JESUS ON THE CROSS. That’s the first-known picture of Jesus, etched into a jasper oval about an inch long (30 mm), and probably worn on someone’s ring or as a necklace or bracelet.
It dates to around a century and a half after the time of Jesus. So it is certainly not the work of an eyewitness artisan. Yet it is how one artist pictured Jesus in the oldest surviving image we have of him.
He doesn’t seem nailed to the cross. His arms hang loosely by ropes tied to a crossbar. His feet seemed to dangle as though he is seated on a block of wood that Romans sometimes used in crucifixions. Romans called the block of wood, in their native language of Latin, a sedial.
The reason we know this is an image of Jesus is because his name is etched into the gemstone. The words, written in Greek, the international language of the day: “Oh Son, Father, Oh Jesus Christ.”
Some scholars say this sounds like an early version of the Trinity, during a time when Christians were still trying to figure out who Jesus was and what his relationship was to God the Father and to the Spirit.
Other words etched into the face of the gemstone read like excerpts from Christian songs and prayers and early creeds.
Etched onto the back of the stone, apparently sometime later, are magical incantations.