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