictures. Finally the iconoclasts fell from power and the ban against the use of images was lifted. Mosaics and relief carvings appeared again.” It seems like society and people in power influenced greatly whether images were allowed or not. Early religious followers were strict and new generations realized that as long as the art was being respectful and accurate that it should be allowed.

      • #7341
        rdnelson4
        Participant

        A few cultures still believe holy depictions, or even physical artwork in general, are sinful. Cultures like the Amish, Mennonite, and Orthodox Jews often live by a strict code prohibiting these things.

        • #7368
          Valene
          Participant

          rdnelson4,
          Your right, I’ve heard that too except I think I read about it having to do with vanity too in some religions. Either way I find it sad not being to have any photos of something you have a strong faith in.

    • #7303
      Tamara Toy
      Participant

      While the earlier cultures we have looked at have had direct representations of their deities, in Early Christian Art we see more symbolism, such as the fish representing Christ in the Catacomb of Priscilla. As well, most of the art we see here is almost documentation, such as the Madonna and Child, which does not enshrine a figure to be a false god. This makes the art more of an act of worship and makes the space sacred instead of it idolizing a figure. I think this is one reason we do not see a physical representation of God, as that would make it easy to model that representation after a person and creating a false idol.

      • #7378
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Tamara – that is very interesting what you write about symbolism! I didn’t even think about it, but it makes a lot of sense. If we consider the liturgies and texts that both Jewish and Early Christian beliefs were based on, there are tons of examples with imagery and symbolism. Of course artwork would reflect this, too! Thank you for this post.

    • #7306
      Maggie May
      Participant

      This is an interesting question. I grew up in a household with a lot of christian iconography. I think the difference comes down to not worshipping what is displayed in art, but rather using the art to remind us of what is featured within it and to help us celebrate it. Art often reflects what has value or is important within a culture or peoples. During this time, we see the intense spirituality reflected in the art, perhaps disproportionately since the christian church often had the most money to commission art.

    • #7308
      Aalieyah Creach
      Participant

      If you look at the temple of Solomon, almost everything in that art piece has to do with praising and worshiping god. With the outdoor altar used to sacrifice animals in accordance to the lord. To their inner chamber where the high priest would go praise and speak to god. The entire temple just glowed with the importance of god.

    • #7313
      csayreswoody
      Participant

      The Second Commandment warns against the creation of images that could be used as false idols. “Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship.’ (Exodus 20:3-6) How does art in early Jewish and Christian art reflect or circumvent this?

      The Jewish and Christian art mainly shows us the many places where worship took place and how they worship. However I don’t see where there were any gods in the art work. It showed how they worship their god and even the places where actually worship. Also if their god is picture in the art work and they are worshiping a god how can you tell or know because in most of the art work everyone looks the same or seems to be doing the same thing. I think the Jewish and Christian art was made just symbolize what worship means and is for them.

    • #7314
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      In both Jewish and Christian art we see the passion and commitment to such a commandment. They create places of worship dedicated to their religion without use of false idols, but instead incorperating different aspects to their worship. We do not see so much deified pieces of art as we did before, but instead stories to tell and places where they can worship. Unlike Greek and Roman cultures, the statues are not created as a means of worship (Like the several gods depicted in the former cultures). As monotheistic religions, both Judaism and Christianity center around the ways to worship, not the things to worship. The fact that they had to hide their religion actually enhances this– it shows genuine devotion to their religion.

      • #7325
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Jessi, I really like the way you worded it — they focus on how to worship, not what to worship. We definitely don’t see as many statues here as we did for the Greek and Roman cultures, but from what we do see they definitely don’t have the same religious purpose.

      • #7365
        csayreswoody
        Participant

        Jessi,
        Interesting way at looking at this week discussion. and pointing out that both Jews and Christians display ways to worship rather than things or people to worship.

    • #7315
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Aalieyah Creach
      I think that’s the main difference between previous cultures we saw. While both their devotions were passionate, the ones we are studying in this segment focus more on the surrounding areas FOR worship instead of things TO worship. It’s an interesting dynamic.

    • #7317
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Tamara Toy
      That’s the word I was looking for! Symbolism. I really enjoyed your reply– the fact that the art is an act of worship instead of a thing to worship is key. It’s an interesting distinction between the pagan religions before, where their focus is more on the abstract and the idea of it.

