Portraits of the Incarnate

AS THE previous chapters have argued, aside from the few anthropomorphic appearances of the First Person of the Trinity in the late fourth century, God the Father was universally asserted to be inaccessible to human gaze. On the other hand, the Second Person, "the image of the invisible God4' (Col 1:15) might be perceived, at least in certain limited ways, according to various theological arguments about the divine activity (and presence) in both creation and redemption. Furthermore, Cod is known, prior to the incarnation, th rough Cods deeds, as beheld by tile prophets. According to Christian doctrine, the Incarnate Word came into the world as a human being (Jesus Christ) and shared all the aspects of ordinary human existence including an outward form (face and body) that could be seen and recognized in historical time and space. And so, in. contrast to the rare representations of the Father or the Holy Spirit, Jesus (as the human manifestation ol the Word) regularly appears in Christian visual art from the late third century onwards, first as a figure in narrative images (performing the deeds or wonders that revealed the divine nature) and then—at the end of the fourth century*—in a portrait image that showed his face alone.

As Athanasius explained in his treatise on the incarnation, the invisible God had become fully visible in and through Christ, so that humans might finally see and comprehend their divine potential and recognize the true works and nature of God, In addition to Col 1;15, key New Testament texts were cited in support of the claim that Jesus Christ revealed the Invisible God (the Father), not only through his teaching but also through his appearance. For instance, while Jesus says in John 6:46,"Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from Cod; lie has seen the Father," he says later (in 12:45), "And whoever sees me sees the one who sent me" John's Gospel echoes these lines and elaborates (14;9b-10): "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father How can you say,

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