An Early Depiction of Jesus? Or …

Okay, so I’m sitting here finally organizing myself with the myriad posts I have to catch up on and I’m jumping from article to article, webpage to webpage, google image search to google image search and then something suddenly struck me. If you’re a reader of Explorator, this a.m. you would have seen a bunch of links to what is being touted as one of the earliest depictions of Jesus (maybe), in a Coptic context. Here’s the incipit of the Independent‘s coverage:

A team of Catalan archaeologists believes it has unearthed one of the earliest images of Jesus Christ buried deep in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

Experts at the University of Barcelona discovered an underground structure in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchu which may have acted as a resting place for a number of priests.

More than 45 tonnes of rock had to be moved in order to access the hidden room. Another unidentified structure found nearby during this process is currently being investigated.

Once inside, the team found five or six coats of paint on the walls, the last of which was from the Coptic period of the first Christians.

The underground structure was also reportedly decorated with Coptic images and may contain one of the earliest-known representations of Jesus Christ, The Local has reported.

Dr Josep Padró, the Emeritus Professor at the University of Barcelona who led the expedition, described the find as “exceptional”.

He told the La Vanguardia newspaper that the figure is that of “a young man with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing”.

“We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ,” he added.

[...]

via: ‘One of the earliest images of Jesus’ unearthed in Egyptian tomb (Independent)

The item goes on to detail other things that were found there, which we’ll probably be mentioning at a later time. We now turn to some exciting finds from last summer, which we never really mention, at Huqoq, where some spectacular mosaics were discovered in a synagogue context. Here are some excerpts from the Jewish Press coverage:

Excavations in a late Roman era synagogue at Huqoq in Israel’s eastern lower Galilee have uncovered a new mosaic depicting the biblical hero and judge, Samson. Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has been conducting archaeological excavations at Huqoq since 2011, notes that while scenes from the Bible are not uncommon in ancient synagogues, mosaics featuring Samson are. Last summer (2012), excavations in the Huqoq synagogue brought to light a scene depicting Samson and the foxes (Judges 15:4). This summer, another section of the mosaic floor was discovered which shows Samson carrying the gate of Gaza (Judges 16:1-3). [...]

Magness is puzzled by why mosaics depicting Samson are found at Huqoq, as it was not in the tribal area of Dan. Furthermore, many rabbis of the Talmudic period were not fond of Samson because of his attraction to non-Jewish women. While Magness stated that some positive depictions of Samson survive in rabbinic literature, these traditions are preserved mainly in the Babylonian Talmud, not in the Jerusalem Talmud. Thus, the glorification of Samson in a synagogue mosaic in Galilee goes against the generally negative view of Samson held by many rabbis at that time.

According to Magness, the surviving rabbinic traditions that depict Samson positively “suggest that some Jews considered Samson as a prototype or forerunner of the messiah. He had the potential to be the messiah but wasn’t. The popularity of Samson is connected with those traditions, with traditions that viewed Samson as a deliver and redeemer of Israel. In the area of Mount Arbel and Tiberias, these traditions were popular. This may be why the Samson scenes appear here.” [...]

via:Ancient Mosaic Depicting Samson Uncovered in a Galilee Synagogue The Jewish Press

The item goes on to discuss the Huqoq community and assorted other things.

Now here’s where it gets interesting (to me, anyway) … most of the coverage of the Huqoq finds included this photo by Joseph Haberman:

Photo in the Jewish Press by James Haberman

Photo in the Jewish Press by James Haberman

… and here’s the photo from the University of Barcelona which accompanies the ‘Jesus’ find (this one from the Daily Mail‘s coverage):

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Anyone else see someone in the same basic pose, both with a gate behind them, but just looking in opposite directions?

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