Earliest depiction of Christ

The Alexamenos graffito is an inscription carved in plaster on a wall near the Palatine Hill in Rome, now in the Palatine Antiquarium Museum. It is among the earliest known pictorial representations of the Crucifixion of Jesus, together with some engraved gems.

The image depicts a human-like figure attached to a cross and possessing the head of a donkey. In the top right of the image appears what has been variously interpreted as either the Greek letter upsilon or a tau cross. To the left of the image is a young man, apparently intended to represent Alexamenos, raising one hand in a gesture possibly suggesting worship. Beneath the cross there is a caption written in crude Greek: Αλεξαμενος ϲεβετε θεον. In standard Greek, the word ϲεβετε is the imperative of the verb “worship”. This would suggest a translation of the entire sentence as “Alexamenos, worship God!”. However it has been suggested by several scholars that ϲεβετε should be understood as a variant spelling (possibly a phonetic misspelling) of Standard Greek ϲεβεται, which means “worships”. As a result, the full inscription would then be translated as “Alexamenos worships [his] God”. However, several other sources suggest a declarative statement “Alexamenos worshipping God”, or similar variants, as the intended translation.

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One Response to Earliest depiction of Christ

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