Fortress Press

The Cross before Constantine: The Early Life of a Christian Symbol

The Cross before Constantine

The Early Life of a Christian Symbol

Bruce W. Longenecker (Author)


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This book brings together, for the first time, the relevant material evidence demonstrating Christian use of the cross prior to Constantine. Bruce W. Longenecker upends a longstanding consensus that the cross was not a Christian symbol until Constantine appropriated it to consolidate his power in the fourth century.

Longenecker presents a wide variety of artifacts from across the Mediterranean basin that testify to the use of the cross as a visual symbol by some pre-Constantinian Christians. Those artifacts interlock with literary witnesses from the same period to provide a consistent and robust portrait of the cross as a pre-Constantinian symbol of Christian devotion.

The material record of the pre-Constantinian period illustrates that Constantine did not invent the cross as a symbol of Christian faith; for an impressive number of Christians before Constantine’s reign, the cross served as a visual symbol of commitment to a living deity in a dangerous world.
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451490305
  • eBook ISBN 9781506400365
  • Pages 244
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Publication Date August 1, 2015


1. The Cross in Its Place
2. The Cross and Society
3. The Cross in a Jewish Cradle
4. The Cross in Textual Images
5. The Cross in the Material Record
6. The Cross in a Pompeii Bakery
7. The Cross in the Literary Record
8. The Cross and Its Advocates
9. A Very Short Conclusion