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The Face and the Figure of Jesus
The Central Symbol of Christianity

With the possible exception of the cross, the face and figure of Jesus is the central symbol of Christianity. This, despite the fact that no one knows what Jesus looked like. Indeed, I would argue that it is precisely because artists, writers, theologians and ordinary believers are free to imagine Christ in ways that are consistent with their own experience that the image of Jesus works so well as a focal point in the life of faith. Further, the vast range and variety of such images attests to the diversity of the Christian family and to the vitality of this faith across many different time periods and cultures. I believe that approaching Christianity from the point of view of its symbolism yields a far deeper appreciation of what this faith means than studying the official doctrines or teachings of any church.

We Would See Jesus
From the time of Christ forward until this very day, people of great faith, and even many with none, have harbored an intense curiosity about Jesus of Nazareth. Many have wondered what we can know about him, even what he looked like. So what, in fact, can we know about the man many understand to be the Son of God?

The Face of Jesus as rendered by artists classical and contemporary

The Face of Jesus in popular culture

The Most Popular Picture of Jesus
Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ" is the most popular image of Jesus ever made. It is an icon of American culture. It also raises a host of questions about Christianity, the historical Jesus, and the faith of those who identify with this painting.

The Jesus Gallery: Our collection of hundreds of these images of Jesus that are awash in popular culture.

A Picture of Jesus
Pierre Tielhard de Chardin's mystical vision of the face and figure of Jesus. One of the best descriptions of how contemplation of Jesus can deepen the life of faith.

Other Sources of Symbolism in Christianity

The Human Body as a Symbol of the Sacred
The body as a symbol of the sacred

Pop Christianty
Pray, How Often? Pop culture and commerical images in service to the Christian faith ... or is it Christianity in service to commercialism? You decide.

The symbolic power of simple shapes
Even shapes are symbolic in Christianity.

The significance of color in Christian symbolism
The meaning of color in Christian symbolism

Food symbols in Christian tradition
Food symbols in Christian tradition

Doves, Eagles, and Sparrows
Doves, Eagles, and Sparrows ... birds as symbols of the divine.

The Fish
The fish has been an important Christian symbol, not only because of the fact that Jesus included several fishermen in his close circle, but also because The initial letters of each word in the Greek phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" form the word ICHTHUS, which means "fish."

All Creatures, Great and Small
Animals are not only a source of symbolism in Christianity, they are central to God's plan for salvation.

Christian ship symbols
Christian ship symbols

The Ankh Cross
The Ankh Cross is an ancient Egyptian symbol for life, combining the feminine circle and masculine staff to form the whole. It was adapted by early Christians because of its resemblance to the cross.

The Jerusalem Cross
Jerusalem Cross

The Maltese Cross
The Maltese Cross

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.