Robin M. Jensen
Like other students of culture, historians of ancient Christianity deem the visual art, artefacts, and architecture of the early church as resources indispensable to discerning how various early Christian communities expressed and transmitted their religious beliefs. The study of visual images not only supplements and balances documentary research, but often affords scholars access to objects which are not only of great beauty, but which act as powerful agents of message and meaning. Furthermore, it opens the question of how vision itself functioned in religious practice. The insights gained from the study of visual culture are achieved not only from comparing textual evidence with material evidence, but also from the appreciation of the interpretive role, expressive power, and aesthetic qualities of physical remains in their own right, along with the analysis of the visual experience itself as a meaning-constructive activity.