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The Cross: History, Art and Controversy – Robert M Jensen

New book explores how the Cross has been depicted in art through the ages ...

Robert M. Jensen – The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy
Harvard University Press £25 269 pages ISBN 978 0 674 08880 3

A good friend of mine saw a picture of the crucifixion at the National Gallery in London; something about it triggered a chain of thoughts that led him to faith in Christ. Art has the potential to connect with us at many levels – it gets under our radar and stirs our emotions.

There is in this of course a tremendous power for good, as well as huge potential for being led in many unhelpful directions. Christians have not always agreed on how biblical themes should be illustrated, if they are to be illustrated at all. Does the depiction of the cross capture its essence, or drain it of its power?

Robert Jensen’s handsomely illustrated book helps us to see the place of art related to the cross in relation to Christian history. The author leaves no stone unturned exploring how the cross has been depicted from the First Century to today. He begins with the famous “accidental cross” at Ground Zero, and then traces a path from the earliest depictions in the infant Church to the iconic re-imaginings of the cross in modern art, fashion and culture.

Although art is the focus of the book, the author displays an awareness of the impact of theological perspective when creating and viewing Christian art. If you enjoy art, and are interested in how this central Christian symbol has been understood by a variety of Christians and non-Christians through the ages, this beautiful book is worth a read.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle

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