Baker Academic

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is Jesus a Person or a Symbol?

Good reading over at the NYT. My take, as simplistic as this might sound, is that religious ideologues (in general) confuse the truths that shape their collective identities for the symbols that point toward these truths. Of course, there must be a relationship between the symbol and the thing represented, so these must be overlapping fields. But, in the case of Jesus, we have been given multiple symbols for his person from the earliest Christian memories. Lord, Christ, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, Bread, Gate, Life, Lamb, High Priest, and the list goes on and on. We Christians should know better. Once this distinction is understood, we will be less scandalized by depictions of Jesus that don't look familiar to us.

Sidebar: Two entry points to the first person who can name the artist who created the imaged series of portraits above.


  1. Banksy is the artist.

    Eric T.

  2. The artist is Andy Worhal. I believe it is a work he did sometime in the 1960s called The last Supper.

    R. Storm

    1. We have a winner!! Worhal did a series, toward the end, using Da Vinci's Last Supper. Also see his series of Jesuses on punching bags.

  3. Capitalism has driven the church to push a Jesus as meme. Symbols of Jesus multiply his value in a society based on numbers and marketing.

  4. I think that Jesus is both a person and a symbol. Obviously one aspect of Jesus is his place in history as a historical figure. However, the multiple ways in which he is now portrayed and represented in society presents Jesus as a symbol. I think that when referring to Jesus as a historical individual, he is then a person. However, when Jesus is used as a vehicle to deliver a certain message then I think that Jesus would then be classified as a symbol.

  5. Jesus can be both a symbol and a person. Especially in today's culture, there are several symbols that remind us or refer to Jesus. This can be seen in certain films, such as the recent Superman movie and how the image of the cruciform pose is prominently seen in one of the last scenes. Individuals who are aware of Jesus and the ideas associated with him would probably be able to recognize symbols such as the one I mentioned earlier. Since Jesus can be recognized through symbols that solidifies the statement that Jesus is a symbol. Although Jesus can be associated with symbols that does not mean that his person will be forgotten. The Bible, particularly the Gospels, paints Jesus as an historical figure.

  6. One symbol that reminds us of Jesus is the infamous fish sticker that people place on the back of their car bumpers. Symbols also played a large role in art. From taking an art history course, one time period I especially enjoyed was Byzantine art. Back then, not everyone was literate so pictures and symbols made it easy for people who came to church to understand the stories depicted upon the walls. One example of an art work that has Christian symbolism in it is the mosaics of Justinian and Theodora. The symbol used in those mosaics was the pax Christi.