Centre News

Lee Jefferson’s newest book examines images of Jesus Christ as a miracle worker in early Christian art


January 2, 2014 By Mariel Smith        
Centre College "One of the greatest joys in writing is creating,
crafting and executing an argument that the
author finds compelling and important," says
Assistant Professor of Religion Lee Jefferson.
"It becomes one's own unique creation, and it's
gratifying to contribute to the larger academic
community."

Centre College In brief, Jefferson's work argues that images
of Christ performing healings and miracles
served as a kind of advertisement for Christianity
that illustrated the nature of Christ and helped
foster devotion among Christians.

Assistant Professor of Religion Lee Jefferson has just published Christ the Miracle Worker in Early Christian Art, a book that explores why so many early depictions of Jesus focus on his miracles.

The subject is one that Jefferson has been exploring for years.

"This book came out of my dissertation and some research I conducted in Rome at the Vatican," he explains. "I re-wrote each chapter in the past couple of years, updating some areas where necessary.

"The idea still fascinates me," he continues. "In the early, initial evidence of early Christian art, the dominant theme is of Jesus performing miracles. This book addresses the question of why this is the case."

In brief, his work argues that these images of Christ performing healings and miracles served as a kind of advertisement for Christianity that illustrated the nature of Christ and helped foster devotion among Christians.

The work Jefferson has done on this book not only furthers his own scholarly goals but also informs his teaching.

"I show images from my time in Rome in many of my classes that deal with early Christianity, art and material culture," he explains. "Even the argument about how early Christians were adaptive in creating a visual language informs Humanities classes on the topic of Roman and Greek art."

While Jefferson jokes that his favorite part of working on the volume was finishing it, he especially enjoyed the construction of a careful and considered claim.

"One of the greatest joys in writing is creating, crafting and executing an argument that the author finds compelling and important," he says. "It becomes one's own unique creation, and it's gratifying to contribute to the larger academic community.

"The joy of contributing a voice to the academy is something I try to pass on to any student writing an essay," he continues. "No matter the topic, you have something important to say if you research it and craft your argument with care."

Jefferson also recognizes the support network that contributed to his publishing of the book.

"This book, and any of my published work, can only be done with the support of my esteemed colleagues in Religion and throughout the College at large," he says.

And though Christ the Miracle Worker is hot off the press, Jefferson already has future projects taking shape.

"My book points out, as any scholar of Christian art notices, the lack of an appearance of a crucified Jesus until the fifth century," he notes. "Another figure that appears quite late in the visual canon is Judas. My next project aims to address this late appearance and its development in early Christian, medieval and early Renaissance art."



Learn more about Christ the Miracle Worker in Early Christian Art.






Centre College, founded in 1819, offers its students a world of opportunities, highlighted by one of the nation's premier study abroad programs and a faculty ranked #5 in the nation for "Best Undergraduate Teaching" at a liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. Centre graduates enjoy extraordinary success, with entrance to top graduate and professional schools, prestigious fellowships for further study abroad (Rhodes, Rotary, Fulbright), and rewarding jobs (on average, 97 percent are employed or in advanced study within 10 months of graduation).


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