The Genesis of Early Christian Art

Syncretic juxtapostion in the Roman world

Yukako Suzawa


In this wide-ranging study of the beginnings of Christian art, the author takes as her starting point the question of positive assimilation between Christian and non-Christian images in early Christian art. This study attempts to determine whether the theological term of syncretism can be appropriate to the study of early Christian art. During her study of the genesis of early Christian art, the author became aware that her attitude toward the notion of syncretism differs from most of the existing literature on early Christian art history and architecture. Some scholars have avoided using the notion of syncretism, and some have used it pejoratively to describe a mish-mash of religions, perhaps taking their cue from the doctrinal discussion of the term bythe Church itself. In contrast, in the literature of the history of Japanese religions and art, religious synthesis has been referred to as ‘syncretism,’ and the term in that literature is defined as a blending of the ideas or practices of different religions that results in a unity of deities.