Material Evidence (2): Visual Culture

Robin M. Jensen

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199271566
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Material Evidence (2): Visual Culture

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  • Religion
  • Christianity
  • Religious Subjects in Art
  • Religion in the Ancient World


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Like other students of culture, historians of ancient Christianity deem the visual art, artefacts, and architecture of the early church as resources indispensable to discerning how various early Christian communities expressed and transmitted their religious beliefs. The study of visual images not only supplements and balances documentary research, but often affords scholars access to objects which are not only of great beauty, but which act as powerful agents of message and meaning. Furthermore, it opens the question of how vision itself functioned in religious practice. The insights gained from the study of visual culture are achieved not only from comparing textual evidence with material evidence, but also from the appreciation of the interpretive role, expressive power, and aesthetic qualities of physical remains in their own right, along with the analysis of the visual experience itself as a meaning-constructive activity.

Keywords: visual culture; ancient Christianity; religious practice; aesthetic qualities

Article.  7006 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Subjects in Art ; Religion in the Ancient World

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