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Anastasis

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Anastasis is the Greek term for “Resurrection.” It refers, in general, to Christ’s triumph over death as well as to specific events which took place during the three-day span of time between Christ’s *Entombment and his resurrected reappearance on earth before his *Ascension to heaven. Several New Testament passages imply that Christ descended into the realm of the dead during this period after his death and before his Resurrection. The meaning of this event was interpreted in various ways by early Christian writers, although belief in Christ’s descent into limbo became an article of faith in the fourth century. Apocryphal works such as the Gospel of Nicodemus provided more detailed descriptions of the event and sources for visual imagery. According to this text and commentaries by numerous early Christian and medieval authors (such as *Vincent of Beauvais, and Jacobus de Voragine’s Page 11  * Golden Legend ) Christ descended into limbo to free the *souls of those persons who had lived righteously before his coming and hence triumphed over death, *Satan, and *Hades. Alternative terms for this event and image are the Descent into Limbo and the Harrowing of Hell .


The image is normally considered a Byzantine creation, although the first dated examples occur in the west in the early eighth century. Perhaps ultimately derived from imperial iconography of triumph and liberation, the image develops several variants: Christ pulling *Adam from his tomb, Christ flanked by Adam and Eve, Christ pulling both Adam and Eve from their tombs. Other identifiable figures may be included: *David, *Solomon, *Moses, *John the Baptist, Abel, or otherwise undifferentiated souls of the just (clothed or nude). Christ may carry a *cross staff with a triumphal banner; the broken gates of the underworld may be depicted; Hades may appear as a grotesque *demon. As an image of Christ’s triumph over death and sin and the redemption of humankind, the Anastasis figures prominently in Christological and festal cycles for Easter, especially in Byzantine art, and is reflective of much complex theological speculation about the aspects of Christ’s death and Resurrection. The image is also linked theologically and sometimes pictorially with the *Last Judgment.

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