    • #7321
      Dean Riley
      Participant

      I think one was that artists got around creating something that could be interpreted as a graven image or false god was by incorporating Christian aspects into the art. For instance in The Oratory of Galla Placidia, there are numerous Christian themes in the image such as the inclusion of the Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The image also shows St. Lawrence carrying a cross and a bible to show his dedication to dying as a martyr for a noble cause. He died not for his own purposes, but to spread the word of Christianity.

    • #7324
      tmbergan
      Participant

      In the early Jewish and Christian art, there’s a huge lack of depictions of gods. Instead, they have more churches and synagogues for places to worship their singular God. Their places of worship take the place of any false idols that may come from previous cultures. There are a few instances where one might mistake an important figure as a false idol, but they use pictures of these individuals to tell the story of their religion rather than to put them on a pedestal for worship.

      • #7369
        Valene
        Participant

        Re: tmbergan

        I agree that the Christian and Jewish cultures seem to care more about where and how they worshiped instead of building statutes of their gods to worship. I wonder how hard it was for people to convert to a new way of thinking when past religions were based so much on worship an image of a god.

    • #7331
      elkingkade
      Participant

      While I think that both the art depicted in Jewish Art and Early Christian Art mostly stayed true to the second commandment I also can see where some of the art could be interpreted as if to depict a false god to worship, this was almost exclusively through depictions of Jesus Christ. This can be seen in Cubiculum of Leonis,The Baptistery at Dura-Euros and the carved wooden doorway at the Basilica of Santa Sabina. I personally believe that these depictions were meant more to share the history and story of the religion rather than defying the second commandment.

    • #7332
      elkingkade
      Participant

      I love how you pointed out the difference between the depiction of art in Jewish Art and Early Christian Art. I think that this is a very strong display of the difference between Christianity and Judaism.

    • #7333
      rdnelson4
      Participant

      For the most part, Jewish and Christian art depicted God or were religious in nature, generally scenes from stories from the old testament of the Bible. Not just their physical art, but their music, writing, and poetry as well. Their entire culture was seeped in religion, to the point where almost every aspect of daily life had a religious element. However, I don’t believe Jewish and Christian art really circumvented this commandment at all; many depictions of Saints and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were later worshiped by the Catholic faith. In addition to the art created after biblical times, the Bible speaks of many “graven images’ forged by the Jews. All this to say, I think this law was followed about as well as modern traffic laws. Much of the pagan worship during the Old Testament times looked like praying to a statue, which is most likely why this art form is somewhat excluded.

      • #7601
        Raven Shaw
        Participant

        You make a good point by bringing up that Mary, the mother of Jesus is later worshiped by many in the Catholic faith. The Virgin Mary is a convenient gateway to Christianity for cultures that are matrilineal, such as some cultures in South America and Mexico. The mother goddess is a feature of virtually every religion, even one that has only one god.

    • #7334
      elkingkade
      Participant

      This avoidance of the depiction of their religion could also come from a lifetime of suppression where they often had to turn to worshiping in secrecy.

    • #7337
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      The art in early Jewish and Christian art was usually images mostly of Christ. We don’t see many false idols just images of individuals such as saints or animals these however in my opinion were not intended to be worshipped just art. I believe that both Jewish and Christian art obeyed the second commandment simply because only images of Christ were worshipped although they had other images of individual and beings these images were just showing their religion not worshipping them. These religions wanted to show visually what their devotion was to their religion they included other individuals to help people better understand their religion and to spread their beliefs onto those around them.

    • #7355
      Guy Gaswint
      Participant

      How does art in early Jewish and Christian art reflect or circumvent this?

      Early Jewish and Christian art does not appear to portray or idolize any other gods. In fact most of the mosaics do not even show a god only the evidence of his acts. I notice that there are many images that portray Christ, Saints, and Mary which all have a place within the religion but they are never identified as gods or false idols. I do not feel that anyone of the period that had knowledge of the bible would look at a depiction of Mary and consider it a false idol. Another point that has been well discussed is that most of the art depicted people worshiping and places of worship other than a specific god.

