Philosopher and Ruler The Bearded Type

Despite the preponderance of early narrative portrayals of Jesus as a beardless and beautiful youth, in at least some rare early examples, including the fourth-century plaque in Rome's Museo Nazi on ale alle Terme (fig. 61), Christ also appears in the guise of the philosopher, with ful 1 bea rd and bare ch est (he h as n o tun ic o r u n de rga rme nt, but on ly th e pallium draped over his left shoulder—the garb of an itinerant intellectual) and holding a scroll His right hand makes a gesture of speech, and at his feet is a row of small figures meant to represent his disciples. Paul Zanker would identify this as a classic representation of "Christ the teacher of the true philosophy."35 However, to either side of this group is a portrayal of Christ healing. Here again he is shown with a full beard and in one case (the cure of the woman with the hemorrhage) with a bare chest. The two proximate healing scenes prompted Thomas Mathews to point out the similarities between Jesus' portrayal here and that of the god Asclepius, who also is represented with a full beard and bare chest, his outer garment carefully draped, but with no under tunic.56

Early representations of Christ among his disciples clearly present him as a teacher, although usually as a young and beardless pedagogue, without the traditional facial features given to Socrates or other philosophers (compare figs. 73 and 74). Although some scholars have compared a similar image of Christ among h is disciples from the Catacomb of the Via Anapo in Rome with a roughly contemporary representation of Socrates wiLh his disciples from Syria, the primary similarity between the two lies only in their general composition. 1,7 The first image shows Jesus and his disciples as relatively young, and, although some of the disciples wear short beards, Christ is beardless. The second image of Socrates and his followers presents them ail as bearded and balding elders. The only similarity is the clothing of both groups (a pallium draped over a tunic). Another such image of Christ appears in mosaic in the apse in Milan's Chapel of San Aquilino, attached to the Basilica of San Lorenzo (fig. 75). Here

we again see a youthful beardless Christ seated among his apostles, making a g est lire of speech, with a basket of scrolls at his feet, and relatively youthful-looking disciples.

In several clearly Christian sarcophagi, a figure appears in profile who looks rather like the seated reader/ in tellectual/poet on some n on-Christian monuments (fig, 27, p. 44), While on most of the non-Christian sarcophagi and even some of the Christian ones (for example, the sarcophagus of Santa Maria Antiqua, Kg. 29, p, 48), these may have been meant to be portraits of the deceased or at least references to his learning and intellectual pursuits (in Christian contexts, perhaps a reader of Scripture). In some cases, however, the identification of this figure is less clear. For example, on a mid-fourth-century sarcophagus in the Musee de VAries Antique, we see Jesus presented with a youthful face standing near to a seated and bearded reader (fig, 76). Because Jesus already appears in the composition as youthful and beardless, we might identify this figure as God the father. An enigmatic diminutive figure bends

Fl£, M Jesus as tiacher from

Ciraccmb of Dorrr^la Ror^e (©~P~ie Inrer"ati2nal Catacomb Sodery. P^cto: Lite Hp Bret-man), hg. 75. Jei ji teacher cen. CL rrosaic frTon": "he Chapel of Sar Aqu Imoi Ets'l ca of San Lore^o Maggore. [^ilsn (Fhoto: Michael Redf^ SJ.),

76. Sealed 'leader.'philosopher dentil f-on ^h cen. C L sarcophagi in Musee ck I'Aries Antique (Photo; Author)

down to kiss the feet of this reader, in very much the same posture as the sister of Lazarus in scenes of Jesus' raising him from the tomb.

By the middle to late fourth century, a new iconography type appeared that quickly became popular in relief sculpture, painting* and mosaic right through the fifth century—the image of leans as giving the "new" law for gospel) to his apostles (traditiQ legis). In most of these compositions, a transcendent Christ stands, facing from and between lJeter and Paul (.one of whom Is receiving the scroll of the iavrjj usually upon the rock of Golgotha/Eden from which spring the four rivers of Paradise. In some instances, instead of standing, Christ sits, his feet upon a footstool that is actually the mantle of Caeluss the god of the heavens (his head, shoulders, and arms showing below—compare figs. 14 and 67, pp. 34 and 148). These compositions usually show Jesus as beardless, but there are significant exceptions in which Jesus also has a beard and a full head of hair (figs. 63 and 77, pp. 144 and J 57). Thus, the figures of Jesus as teacher, philosopher, or lawgiver are varied with regard to the facial type (bearded or beardless). This may indicate that the images are transitional, borrowing from different prototypes in order to express distinct messages.

