6 of the Oldest Images of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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2038

We don’t know what Jesus looked like.

The Bible doesn’t give a detailed description, and the earliest images of Jesus that we have today come from around the 3rd century. They vary fairly widely in how they depict Jesus, so they can’t necessarily be taken to be accurate.

But they are interesting to check out nonetheless.

Here are 6 of the earliest surviving images of Jesus. Enjoy!

1) Alexamenos graffito – 1st to 3rd century

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Is this a depiction (albeit, a mocking one) of Jesus – perhaps even the oldest surviving image of Jesus? These questions are matters for debate about the Alexamenos graffito.

The image is carved in plaster on a wall in Rome and is dated to somewhere between the 1st and 3rd centuries. It depicts a man looking at a person with the head of a donkey that’s being crucified, and it says, “Alexamenos worshipping God.” It’s believed that this was intended to be mocking the faith of a Christian named Alexamenos.

2) The Good Shepherd – 3rd century

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

“The Good Shepherd” image is found in the St. Callisto catacomb in Rome and is believed to have been painted around the 3rd century.

3) Adoration of the Magi – 3rd century

Giovanni Dall'Orto / Wikimedia Commons
Giovanni Dall’Orto / Wikimedia Commons

This is a picture of a cast of a sarcophagus that is in the Vatican museums. It shows the scene of the magi adoring the Christ child and is dated to the 3rd century.

4) Healing of the Paralytic – 3rd century

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

This painting is on the wall of the baptistry of a church in a (long abandoned) ancient city in Syria. It depicts the story of the healing of the paralytic found in Mark 2, and it is dated to the mid-3rd century.

5) Christ Between Peter and Paul, 4th century

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Image detail of Jesus:

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

This appears in a cemetery in an imperial villa that belonged to Constantine and is dated to the 4th century.

6) Pantokrator – 6th century

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

This is the oldest surviving panel icon of Jesus, and it is found at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.

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