Jennifer Awes Freeman writes more about how imperial iconography might be at play in the earliest depictions of Jesus in her article: “The Good Shepherd and the Enthroned Ruler: A Reconsideration of Imperial Iconography in the Early Church.” As the Christian churches grew and expanded, people began creating icons, images of holy men and women.
Jesus is usually depicted, regardless of his facial features, as conforming to Roman expectations about how virtuous men appear.
These pictures generally come from the third century, about 200 years after Jesus’s death, so none of them could have been done by an eyewitness to the living Jesus.
This fresco, painted on the wall of a third-century church in Dura Europus, Syria, shows the story of Jesus healing the paralytic.
Then, after his resurrection, Jesus meets his disciples as they are fishing. One of the characteristics of Jesus in later Christian literature is that he appears to his followers in many different forms, for example in Acts of Peter (3.21), one of the first apocryphal Acts of the Apostles.
The earliest pictures we have of Jesus come from frescoes painted on the walls of catacombs and carvings made to decorate stone coffins.
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Here he is also wearing the dark brown garment typically associated with monastic communities, illustrating the shifting values imbued in depictions of Jesus.