However, while certain of the bearded Jesus types conform to the traditional philosopher image, others seem more closely aligned with the presentation of the older, mature, and overtly masculine gods of the classical world, especially Jupiter, Serapis, Asclepius, and Neptune, as well as some of the youthful gods who also appear in "mature guise"" (for example, Hercules and Dionysus, who can be seen with beards and more mature body types). Heavily bearded and majestic, they were shown enthroned as rulers, usually draped and almost never fully nude. These were the regal "'father gods'1 of the pantheon who held authority and

passed judgment On mortals. Certain earJy bearded depictions of les us emphasize this type over the othcrs, and the philosophical association is diminished in favor of an emphasis on royalty, dignity, and transcendent power And, as Mathews has convincingly argued, to the extent that such tm image is allied to the portrayal of the emperor, it is because Lhe emperor himself wanted to be seen writh the attributes of these ruling or supreme Roman gods.ifi

The apse of Rome's Santa Pudcn/iaua Basilica (ca, 400; fig, 78) is a superb example of this. Here Christ is majestic in royal purple and gold—the very image of the ruler god. Sitting in his high-backed throne with thick beard and long hair, Jesus1 depiction looks very much like the sculptural or painted images of Jupi ter or Serapis.:':' For purposes of comparison, we might consider the contemporary apse of Hosios David in Thessalonka, which showTs another version of the transcendent Christ, but here enthroned upon a rainbow and appearing as a beardless y out hT even though he is similarly dressed in purple and gold. The Santa Puden-ziana iconography of Christ emphasizes his role as mature lord and judge; the Son who, according to the church's creed, has now ascended to heaven, where he sits on the right hand of the Father to judge the living and the dead; and the One whose kingdom will have no end. The image in Thessalonica points more to the one who is the Begotten Son and Préexistent One—a prince and savior instead of a sovereign magistrate.

That this similarity to the iconography of the Greco-Roman gods was acknowledged at the time might be argued from the witness of an ancient text. According to a story contained in the Ecclesiastical History of Theodorus Lector (and repeated by John of Damascus), the Patriarch

F;g, 7K giving "the law. detail from a ;»th cen c.E

in t-e Muïeo Pin Qistiant^Vfticar Cr.y [Photo: A^-thor).

Germ ad ins of Constantinople healed the withered hand (or hands) of a painter who had dared to paint an image of Christ in the likeness of Zeus. The pagan who had commissioned the painting wanted the image to be ambiguous (showing the hair parted and combed back off the face like Zcus's). In this way he could continue to worship as a pagan, while appearing to venerate Christ, The bishop, after healing rhe artist, admonished him to refrain from portraying Christ in any other form than the "authentic one,*' with '""short, frizzy, hairY|i' Although we should not place too much weight on this single (and perhaps doubtful) text, il yet offers some slender evidence that in this era traditional polytheists needed to keep their religious loyalties a secret by disguising them as Christian and that people (including church authorities) were aware of visual representations of Christ in the guise of the regal Jupiter,

The presentation of Jesus Christ in the guise of a youthful savior, philosopher, or ruling elder god may have been more than a matter of borrowing and transforming familiar visual prototypes in order to explain his divinity in the familiar iconographk "language" of the culture. Augustine, commenting on the line in Psalm 133 in which the unity of brothers is compared to oil running down Aarons beard (Fs 133:2), says that the beard signifies the courageous and distinguishes the mature man, the earnest, active, and vigorous.41 This imagery also sent a fa 7& esus enthroned, ca <103 c.-i Church of^ta Pudynz and. Rome {Photo: Author}. disc ^.97.

message regarding the kind of god and teacher that Jesus was, including savior3 true philosopher', worker of great wonders* human hero, ruling and transcendent lord, and judge. His many "faces"' confirmed his duality of natures as well as his divine adaptability. The language of visual metaphor was a matter of bo tit available models and effective communication, It was also a language that had been taken over from the iconography of the Greco-Roman gods and even emperors. Both you lit and age cany particular connotations En portraits, and each of them in some sense was ail ideal type. For example, Marcus Aurelius was represented first as a youthful and beautiful prince, then in time as a bearded and vigorous middle-aged ruler, and finally as an aging and introspective elder."1"

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