Early Christian Art


Early Christian Art

Who would have thought that the early presumed pious Christians were into art, and not in a small way either? In antiquity, we see from Pagan sources that the Christian church had a rule of only taking in the ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons, let them come with confidence. By which words, acknowledging that such individuals are worthy of their God, they manifestly show that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, with women and children.”…Contra Celsum BK III, Ch. XLIV

Which does not sound like they would be the arty type! From the second century, we see a remarkable diversity of Christian Art, mainly in carving on tombs, sarcophagi, and frescos. But, what is remarkable is that Jesus is depicted as a Magician or Sorcerer. With one significant factor of Jesus being portrayed doing his miracles using a WAND! He is seen either raising Lazarus from the dead or multiplying fish and loaves or just performing miracles.  

If we start from the beginning we see from the earliest time in the Christian era those we perceive as Christian; their art took the form of depicting Jesus as a Magician. We know from the works of the Church-Fathers, Pagan scholars, and from Jewish tradition that Jesus is seen as a Magician. Even the New Testament states that the Jews cited Jesus as a Malefactor—John 18:30 KJV, which is Roman code (18.5) for Magician. I am not propagandizing.  Describing Jesus as a magician is factual, as both Justin Martyr and Tertullian, both mention that the non-Christians (Pagans, Jews and others) stated that Jesus was a Magician or Sorcerer. If you have seen early, middle and late Christian Art—you will know Christians themselves believed this as a fact too! Also, Church Icons, painting from Italian, French, Dutch and Flemish masters all depicting Jesus holding or possessing a Wand.   

The Dutch artist Andries Both (1612-42) painting “Christ Crowned with Thorns” depicts Jesus (as in similar other paintings) being tormented by his captors as if to say “go on Jesus, make miracles with your wand.”  

Every great European master painted at one time depiction of what is termed the Ecce Homo (“Behold the man”), with hundreds throughout the world’s great art museums. From Mathieu Le Nain (1607–1677) painting-Christ with bonds c. 1635, to to the  Ecce Homo of Caravaggio, 1605 and Cigoli 1607 and many other famous painters. All of which portray Ecce homo, et magi Baculum magicum (Behold the man and his magic wand).

See Jesus’ Wand in early Christian art. http://wasjesusamagician.blogspot.com/p/appendix-jesus-wand.html

Not only Jesus is seen in Christian art with a wand, but Moses and Peter too! 

However, true to form Catholic apologist say that the wand is a Staff of Office (see Staff below). Which beggars belief, as a staff is something that supports someone like a crook/stave. I cannot know how a Harry Potter type wisp of a wand, can assist anyone as this is the type of wand which is depicted in frescos.

The eminent American art historian Thomas F. Matthews rebuffed the Christian apologist by stating: it’s a magic wand, similar to magic wands common in Egypt, the Ancient Near East, and Rome. These wands were used in ritual contexts associated with offering magical protection and healing…magic was pervasive in the ancient world (and often still is today). Jesus was repeatedly called a magician by his critics (Celsus calls him a common sorcerer). Jesus holding the wand represents the hopes of magical healing in the ancient world when life was harsh and medical options were few. While the author you link to emphasizes the “New Moses” theme in scripture, I’d argue the plain, old “healing” theme is even more important for the common person (like a working-class artist or average Christian). The Jesus miracle images are striking for their ordinariness and fragility—they convey intimacy and unassumingness that fits their common setting. They represent the common hopes for magical healing, even food in the ancient world, not the quasi-imperial “authority” of Jesus argued for by apologists and not the scripturally-based Moses theme argued for by the author above.[Mathews, Thomas F (1993), The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art, Ch 3 (The Magician), Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey]


A Staff is mentioned in the Old Testament to assist Moses in doing miracles.

That by a staff was represented power, appears, as just said, from what is related of Moses, in that he was commanded to take a staff (or rod), with which he was to do miracles; and that he took the rod of God in his hand (Exod. 4:17, 20); that when smitten by the rod, the waters in Egypt became blood (Exod. 7:15, 19, 20); that when the rod was stretched out over the streams, frogs came up (Exod. 8:1-11); that when the dust was smitten by the rod, it became lice (Exod. 8:16-20); that when the rod was stretched out toward heaven, there was hail (Exod. 9:23); and that when the rod was stretched out over the land, locusts came up (Exod. 10:3-21). As the hand is the principal, by which power is signified, and a rod is the instrumental, therefore miracles were also wrought when his hand was stretched forth (Exod. 10:12, 13); when his hand was stretched forth toward heaven, there was thick darkness over the land of Egypt (Exod. 10:21, 22); and when his hand was stretched forth over the sea Suph, by an east wind the sea was made dry land; and on again stretching forth his hand, the waters returned (Exod. 14:21, 26, 27).

However, there is no mention of a Staff of Office anywhere in the New Testament.


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