Saturday, November 24, 2007

Earliest Blasphemy Challenge?

Crucifiction was a punishment the Romans reserved for people of servile status, and as such, might be invoked for trivial misdemeaners such as tasting the master's soup, or failing to untangle the matron's hair. (Dr Nigel Spivey - Christ and the Art of Agony - History Today August 1999.)
Crusifiction as a punitive device was intended to carry the maximum of negative exemplarity.
Although there had been other examples of dying gods - Dionysos and Osiris for example, their deaths, although violent had been quick, ephemeral, involuntary and essentially free of shame.
It was one thing for god to assume a mantle of humanity, but why walk to a death as squalid as it was unnecessary? Why stoop to the deserts of a rogue slave?
This new theology of kenosis "self emptying" or voluntary humiliation was so alien to Roman thought that many Christians refused to accept it. Thus the Gnostics in the 2nd Century maintained that Christ only seemed to be crucified.
Matthew's Gospel 27:42 might be recording a authentic reaction to crucifiction - mocking and hoots of derision.
This then is the context of the earliest image of the crucifiction of Jesus. Created sometime in the third century, it is a graffito from the Palatine in Rome. The Palatine is the central of the seven hills of Rome and is also where the Lupercal is located. See my earlier post.

It portrays a figure praying and is labelled in Greek - "Alexamenos worships his god".
The figure before him has its arms outstretched as if crucifed, and has an asses head.

From "Christ and the Art of Agony" by Nigel Spivey in History Today Volume 49(8) August 1999



Post a Comment

<< Home