Late Antique, Early Christian and Jewish gems: New Testament scenes

Only very few gems from the early Christian period (3rd to 5th centuries) survive that depict episodes from the New Testament. Surviving examples include representations of the Baptism of Jesus, the Raising of Lazarus, Peter and Paul, and three remarkable portrayals of the Crucifixion. The appearance of the Crucifixion on gems, in an unconventional composition which includes the twelve apostles, is significant for its early date, still in the 4th century if not earlier, for no other depiction of the Crucifixion is known until the 5th century.

Gem image

The Baptism of Jesus.

Oxford (Fortnum 71). Cornelian, 14 x 11 mm.

Gem image

The Crucifixion: Jesus and the twelve apostles, with the inscription IXQYC.

London, British Museum. Cornelian, 13.5 x 10.5 mm.