    • #7360
      Gabe
      Participant

      Especially going through the Jewish section, the exhibit was full of holy sites and temples. This avoids the ‘graven images’ problem because the emphasis is on the location instead of the image. It is contrasted against Greek and Roman art which is full of images of deities and the myths that surround them. In the case of the Temple of Solomon, the Holiest of Holies was kept out of view, separated from the larger temple by a veil. This is ironically a concretization of the idea that God is beyond the image of God, and one ought not worship the image. A lot of the Christian artwork portrays Saints and Jesus, actual historical figures, and artwork that tells their story. I wonder if this anticipates the tendency of later ‘Western Christian’ civilization to stick to the facts.

    • #7376
      Miranda Johansson
      Participant

      In the Early Christian art or even the Jewish art, it seems that there largely is focus on humans in relationship to God. This reminds me about earlier art, such as Egyptian artwork, where there is little focus on humanity. Instead, the identity of humans is seen through their relationship with the divine. I also found it interesting that the images of God placed focus on him, with humans around the divine in different story-type settings. For example, in the ZODIAC MOSAIC AT THE BEIT ALPHA SYNAGOGUE, God is in the center and the seasons and zodiacs are all around him in a circle, as if they revolve around the divine.

      Even when we see images that not directly include God, they all speak of him indirectly. Each image is about certain individuals who did great things that were believed to have been accomplished through God. We can see this on SYNAGOGUE AT DURA-EUROPOS.

      Even in early christian architecture there seems to be a focus on human’s relationship with God. If we look at the layout of CHURCH OF SANTA SABINA, and compare this to the TEMPLE OF SALOMON, both have a special location at the innermost part of the church/temple. In Salomon’s temple, this holy place is divided from the rest of the temple while in the Church of Santa Sabina this holy place is open and connected to the rest of the church. This shows the different beliefs of the two religions regarding how close humans are to God. In Jewish texts, only certain people were allowed to the most holy place, while Christians believed that Jesus made this place available to all people.

    • #7600
      Raven Shaw
      Participant

      Ancestor worship is an obvious one. The near deification of the offspring of Adam and Eve, to the point of several religious factions fighting over Herod’s temple to pray above the bones.

      There are some Greek and Roman minor deities mixed into Early Jewish adornments of temples and tombs. The Goddess of Victory is in a fresco in the Jewish catacombs. An inscription in Dura Europos Synagogue contains an inscription to the Greek goddess Tyche. In the same synagogue the goddess Aphrodite takes Moses out of his basket and gives him to some nymphs that will raise him.

      Not part of the art, but important to note:

      God has many names, which indicates the number of times a new culture was assimilated into Christianity — how many tribes joined together by marriage or war, and then cooperated by adding the old god to the new religion.

    • #7617
      Kaylyn Kelly
      Participant

      After exploring different art from earlier religious cultures and eras there is a big difference between the art and this verse. The Egyptian and Greek cultures portrayed art that was of the gods. These cultures created art to show off their gods. Their art goes against this verse because they did not solely focus on the one true God. In the early Jewish and Christian culture, one god is only mentioned, Christ. Christ is not shown in the art during this time though. The work in the Christian and Jewish culture portrays churches or synagogues. This art does not depict “false idols,’ but are instead dedicated to them in service of God.  The art forms did not show off god but instead, the pieces were of the people he had impacted such as Mary and Jesus.

    • #7619
      Kaylyn Kelly
      Participant

      RE: sjsaccomen
      You added to your post that “The art in early Jewish and Christian art was usually images mostly of Christ.” This stood out to me because I believed that Christ/God was not portrayed in art. I thought that only his acts that impacted individuals were shown. Your post was great and well written! I was just curious about your statement.

    • #7944
      Guy Gaswint
      Participant

      I noticed a lot of places of worship depicted in the art which is hard to recognize as a false Idol. If I had been an artist in this era I would be worried about painting anything but Jesus, God the Father, or the virgin Mary. This is a very difficult question to answer easily because many people have different beliefs and feelings on religion.

      During this period of time we see a shift in art and what is acceptable, this is directly related to the church and preaching of the time, I look at it as a more strict church possibly even borderline fanatical. This is not the first or the last time that art will be influenced by the church or state. My personal feeling is that this more strict approach to art stems from the church having nothing else to worry about at the time. A good war would have curtailed the churches power over the people and the state allowing artists more freedom of content.

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