Christ the Pantocrator

Christ Pantocrator
Dionysios Bouloubassis (b. 1967)

From this morning’s Lent Project devotional:

“The Christ Pantocrator is one of the most recognized depictions of Jesus. The Greek term “Pantocrator,” often translated as “All Powerful,” also means “to hold all things.” Christ’s left hand holds an open book, which traditionally represents the Gospels. The nuance of expression and sensitivity in this depiction of Christ is drawn from the ancient traditions of Christian iconography across both the East and the West. In this painting, Christ is surrounded by symbolic representations of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In Christian iconography, the evangelists are often represented by symbols originating from the four “living creatures” found in the apocalyptic visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1–2) and also in the book of Revelation (4:6–9), though neither passage links the creatures to the evangelists. The four creatures—collectively called the Tetramorph—represent different aspects of Christ’s nature. Matthew is symbolized by a winged man, or angel. Matthew’s gospel starts with Joseph’s genealogy from Abraham, a sign pointing to Jesus’ incarnation, and so to Christ’s human nature. Mark is symbolized by a winged lion—a figure of courage and monarchy that represents Jesus’ resurrection. Luke is symbolized by a winged ox or bull—a figure of sacrifice, service, and strength. John is symbolized by an eagle—a figure of the sky. The gospel of John presents Jesus’s ascension and Christ’s divine nature. The symbolism of representing the four evangelists as the four “living creatures” has developed over time, so that by the high middle ages it was extremely common to find these symbols in Christian art. It would later be more common to see the evangelists depicted as humans flanked by symbolic representation of their “creature.””

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