The Art of the Roman Catacombs

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by Gregory S. Athnos

Every story in catacomb art is a tale of deliverance, a tale of the powerlessness of death and the certainty of the resurrection. Looking back through fifteen hundred years of Christian art, it appears the crucifixion of Jesus holds the highest place. We haven't looked back far enough. Go back to the first three centuries after Jesus walked among us. Walk the dark corridors of those subterranean burial chambers of the persecuted Christians. There we find a much different theology at work: a theology with resurrection hope and power at the center. If catacomb art were all we had of Christian theology and practice from the first three centuries AD--no Scriptures--we would have no choice but to conclude that the first message of the Christian faith was the Easter gospel.