The ancient art of the entire Roman catacombs, painted on the wall and carved in a stone casket, Jesus He increases the loaf of bread, heals the sick and brings the dead back to life. These images are united by one amazing element. In each image, Jesus appears to be wielding a cane. It questioned scholars: Did ancient Christians see Jesus as a sorcerer?
Despite these exciting images, most evidence suggests that early Christians did not see Jesus as a sorcerer. Although magic was considered a purely human pursuit that could not bring the dead back to life, the supernatural acts of Jesus were always seen by believers as miracles performed through the mighty God. Moreover, the “cane” that Jesus had was not really a cane. Experts told live science that magicians at the time didn’t have a wand anyway.
Magic and early Christianity
Still, magic was very much alive in the early Christian era. Christianity was still in its infancy, alongside ancient Judaism and Roman gods and goddesses, when the “mysterious” statue of Jesus Christ adorned the burial grounds of ancient Romans between the 3rd and 8th centuries. It existed in. Lee Jefferson, chair of the Center College Religious Program in Danville, Kentucky, said. “Even at some time in these images, they do not have an agreed Bible; they do not have norms; they have an agreed understanding of who Jesus is. No, “Jefferson told Live Science.
That said, it didn’t look like the magic found in pop culture today. From illness to love, magic revolved around the spells people seek from magicians to deal with problems in everyday life. Mage patrons took those spells home and recited them, much like taking medicine from a doctor. If you recite it incorrectly, it won’t work.
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In times of uncertainty, magic provided a sense of control when people had little control over whether crops survived and the illness was often a death sentence. However, magic was similarly looked down upon by Jews and polytheists, Jefferson said. Magic was considered superstitious and was banned in the Roman Empire. People continued to practice it personally, but religious leaders considered it shameful, Jefferson wrote in the book Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art (Routledge, 2018). I will.
In this context, some people called Jesus a sorcerer, but as a form of slander. At that time, polytheistic religious leaders regarded Christianity as a form of magical superstition. “That is, this is the group that gets together in the morning to drink wine, say blood, eat bread, and say meat,” Jefferson said. “You can understand why people thought it was superstitious.” The philosopher Celsus, who criticized Christianity loudly, was one of those who regarded Jesus as a sorcerer.
But Jesus’ followers have never seen it that way. Their Savior performed miracles, not magic. This is a powerful divine act that often opposes death, dealing with small problems, much different from the pursuit of human magic. “You don’t want to call a demigod a magician because it looks like it’s weakening,” Jefferson said.
Felicity Harley McGowan, an art historian at Yale Divinity School, says that Jesus’ ability to defeat death, heal people, and produce food and drink is better than the Roman gods in the eyes of both Christians and non-Christians. Also said it was higher. They believe that Jesus has a special power against death, and even if they evoke the names of other gods, they will evoke his name as a way to harness that power. The Roman gods were able to heal and raise the dead, but no one did these acts either directly or with Jesus’ agent. For example, the healing god Asclepius healed people through dreams. Jesus was healed directly by hand. Jesus was praised for it while Asclepius was killed for raising the dead. Early Christian art reflects a commitment to miracles and does not focus much on the story of suffering and redemption. For example, there are dozens of paintings in which Jesus looked like a cane and raised Lazarus from death, but relatively few early paintings of Jesus’ Last Supper, Jefferson said in a Bible archaeological review. I wrote in an article in 2020 published in the magazine.
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So why is Jesus depicted with an object that looks like a magic wand? Scholars tend to agree that “cane” is not the best term to describe it. In fact, this tool probably had nothing to do with magic. It looks like that to us because it is filtered through the lens of modern wizard concepts such as Harry Potter. In the early days of Christianity, magic did not require a wand. Known artwork of the era does not depict the sorcerers carrying them, Jefferson added. Instead, many scholars prefer the term “staff” to describe objects.
Anyway, the fact that Jesus carried the staff in these images retains its own importance. In the early days of Christianity, people would have been familiar with Moses (a Jewish prophet and another miracle worker), but not necessarily Jesus. The staff tied Jesus to Moses. Moses also carried it and actually used it to perform miracles. “He’s kind of like a new Moses,” Jefferson said.
The staff was a symbol of human recognizable power — Harley told Live Science, as the beards and scrolls showed learning. “They can see and understand that person in possession. The staff is a sign of his authority,” Harley said.
Originally published in Live Science.