Monday, December 05, 2016

Depiction of Crucifixion (SBL Report)

At SBL I enjoyed the session discussing Peter Lampe’s book, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries (Fortress Press, 2003) (S19-340: Polis and Ekklesia: Investigations of Urban Christianity).

This included interesting presentations from John Kloppenborg, Jutta Dresken-Weiland, and Mark Reasoner (Peter Lampe himself was not present, which was fair enough considering his recent heart surgery involving a triple bypass).

Jutta Dresken-Weiland talked about new archaeological finds or acquisitions from the late second or early third century which were not known to Lampe, but which provide important early evidence for Christian presence in and around Rome. (I suspect a fair bit of this might be in her book: Bild, Wort, und Grab. Untersuchungen zu Jenseitsvorstellungen von Christen des 3.–6. Jahrhunderts (Regensburg 2010), but I haven’t seen this book). One interesting piece she talked about was a gemstone in the British Museum in London (1986,0501.1). This has a pictorial representation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, probably the earliest extant representation. She offered a date of c. AD 200.

There is no doubt that this is a depiction of Jesus as a bearded figure, with hands tied to the cross beam and legs astride the main beam. The text begins: ΥΙΕ ΠΑTΗP IΗCΟΥ ΧΡICTΕ CΟΑMΝWΑMWA IΑ(W ...

P. Derchain, ‘Die älteste Darstellung des Gekreuzigten auf einer magischen Gemme des 3. (?) Jahrhunderts’ Christentum am Nil. Internationale Arbeitstagung zur Ausstellung “Koptische Kunst”. Essen, Villa Hügel, 23.-25. Juli 1963 (ed. Κ. Wessel; Recklinghausen: A. Bongers, 1964), 109-113.

For further information see the British Museum website, Simone Michel, Die Magischen Gemmen im Britischen Museum (London: BMP, 2001), No. 457 (pp. 283-284) text here; Jeffrey Spier, Late Antique and Early Christian Gems (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2007), p. 443 text here; F. Harley-McGowan, ‘The Constanza Carnelian and the Development of Crucifixion Iconography in Late Antiquity’ “Gems of Heaven”: Recent Research on Engraved Gemstones in late Antiquity c. AD 200-600 (eds C. Entwistle & N. Adams; London: BMP, 2011), 214-220 (pdf here). This is also discussed in recent works on the cross by B.W. Longenecker (The Cross before Constantine) and J.C. Cook (Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 185-186).


  1. Brent Nongbri also mentiins this gem in his,

    "The Limits of Palaeograpgic Dating of Literay Papyri: Some Observations on the Date and Provenance of P. Bidmer II (P66)" Museum Helveticum 71 (2014): 1-35.

    On page 33-34, footnote 84. The footnote spans two pages.

  2. To what does "voces including vocales" refer?

  3. I was interested in this session, but didn't make it.

    I'm curious though. Is there some recent development that prompted as session on Lampe's book so long after its publication?

  4. No, I think it was more of a "thirty years on ... how do we see things now" type of session. Hence Kloppenborg: Lampe's work was monumental, but we know more about demography, economy, associations, prosopography etc. And Jutta Dresken-Weiland: there have been 8 important archaeological finds which have added to our knowledge of Christianity in Rome. And Mark Reasoner: who looked at the overall shape and plot of Lampe's book and discussed Romans 16.

  5. Roy Kotansky, “The Magic ‘Crucifixion Gem’ in the British Museum,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 57.3 (2017): 631-59

  6. Discussed by Larry Hurtado: