The Invisible God: The Earliest Christians on Art

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9780195082524: The Invisible God: The Earliest Christians on Art

This revisionist study challenges the received opinion that in its earliest manifestations Christianity was a form of religiosity opposed both on principle and in fact to the use of pictures. Paul Corby Finney argues that the well-known absence of Christian pictures before A.D. 200 is due to a complex interplay of social, economic, and political factors, and is not, as is commonly assumed, a result of an anti-image ideology. The book documents the origins of Christian art based on some of the oldest surviving Christian archaeological evidence, and it seeks to show how the Christian products conformed to the already-existing pagan types and models. This study will interest scholars and students in the fields of church history, ancient history, archaeology, art history, classics, and historical theology.

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From the Back Cover:

This study challenges a popular shibboleth, namely that Christianity came into the world as an essentially iconophobic form of religiosity, one that was opposed on principle to the use of visual images in religious contexts. It is argued here that this view misrepresents the evidence as we have it (consisting of both literary and archaeological fragments) - furthermore this misrepresentation is conscious and deliberate, designed to serve the interests of modern (and not so modern) confessional points of view. The picture presented here is of a religious minority, pre-Constantinian Christians, wrestling at the moment of their birth with questions of self-identity and seeking to submit themselves and their beliefs to open and public scrutiny. Only gradually over the course of the second century did Christians manage to formulate a definition of themselves as a distinct and separate religious culture. They began to draw visible boundaries and commenced the complicated process of endowing their communities with the marks of ethnic and cultural distinction. One of the key elements in this long and rather drawn-out process was the community control and acquisition of real property. This gave the new religionists a mechanism for separating themselves from their non-Christian friends and enemies. It also provided Christians an opportunity to experiment with their own self-definition as a materially defined religious culture. The earliest of their forays into material self-definition seem to have come around A.D. 200 in the form of painting and perhaps pottery - relief sculpture came later at the mid-third century, and Christian buildings first began to take shape under the Tetrarchy. As arguedhere, the well-known and much-discussed absence of Christian art before A.D. 200 is not to be explained as the consequence of anti-image ideology, but instead should be viewed as the necessary correlate of a religious minority which had not yet attained the status of a materially defined religious culture. This study will interest scholars and students in all the historical fields that relate to the study of early Christianity. These include biblical exegesis, archeology, and art history, along with the study of the literary and documentary sources that support the discipline of early church history. Classicists and ancient historians will also find much of interest here.

About the Author:

Paul Corby Finney is Associate Professor of Ancient History at the University of Missouri/St. Louis.

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Finney, Paul Corby
Published by Oxford University Press, New York, NY (1994)
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Book Description Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1994. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: new. 319 pp; this stidy challenges a popularly held belief that Christianity came into the world as an essentially iconophobic form of religiousity, one that was opposed on principle to the use of visual images in religious contexts; profusely illustrated with b & w photos and line drawings. Bookseller Inventory # 71977

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Book Description Oxford University Press, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. PRINT ON DEMAND Book; New; Publication Year 2016; Not Signed; Fast Shipping from the UK. No. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9780195082524_lsuk

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1997. Hardback. Book Condition: New. New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. This is a study of early Christian (first three centuries C. E.) attitudes toward art. The traditional view is that the early Christians produced no art because they were opposed in principle to visual images. When Christian art finally does appear, it has been considered a popular development and a decline from earlier, more austere spiritual values. Corby Finney here refutes these traditional understandings, through a close examination of the archaeological and literary evidence in its cultural and social context. He finds that it was primarily the Christian belief in the invisibility of God that inhibited the production of images, rather than opposition to images as such. A contributory factor, he believes was the relative invisibility of the Christians themselves within Roman society. Christina art came out chiefly when the Christian acquired a legal status and the capacity to own property and to build (and hence to decorate) places of worship. Before this, says Finney, very little differentiated the Christians from society at large, and certainly not outward signs. When they did use decorated material objects (seals and lamps) they drew on symbols already in use. Offering an important corrective to prevailing views about early Christianity, this study will be of great importance not only to scholars and students of Christian theology and history, but to art historians as well. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780195082524

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Book Description Oxford University Press, 2017. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used! This item is printed on demand. Bookseller Inventory # 0195082524

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1997. Hardback. Book Condition: New. New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.This is a study of early Christian (first three centuries C. E.) attitudes toward art. The traditional view is that the early Christians produced no art because they were opposed in principle to visual images. When Christian art finally does appear, it has been considered a popular development and a decline from earlier, more austere spiritual values. Corby Finney here refutes these traditional understandings, through a close examination of the archaeological and literary evidence in its cultural and social context. He finds that it was primarily the Christian belief in the invisibility of God that inhibited the production of images, rather than opposition to images as such. A contributory factor, he believes was the relative invisibility of the Christians themselves within Roman society. Christina art came out chiefly when the Christian acquired a legal status and the capacity to own property and to build (and hence to decorate) places of worship. Before this, says Finney, very little differentiated the Christians from society at large, and certainly not outward signs. When they did use decorated material objects (seals and lamps) they drew on symbols already in use. Offering an important corrective to prevailing views about early Christianity, this study will be of great importance not only to scholars and students of Christian theology and history, but to art historians as well. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780195082524

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