6 Of The Oldest Images Of Jesus Christ You Haven’t Seen Yet


For centuries, art has been one of the most profound ways we connect with the Divine. For Catholics, images aren’t just pictures; they’re a window into the heavenly realm, a way to visualize aspects of the faith that words can’t fully express. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is written, “The beauty of the images moves [the faithful] to contemplation of divine things” (CCC, 1162). So, art is not merely decorative; it is instrumental in our spiritual journey.

This article will explore six of the oldest and less commonly seen images of Jesus Christ. These ancient depictions serve as testimonies to the devotion and understanding of Christ’s persona and message through the ages. They help us reflect on how people viewed Jesus Christ in different eras and contexts, enriching our own faith in the process.

The Importance of Religious Art in Catholicism

Art, in the Catholic tradition, is not just a mere expression of human creativity. It has a sanctified purpose. The Catechism affirms, “The fine arts, but above all sacred art, of their nature are geared toward expressing the infinite beauty of God” (CCC, 2501). Sacred art helps us ponder the mysteries of our faith and draw closer to God. In the Bible, we read that God himself directed the creation of religious images, like the Ark of the Covenant, adorned with cherubim (Exodus 25:18-22).

The Second Commandment

It’s worth noting that while the Catholic Church promotes the use of sacred images, this is different from worshiping them. The Second Commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself a graven image…” (Exodus 20:4). However, the Church understands that the prohibition is against idolatry, not against art that raises the mind to God (CCC, 2132).

The Six Oldest Images of Jesus

1. The Christ Pantocrator of St. Catherine’s Monastery

One of the oldest known images of Jesus Christ is the Christ Pantocrator, found in St. Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai. This 6th-century icon shows Christ as the “Ruler of All,” a concept grounded in passages like Colossians 1:16, “For in him all things were created.” The icon’s distinctive style and gaze serve as a striking reminder of Christ’s divine and human natures, a core teaching of the Church.

2. The Alexamenos Graffito

Dated back to around the 3rd century, the Alexamenos Graffito is one of the earliest caricatures of Jesus. It was originally meant to mock Christians. Despite its derogatory intent, it indirectly affirms the antiquity of the practice of venerating the crucified Christ, echoing Paul’s words: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

3. The Catacomb of Priscilla

Located in Rome, this catacomb contains one of the oldest frescoes of the Virgin Mary and Jesus dating back to the 2nd century. This image signifies the Church’s age-old devotion to Mary as Theotokos (God-bearer), which was later formally defined in the Council of Ephesus in 431.

4. The Christ as the Good Shepherd

Another prevalent image from early Christian art is Christ depicted as the Good Shepherd. These images, often found in the Roman catacombs, resonate with the Gospel teaching, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). It reminds us that Christ cares for His flock, a vital belief in Catholic theology.

5. The Acheiropoieta

This term refers to “not-made-by-hand” images of Christ, like the Holy Shroud of Turin and the Holy Face of Manoppello. Although these are not ‘artworks’ in the traditional sense, they are venerated for being miraculous impressions of Christ’s face. The Church doesn’t officially declare these as authentic relics but considers them worthy of veneration.

6. The Rabbula Gospels

Dated to the 6th century, the Rabbula Gospels feature one of the earliest depictions of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. This Syriac manuscript vividly portrays events that are central to the Catholic faith, aligning with the Church’s teaching that through His death and resurrection, Jesus reconciled humanity with God (CCC, 613).

How These Ancient Images Speak To Us Today

Old doesn’t mean outdated. These early images of Jesus Christ offer us invaluable insights into how the earliest Christians viewed their Lord and Savior. They allow us to join a lineage of faith that stretches back to the apostolic age, granting us a broader understanding of the universal teachings of the Church.


The role of sacred art in Catholicism isn’t just aesthetic; it’s spiritual and educational. As St. John Damascene once declared, “The beauty of the images leads us to the divine beauty” (CCC, 1162). These ancient images of Jesus Christ are not just relics of the past but are vibrant windows that lead us to contemplate the divine mysteries they represent. They serve as a testament to the living tradition of the Church, a tradition that not only respects but finds deep spiritual resonance in the visual portrayal of the faith.

🙏 Your PayPal Donation Appreciated

Select a Donation Option (USD)

Enter Donation Amount (USD)


As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you.

Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scroll to Top