Statue of Ram (symbol of Christ?) discovered at Caesarea

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced that a marble ram statue was discovered on the site of a 6th-century AD Byzantine church at Caesarea. It may be an early representation of Jesus. The discovery was apparently made on Christmas Eve day.

In Christian art the ram is often depicted carried on the shoulders of the “Good Shepherd” (that is, Jesus, who is portrayed as the shepherd tending his flock), and sometimes the ram is situated to the left or right of Jesus. In Christianity the ram, like the lamb, represents the faithful, or Jesus himself, whose anguish and death were meant according to Christian belief to atone for original sin…

According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Mohammad Hater, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “… In ancient Christianity Jesus was not portrayed as a person. Instead, symbols were used, one of which was the ram… The statue that we found might have been part of the decoration of a Byzantine church from the sixth–seventh centuries CE at Caesarea. By the same token it could also be earlier, from the Roman period, and was incorporated in secondary use in the church structure”.

The marble ram.

The marble ram near the place of its discovery. Modern building around the ancient harbor are visible in the background. (Photo by Vered Sarig, the Caesarea Development Corporation)

Tha marble ram, possibly denoting Jesus. (photo courtesy of

Tha marble ram, possibly denoting Jesus. (Photo by Vered Sarig, the Caesarea Development Corporation).

The site of the Byzantine church was originally for a Roman temple built by Herod to honor the Emperor Augustus. This temple dominated the harbor as ships sailed in and out. Later, the pagan temple was torn down and an octagonal church built in its place.

View of Caesare's inner harbor, now silted up. A Roman temple to Augustus, followed by an octagonal church, sat above. (Photo by Luke Chandler

View of Caesare’s inner harbor, now silted up and covered with grass. A Roman temple to Augustus, followed by an octagonal church, sat on the platform above the harbor. The marble ram statue was discovered during excavations there. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Ferrell Jenkins shows examples of Jesus portrayed as the Good Shepherd via rams and lambs in Late Roman statuary.

HT: Joe Lauer

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in archaeologists, General Archaeology, Israel, Jesus, New Discoveries and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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