The Cross in the New Testament and the Patristic Paradigm

Richard Viladesau

in The Beauty of the Cross

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780195188110
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784738 | DOI:
 The Cross in the New Testament and the Patristic Paradigm

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The pagan drawing known as the graffito of Alexamenos illustrates the scandal of the worship of a “crucified God” in the Roman Hellenistic world. From Roman documents, an approximate idea of what the historical crucifixion of Jesus was like can be reconstructed. However, this historical event was soon translated into the spheres of religious myth and theology. The New Testament itself provides an early aesthetic mediation of the meaning of the cross. The Fathers of the Church, in particular Athanasius and Augustine, expand on New Testament concepts and images to understand the cross as the symbol of Christ’s divine victory, and produce a variety of conceptual explanations of its function in human salvation. Representations of the cross in this period, like the hymns of Venantius Fortunatus and the Byzantine liturgy, present it as the sign and instrument of Christ’s victory over sin and death.

Keywords: Athanasius; Augustine; Byzantine liturgy; crucifixion; death of Christ; graffito of Alexamenos; New Testament; patristic theology; victory

Chapter.  17298 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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