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The Clash of Gods:
A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art
Revised and Expanded Edition
Thomas F. Mathews

Paperback | 1999 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691009391
256 pp. | 7 1/2 X 10 | 16 color plates 129 halftones
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Reviews | Table of Contents

Between the third and sixth centuries, the ancient gods, goddesses, and heroes who had populated the imagination of humankind for a millennium were replaced by a new imagery of Christ and his saints. Thomas Mathews explores the many different, often surprising, artistic images and religious interpretations of Christ during this period. He challenges the accepted theory of the "Emperor Mystique," which, interpreting Christ as king, derives the vocabulary of Christian art from the propagandistic imagery of the Roman emperor. This revised edition contains a new preface by the author and a new chapter on the origin and development of icons in private domestic cult.


"This is a sumptuously illustrated book, in which the pictures are well married to the text. It makes an illuminating way into patristic theology and the religions of the first six centuries."--Leslie Holden, Theology

"Mathews's argument is convincing. In his determination to challenge and overturn a long-held theory, he does not allow his chameleon Christ, who is both man and woman, magician and god, any role as Christ the king. The pendulum may swing back, but not on the same course again. This book has cleared the way for new understandings of the iconography of Christ. It should stimulate a reconsideration of stereotyped readings of other images and in other periods."--Ann Moffatt, Parergon


"This book presents an up-to-date and original survey of Early Christian art and its origins, and attacks the current idea of continuity between the Roman emperor cult and the art of the early church. Conservative readers may well be shocked by this lucid but utterly unconventional presentation of an often treated subject. I find Thomas Mathews's work convincing and impressive."--Hugo Buchthal

"Not only does Mathews present bold arguments that I find persuasive, but his book is exciting to read. He removes the images of Christ from the iconography of the emperor and puts them into the far more plausible context of late antique teachers and wonder-workers."--G. W. Bowersock

Table of Contents:

Ch. 1 The Mistake of the Emperor Mystique 3
Ch. 2 The Chariot and the Donkey 23
Ch. 3 The Magician 54
Ch. 4 Larger-than-Life 92
Ch. 5 Christ Chameleon 115
Ch. 6 Convergence 142
Ch. 7 The Intimate Icon 177
List of Abbreviations 181
Notes 183
List of Figures 205
Index 213

This book has been translated into:

  • Italian

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 Paperback : $52.50 ISBN: 9780691009391

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  • For hardcover/paperback orders in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan

 Paperback  £44.95 ISBN: 9780691009391

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File created: 7/11/2017

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