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)

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