The three participants in this proposal, Allen Brent, King’s College London and the Augustinianum, Rome, Emmanuele Castelli and Ulrich Volp have from their different perspectives on early Christian art that Dölger’s Classical project shares a common defect with its predecessors and successors.
We may succinctly exemplify some current and former approaches as:
- Wilpert and Dölger’s ‘crypto Christian’ thesis
- Finney’s thesis of the expurgation of pagan symbolism to allow a Christian meaning
- A conventionalist thesis that pagan elements had no meaning for Christians but were simply accepted from a pagan workshop as funerary stereotypes.
Our common objection to all three that each in its own way denies a positive interaction between the Christian iconography and its pagan environment and past, a denial belied by a detailed examination of each item in question.
Our objection to these three applies equally to all, namely in what takes place in any human conversation or interaction such as the hypothesized meeting of early Christians with the officinator and then the pictorius in a pagan workshop. Images are never accepted as simply static and conventional decoration but a discussion takes place in which, as in any human discussion that has a serious purpose, the concepts of both sides, forming and interlinked into two initially competing, overall constructions of reality, are subtly and generally semi-consciously changed as the discussion continues.
With the aid of a power point presentation, we will examine specific iconographical and epigraphical examples to make our different points.