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The Invisible God : The Earliest Christians on Art - Paul Corby Finney

The Invisible God

The Earliest Christians on Art

Hardcover

Published: 1st January 1994
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This study challenges a popular shibboleth, namely that Christianity came into the world as an essentially iconophobic form of religiosity, one that was opposed on principle to the use of visual images in religious contexts. It is argued here that this view misrepresents the evidence as we have it (consisting of both literary and archaeological fragments) - furthermore this misrepresentation is conscious and deliberate, designed to serve the interests of modern (and not so modern) confessional points of view.
The picture presented here is of a religious minority, pre-Constantinian Christians, wrestling at the moment of their birth with questions of self-identity and seeking to submit themselves and their beliefs to open and public scrutiny. Only gradually over the course of the second century did Christians manage to formulate a definition of themselves as a distinct and separate religious culture. They began to draw visible boundaries and commenced the complicated process of endowing their communities with the marks of ethnic and cultural distinction.
One of the key elements in this long and rather drawn-out process was the community control and acquisition of real property. This gave the new religionists a mechanism for separating themselves from their non-Christian friends and enemies. It also provided Christians an opportunity to experiment with their own self-definition as a materially defined religious culture. The earliest of their forays into material self-definition seem to have come around A.D. 200 in the form of painting and perhaps pottery - relief sculpture came later at the mid-third century, and Christian buildings first began to take shape under the Tetrarchy. As argued here, the well-known and much-discussed absence of Christian art before A.D. 200 is not to be explained as the consequence of anti-image ideology, but instead should be viewed as the necessary correlate of a religious minority which had not yet attained the status of a materially defined religious culture.
This study will interest scholars and students in all the historical fields that relate to the study of early Christianity. These include biblical exegesis, archeology, and art history, along with the study of the literary and documentary sources that support the discipline of early church history. Classicists and ancient historians will also find much of interest here.

"This book is the fruit of many years of work by a scholar who is equally at home in the history and literature of the Early Church and in the art and archeology of the surviving monuments. Finney asks basic and searching questions concerning the process whereby Christian art came into being and explores them in depth."--Ernst Kitzinger "Strong erudition and detailed illustration of his thesis bolster Finney's impressive work."--The Bible Today "Finney's work rightly shatters some paradigms and offers significant new insights into the nature and function of early Christian art. Because Finney is so well versed in both early Christian literature and art history he is the right person to do both. This is a ground-breaking work whose thesis should supplant all earlier scholarship on the matter of Christian attitudes toward the visual arts. As a dedicated student of Christian iconography, I feel as if someone has cleared a lot of old dead wood off the land, and made it ready to receive the seeds of new, fresh speculations."--Christian Spirituality Bulletin "Impressive and meticulous....The work is a model of clarity and precision and deserves to be read and argued about by everyone interested in the Late Antique and rhetoric."--Archaeological News "The Invisible God is an important book, a fresh and long-needed reexamination of a range of issues in early Christian art and a challenge...to a number of prevailing assumptions in the field. It deserves the attention of classicists, students of art, historians of late antiquity, and patristic scholars. It should be a staple of any college or university library."--New England Classical Newsletter and Journal "One of the most important studies of pre-Constantinian Christian art published in the last decade." - Religion and the Arts "This book is the fruit of many years of work by a scholar who is equally at home in the history and literature of the Early Church and in the art and archeology of the surviving monuments. Finney asks basic and searching questions concerning the process whereby Christian art came into being and explores them in depth."--Ernst Kitzinger "Strong erudition and detailed illustration of his thesis bolster Finney's impressive work."--The Bible Today "Finney's work rightly shatters some paradigms and offers significant new insights into the nature and function of early Christian art. Because Finney is so well versed in both early Christian literature and art history he is the right person to do both. This is a ground-breaking work whose thesis should supplant all earlier scholarship on the matter of Christian attitudes toward the visual arts. As a dedicated student of Christian iconography, I feel as if someone has cleared a lot of old dead wood off the land, and made it ready to receive the seeds of new, fresh speculations."--Christian Spirituality Bulletin "Impressive and meticulous....The work is a model of clarity and precision and deserves to be read and argued about by everyone interested in the Late Antique and rhetoric."--Archaeological News "The Invisible God is an important book, a fresh and long-needed reexamination of a range of issues in early Christian art and a challenge...to a number of prevailing assumptions in the field. It deserves the attention of classicists, students of art, historians of late antiquity, and patristic scholars. It should be a staple of any college or university library."--New England Classical Newsletter and Journal "A provocative -- dare one say iconoclastic? -- argument....There are many pieces to Finney's argument, making it a book that will both encourage and instruct those who believe there is an inherent compatibility, indeed reciprocal necessity, between Christian faith and the visual arts."--First Things "This is a major book about a major topic....Clearly written, at times elegant and provocative....Finney's book was a pleasure to read and will be promptly recommended to my students."--The Journal of Religion "This is a detailed and welcome study."--American Historical Review "...[an] immensely learned book....given his thoroughness and his abundant bibliographies, this is a treasure trove for further explorations....I would also like to pay tribute to the fine prose style of the author. He is a pleasure to "read..."--Commonweal "This book is both learned and ground-breaking....Finney's work is an important contribution to the study of early Christian art history."--Bible Review

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Abbreviationsp. xvii
The History of Interpretationp. 3
Notesp. 11
The Apologists' Attack on Greek Art: History and Literaturep. 15
Notesp. 31
The Content of the Attack on Greek Artp. 39
Notesp. 59
The Emperor's Imagep. 69
Notesp. 88
Christianity Before 200: Invisibility and Adaptationp. 99
Are Bellori 3.29 and Wulff 1224 the Same Lamp?p. 132
Notesp. 135
The Earliest Christian Artp. 146
Painting in the Randanini and Torlonia Catacombsp. 247
Notesp. 263
Invisible Divinity and Visible Religionp. 275
Notesp. 293
Selected Bibliographyp. 299
Illustration Creditsp. 309
Indexp. 313
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195082524
ISBN-10: 0195082524
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 1st January 1994
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.77 x 16.2  x 2.72
Weight (kg): 0.78