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Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols Hardcover – September 15, 2008
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"Mike Aquilina's Signs and Mysteries provides a popular yet academically rigorous guide to symbols in the early church. The immediately accessible prose -- which quotes thoughtfully from the church fathers, classical and Jewish sources -- is complemented by generous illustrations. He has not only drawn on the obvious archaeological and epigraphic record, he has also delved into the fascinating world of Christian graffiti. An essential book to keep to hand when visiting early Christian sites." --Adrian Murdoch Fellow, British Royal Historical Society
About the Author
Mike Aquilina is vice-president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He has written or edited more than a dozen books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion, including The Way of the Fathers and The Mass of the Early Christians.
Lea Marie Ravotti holds a master's degree in fine art from the University of Hradec Kralove (Czech Republic). Her paintings, drawings, and woodcuts are inspired by the traditions of Christian iconography.
Top customer reviews
This book goes into those ancient symbols. They were used as graffitti, they were formed into pottery, painted on walls, made into mosaics, and they had meaning to the persons who used them. This book is about those symbols, what they meant, where they came from, and how they evolved in the early years of the Eastern Roman Empire, called Byzantine as the Roman gave way to the Christianized Greek and Jewish Empire that lasted until the turn of the next millennium.
This book should be used in the Home School as an addition to History studies. It would be a great addition to a study of the Patristic writings, and any study of the early Church as it moved from persecution to tolerated to the faith of the Empire.
Very good book-- highly recommend!
It's a plunge into the ancient world and the signs and symbols that the earliest Christians used to express their faith. The Christians felt they "could appropriate the symbols of pagans and Jews and 'baptize' them, putting them to Christian use" (p 16).
Philosophers were thought to be wise men, so we find Christ clothed in the pallium of philosopher in some of the catacomb paintings. Another symbol common to the pagans was the phoenix, a myth throughout most of the ancient world. Because the phoenix supposedly rose from the ashes, it became a common symbol of the resurrection.
Every chapter in this book is lavishly illustrated with drawings of the ancient paintings or objects, not photographs, for which I was very grateful. Anyone who has ever practically gone blind trying to decipher the faded scratches upon an old lamp, or the flaking painting on an ancient wall, will be very grateful for these clear, striking drawings.
Aquilina fills the book chock full of entertaining snippets about the symbols, including Moses, the dolphin, and the fish, and a host of others. No doubt you, like me, has always associated a dove as a sign of the Holy Spirit. But "among the ancients, however, the dove almost always represented the soul of the believer" (p 114).
This book will be of interest to scholars as well as anyone with an interest in early Christianity.