Thursday, February 12, 2009
Alexamenos worships his God
In last Sunday's message from Mark 15 on Christ's Suffering, I made mention of this crude drawing archaeologists found scratched on a wall in Rome. The photo above comes from Roland H. Bainton's book Faith of Our Fathers (Scribner's, 1944): p. 14. Historian Martin Hengel also makes reference to this graffiti in his classic book Crucifixion (Fortress, 1977) as an example of pagan animosity toward the scandalous preaching of Christ crucified:
There is an admirable illustration of this in the well known caricature of a crucified figure with an ass's head from the Palatine with the inscription 'Alexamenos worships god' (Alexamenos sebete [=sebetai] theon). There should be no doubt that this is an anti-Christian parody of the crucified Jesus. The ass's head is not a pointer to some kind of gnostic Seth-worship, but to the Jewish derivation of the Christian faith. One of the regular themes of ancient anti-Jewish polemic was that the Jews worshipped an ass in the temple (p. 19).
As the Apostle Paul put it:
1 Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.